By Yinka Kolawole
The Real Estate Development Association of Nigeria (REDAN) has denounced plans by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to clampdown on alleged debtors of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
ICPC had last week, in a paid advertorial, disclosed that it had taken steps to recover about N27 billion owed FMBN by loan defaulters, accumulated over a period of six years. In fact, a statement by ICPCâ€™s Consultant on Media and Public Matters, Mr. Folu Olamiti, said the order to recover the debts was issued by the Chairman of the commission, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola (rtd), after taking the plight of contributors and public servants to the National Housing Fund (NHF) into consideration.
But in a swift reaction, President of REDAN, Chief Bode Afolayan, who noted that most of the debtors are members of his association, asserted that the categorisation of REDAN members by ICPC as bad debtors is unacceptable and shows that the anti-graft agency is ignorant of the mortgage system.
Afolayan said that the move would negatively affect housing delivery, noting that any attempt to harass developers would make them go all out to refund such monies, thus demolishing the housing policy of the federal government.
He said in order to avoid destroying the mortgage system, the development must be handled with care, adding that developers should be involved in some of the reforms. He urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in particular, should issue separate prudential guidelines to all the development financial institutions such as FMBN, BOI, Urban Development Bank, etc, to reflect the peculiar nature of their transactions, which are totally different from that of consumer lending.
When contacted on the development, whether FMBN initiated the latest move by ICPC, FMBN spokesman, Mr. Dauda Yusuf, said that FMBN did not invite ICPC. He however noted that it is not impossible that the anti-graft body was acting based on the list of debtors the apex mortgage bank had previously published.
The ICPC statement by its media consultant reads: â€œThe Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria has consistently been releasing the list of its debtors most of who are eminent Nigerians including retired military officers, top politicians, businessmen, industrialists and others, while setting a time limit for them to balance up.
â€œTill date, the bank has not been able to bring any of its â€˜bad debtorsâ€™ to book, despite threatening repeatedly to hand them over to the anti-graft agencies on failing to offset their debts. To this effect, the anti-graft Commission has taken possession of a list of bank defaulters containing names of eminent Nigerians listed by FMBN as bad debtors, with the aim of arresting everyone of them on completion of the on-going system review of the bank. The ICPC operatives had also discovered some high level financial improprieties on the part of some bank officials bothering on illegal conversion and diversion of funds.â€
It would also be recalled that when FMBN released a list of alleged bad debtors last year, threatening to report them to regulatory agencies if they refuse to regularise their accounts within a stipulated period, REDAN immediately denounced the publication noting that it did not paint a true picture of the situation.
Then, in the words of Afolayan, â€œalthough there might be few cases of challenges but the fact is that majority of REDAN members have built and are building houses of which some of the houses have been occupied by the NHF contributors even when FMBN has not paid for them.
â€œWe note the efforts and the activities of REDAN in ensuring the survival of the NHF Scheme by making themselves available for affordable housing. The activities of FMBN have constituted hindrance to Estate Developers and NHF contributors in their quest to develop and own affordable houses in the country.â€ He then noted that rather than being hounded for non-performance, it is the FMBN that should be blamed for its lack-lustre attitude in granting approval for loans.