Mr. Bode Adediji, Chairman, Bode Adediji Partnership, a firm of estate surveyors and valuers, and former President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers NIESV, is one of the front-line estate surveyors and property consultants in Nigeria. Besides his professional calling, he has dedicated himself to mentoring and delivering lectures to inspire the younger ones to greatness. In this interview with Ebun Sessou, he spoke on issues on why the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria FMBN, is not working as well as other factors that constrain housing provision in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Sir, people say the major constrain in housing provision is lack of effective finance system in the country. In the light of this, will you say the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria FMBN, is meeting its responsibilities to Nigerians?
Well, For government, it is working but the people’s opinion is different. If you ask your neighbours, class mate, colleagues, church or mosque members, they would tell you their experience about mortgage loan assisted facilities in the last three years, I am sure, the response would be negative. This means to some people, the mortgage system is not working while to some other people, the system is working
But the sector is growing, yet there are challenges of inadequate housing among young people, why is the country still crawling in terms of housing provision?
All the factors of production that Nigeria ought to have paid adequate attention to, including policy framework, availability of finance, long term finance, easy accessibility of land at reasonable price as well as technical capacity to produce among others factors are absent.
The country is yet to get someone who would focus on indigenous capacity and material sufficiency to produce mass housing. But, if we have adequate local resources to manufacture building materials, then the dependence on importation that covers cement, iron rods, aluminum frames, roofing shits, can be used to produce an affordable housing scheme to ordinary Nigerians. Unfortunately, housing scheme for the middle class has been obsolete because there is no money either to rent or to lease.
What is the prospect of housing in Nigeria?
The prospect is huge. And my prayer is that, the country would be blessed with a government that would address all the issues surrounding housing as well as find a way to harmonise the public and private sectors together for efficient housing scheme in Nigeria. There is no amount of energy that the private sector can deploy on its own to raise new building or estate when the government is either lukewarm or reluctant to provide adequate infrastructure.
The global housing problem we have in Nigeria is not absolute if there is adequate investment by government. Insecurity and lack of good infrastructure are the reasons for housing crisis in Nigeria. It goes beyond producing housing units alone. It is whether or not the government is ready and able to provide infrastructure. Health, environment and housing go hand in hand. The kind of budget that the nation spends on health delivery system would have been reduced drastically if we have addressed the issue of housing 30 years ago.
You were the president of your professional body. Why did you not use your office to influence government’s policy on housing?
With 40 years of experience, it is not out of place to examine all these issues we have talked about at corporate, institutional and governmental levels, but one major frustration in this country today is that you can talk to anybody in power but the discretion and ability to implement whatever advise lies on government.
Nigerian government prefers short cut instead of planning ahead on housing. They are not prepared, enlightened and equipped as people who would receive advice and act on it regardless of the hardship of the people. As long as they are the drivers of all the major sectors, there is little or nothing a private sector can do to influence what they decide to do regardless of long time consequences.
What are the projects you have in the pipeline?
All the projects are in the incubating stage especially the ones in Lagos and Abuja. As a real estate expert, it is not ideal to embark on any project during recession. The country just came out of recession and now, the political atmosphere is tensed. We can only draw a template for some of the projects. But, we are hopeful that by the first quarter of the year 2019, we should have rolled out some of the projects in Lagos and Abuja.
Does that suggest some financial imbalance in the real estate sector?
Of course. There is no willingness on the part of the banks to invest in real estate and the banks cannot be blamed for the actions. There is economy downturn and it has affected the sector drastically.
Besides, if you struggle to complete a particular housing project, there are no clients to either rent or buy houses due to economic recession that is just easing out.
In line with your explanation, where is the country heading?
Good destination I suppose. Although, it is assumed that the country has just come out of recession. But, contrary to that, I believe, Nigeria is still passing through recession. And even if we are crawling out of recession, certainly real estate is always the first to enter recession and the last sector to come out of it.
With your explanation, what then is the future of Nigerian youths?
In the real estate sector, it is expected that anyone who is aspiring to be a professional on the job must have a good understanding of what it entails. This implies that, he or she must look critically at both the challenges and the underlining opportunities therein. We have a whooping population which explains why foreign investors prefer Nigerian market. The real estate does not thrive where the population is stagnated, but once you have population that is growing, real estate market will grow better.
Compared to the Western world, the basic infrastructure in Nigeria economy is yet to be fully developed. So, there is prospect, Nigeria has a huge potential as far as housing and real estate market are concerned.
What we are encountering now are the challenges caused by our political and economical imbalance over the past 12 decades. For instance, if the challenge of access to land has been addressed effectively through the Land Use Act, we will not be faced with this crisis.
If the succeeding governments have paid adequate attention to institutionalising mortgage system such that the persistence culture of cash and carry has been erased, for the past 30 years, our housing and property development sector would have blossomed. And countries including South Africa among other nations would have been competing with Nigeria on housing now.
But, rather than addressing the issues, we dwell on talking and doing nothing. And from one regime to another, governments roll out sustainable housing policies and programmes but if you scratch beyond the surface, you would see that those policies and programmes on housing are all gimmick. No government policy is committed to housing projects in Nigeria.
Does that suggest Nigerian youths are sitting on gun powder?
It is a problem. The only advice is that Nigerian youths should be hopeful. They should continue to train themselves and have appetite for risk taking and above all, they should know that real estate sector does not work on short cut. You must follow due procedure.
Can you flashback on your achievement?
I have contributed to institution development. I have also demonstrated practical ability to the professional service delivery system. I have consulted for the high and low particularly in our core areas of professions including property management, valuation, property development and advisory services among others. We have executed housing development projects in Lagos and Abuja in various scales and sizes. Since, I have been the Managing Director of companies for the past 35 years, I impacted into young people both in training, leadership and mentoring. If there is anything I cherish mostly, it is the ability to have impacted on young people who are highly successful.
If you are given a pen to write on how you started your journey in two lines, what would it be?
I started my profession accidentally. But, if I look at the totality of my life, I could say that there had always been the hand of God in whatever I am. I went to University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University to study Economics and Accountancy and within one year, I was rated the best student and when I crossed to Engineering and Real Estate Management Department, I was also rated among the best students and won award as the best graduating student in 1979 without having an idea of what I would become. That was the first puzzle of my career.
Secondly, after my NYSC, I had three jobs but I was totally confused on what to do. Then, I decided to join a company that offered me the lowest salary but created an opportunity for training. So, the training helped me to develop faster than my contemporary and I rose through the ladder and within four years, I became the managing director of a company at 34 years old.