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Car, mortgage loans for workers - The Sun

By The Citizen
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President Goodluck Jonathan has indicated that as from next year, working-class Nigerians will have easy access to car and housing loans to shield them from corruption in the effort to own these items. The president said the pressure to acquire these facilities lures workers both in the public and private sectors to indulge in untoward practices.

In pursuit of this lofty initiative, a mortgage refinance company established by the Federal Ministry of Finance with majority private sector involvement will address the acute housing shortfall in the country. This reintroduction of car and housing loans will, hopefully, elicit more commitment from the potential beneficiaries and encourage honesty and hard work.

Nothing poses a challenge to workers as much as accommodation and means of transport. The scenario gets worse when workers stop working for sundry reasons or retire in penury without a roof over their heads! In fact, housing professionals have declared that any man who at the age of 40 does not own a house is a failure! In reality, only very few Nigerians under this age category can boast of such attainment. So, with this unique intervention by the federal and some state governments, there is now a ray of hope especially for low-income earners who, ordinarily, may not be able to afford these essentials of life.

We implore the government to ensure that the interest rate will not be the same with the prevailing commercial regime so that the average worker can easily access the loans without fiscal encumbrances that are common in the banking and financial services sub-sectors. It is in a bid to meet these needs that workers become corrupt as that appears the only way to accomplish their hearts' desires in the face of competing needs and paucity of funds.

The private mortgage structure is so prohibitive that not many workers can afford to do business with its promoters. It is good that the government is planning to finally come to the rescue of workers who, ordinarily, cannot buy or build houses at the current market value that keeps skyrocketing on a daily basis. Again, only well-heeled Nigerians can buy brand new cars at the current high prices. Even the popular second-hand vehicles are beyond the reach of most workers. In such circumstance, most workers remain perpetually tenants and dependent on public means of movement. Such a poverty profile can only induce corruptive tendencies and other tendentious behaviours that ultimately undermine societal values.

Since this proposed scheme is a constituent of next year's budgetary plan, we hope it will not go the way of some government proclamations that ended up as policies without critical cash back-up or adequate administrative provision and sustainable guarantees. The idea of car and housing loans is not new. Nigeria's public service, in the past, had similar programmes that either suffered policy somersaults, or were affected by leadership changes over time. Therefore, the present government should ensure that this laudable proposal does not suffer any hiccup and that it outlives this administration. Continuity is imperative so that hopes are not raised and dashed on flimsy grounds, as obtained in the past.

This development is also a clarion call on private estate developers to review their terms and conditions downwards to attract more patronage and engender healthy competition in the light of governments' increasing participation in public housing schemes. Any average worker should be able to afford a decent house if the conditions are made right by both government and private agencies. Standard and affordable housing is a component of the millennium development goals, which all nations subscribe to.

We commend the World Bank which has offered a soft loan of $300 million under its International Development Association (IDA) concessionary lending window to facilitate this plan. Equally worthy of appreciation are the state governments that already have this kind of housing finance schemes. That is what meaningful governance is all about: meeting people's basic needs.

Other states that are yet to come on board should emulate their peers, because, as President Jonathan rightly explained,    government's 'efforts at strengthening the capacity of state institutions to fight corruption is not limited to granting independence to EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies. It extends to developing affordable finance for housing, car ownership, among others, as we believe that taking measures to help and realise aspirations to own their own homes and fund those things that make life easier, can also aid the fight against corruption.'