Increase in population is responsible for housing deficit in Nigeria – Ibiam Uko

Festus Ibiam Uko is the management consultant and the CEO of Real Estate Synergy Support Associate (RESSA), a project aimed to proffer solutions to the housing deficit among low income teachers in Lagos State. In this interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, he spoke on the poor state of teachers in the state and the need for them and police personnel to be well taken care of. He also spoke on the reasons for the housing deficit in Lagos in spite of the increase in the number of developed estates in the state. Excerpts:

Why focus on teachers?

We are targeting teachers because they are important in society besides, they are character moulders and should be well taken care of, and government cannot do it alone. What we do is encourage them to form a team of eleven teachers in their schools, we understand that they do monthly contributions and because they do not have any project to execute, the moment they receive their monthly contributions, they consume it, but now we encourage them to invest the contributions in buying lands. When they receive their monthly contributions, they will add them together and buy land for one person, before one and half years all of them would have become land owners; we will give them time to pay for the remaining part of the money .We wave both agency and agreement fees for them. By so doing many of them will be landlords before they retire from teaching work. RESSA has come to change the saying that ‘teachers reward is in heaven.’ Asides, we want teachers to come in to real estate business; it is not only for people that have millions, they can buy, sale and make money to take adequate care of themselves and their families as well. We are planning to extend the project to police because they are not well paid as well.

How do you source for lands and ensure they are genuine?

There are different challenges as far as sourcing for land is concerned, but we ensure the lands we sale to them are genuine. But the problem we have most at times comes from the agents and the surveyors, they might take us to land they have worked on, that is land that they have surveyed for a particular family and they want to sale it to us. After buying such lands, the families may come back after two or three years, saying that we encroached in to their lands. The encroachment according to them may not be one plot; there was a situation where we lost many of plots, at the end we discovered that the agents really encroached in to their lands. Eventually, we were asked to go for which cost us over two to three million naira, we have to do that because we are bringing teachers who are struggling with money, we do not have to make them to lose the little savings they have made over the years.

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There are increased cases of building collapse in the country. What do you think is responsible and what is the way out?

We are particular about the development of our estates because we do not want to record such cases. What we have tried to check is the trust and that is the in thing because when you give money to some contractors or engineers they would want to buy inferior materials. To avoid such, we do not give out contract completely and remove our hands. When we give out a contract, we will state the standard of what we want, we will use our hand and check what you are doing, if it is the block, we will mold our blocks. You must understand what you want and monitor it to the latest, because of high level of corruption among the engineers and builders, when they use inferior or sub- standard materials, there is no way the building will not bend one day.

The cost of accommodation is on the increase particularly in Lagos and this is in spite of the increase in building of estates. What do you think is responsible and what is the solution?

The cause of housing deficit is due to population increase, the population is on the increase and no one is controlling it. I think Nigeria has not done census for so many years and when they do, they are not bringing the actual result. Take for instance, in China, if you have two children one is legal and the other one is not. That means one may have security benefit while the other will not. The one that is legal will have access to public universities and hospitals while the one that is illegal will not. The country came up with such policy so as to control the population, but what is Nigeria government doing to control the increase in the population. In Lagos, you will see people sleeping under the bridges and on the chairs in the markets because they cannot afford accommodation. As the population is increasing, there will be housing deficit. I did research on how to be rich and l discovered that the rich does not have more than three children, so l took that decision to have two children in order to have breathing space and help those who are in need. If you have too many children you have already created problem for yourself. My advised is that government should checkmate this incessant giving of birth, I saw they are doing birth control that is not enough, the government should pin it down the same way countries like China did. We are talking about social security when people that are existing does not even have a number, we do not control data, we do not even have the actual number of existing in Nigeria , we are assuming that we are about two hundred million, it is an assumption, we may be more or less than that. There should be a record and if there is a record , government should map out strategies on how to curb it in the next two four years, because the rate beggars are giving birth, they do not have money, but they give birth continuously, they should be told that they are entitled to only one child. We do not have a functional system and that is the reason we are experiencing brain drain, doctors are not well paid and they are running down to countries that have functional system. Government should create an enabling environment for business to grow, it is not in the hands of government to say they are creating jobs, you will see a minister saying they will create 30,000 jobs when there is no functional system, they will not tell you how they will create the job, they will start giving 5 thousand naira each to the youths without any plan of what five thousand can do and in the next ten years you will not have any millionaire, but when you set up a system, give out loan, in the next twenty years, you will see many millionaires. Government should not disturb new businesses in the name of collection of multiple taxes, such businesses will be crushed. If we have good business environment, many companies will function well, people will pay tax and government will make enough money to establish public infrastructures. Depending only on oil will not be a solution, there are countries that do not have natural resources like oil and they are doing well because they have intellectual properties, they will discover problems and they will solve it.

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