The Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Muhammad Al- Amin, in the concluding part of this interview granted Daily Trust recently sheds lights on what the FHA is doing to address housing challenges in the country.
How are you working to close the widening gap between the rich and the poor in terms of housing ownership?
Our programs tally towards addressing the Global Urban Agenda that is inclusiveness in housing. While you target to get houses for the rich people, you also target for the poor people, the middle income earners as well as the middle urban income earners. To achieve this, the Federal Government came up with some programs.
For instance, the project for the high income earners was given to FHA to do under its commercial housing and private developers were encouraged to come into that venture.
Then the issue of staff housing, the Federal Government brought out the National Housing Program which is being piloted by our supervisory ministry and it is to target the middle income earners (Federal government and state government staff). Government brought about the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Programme (FISH) so that the staff of government could be accommodated. Then for other Nigerians particularly those that migrated from Rural to Urban areas, the Mass Housing Program was introduced and anchored by FHA.
This is the vision of the president that every category of Nigerians must have a program of housing that will address his own needs and we designed our programs in the FHA in line with that. We have the commercial projects and the social programs that we are doing and in-between them, we have some partnerships that would bring in investors to help us handle the other aspects.
What are some of the projects you have started and completed?
We first strive to finish the projects that we met on ground because government is continuity. First, is the Apo- Guzape partnership project, which we inherited about 15 percent completed. We quickly looked at the documents and agreement and realized that there were no end lines particularly for completion. So, what we did was to divide the project into 3 phases and by the first quarter of 2019 we are completing the first phase and then move into the other phase.
Apart from that there are projects that have to do with urban- poor which started the pilot projects in Zuba, Kwali and Lugbe and all this projects are targeting the low income earners. In the FCT we designed a commercial housing project that is called Nigerian- Diaspora Housing Program. We designed it for two reasons, first there must be befitting accommodation for those that can afford it in the country and secondly, we are targeting the diasporans because of numerous complaints and problems they encounter when they come back home trying to acquire properties.
The Diaspora Housing City of FHA in Abuja is just like a miniature of what you see in Dubai and we have over 60,000 off takers. The only thing holding us is the international law governing remittances of money. We have designed a system between FHA and the central bank which we can collect money from other countries without it being linked to terrorist financing. We must collect money that is pure not product of any criminality and as soon as we do that we will go ahead and collect the money and assign houses to interested off takers.
There has been complaints of poor infrastructures particularly roads in most FHA houses despite huge allocation of funds to the FHA. Why is it so?
I would have to correct this question because first of all there has not been any allocation of funds for infrastructures in FHA estates. What FHA does is to have a complete project and finance it either by itself or by partners or through government intervention. I agree that there are dilapidating infrastructures in our estates but that was before. When I came on board, we realized this and first thing we did was to take stock of these infrastructures. When we had that statistic we now decided to establish another arm of FHA called FHA Facilty Management Company to help us maintain our estates to its standard.
It is also important to mention that we have different categories of estates, the type of infrastructures that you expect in commercial housing project for the highbrow is not what you will get in the social housing project and there were some major mistakes that happened in the previous years. In most of these housing projects, the issue of infrastructure was not a priority, the priority then was just how many units for housing project to be built.
Lugbe Housing Estates was a National Housing Program under Lateef Jakande and the priority was never on the roads or other infrastructures. It was later on FHA decided to partner with with the residents to charge some resources from them that was called Capital Development Labour in order to augment what has so that we will have all these roads done to standard.