The FCT chapter chairman of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) Mr Osilama Emmanuel Osilama who is also the CEO of Nuel Osilama Global Investment Limited, in this exclusive interview with Mustapha Suleiman, bares his mind on the challenges developers experience in the industry, factors affecting members in the delivery of affordable housing to Nigerians as well as the way forward.
Q: As an expert, what is your observation of realty sector as we enter the second wave of Corona Virus pandemic?
The Corona virus pandemic has disrupted the usual business, market plans and profits. Everybody has to create their own innovative ways of doing business and the pandemic has really slowed down results because right now patronage is very low. A lot of people today are just saving for survival; you have a low number of people going into home ownership now except those who have adjusted completely. So, I will describe the period or the year as one of those year, that we just have to stay alive and go through it. But for a very few developers, it is the year to make money because they are innovative and have taken advantage of what others are crying over, may be, they already have a ready market and everything is going well for them. But for most of the developers in places like Abuja where the government`s policies determine market forces and all that, it is pretty well you have to think and plan very well before you can really do anything.
Q: In the midst of all these things, what do you think developers like you can do to remain in business and sustain it?
What I expect developers like me to do now is to look at how to apply direct labour to their construction work to cut their cost of production, so that their finishing cost can go down and thereby reduce their final market price reasonably and look for other ways to cut cost too, because everything boils down to availability and affordability, if people can`t afford the houses at the end of the day, the finished products will just be there. So, they have to look for measures to truly cut their cost of their production.
Q: Sir, are you not of the opinion that the federal government should subside building materials as well as reduce mortgage at this point in time. Most especially that it is trying to generate more jobs and opportunities to alleviate the hardship Nigerians are experiencing during this covid-19 pandemic?
Indeed, it will be very good if the federal government can subsidize, maybe, building materials/construction materials and access to land,as this will create ease of doing business in the construction sector. I think they can have a way of providing special intervention funds through the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and several mortgage institutions to assist the housing sector at this critical time of economic recession.
Q: Already the CBN has announced that it will provide special fund to assist the housing sector, but as we speak the money hasn’t been released, what is you take on this?
They have not done it, if they have done that I would have known because as of now I am the chairman of Real Estate Developers in Abuja. I would have known if they have released any fund in that regard. Government has a lot of plans and REDAN is in collaboration with government in achieving these. We are now looking at the cost of production to get affordability so that the houses will be within the reach of the people who really need the houses, not people who don’t need it but can afford it.
By and large the governments –FG, states and the local governments need to create an enabling environment and one of them is what you have just said, they need to subside building materials or access to land and reduce the cost of production generally. Making the money available is not enough, they need to come up with policies that will allow this money to get into the hands of the real developers, not a strong bureaucracy that will make it impossible for developers to access the money when it is released.
Q. Now that you are the FCT REDAN chapter chairman, what are your plans to move the housing sector forward?
We have just been inaugurated about 2 months ago, me and my team came on board with a lot of plans for the sector within the FCT, among these are to sanitise the sector of some of the problems that have been bedevilling it in the FCT for a while now, most of them have to do with access to land, land document genuiness and the delay in getting development approval. For instance, if you have a property you have to develop and you apply for approval, it can take as long as six –month. I have made two attempts with my team to meet with the present FCT Development Control Director, Tpl Muktar Galadima. But he has gone to Kuru now for a course and I learnt someone else is already acting or deputising him in that capacity. When we went the last time base on schedule appointment, we were told he just left for hospital. Whoever that is deputising him now,we will meet with that person in no distance time as the season and physical meeting requirements permit and try to discuss with him and his team on the need for them to expedite action on the process of issuing out building approvals because it delays projects and frustrate developers and ultimately put people out of jobs. For instance, someone that collected facility from a Bank for a year, if after 6 months, you are paying interest on it and yet you have not started anything on site it is already a disaster waiting to happen. This has happened to me personally, not that somebody else told me; I got facility from the bank, I bought a property and I was supposed to start work up till now I have not been able to get the building approval, as were trying to register our presence on site by simply building a security post with only zinc material on ground to enable put a security man there to safeguard materials they came to mark it and left a stop work notice on it,we had abandoned the site to be waiting for approval since we won’t want to break the law but there’s supposed to be a synergy. And I pay up to 1.2million naira monthly on interest on the facility and 10 months has passed already. So, I have paid like 10 million already because it is up to 10 months now and the approval is not yet be signed even though it’s now ready. They told me it is ready, but Galadima didn’t signed it before leaving. I intend to meet him on this but that’s too late now, because he has gone on a year course in Kuru as I was told.
Then the airport axis of FCT has a lot of land allocation crisis too, we intend to also find a way to sanitise that area too in collaboration with relevant government agencies. We just wanted to bring sanity to the sector so that the developers can be respected and regarded as genuine business men on the street. Because if you follow what is really happening, the developer is in- between the buyer and the government; government policies are not consistent, but yet it is the developer that takes the blame. He is seen as the one that is misleading the buyers or the –would-be buyers or the prospective buyers or the subscribers. But the developer is actually a business man who is investing his hard earned money, who may have borrowed money too to make profit, we usually don’t take unnecessary risk, but that’s how we are described, but the system compares most of us to always see ourselves doing things which wouldn’t have done ordinarily. Because if today you tell me AMAC allocated land yesterday and tomorrow FCDA says AMAC don’t have the power to do so, but the papers AMAC allocates are not fake, but the land they allocated you cannot build on them because it was AMAC that allocated them and AMAC is an off shoot of FCDA. AMAC zonal land office is actually a department of land FCDA and their staff are originally FCDA staff too, they are seconded to that office. So, the minister is still the same minister that gave ministerial approval to those lands as at then, so if one minster gave land allocation approval about 30 years ago and another one is there today, so if the individual who occupies the office goes or retires or is removed and another person is appointed whatever he has done should be regarded as valid. But in this case, once a minister goes and another one is appointed, he will change everything, suspend some policies too therefore, whatever the other minister did will now look invalid or valid but it should just wait indefinitely.
A land allocation that has ministerial approval is supposed to be valid no matter how many years ago it was done. The idea of the proposed FCT phase 5 must come with human face by simply considering all genuine existing allocation before this notable innovation called phase 5 should be concluded.
So these are the things we intend to appeal to FCT Authority to help the developers correct as the new FCT exco which I represent and many others.
I am aware my association for so many years have been working with FCT authority to find a permanent solution to these issues.
I hope all these problems and many others are resolved soonest.
Q: What do you have to say about the present leadership of Redan?
I must commend the president and Chairman of Council Alhaji Aliyu Oroji Wammako alongside his exco for so many laudable initiatives among them are the RUHI 774 (Rural Urban Housing Initiative) that will provide a minimum of 100 units of affordable houses in each local government in Nigeria. Redan recent collaboration with Shelter Afrique to organise a stakeholders’ workshop and a very robust membership drive through reduction in annual dues that have led to 100% participation of all existing members and so on.
REDAN just lost his pioneer president Pa Lateef Jakande, how would you describe him?
He was a builder personified, he will definitely be remembered for his low cost housing initiative as the then Lagos state governor. In 4 years, Alhaji Jakande’s built the current Lagos State Secretariat which houses all the state ministries as well as the popular round house hitherto occupied by all subsequent governors of the state.
The late Jakande built the Lagos State House of Assembly complex, Lagos State Television Lagos Radio as well as Lagos State University.
His administration as Lagos state governor also built low cost houses in Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Amuwo-Odofin, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry, Isheri/Olowu, Orisigun etc.
His government constructed, rehabilitated and resurfaced Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Toyin Street, I can go on and on. His contributions to the establishment and his role as its pioneer president is quite remarkable.
May his soul rest in perfect peace…