Barrister Festus Adebayo is the Chief Executive Officer of Fesadeb Communications Limited, the Founder and Convener of Abuja Housing Show, unarguably the biggest Housing Show in West Africa. The lawyer turned communications expert has become synonymous with housing and construction in Nigeria.
The Osun-born entrepreneur has trudged through the slippery track of the housing industry in Nigeria and is obsessed with practical solutions to housing problems in Africa and Nigeria in particular.
In this exclusive interview, Samuel Oyejola engages Adebayo who bares his mind on the uniqueness of the 11th edition of Abuja Housing Show come mid-July, believing that innovative finance and infrastructure solutions will be the main focus of the show. Excerpt:
This year’s Abuja Housing Show is around the corner, what are the highlights of this year’s edition?
This year’s Abuja Housing Show will be a different one, being the eleventh edition. This edition will not be a talk show. We will be gathering together to look for practical solutions to housing problems that remained in 2016 that we could not address. There are lots of issues on ground. Affordability is a problem; even the ones that are available are not affordable. Check the salaries of the civil servants, check that of the directors, and tell me which of them can afford a house of N30million.
We will be looking at the issue of how we will address the issue of the National Housing Fund. The fund will be 24 years hold this year. We are going to do a quarter of a century appraisal of the fund and what it has achieved. It was established for the objective of creating cheap fund for civil servants to own a house wherein they pay 10% and spread the remaining for a period of maximum of 25 years. How many Nigerian workers have accessed that fund? What is the perspective of professionals that we are bringing together on the housing show? These are some of the issues we will be discussing during the Abuja housing show.
What is the core focus of this year’s show?
Our main focus under which we are discussing this one is innovative finance and infrastructure solutions. We cannot be talking of housing without talking about infrastructure. People live on the outskirts. How do we address the issue of infrastructure in a modern way? What innovations are they talking about all over the world in the modern way in the area of housing finance? That is what we are trying to update ourselves. Abuja housing show is like a Mecca that the Muslims go to, like a Jerusalem that the Christians go to equip and to reenergize themselves and that is the vision.
The Abuja Housing Show is a place you will see the latest trends in the housing construction industry. A lot of Nigerians go to America to attend builders show, some go to UK, Scotland and our own is Abuja Housing Show which we are also using to attract investors to attend, this year, the programme will be featuring over 400 exhibitors 10 countries of the world.
Mortgage financing remains an issue in the country, what is your take on this?
We are in partnership with solid organisations outside the country that are looking inward to see what they can do with Nigeria in the area of Diaspora financing of housing. Some of our people abroad want to own a home in Nigeria because they know that one day they will return to this country. They are afraid of giving their money to their brothers because it will end in fraud. This people want to come, how can they get a home here?
Beyond that, can we also create a mortgage system for them? Yes, we have a mortgage system in the country but what can we do for them to benefit in the mortgage financing for them this country. These are the issues that Abuja housing show will be looking into.
We are bringing in five governors who are housing and infrastructure friendly. One of our visions in the Abuja Housing Show is to see how we can reorientate the attitude of these governors because it is part of our core advocacy, to reorientate them. Creating a good road network is important because it will attract investors to your state. Having a good housing development policy is good because it will create development for the youth. These are the issues we want to drag into Abuja.
We will also be looking at the issue of sourcing for housing finance in the stock market. Abuja housing show is searching for how we can get cheap loans for the finance of housing in the country. Why can’t the government have intervention fund for housing. We have intervention fund in education. It is important because it is among the three basic necessities of life.
It is high time we explore the avenue of the capital market. That is why we have invited people who are good in raising funds to join us and teach our estate developers on the latest way of getting money so that they will be well informed.
Beyond that, apart from the intervention fund, capital market, we also want to look into foreign fund because it is having a lot of challenge in Nigeria. We have invited someone from the World Bank to talk to us about bank guarantee. When the foreign fund providers want to give you loan the first thing they ask for is your bank guarantee. Most of these banks don’t want to stand as bank guarantee.
Last year the Minister of Power, Works and Housing and the ministry played a prominent role at the show, what is the level of their involvement this year?
Last year, the Minister of works, Power, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola was involved. This year he is the Chief Host of the event. Abuja housing show is working with the Federal Ministry of Housing in ensuring that they provide affordable housing for Nigeria.
This platform is going to speak more on what Fashola is doing in the housing sector. We will look into his ministerial housing scheme that he is building in the geopolitical zones. We are going to analyse how affordable they are for the people they are building the houses for. We are also going to look at what extent has the ministry been of benefit to the people.
Recently the minster said he has created jobs for about 30,000 people. We are also going to bring them to the table through this show and advise them on what they need to do more to address the issue of housing squarely.
We also have Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) being anchored by the Head of Service. To this end we will be collaborating with FISH. We want to look at what FISH is doing right and what they are not because some people are complaining that some of the houses are substandard. We are going to address the issue of substandard houses.
We are going to look at the creation of mortgages for the civil servant. We are going to look at how we can get interest rate for civil servants. We are going to look into equity payment. South Africa is doing very well in terms of housing and we are going to learn from them in that event. When are we going to get it right?
The issue of accessing mortgage is a major challenge how do you think this can be addressed?
The government has to show a political will that this thing must work. If the government truly wants it to work they will keep their promise of recapitalizing the Federal Mortgage Bank., making the bank to have enough money to give out to developers.
We have also invited the Statistician General to give us data on housing. How many mortgages are being created in a month? We can use that to truly monitor whether Nigerians are really accessing the fund. The federal government must also work with commercial banks and make sure that the banks are housing friendly. Most of this commercial banks want their money back very fast so anything housing they have little interest.
The government should have a percentage of the budget for housing. We must also encourage members of the National Assembly to go into constituency projects that are housing-related.
Government has to sit and engage in different strategies like intervention fund. Ensure that Federal Mortgage Bank work. It is one thing to give Federal Mortgage Bank money it is another thing to monitor them and ensure that they use the money judiciously. We must also make sure that CBN also works. CBN must monitor the activities of the mortgage banks that are under its control.
Let the state governments be also involved. If the man living in Abuja does not have a house he should be able to have a house in his state. Those who design the National Housing Fund try to solve this issue, how do we make people to go to different PMIs and have access to the fund. It is because the fund is not working that is why these problems are there. Most of the mortgage banks are not funding mortgage banking, what they are doing is financing.
What do you mean by sourcing money from the capital market for housing?
We are trying to see how government can show commitment. You know I said government should have a political will. There is what we call Pension fund, you can see the huge amount of money we have in the fund and some people are saying why can’t we use some of this money for infrastructure development and housing. This money is what they are deducting every month from the salaries of all civil servants and this money remains untapped.
There are also funds from unclaimed dividends. The federal government should be so nice to give it to housing sector. I also challenge you go and look at the budget of state governments and see what they have for housing.
The major problem in the housing sector is that there is no money. The private guys that are going into the business are going there for profit making. The new area that we are planning to look into is the area of Islamic banking finance of housing. How do we change the orientation of developers to look towards the direction of the Islamic banking loan?
You said earlier that this edition of the show will be seriously practical, how do you intend to go about this?
This year show’s is going to be unique because it is not going to be talk like we have done before. We are going to divide ourselves into group and each group is going to be a working group. At the end of the group discussion, the leader of the group will tell the whole house the summary of their deliberation, and recommendations and their recommendations will then be subjected to public scrutiny. At the end of the day that will now form our communiqué and the communiqué will be sent to the 36 states government and the presidency and all other housing related agencies. We will then set up a team called Follow Up to Communiqué Group that will follow up to see how it can be actualized.
If you ask me what has been the benefit of the Abuja Housing show I can count. For instance NMNC and OPIC met at the show last year and they did a deal and they are building a housing estate in