Adetola Emmanuel King, the GMD/CEO Adron Homes recently held a media parley with some journalists in Lagos where he spoke about some of the critical issues affecting the real estate sector in Nigeria. He also suggested some actions the incoming administration can take to bridge Nigeria’s housing deficit. SEYI JOHN SALAU was there. Excerpts:
The challenge with building collapse in Lagos seems to be beyond inferior materials; as a player in the sector what are your views on this?
The issues with climate change for example up to now in this part of the world we are yet to understand what we call climate change. All we think about is it should rain for four months, but it has been raining for six months.
The sun should shine for four months, but now it’s so hot. We are yet to understand and disseminate the graffiti of climate change. Take for instance what happened on Banana Island. I know Joe Faraday very well; I live in Banana Island, so I see his project going on everywhere, all the spot access that I need a call so I called one or two of my friends who are also developers in Banana Island – all they said is over piling.
Joe Faraday is one person that does not undermine the standard procedure, he does it right and he doesn’t overdo it in the bid that he doesn’t want any issue. When you over-pile, it also causes buildings to collapse because piling is like digging a hole or like digging a borehole here and there. It can cause a house to collapse.
So, instead of having eight pillars, you introduce 16 and these things are happening on the Island where there is movement of soil, not like the mainland where there’s good soil.
But on the island the soil moves, sometimes when they are doing construction my bed will be dancing, because that’s the nature of the soil – it’s a loose soil. So, for us the government should not continue to apply force immediately when it happens – everybody knows that the developer is going to jail.
So, don’t let us put the consequences forward first; let’s find out what are the causes first. Don’t let us make it a generic problem that building collapse is the result of inferior materials. Oh, yeah that may be true but there are other cases too – look at the Fourscore building that they did hallelujah on; they even do praise and worship there because me that you’re looking I’ve been to that house twice.
He’s a very good friend of mine. It was my father’s burial that he attended on Saturday then on Monday fortunately I had to quickly go to Abeokuta to see the commissioner for physical planning. That was the major reason why I was not there on Monday.
When he came to my father’s burial he was telling me that Tola this thing go finish o – I said okay; then on Monday he died. When I heard that the building collapsed, I said ‘eeh was it a bomb because this is a building that I’ve been there and the building just collapsed like that – everything just came down like that as if it doesn’t have a foundation.’
Something they built for over five years and at the top of the roof did a lot of activities there, even praise and worship. So, let’s find out what really happen; if you watch a lot of this Nat Geo wild and plane crashes and the way they carried out investigations, they don’t just seek any generic problem they find out what actually happened.
Maybe there’s something happening on the Island that we don’t know – climate change, soil movement and several other things that may have been altered from Eko Atlantic and several other things that we’ve done to nature. If not they will keep shouting about inferior materials; so let’s do a critical and thorough investigation into the issue of building collapse.
A new administration will be inaugurated on May 29, how can the government improve the living standards of Nigerians?
Power will change hands on May 29 and so we need to look at our housing needs. Up till now, most of the census that we have had are politically motivated in the name of let have more numbers to this side so that when we want to do the sharing of our commonwealth; we will say the North has this.
We are yet to have a true figure of the Nigerians; the numbers of our housing needs. But if we don’t know the number of your children as a parent, how can you budget?
If somebody is telling you your children are eight and actually your children are five or four, and you collect salary at the end of the month – and you are paying school fees for eight instead of four.
Or you have eight and someone is telling you that you have four and you are budgeting to pay school fees for four people – that is the problem. Do we actually know our housing needs? Have we done a thorough, critical investigation or count of what is the actual housing need? I keep hearing 16 million, 20 million housing deficits; and now 30 million, who is doing the counting? Is the counting real?
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In line with your expectations as a critical stakeholder in the real estate sector; how can we bridge the country’s housing deficit?
We have huge expectations from the government that is coming in, probably because this is the first time we are having someone coming from the private sector; from the thriving business sector.
This is one man that has been doing business for years and knows how to do it. But for us I’ll say the government should see the housing sector from a social angle. There is what we call social housing to bridge the gap for thousands of the people and millions of the citizens who cannot afford to buy a house.
There is a theory in housing called social good; the government will almost give out the entire house for free. That is why you see houses that are locked down and yet no buyer – it’s because of purchasing power.
There is no effective purchasing demand. Millions of Nigerians are just surviving to eat and you are now talking about houses worth N30 millions; where are they going to get it from. So, in other climes we see the government giving houses for 30 years; houses that the developer is selling for N30 million and the government is selling for N3 millions and the government is saying you should use 30 years to pay – my friend it’s a free gift. So we call it social housing.
If governments themselves have nothing less than two to three million housing units across the nation as a social good. Just roll it out – a house that can be sold for N20 million, you are giving it out for N2.5 million and also asking them to pay for 30 or 20 years.
The outgoing administration has passed the pain of oil subsidy removal to the incoming administration; any thought on what the incoming government should do?
If Tinubu wants to remove petroleum subsidies; let’s use that money to build houses because when people live in decent, poverty free environments they’ll think well; productivity will be enhanced. You will see a lot of productive youth, brilliant youth that will come out with ideas that will make the economy of this country thrive.
You said the Land Use Act is more successful in the North; what do you think is responsible for this?
I can tell you for free that that land use decree was designed from the microscopic eyes looking at the ways the North administered their lands, and use it to generalize.
So, if we look through federalism and the way it was done in 1978 after the civil war, Obasanjo was looking at how we can develop the nation after houses have been burnt and destroyed.
We are different people; maybe there should be a different land use decree for the south west, different from the South-south; because of our cultural difference. If not the law will keep failing and for the North all they need to do is to speak with the Emir; honestly, and the emir will talk to the people – nobody will trouble you.
My brother, but come to the South West, talk to Oba Elegushi – you’ll see all sort of family members saying one thing or the other, you’ll see fire everywhere. They don’t do that in the North.
Tell Obi of Onitsha, he’ll tell you that ‘Akile’ I can help you to call the owner of the land to sell for you but I cannot say it is my land but in the North they believe that emir owns everything; whatever the emir says they go with it.
So, I’ll say that they should look at the application and the cultural understanding of the people and their law and use it in designing each one. When you go to the north there’s this land use decree format for 2023, when you come to the south you want to buy land in the south there’s decree number 5 of land use decree of 2023; so that people can apply according to their ways of life.
That will really help us unlike the other one. Again, I said let all the lands belong to the government. Let everybody register under government and even help the government look for investors then we’ll see the investor as partners.
If a Chinese person occupied my father’s land; a 40 acres of land and they are paying us N50 million per annum, nothing will happen to the Chinese man and nothing will happen to the investor. So, all of us will protect that investor; forever, my generation will continue to enjoy it. If I’m earning N50 million in my lifetime, my generation will be earning N200 million in their own lifetime. So, I’ll protect the Chinese man.
You listed wage increments among some of the solutions to housing needs; do you think that can solve the problem considering the fragile nature of the economy?
Let me share an example with you; do you think senators have problems buying houses? Do you think governors have problems buying houses? No. Aides to the president are buying houses everywhere not even in Nigeria alone but all over the world because they earn well. So if every civil servant is earning like senators or politicians, the situation will be far better than it is now.
What is the problem with the economy? The major problem about the economy is when you’re working and you are not paid what you should get. If the economy is so bad how can a senator go home with #30million in a month; how can one man (accountant general) embezzle #500billion if the country is bad?
I’ve traveled to other countries in West Africa, where there is even no money to steal; you’ll see their politicians and the kind of car they are driving and you’ll know that there’s poverty in this nation but not ours.
It is every year they are renovating the roof of the national assembly as if they are using inferior materials and they renovate it with billions of naira – my brother this country is rich, we impoverished ourselves by deliberate actions.
Look at the trillions and trillions of debt, where are those money going to; so it’s not that we don’t have the money but we refuse to do the needful that is why we have this poverty; Nigeria is rich. We have oil.
They are selling oil and other mineral resources everyday – the problem is not the money but let’s share it equally. The problem is that we are not sharing the common wealth evenly and not that Nigerians are not hardworking; it is not that Nigeria does not have something to sell, we are one of the highest oil-producing nation in Africa but somebody is collecting the salary for about 20 people, 100 people or 500 people — we have just one person sitting on the commonwealth of the economy.