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Three states back FG’s housing scheme for civil servants

By Bertram Nwannekanma
28 January 2019   |   3:09 am
Conceptualised in 2013 as part of government’s initiatives to address the housing needs of civil servants, the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme has since undergone several reviews to overcome initial hurdles in order to accelerate the implementation Notwithstanding concerns over the high cost of the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme, three states have…

Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing

Conceptualised in 2013 as part of government’s initiatives to address the housing needs of civil servants, the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme has since undergone several reviews to overcome initial hurdles in order to accelerate the implementation

Notwithstanding concerns over the high cost of the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme, three states have indicated interest to partner the Federal Government on the scheme and to provide housing for the teeming Nigeria civil servants.

Sources revealed to The Guardian that three States, namely Cross River, Nassarawa and Niger have formally signified intention to be part of the scheme.

According to the source, the office has received interests from these states but is yet to tidy up modalities for their participation.

“We’re also working to ensure that all applications for the programme are properly scrutinized to eliminate fake documents”, he said.

The programme targets 30,000 houses for the civil servants through the Federal government social housing scheme.

Conceived in 2013 as a veritable means of bridging the nation’s 17 million housing gap by providing mass housing for federal civil servants in Nigeria, the programme is part of government’s initiative toward addressing the housing needs of Civil Servants, particularly those at the lower cadre who are unable to own their own houses due to the costs of land acquisition, building and purchase.

Already, FISH Estates I and 2, in Kuje, Abuja have been commissioned, while those at Karu are to be commissioned soon.

But the high cost of the houses being superintended by private developers meant that an average low cadre civil servant might not be able to access the programme.

Some of the subscribers, who raised the concerns in Abuja lamented that it is still exorbitant.

At present, the unit price for the three bedroom ranges from N9million to N13 million depending on location.

A civil servant with the federal ministry of works, said government has to do more to reduce the cost.

The source from the office of the head of service however said the programme operates in line with Federal Mortgage bank directive that those who want to access the facility will pay 10 per cent of the total cost.

He said it used to be about 25 per cent before it was changed last year to enable more workers access the programme.

According to the source, the FISH programme does not have fund of its own but process subscribers from the Federal Mortgage Board of Nigeria (FMBN), the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board, National Housing Fund and mortgage institutions.

He stressed that government is planning to give land and once this happens, the price will drop, as the only thing they will need is the construction finance.

“ If Government has the buoyancy, it will provide the construction finance or we go to the private commercial banks and discuss with them because it is a mass housing project”, he said.

He also explained that the project is not limited to Abuja as it is expanding to other states.

“For instance, we had a project in Lagos and we visited last December to see how far the developer has gone.

The two FISH Estates in Kuje have a total of one hundred and fifty-one housing units, and thirty-two beneficiaries have been given keys to their houses.

“There are on going projects in Kurudu, Kashi and Karu. So many people are still constructing the houses; some have reached 70 per cent, some 40 percent. It is stage by stage; most of them are financing it from construction finances.

“The programme is open to all cadre of civil servants with steady salary and are contributing to NHF through monthly deductions.

“ By the time we stabilizes, private sectors will come on board. Already developers, are applying to join the programme, we ensure that they have lands. Some will say they have finances and lands, others have existing estates, what we need is to partner with government and then you bring civil servants, we now go to check the estate and make sure that their documentations are in order, approvals, the type of buildings.

“We are concerned with the quality of the building. You will be surprise the type of building we are bringing in at a low price. When developers know that you are flooding the market with buildings, the prices will also collapse but when there is scarcity in supply, the prices will shoot up. We are really working on that seriously.

The problem, we have is that every body want to stay in city centre, people need to understand that not everybody will stay in the centre.

It means we have to expand from the city -centre to the outskirts or we will be talking about high rising buildings which is more costlier”, he added.

Concerns over housing deficits date back to 1991, when Nigeria was said to have housing deficit of seven million units.

Since then, the deficits in housing requirements have been growing at 5.8 per cent per annum, which has given rise to a slum population estimated at about 70 per cent.

To address the deficits, various governments through national development plans have made frantic efforts in ensuring adequate mass housing, especially in urban areas.

Like every administration before, the present Government’s effort still fall short of meeting the nation’s housing expectations.

For instance, contrary to its promise in 2016 to build 5,000 housing units for workers in the public sector in the 36 states every year for the next three years, the government seem to have deviated from that direction as it announced last August, that it had commenced 2,736 new housing units in 33 states across the country.

The government also initiated Nigeria Housing Fund Programme (NHFP) under the Social Investment Fund of the Federal Government, in which N100 billion was set aside for its commencement.

The scheme is coordinated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure access to housing finance by prospective homeowners.

The Federal Government also earmarked N35.4 billion for housing in the 2018 budget for its workforce under the National Housing Programme.

In view of this repulsive trend, the World Bank, in 2016, projected that it would cost the country about N59.5 trillion to address the housing deficits.

Worst hit are low cadre civil servants, whose dreams of owing a home have been dashed by the high cost of construction and mortgage rates.

But experts said the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme initiated by the Office of Head of Service has rekindled the hope of meeting the housing needs of civil servants.

The Executive Secretary of Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board, Dr. (Mrs.) Hannatu Fika, said it is the responsibility of the Board to ensure the successful implementation of the FISH programme through provision of loans.

She revealed that the estate constructed by C2Q Property & Investment Co. Ltd, in Kuje was fully funded through the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Scheme.

Also, the Head of service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita described the FISH programme as a dream come true, noting that the scheme is to provide quality and affordable housing for Civil Servants.

According to her, the overall objective of the FISH programme is to improve the quality of life of Civil Servants and their families, which will help foster a multiplier effect on the economy and reduce corruption in the public service in line with the Federal Government’s anti-corruption drive.

“As you can all testify, housing is a basic human need central to wellbeing. The importance of FISH programme, therefore, cannot be overemphasized,” she said.

She also said the office has introduced the rent to own model where people stay in the houses and they start deducting some percentage from their salary over a period of 10-20 years.

Mrs. Oyo-Ita further explained that her office is making efforts to secure bulk land allocation from Federal Capital Territory and other State Governments, which will drastically reduce the cost of housing for Civil Servants across the country.

One of the partners, the Managing Director of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Ahmed M. Dangiwa, said the bank was pleased to partner with the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation on the FISH programme.

He disclosed that the FISH Estate II, Kuje with 86 houses was financed by the bank and uploaded on FISH programme on rent-to-own model.