Trade unions housing scheme on course, says FG
The Federal Government has reiterated its determination to complete the Nigerian Workers Affordable Housing Development programme, which was launched two years ago.
The government had through Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) entered into an agreement with leading labour unions – Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) – for the implementation of the scheme. The Guardian learnt that the pilot schemes in 14 states including Abuja is about 85 per cent completed and awaiting commissioning.
The first phase of the scheme is expected to deliver 200 or 100 housing units in each of the six zones for registered members of NLC, TUC and NECA that contribute to the National Housing Fund (NHF) managed by FMBN. The house types included semi-detached bungalows and blocks of one bedroom, two bedrooms, and three bedrooms.
Speaking with The Guardian, the FMBN’s Unit Head, Public Affairs, Ahmed Kaoje, disclosed that work has been completed in the first phase of the scheme. “We have commissioned the Enugu State sites. It is this COVID-19 that affected the commissioning of some of the pilot scheme/centres. Only few are in the completion stages”, he said.
The project kicked off in sites located at Nasarawa, Kogi, Lagos, Adamawa, Enugu, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Jigawa, Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Delta, Abuja and Ogun.
The major challenge on the project, he observed, had been the high cost of building materials, especially cement which sells for about N4, 000 per bag and the pandemic. However, he stated that the spread across states would depend on the governors’ ability to donate land for the project.
Kaoje said: “It is going to be a continuous project, depending on the availability of land and off takers.
“The house are accessed through the National Housing Fund (NHF) loan, where an individual has to pass through the Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs) or ‘rent to own’ where individuals deal directly with the FMBN without any intermediaries and equity contribution.
“It is only for houses that are above N5 million that you pay equity of 10 per cent. Before it was 20 to 30 per cent equity. We realised that many workers can’t afford the equity that is why it was reviewed downwards.
Kaoje said the groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the scheme will kick off with a 90-unit estate at Uburu, Ohaozara council in Ebonyi State. A total of 200 housing units are planned in collaboration with FMBN and labour unions.
The Director General, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, told The Guardian, that the essence of the collaboration was to help the bank in achieving its mandate, and getting houses for NHF contributors.
The DG disclosed that majority of the sites under the pilot scheme are being commissioned and allocated to the off-takers.
“We have one of the projects in Lagos zone, which is being built in the Deeper Life axis of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway that is in advance stage of construction.
“FMBN is committed and stakeholders are cooperating and contributors are happy. We said there should be specific intervention that would pass through developers who would be accountable to the bank and allocation should be for NECA, NLC and TUC members”, he said.
On the affordability of the projects, he said the time was past when subscribers don’t have options. What the workers negotiated with the FMBN is the ‘rent to own scheme’ which is more convenient for the workers unlike when subscribers have to go through the PMBs that make it compulsory that would-be subscribers would pay 30 per cent equity, which most workers can’t afford.
Olawale added, “but with ‘rent to own’, the workers become the landlord immediate and take possession at their own convenient time, while the payment is spread over the years of service, and makes it affordable and convenient.”
The Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Enugu State, Ben Asogwe, lauded the government for making the project a reality. stressing that the association would go back to tell workers to subscribe.