THE National President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN, Rev. Ugochuckwu Chime has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to develop a new housing policy which will enable the common people, (the Talakawas) who voted him into power to have their own houses.
The REDAN boss who made the appeal at the end of a one-day multi- stakeholders interactive workshop on housing development in Abuja, noted that this is the first time that the voice on the street propelled somebody into presidency.
“We are looking forward to him to recognise that it is the common people and not the super rich who elected him. He must look after these people who voted for him by fashioning out a housing policy which they would benefit from,” he said.
Rev. Chime further called on the Federal Government to channel part of workers’ contribution into the National Pension Fund, NPF which presently stands at N4.9 trillion, to bridge the country’s 17 million housing deficit.
He recommended that the National Housing Fund, NHF, which has been workers’ contribution to own their houses through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN and the Pension Fund be coalesced into a pool to create jobs in the sector and at the same time bridge the housing deficit in the country.
“The NHF and the Pension Funds are funds created to ensure that while in service or retirement, the average Nigerian worker is catered for. We know that three elements form the basic needs of man, that is, food, shelter and clothing and government has been intervening on the issue of food. Unfortunately policy makers have not deemed it necessary to implement some of the provisions of the NHF. The provisions of the NHF and the Pension Fund which is now the contributory scheme, were all dovetailed into the welfare of the worker and there must be a linkage because if you contribute money, the value of the money at the point of contribution is not comparable to the value of the money at the point of retirement,”he posited.
Buttressing this submission, the REDAN boss said: “You will find out that inflation has eaten up the money so that whereas what you are getting at the point of retirement as pension fund and retirement savings account is only a negligible percentage in terms of its purchasing power.”
Rev. Chime called on the government to adopt a more creative strategy to see that the Nigerian workers who are contributors to the pension fund, reap from their long years of labour.
“Now we are saying that we have to have a creative way of doing these things, because if we can invest in food without Nigerians begging in the streets, why must we allow Nigerians to be homeless and suffering in the squatter settlements before we take a critical look and restructure and reform the housing sector and then inject the needed funds. We in REDAN are saying that there are supposed to be four sources of contribution to the NHF, but it is only one source that has been working. The banks, government and insurance companies are supposed to be contributors to the NHF. Unfortunately these three are not contributing and the burden is left on the Nigerian worker and it is not fair. This is not fair because it will take a worker to contribute up to a thousand years before what he has contributed is sufficient to provide him accommodation, baring inflation,” he said.
Chime frowned at the government’s under capitalisation of FMBN. Insisting there must be a synergy between the NHF and the Pension Fund, Chime declared: “We are saying that there should be a linkage and synergy between the NHF and Pensions Fund to ensure that the trillions of naira in the Pension Fund are brought to bear on the welfare of the worker at a time that welfare will make meaning to them now not on retirement when the purchasing power of that money would have depreciated very alarmingly.”
In her remarks, Executive Director, Policy and Corporate Strategy, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company, NMRC, Mrs. Chika Akporji advocated a common pool of funds for housing development.
“On the Pension Fund, I totally applaud Chime’s recommendation of coalescing all the contributions made by workers to a pool. The whole idea of Pension Fund is not just to keep contributing as workers are supposed to make returns on the investment because they are investible funds and they need to enjoy some returns on it and see the linkages between the NHF and Pension Fund,,” she said.