By WALE AKINOLA
In Katsina State, there is a strategy in place by the state government to bring housing within the reach of the common man. The strategy is to build houses and sell to people at half price. The General Manager of Katsina State Housing Authority, Alhaji Surajo Aminu Makera, speaks more on the strategy in this interview.
How is the authority tackling the issue housing in the state, because there is obvious shortage of housing, not only in Katsina but throughout the country?
You know the issue of housing is very important to human development and existence. In fact, it is the most important aspect of human life. If you don’t have a house, if you don’t have shelter over your head, you are not yet complete as a human being.
Housing generally is a big challenge in the country. In Katsina State, we have done a lot to provide houses for the people and I think this administration has recorded a remarkable achievement in that area. Let me just give you a little analysis.
Before Governor Shema came on board in 2007, the state, having been created in 1987, was about 20 years. The various administrations in the 20 years constructed only 632 houses. But since 2007, this administration has constructed about 2, 404 houses in Katsina State. So, if you compare what has been done in 20 years with what has been achieved in the last seven years, you will agree with me that this is a remarkable achievement so.
Were the houses built in conjunction with a private company or exclusively by government? Who are the occupants? Are they civil servants or private citizens?
Out of these 2,404 I mentioned, 252 were built by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. Initially the Federal Mortgage Bank would give Katsina State money to construct houses and we repay them later, but the governor felt it was something the state could do on its own without necessarily waiting for the FMBN. The state asked the FMBN to build its own houses while we build ours. By so doing, both of us are approaching the housing challenge from all angles.
So apart from these 252, all the other houses I mentioned were built by Katsina State government without taking loan from anybody. Let us not forget that we have an estate we are building in Abuja and work there has gone very far. We have paid the contractor 80% of the contract money and the estate should be completed in the next few months. Regarding the beneficiaries of the housing projects, they are civil servants and private individuals. The state government also gives discount of about 50% on the initial cost of the houses to beneficiaries. The occupiers are given15 years to pay the balance. For example, if your house is constructed at the cost of N4m, the state government will sell it to the individual for N2m and he will have 15 years to pay on monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.
Let me also add that in each of the estates that the state government has built, it comes with its own independent water, electricity, road network, drainage, clinic, police post, playground, worship centres, estate management office. There is really no difference between the privately built and state government owned, because we do it like a business venture. We have three of the estates inside Katsina metropolis. One has 500 houses, another has 252 while the third has 250. And then we have 30 of the houses in each of the 34 local governments areas.
Are the houses presently
Yes, all are presently occupied, except the new one which is about to be completed in few weeks’ time. I said we have shortage of housing, you are asking if they are being occupied, you are inundated with requests once a housing project springs up. Housing in the state is hot cake.
Now talking about the
estate in Abuja, how many houses are there?
We are building 130 houses there; we’ve paid the contractors 80% of the contract money, so work is going on smoothly and I think in the next few months they should be completed. The estate has road network and every other thing that makes a neighbourhood conducive for living.
The estate in Abuja, can you put a figure on how much it’s costing the state government?
We have not really done the final costing, but I think it is costing the state government billions of naira to put up the estate. Now talking about housing, the state government is ready to partner with private investors to come and invest in Katsina. Land is there, the demand is there. It is a win-win situation. We have so far received some private requests regarding how they can come in, but the more the merrier.
How has it been so far since you took the appointment?
This job comes with a lot of challenges. But if you realise that the position is more of a trust, you cannot but meet up with all the challenges. It is a responsibility that you must live up to. If you have this at the back of your mind, you will be less concerned about what people may be discussing about you. Public office like this always comes with challenges, but it is your own to live above those challenges. So I am enjoying the job.
What position were you occupying before the appointment to provide houses for the people?
I have been in politics for quite some time. I have been in this government from the beginning. I was with my boss (Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema) when he got the nomination for governorship in 2007. I was with him during the campaign; after the election, he appointed me Senior Special Assistant, Government House. I was there for almost two years before I was appointed General Manager, Katsina State Transport Authority . I was with the authority for almost three years before I was now taken to the poverty alleviation section as acting special adviser. I was there for about seven months before I came to my present position. So I have always been in this government.