Commissioning Of 248 Housing Units & Commemoration Of 1000th Home Built By Millard Fuller Foundation On 11/02/2022

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Video Transcript



It is a great pleasure to be here and I must thank His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Sule for very kindly hosting me and welcoming me to Nasarawa State and also conceding to the arm-twisting of my friend, Mr. Sam Odia. I am glad to see that His Excellency has agreed to build the road. I’m also very happy that Mr. Sam Odia did not make any demands on the Federal Government, which puts me in a rather good position.

I want to thank Mr. Sam Odia, a friend of mine of many, many years, the team at the Millard Fuller Foundation and all partners for inviting me to join you at this watershed event in the very important work of providing housing especially for Nigerians who need it the most.

It is a task that you have faithfully stuck to over many years and as we join you to celebrate the commissioning of these 248 new homes which brings the number of homes you have provided thus far to 1000, I congratulate you and your partners.

The housing challenge that we face in Nigeria is in two forms; the first is that we have the challenge of inadequate housing supply to meet our population growth, particularly for low-income individuals or families. And our population is growing at 5 million people every single year, 5 million extra people every year. In other words, Liberia has a population of 5 million. So, every year we create a new Liberia here in Nigeria. You can imagine the enormity of the challenge. We also have the issue of sub-standard housing, in other words, houses that are hardly habitable. You find people living in cramped one-bedroom, one room, sometimes even no toilet facility.

Unfortunately, as I said these shortcomings have continued to grow with the increasing social and economic inequalities in our society. At the extreme, many households are faced with the dilemma of survival between food and adequate shelter.

The vision of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari from inception is that we must have a nation where the weakest amongst us have the dignity of a decent home and livelihood. It’s a difficult challenge, it’s a difficult enterprise but that’s the vision.

Whilst the challenge of inadequate or no housing undermines the quality of life of so many Nigerians, it also denies our economy and therefore our collective welfare the growth that is possible through even a vibrant housing market. So, it’s just that it is bad not to have good houses, it’s not good for the economy.

In most places in the world where you have a house, it also means that the economy becomes so vibrant because you can use your house as collateral to borrow money in order to do business. As a matter of fact, that is the primary way by which most small businesses raise capital – by using their homes as collateral all over the world. So, we deprive the economy of the vibrancy that it is supposed to have when we don’t have adequate housing. This Government is taking both challenges very seriously.

Immediately we were sworn in in 2015, we established the Social Investment Programme – a N500billion set of initiatives designed to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable Nigerians, the poorest Nigerians. The Social Investment Programme is the largest of its kind in Africa. That’s the one with the Home-Grown Feeding Programme, where we are feeding 9.5milion school children every day. That’s the one with N-Power which we referred to and a component of that is the Social Housing Fund, a hundred billion as part of that N500billion. But we have not been able to do that up to a 100billion, even not up to half of that. But what the budget says is that we would provide N100billion as part of the N500billion for low-cost housing and that is being run by the Family Homes Fund, FHF, in the Ministry of Finance. This is in addition to the National Housing Programme of the Federal Ministry of Works.

In addition, when along with the rest of the world, we were faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant impact on the economy, we swiftly reacted to save lives and jobs by putting in place an Economic Sustainability Plan. Part of that plan was the N200billion National Social Housing Programme aimed at delivering homes for Nigerians on a low income.

The programme is supposed to create 300,000 new homes. So far 18 States have given land free because we work with the state. It is the Family Homes Fund that is the manager of that process. We work with States, and FHF builds the house.

So far 19, 478 homes have been built, including 582 purchased from the Millard Fuller Foundation and I’m told by the MD of FHF, that we are in the process of negotiating another 400 homes with the Foundation.

The aim of our social housing programme as low-cost housing is to be able to give a self-contained one-bedroom at a maximum of N2 million and N3.2million for the two-bedroom. Of course, as I said the land will be free. We negotiated with Dangote, BUA and LaFarge, the three major cement companies in Nigeria and they agreed to give us cement for building those low-cost housing at a 30% discount. We now have relatively low-cost cement to build our low-cost housing.

To ensure that these initiatives are sustained, we are in the final stages of a comprehensive 10-year National Housing Strategy. The strategy is the first of its kind with input from the private and public sector players, and it has the following amongst its primary objectives:

The first is the harmonization of all existing housing initiatives/programmes. And this is the point Mr. Sam Odia made, that there are so many housing initiatives all over the country. So, what we are hoping to do is to catalogue what we are doing so that we know all the other housing initiatives both Federal and State.

The second is reducing housing construction costs. The cost of construction is currently very high with inflation now, is even higher. An important route to achieving this outcome is to decidedly focus on developing capacity for manufacturing building materials locally and that’s one of the objectives of our social housing that we will try as much as possible to use locally manufactured products so that we can boost the local market itself.

The third which is also very crucial is enhancing access to housing finance and particularly deepening the participation of our capital market in housing finance. With a capitalization of about $57billion, we have the second-largest stock exchange in Sub-Sahara Africa, but very little of that capital is flowing into a housing development or creation of mortgages.

Something that is very important is to ensure that we are able to provide mortgages for housing. In other parts of the world, people do not pay cash for houses. I’m happy to note that that is what is going on in your housing estate here – that there is a financing arrangement so that by paying what is ordinarily your rent every month, eventually you are able to own a house. So, it’s not just rent, your rent is actually a payment to own a house.

The third objective of the proposed National Housing Strategy is to deepen the participation of our Capital Markets in housing and this is very critical because we recognize that there are competing priorities for government funding. Government funds alone cannot provide enough housing for everybody. Dangote Cement alone declared a profit of about N300billion in one year, while the whole budget of Nasarawa State in one year is not up to N150billion. So, when people say “government must do,” you don’t really know how limited government really is, but just compare the budget of Nasarawa State and a one-year profit of Dangote Cement.

The truth of the matter is that there is inadequate funding, so, you must bring in the private sector which is why we negotiated with Dangote, BUA and Larfage. We told them, “make your contribution to this sector, give us a discount on cement”, and they were able to do so. We can do a lot more especially with the Capital Market. We can move funds from the Capital Market to housing finance so that more people can get mortgages.

So, I am delighted with what I’m seeing here, and with the partnership and joint working relationship that is creating a new and vibrant neighbourhood in this part of Nasarawa State.

I am hopeful that with the example that you have set, this can serve as a model for many others to follow especially with the potential for creating homes that are affordable for Nigerians on a modest income, or for young people who are just starting out in life.

This occasion also provides an opportunity to highlight important points: the first is that we are celebrating today, the 1000th home built by Millard Fuller Foundation, the Nigerian affiliate of the Fuller Centre for Housing. This is a faith-driven organization providing affordable housing for all people in need, whatever their faith may be, whatever their religion maybe, they will be provided housing under this scheme. And that is the vision of the founder of the Millard Fuller Foundation.

The Foundation was established, I am told, by a remarkable couple – Millard and Jenny Fuller, who chose to commit their wealth to improve the housing conditions of people on low income as a practical expression of their faith.

This points to a real opportunity for us here in Nigeria, an opportunity for civil society and faith-based organizations, churches, mosques, places of worship, and for religion generally, that we can do things that impact the lives of the people.

The injunction to love and care for each other is central to all faiths. There is no faith that does not preach that you must love your neighbours and that you must help them. I am sure one of the important reasons we are here to see this today is because Millard and Jenny Fuller lived out their faith practically. And I think we also, whether you are a Muslim or a Christian or any other faith, must demonstrate in practical terms, our faith.

So, there is potential for joining the National Social Housing Programme, particularly providing homes alongside Government within an organized framework which is what the Millard Fuller Foundation has done with the Family Homes Fund, they have joined in order to be able to partner with the government to provide for some of these schemes alongside what they themselves are doing.

There is also a lesson in resilience to learn from the project. I know how persistent Sam and his team have been to get to this point. It has been many years of hard work and often difficult challenges. But here we are today celebrating the 1,000th home.

Only 4 years ago this would have been considered impossible, but then we are now seeing that with the partnerships, the hard work, the resilience, it is possible to build 1000 homes through private efforts and to make sure that those homes are homes that people can live in and give testimonies about, as we have heard testimonies from the two who spoke earlier.

In the quest for rebuilding our own nation, I think we can take something from the resilient spirit that has made Grand Luvu possible. I am convinced that our country certainly not just has the potential to be great, but will be great without any doubts at all. And the reason why our country will be great is not just because of government, but because of the initiative of the people, we have hardworking, resilient, serious-minded people, and what we need to do is to work together, just as we have seen here, to build. Countries of the world that have succeeded have built on the initiatives, enterprise of their own citizens, and I think it is possible for us to build on the initiatives and enterprise of our citizens.

So, I wish you all, especially first, the Millard Fuller Foundation, more success in the years to come. I also want to thank your partners, the Family Homes Funds, Reall UK, the artisans, and the people of Masaka who have been such gracious hosts and who have benefitted from the great work you have done.

Again, I also want to commend His Excellency, the Governor for the innovation and foresight. I think it helps when you have an experienced businessman as your governor. He has immediately seen the business sense in building a road here, after all, the people here will pay taxes too.

Thank you very much and God bless you.