CHUKWU DAVID reports that the Senate Committee on Housing, through its interaction with the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has influenced the commencement of sale of homes under the National Housing Programme
The Senate has via its oversight responsibility over Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government influenced the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to commence the sale of houses in the on-going National Housing Programme (NHP) to Nigerians across the country. The Senate Committee on Housing, chaired by the senator representing Ebonyi North Senatorial District, Sam Egwu, had on November 9, met with the management of the Ministry of Works and Housing, led by the Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, at National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues pertaining to the Housing Programme following the committee’s recent oversight tour of the housing projects in the various states of the federation, with a view to ensuring that the Housing Programme was judiciously implemented by the relevant agency.
At the interactive session, Senator Egwu, highlighted some of the problems the committee met on ground during the oversight visits, and queried the minister on certain inactions of the ministry, which encumbered the implementation of the National Housing Programme.
The lawmaker told Fashola that his committee observed that some prospective buyers had indicated interest in the purchase of the completed housing units but the ministry had not given directive on the modalities for the allocation of the houses.
He lamented that this lacuna on the part of government had given room for illegal occupants to completely take over the houses, wondering why the completed houses were not sold to interested buyers to avoid being wasted. Egwu, who expressed worry over the situation he and his committee met on ground during the oversight of the project sites, sought to know if the ministry was waiting for all the completed houses to be vandalised before allocating them.
He also put the minister to task to explain how government could recover the huge amount of money invested on the programme, and how economically efficient for continuous investment in the sector, if the houses were not allocated. He said: “From our findings, prospective buyers have been showing interest in the purchase of the completed housing units but the headquarters are yet to give directives on the modalities for the allocation, the more reason why illegal occupants have completely taken over the houses.
The question is why are completed housing units not sold to interested buyers? “Is it until the houses are all vandslised and destroyed before you allocate them? Since the houses are not allocated to interested buyers, how will government recover the whooping sum invested? Also, how economically efficient is it for continuous investment in the sector?” However, following this seeming query, the minister and his team immediately swung into action by inaugurating the National Housing Programme Portal on November 12. Consequently, when Fashola appeared before the committee again last week Thursday, he told the lawmakers that a total of 7,315 applications from prospective house owners were received within six days after the launch of the portal.
The minister said that the portal comprising one, two and three bedroom apartments for sale at prices ranging from N7.2 million to N13 million and N16.19 million was opened at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Housing in Mabushi penultimate Friday.
Fashola who updated members of the Senate committee on progress made so far on the housing programme, when he appeared for the 2022 budget defence, disclosed that, concerning the available 5,000 units of houses for sale in 34 out of the 36 States of the federation, 7,315 applications were received within six days. He however, explained that out of the applications made through the portal so far, only 99 have been submitted while 7,216 are pending, while revealing that 20 states had not submitted any application to the portal.
The minister said that each applicant was required to pay a nonrefundable fee of N10,000 before the application would be submitted. He also told the committee that the applications received so far from prospective house owners were about 2,315 higher than the available 5,000 housing units available for now. According to him, the National Housing Programme is a pilot or demonstration scheme meant, among others, to galvanize private sector participation, saying that solution to housing deficit in the country was not just building of houses but marketing the empty ones.
He added that the National Housing Programme has not succeeded in the past and some of the houses built then still remain empty due to cultural or financial factors. Fashola had penultimate Friday, inaugurated a portal for the National Housing Programme and urged Nigerians to apply for affordable homes through the website.
While inaugurating the portal in Abuja, the minister noted that access to affordable houses had remained a challenge for the average Nigerian. He said that the housing construction programme is being carried out in phases and that over 5,000 houses had been completed in the first and second phases across 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory. He added that Lagos State is yet to provide the Federal Government with land, while Rivers State will join in the third phase of the project.