Source: thewillnigeria.com

If not for the high reputation Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola  has in the last six years established as someone who keeps his word religiously, most people would not have given him the benefit of the doubt when he on Monday, February 3, 2014, launched a scheme which would make at least 200 Lagosians become landlords every month.

Not even the unveiling of some of the state of the art houses on this occasion could erase the doubt completely.

The doubting Thomases may have felt that the houses were too good to be given to unknown members of the public, rather than top government officials and leaders of the ruling party in the state.

But no one need blame incredulous Nigerians; they have over the decades lived under various governments known for taking the people for a ride.

So, it was a red-letter day when on Tuesday, March 4, at the premises of the Lagos Television Gov Fashola led a very large number of people to flag off the first 200 homes to be given monthly to Lagosians to own.

The audience comprised former governors Omobolaji Johnson, Lateef Jakande and Bola Tinubu who was represented by erstwhile deputy governor Abiodun Ogunleye as well as Muslim and Christian clerics and civil society leaders who were there to see to the integrity of the process.

Others were, apart from top government officials, House of Representatives Diaspora Committee chairperson Abike Dabiri-Erewa, top entrepreneur Omolade Okoya-Thomas and the governor's wife, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola.

98 out of 322 persons who applied for the homes were prequalified to bid.

31 of them who were present went home as landlords of houses in Agege, Lekki, Ikorodu  and Surulere, complete with ownership certificates.

The 137 persons who could  not secure houses will be among those to be considered in the next round of balloting, according to Akinola Kodjo Sagoe, executive secretary of the Lagos State Mortgage Board.

'I won a 3-bedroom flat without having any contact with any government official or knowing any person working on the mortgage board', says Mrs Bibiana Kanayo Aloba.

'I filled the form through the Internet'.
Both Aderele Ayoola-Johnson and Abayomi Sylvester Akitoye, who won 3-three bedroom homes in Agege, agree, advising other people without their own properties in Lagos to apply as soon as possible.

'The process is transparent', says Akitoye who calls the home ownership scheme 'a once in a lifetime opportunity created by the government to change the fate of thousands of families, a scheme which both the Federal Government and the state governments should learn, adopt and implement aggressively in order to empower millions of Nigerians in desperate need of homes across the country, especially those in places like the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt'.

The homes are meant for those who have never had houses anywhere in Lagos, whether built by themselves or acquired through the government.

'If we discover even in the 10th year that a beneficiary has a house in Lagos, he or she will automatically lose the one won through the Lagos HOMS', says Fashola.

To qualify to bid for a home, a person must have lived in Lagos for at least 180 days and paid his or her tax in the last five years.

The person must be prepared to make a 30% down payment of the total value of the property desired.

The rest will be paid for at least 10 years and at the rate of 9.

Observes Emeka Eriobuna, a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers who runs a leading property development firm in Abuja: 'These are very favourable terms in a country where the mortgage interest rate is not less than 11% if the tenor is only four years'.

The state government is wont to stress  that what it is building under the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) are no houses but homes, saying that while houses can be mere dwelling places which can be purchased outright in one fell swoop like any commodity, homes are paid for over a long period of time, as obtains in advanced nations.

Most Nigerian working and middle class members, argues Fashola, 'cannot own decent homes based on their legitimate earnings.

This is why we introduced the scheme'.
1,104 houses have been completed under the scheme and 3,156 units are at various completion stages while work is about to start on 4,554 others.

The houses are in two designs: a block of four floors containing 12 flats of 1-,2- and 3-bedroom flats and a block of 2-bedroom flats as well as 3-bedroom flats.

132 units are located in Iponri, 72 in Ikorodu, 648 in Badagry, 216 in Obele, 36 in Akerele, 48 in Oyingbo, 1,254 in Ilubrin and 1,080 in Ijora Badia.

There is a 25% discount across the board for all the homes.

Consequently, a 1-bedroom home will go for as low as N4.

3m even when the payment period is well over a decade.

If the winners pay promptly, the government will increase the monthly stock of houses on offer from 200 to even 600 units.

The governor is confident that the scheme will continue after he ceases to be in office next year.

'An institution has been developed and a system created, so the scheme is taking a life of its own', he noted in a recent interview.

The only obstacle he fears is payment default.
He has consequently been appealing to the winners to take prompt payment as an article of faith.

He said at the flag-off ceremony: 'I want to make perhaps the most important appeal, that is, the right to own a home comes with a lot of responsibilities to pay monthly charges and rates.

By so doing, you will bring back a pool of money into the system that will enable us to build for other people who have paid their taxes and are in the queue.

' Fashola is believed to have learnt from the experience of ex governor Jakande who executed a popular mass housing scheme from 1980 to 83.

The government still pays for the repainting and even minor electrical repairs in the Jakande estates because maintenance issues are not spelt out in the sales agreement.

'No one should expect Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to make mistakes like this one', according to Tunde Alabi, publisher of the New York-based Black Ivory magazine who runs a business consulting firm in Lagos.

He shares the governor's projection that in the next 7 years the scheme should be self financing, thus consigning the state government to the role of a regulator and purchaser of homes built by the private sector.

'The government will no longer be investing directly in building houses', he adds, recalling that the government did not obtain a loan to kick off the scheme.

'It relied purely on internally generated revenue, prudent financial management and disciplined economic husbandry to save N200m monthly for this scheme before escalating the savings to N500m every month'.

Alabi has over the years maintained a deep interest in the state government's provision of affordable houses because his late journalist father won a beautiful house in Alapere during the Jakande era in Lagos in a transparent manner.

Emeka Onuorah, immediate past president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers who says he has known Fashola right from their childhood days in Surulere, remarks that the governor did not wake up one morning and just hit upon the idea of developing an 'incomparable home ownership scheme in Nigeria.

In fact, he was a young lawyer when he handled a case against the state government for the non-payment of suppliers of materials to the Jakande housing scheme, and ironically had become the chief of staff to Governor Tinubu when the court judgment was to be executed.

So, he understands the loopholes in the Jakande scheme and avoids them in the Lagos HOMS.

Besides, he went to Singapore shortly after he became governor to speak personally to Lee Kuan Yew so as to profit from the legendary former prime minister's experience in his eminently successful housing development programme.

So, Fashola has personally driven the scheme, having held 29 meetings on the scheme in the last three years.

This is why he is able to deliver a home ownership scheme which meets international standards'.

Onuorah commends the ample space created for each flat, calling it 'a great leap from the matchboxes which pass for houses in the name of mass housing even in developed nations'.

A 1-bedroom flat has a space of 60.
22m square metres,  a 2-bedroom flat 75.
79square metres and a 3-bedroom flat 123.
88square metres.
'They also have more living areas than regular flats', he notes.

Governor Fashola observes that the Lagos HOMS has created considerable business and employment opportunities.

134 construction companies, 459 sub contractors employing 1,168 persons and 7 consulting firms have been engaged so far.

In addition, 5,442 suppliers and artisans like labourers and food vendors have benefitted from it.

  'This is the kind of ambitious building and construction programme needed to provide a critically needed service in Nigeria and at the same empower a large spectrum of our society', observes Haruna Abubakar, an economist with Heritage consulting firm in Lagos.

'Fashola has set the pace, and it now behooves other governments in Nigeria to take a cue, so that our people can get the dividends of democracy in a profound and sustainable manner.

In executing such schemes, the other governments in Nigeria must follow the Fashola example by not politicizing the process of giving out the houses.

Fashola has scored yet another bull's eye'.
Written By Olawwale Balogun

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