When the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) was set up in 1973, its vision was to be the leading provider of housing and a facilitator of access to sustainable housing solutions in Nigeria. Wholly owned by the Federal Government agency, FHA was established as part of government’s commitment to making affordable housing accessible to all Nigerians.
Part of its function was to use funds provided by the Federal Government and other sources to provide low income and rural housing in all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Festac Town, the estate which it built to house foreign participants in the World Black Festival of Arts and Culture hosted by Nigeria in 1977, was a major outing and remains the authority’s flagship development since inception. After this, it has, through partnerships with private developers, developed over 10,000 housing units.
Of late, the Federal Government announced the commercialisation of the Authority, a process which Tever Gemade, its managing director, said, is not new, explaining that it is a continuation of the process that started in 1992 when the authority signed an agreement with the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC) as it was known then.
By that agreement signed by the TCPC, now Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), FHA and the Federal Government, the Authority was to transform into a company of government, operating under the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development which supervises its operations, is continuing the commercialisation of the authority with the assistance of BPE, while the commercialisation process is being supervised by a Technical Board of the authority instituted with the approval of The President. An Interim Management Team (IMT) headed by Gemade will do the day-to-day running of the affairs of the authority. As a result of this, the authority was removed from the budget, even though the process was not concluded for over 10 years.
We endorse the commercialisation of the FHA and hope that government would ensure a seamless process that will produce an authority devoid of the tainted and parasitic influence of civil service and its operators.
However, we fear that the new FHA, under the commercialisation process, might compromise its low cost housing development mandate. Thus, we vote for a new FHA that will surpass whatever the old authority might have achieved in the past 40 years of its existence. To distinguish between the new and old order, we suggest that the number of housing units, with incentives, be part of the deliverables of a commercialised FHA. A commercialised agency should be target-driven and profit-oriented.
To achieve its target profitably, it must define its market, their housing demand, their earning, where and how they can acquire these houses etc. Above all, there should be mortgage facilities for people who will buy into their schemes.
For a country that wants to join the league of 20 largest economies of the world by 2020, the issue of housing is quite critical and it is for this reason that we support any initiative that will guarantee decent affordable housing for the greatest number of Nigerians.