Barr. Festus Adebayo is the Chief Executive Officer of Fesadeb Communications Limited, a media outfit in the Nigeria housing sector and organizer of the Abuja Housing Show. He speaks on the outcome of the 2014 show which bore the theme: Accelerating Housing/Infrastructure Development through Public Private Partnership for Job Creation and Economic Fortification
Abuja Housing Show held between June 23 and 26 has come and gone. Did you get the outcome you expected?
This year’s Abuja Housing Show was a huge success in terms of the quality of the papers that were delivered, guest speakers, exhibitors, people that came with the determination to meet estate developers – many of the building material exhibitors exchanged deals, sold products they brought to the venue. It was a great improvement on the previous one.
How many exhibitors came?
From our records, many town planners were at the event especially when they got to know that the guest speaker is an international scholar who is also a town planner. Town planners, led by their president were at the event for the whole period. Similarly, the Nigerian Institute of Building was fully represented. Council of Regulation of Engineering of Nigeria and the Nigerian Society Engineers were fully represented when they knew that collapsed building, cement use would be discussed. The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers were there to see the latest housing estates on display and the mortgage banks that would come.
Eight commissioners came from different states to gain knowledge that might be useful in the discharge of their responsibilities. This year is unique – Dangote Cement was there, the leading Berger Paint, Julius Berger Plc, Nigerian Pipes were there. Setraco was fully represented by Sunrise Estate. Lekki Gardens from Lagos, UPDC and state-owned housing corporations were there.
We must make it clear that the vision behind Abuja Housing Show is to bring all the professionals – it’s not for builders or architects in isolation of other professional bodies. It’s a programme of all the professional bodies in Nigeria’s housing sector.
What issues did the conference throw up having looked at the theme you selected for this year’s event?
The 8th Abuja Housing Show itemised many issues. One of them is planning of Abuja. The conference observed that those who founded Abuja intended to create a green city – livable, affordable and inclusive of all Nigerians irrespective of their socio-economic background. The city is however beset by huge problems mostly traced to its master plan which was prepared by foreigners – IPA.
Beyond that, the conference observed that the planners did not consider Abuja as a metropolis so limited their consideration to the Federal Capital Territory’s 8,000sqkms. They didn’t foresee the growth of contiguous settlements like Keffi, Masaka, Mararaba and Suleja which have quickly grown and indirectly become part of the planned city.
We also looked the large population of Abuja’s low-income, middle-income earners living in these squatter settlements, the semi-planned settlements and commute daily to and fro the city centre with attendant stress and hazards.
The idea is if government had planned to establish companies in some of these areas, there would have been no gridlock on Maraba, Suleja, Gwagwalada roads every morning. We also observed that government’s mass housing policy in Abuja that offers large hectares of land on developmental lease agreement terms has not yielded affordable mass housing stock. Yes, they’ve been doing PPP which started under el-Rufai, from our critical appraisal, we say what they’ve been doing has not really tackled the problem [of shortage] of low-cost housing. The problem still remains unsolved in FCT. There’s no consideration for those who can’t on their own build houses. In fact, there’s no social housing plan in FCT.
The conference resolved that public private partnership still remains the best option to tackle infrastructure and housing shortage in FCT.
The conference came up with resolution that President Jonathan should consider using housing as a tool for economic transformation, as a tool for poverty alleviation because of its multiplier effects in terms of employment it creates for the general public. Could you imagine if each government of the state of the federation can have housing project, you can see the number of our youths that will have been occupied.
The conference suggested that unclaimed dividends should be channeled to housing provision. It said pension fund be used to increase housing stock in the country. Location of housing is very important as such residential neighbourhoods should be located within short distances to employment areas or with good mass transit means of transport like the railway. We’re aware that FCT administration is doing something about railway but how soon it will be completed we can’t say.
The conference looked at the issue of cement. The conference said Nigeria has only two strength cement grades which are good. However, developers should seek professional advice on soil test before embarking on construction with either grade.
The conference said Nigeria needs Cement and Allied Products Institute to guide formation of cement production and utilization policy and building collapse can be brought to an end or drastically reduced.
The conference finally noted that in the last 50 years, government has given 25,000 mortgages. This year alone government’s giving 10,000. Nigerians were therefore advised to take advantage of this. It’s a big leap.
Abuja Housing Show advised government to decentralize by moving some of its over 500 offices out of Abuja to new locations. Example, NNPC doesn’t need to be in the Central Business District. The FCT administration must ensure the master plan is strictly adhered to or else coming back to enforce plan after violations have been made is three times costlier.
What were the concerns of your exhibitors?
During exhibition, when we interviewed some of the exhibitors, they said there is need for government to stop importation of some of the products produced in the country. In fact, from the products we saw in some of the exhibition stands, there’s no need for government to be importing furniture products into the country. Some of the exhibitors urged government to do everything to protect the interest of the indigenous companies so that they can grow and create employment for unemployed Nigerians.
You gave awards. How did you come about those fit to be honoured?
Abuja Housing Show by standard – the last day of the programme, we look at the people who have done well. In the 8th Abuja Housing Show, Daily Trust was honoured basically because of its investigative reports on housing. That also applied to AIT.
Beyond that, we honoured the Governor of Abia State Theodore Orji. He was honoured basically because of the two housing projects he did wherein the civil servants who were supposed to pay 100 percent of the cost paid only 50 percent. And the 50 percent was not paid in cash. They’re paying through a mortgage system created by the state government. We honoured the governor basically to encourage others to do same. Housing is so important – after food comes shelter.
Companies were honoured at the Abuja Housing Show basically because of the quality of their products and the testimonies we got from people who have used their products.
Now we look forward to the 9th edition of the Abuja Housing Show. What’s going to be different?
The programme has gone beyond the level of the organizers now. It’s very clear. Abuja Housing Show has to get a board of trustees that will be drawn from across the professional bodies in the system. Abuja Housing Show has now gone to the hands of the professionals: Nigerian Society of Engineers, COREN, architects, builders, estate surveyors etc.
By the time we’re doing the 9th Abuja Housing Show, we want it to be like the Builders Show in America where people will come from different countries to Nigeria. Abuja Housing Show is going to be meeting point for all professionals in Nigeria annually. Apart from the AGM of professional bodies, every professional must have it in mind to attend the Abuja Housing Show. It’s a forum to tackle problems of housing, planning, building materials and many others. It will be a programme no professional can ignore. That’s where we’re going!