Govt’s moves to make more Nigerians home owners must be public/private partnership-driven —Akintunde

Armstrong ‘Tope Akintunde is one of the big players in the ever growing Nigeria’s real estate sector and currently the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aerofield Homes Limited. In this interview with BAYO ALADE, he speaks on the problems of housing in the country and how government can make it available to every Nigerian.

 

PAST governments in the country have been talking of making housing available to Nigerians at a low cost but this has not been possible, while the cost of housing and the prices of building materials continue to increase on daily basis. Can we ever realise the mantra of housing for all?

To achieve this objective in Nigeria requires more than just rhetoric. It requires well-laid out, conscientious and concerted efforts by governments at all levels. The plans of governments desirous of providing low cost housing must put into consideration the activities and contributions of professionals and artisans in building, as well as manufacturers and stockists of building materials.

The cluster of these classes of people and committed, selfless government officials or representatives will lead to attaining such goal.  It must be taken into consideration that no matter how genuine or strong the intention or drive may be, if the prices of building materials are not controlled or managed, the idea will never come to fruition. It will be comparable to winking in the dark, because, if the prices of building materials are exhorbitant, the possibility of building low cost housing will be frustrated, thwarted and become a mission impossible.

 

No doubt Nigeria has been battling with housing deficit to the tune of 20 million housing units. How best can the public and private sectors close the deficit gap?

The method of bridging the deficit is realisable when governments’ commitment to the aspiration is well thought out and pursued vigorously. One, government should make land available at reasonable prices to private property investors. This will forestall the presence of the class of people called land grabbers or area boys who are fond of forcefully taking money from builders before they can commence building at their sites.

Two, governments should also encourage private housing investors by giving them some waivers in the areas of official payments such as C of O,  construction charges among others, as this will not only reduce cost of building but also give them confidence of governments’ support. Additionally, knowing that we have land developers here and there, governments could partner with some tested and result-oriented ones among them, because, as it is often said, government alone cannot do it all.

 

Building collapse is very common in the country; what would you ascribe to the problem?

Building collapse has become a recurrent decimal in the land because of the selfishness and lack of seriousness on the part of both builders and governments on the grounds that many of them are not doing the necessary things. A builder wants to use the materials for one building to build two or three houses. The government officers who are to supervise and inspect the propriety or standards of materials to be used and are not ready to go to the site to inspect them once the builders are ready to settle them.

There had been reported cases of building approval done in the offices with the officials charged with such responsibility merely relying on the information supplied by the builders. Additionally, reports abound that many potential home owners employ quacks who only adopt trial and error methods instead of using professional builders who are seasoned with building experiences. As long as standards are compromised and the supervising authorities are lackadaisical, we will continue to experience building collapse in the country.

 

As a developer and builder, how do you rate Nigerians’ disposable income ratio to homes ownership and what is the number of an average Nigerians earning between N20,000 and N100,000 monthly owning befitting homes, considering the rising cost of housing?

As a developer or builder, one must confess and state it bluntly that no Nigerian earning between N20,000 and N100,000 can really afford a home with the ever increasing cost of living considering expenses on other things like education, transportation, health and feeding. Besides, the cost of building materials is daily increasing. The only way this class of people could own homes is by cooperative arrangements, other self-help projects or by governments supports in the form of mortgage or some forms of allocations in which the costs are deducted from their salaries.

We have been able to surmount the problem because of our realistic and focused approach to the home sector. We prioritised the sector, and so deployed all efforts required. As earlier enumerated, housing programmes, particularly low cost ones are realisable with dedication, determination and genuine drive by governments and government officials. If all the issues highlighted above are complied with, then the problem is surmountable.

It is also apposite for governments to create satellite towns or settlements in which case reasonably priced lands are procured, built, with provisions of schools, markets, good road network and other facilities that would make such places conducive for the residents.

 

What are the major challenges in the industry and how do you surmount them as a major player?

Nigeria’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are faced with many challenges which have stunted their growth and development. Some of these challenges are poor infrastructural facilities, inadequate funding and lack of access to capital, weak managerial and entrepreneurial skills, limited demand for their products and services, and competition from foreign products.

Among these challenges, the most restricting is the inadequacy of funds and lack of access to capital. Indeed, most of the other problems could easily be resolved with sufficient finance. Our financial institutions typically wait for entrepreneurs to become successful before they take any serious interest in their businesses. However creative and innovative they are, these entrepreneurs often cannot meet the strict credit risk acceptance criteria of banks.

 

Can you let us a little into your background?

I was born on November 5, 1983, to the family of late Fowodara of Araromi, in Iperu Remo, Ogun State. I attended Wesley Primary School, Iperu between 1988 and 1992 and proceeded to Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Iperu-Remo where I was between 1992 and 1998. I furthered my studies at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB) now known as Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB) where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Agronomy. During the period, I was a student union activist at UNAAB as the General Secretary of the National Association of Iperu Students (NAIS) between 2000 and 2001; General Secretary of the National Association of Ogun State Students (NAOSS) between 2003 and 2004.

I was thereafter elected as the President of National Association of Ogun State Students (NAOSS) 2004-2005. I have been so privileged to attend several conferences and seminars both in Nigeria, Europe and the USA. In recent time, I was honoured with various awards. I am a Fellow Member of the Institute of Professional Managers and Administrator of Nigeria (IPMA); Associate Member of Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM) with certificate as a Certified Customer Relationship Manager (CRM/CEP). I have been able to attend several real estate and project management courses, seminars, trainings and conferences.

I joined Suru Group Limited in 2009 and I am currently the Executive Director on Special Projects in the organization. I am also the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aerofield Homes Limited.

 

What are your dreams for expansion and to make housing available to Nigerians soonest?

Nigeria has suffered the paradox of economic growth without development for many years. Many economists often lament what they have come to describe as our “job-less growth.” While all macro-economic indices point to an economy which is truly growing and there is noticeable improvement in our public infrastructure, especially power and roads, unemployment still remains a challenge. With our huge population comprising mainly youths, this is worrisome and a great threat to our posterity.

Nigeria needs to achieve a quick-win solution that ensures that most of our employable citizens are gainfully engaged. We must harness the innovative spirit and entrepreneurial acumen of our people in our battle against unemployment. We must empower our entrepreneurs to be in the position to create jobs on a large scale. However, as our institution wants it to grow across the federation, having been a business entrepreneur myself and having been a resource person in several training programs for entrepreneurs, as a matter of priority, we intend to establish a world-class academy for the training and development of young entrepreneurs in the nearest future. It shall be a centre of excellence which others would want to emulate.

 

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