Commissioning Of Odu’a Housing Estate (Westlink Iconic Villa) Built By UK-Based Diasporans
SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROFESSOR YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE COMMISSIONING OF ODU’A HOUSING ESTATE (WESTLINK ICONIC VILLA) BUILT BY THE UK-BASED DIASPORANS, IBADAN, OYO STATE, ON THE 9TH OF FEBRUARY 2023
Let me say how pleased I am to join you this afternoon at the commissioning of the Westlink Iconic Villa.
And there are those who may ask, why is this particular private housing development one that I needed to be here personally to commission? The reason is more than one and I am sure you have heard already some of them. The first is that this is a project that demonstrates what we as an administration, and the Federal Government has preached since 2015.
It is a project that tells two important stories, one is the story of the success of local entrepreneurship and forward-looking development finance. Local entrepreneurship, of course, is our Diasporan friends and forward-looking development finance in the body of Odu’a Investment Limited. The first part of the story is that the Nigerian Diaspora has a crucial role to play in investment in our economy and that the investment prospects in our economy are great and though it may require some sacrifice, the rewards are well worth it.
As you heard from the C.E.O. of Chapter 4 Investments, in March 2015, just after the APC won the General Elections, I was in the United Kingdom meeting with Nigerians in Diaspora; several business persons were present at that meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Kilburn, London. Mr. Sham Ogunmuyiwa says that I may have forgotten that meeting but that he definitely remembered, but I will show you a video, it will tell you that I do not only remember the meeting, I also recorded the meeting. Now, this is that video (playing the video), and if you look at the video, you are right there and as you can see, that is the much younger-looking me as well. (General Laughter) And this happened in Kilburn on that occasion when we met at the Marriott Hotel. After the meeting, we had a discussion which is what we are looking at up here, and after that discussion is what I believe led to your decision to come to Nigeria to invest.
On that occasion, I think we encouraged ourselves that it would be good for them to bring their skills and capital back home and to partner with the incoming APC government to develop Nigeria. After that event, I had a discussion again with Mr. Sham Ogunmuyiwa at the Marriot Hotel and he expressed a very keen interest in coming back home to invest in real estate.
I believe it was sometime after that going by the story, he and others in Chapter 4 Investment company came together to develop this project. They kept me informed through a mutual contact, another Nigerian from the Diaspora, Mr. Muyiwa Oduniyi, who by the way returned to Nigeria shortly after this meeting and he is now working as a Director at the Bureau of Public Enterprises back there in Abuja.
The road to raising capital as you’ve heard was rough but they kept improving through the years. But the breakthrough appears to have been by coming across Odu’a Investment Limited. And Odu’a investments Limited started itself as you know, we’ve all heard the story of Odu’a Investment, as a development company in the golden era of development in the Western Region at that time, of course, as you know Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the Premier of the Western Region.
Odu’a Investment Limited at the time, birthed several industries, real estate investments, etc. But in later years, its fortunes deteriorated, especially during the military rule until in recent years when the governors of the South-West States, inheritors of the illustrious legacy of the Western Region then under the Premiership of Papa Obafemi Awolowo, decided to turn over the management of the company to seasoned and tested professionals and business persons who were given a completely freehand to run the affairs of the company.
So, it is the new and greatly improved Odu’a Investment which we see today and that brought the vision of our Diaspora investors, Chapter 4 Estates Management Limited, UK, to build what we have here today.
So, the story of the Westlink Iconic Housing units, here in Alakia, Ibadan, is a story of the triumph of ideas, and a vision of private enterprise development and capital working seamlessly together.
There is a lot we can do in housing in Nigeria. There is a significant deficit somewhere between 17 and 20 million houses is a deficit that we have been told we have, which should ordinarily be a major economic opportunity, not just for house ownership, but also for the many jobs and manufacturing opportunities that housing brings. The missing link is not the market, there is a market for housing as we’ve heard from the Secretary to the Government of Ogun State, 1,500 housing units snapped up very quickly, and this is not necessarily low-cost housing.
The missing link is also not the number of ideas for private developments, there are so many ideas for private developers. The missing link is housing finance, it is affordable mortgages, that is the missing link. Social housing and affordable mortgages are what we need today.
Every developed economy has had to develop usually with government support and mortgage schemes that are affordable. What needs to be done is that government must provide the capital to de-risk single-digit mortgage lending by the banks. When I say government, not just the Federal Government, but also the State Government.
The United States with all its free market protestations in 1968, established the Federal National Mortgage Association, which is commonly called Fannie Mae, and this is a United States Government-sponsored enterprise and since 1968, it has become a publicly traded company. The US Government had to intervene to de-risk lending housing finance even in the US despite all the talk about private capital and free market, etc.
There is also Freddie Mac in the US, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, it is also a publicly-traded, government enterprise created in 1970 to expand the secondary market for mortgages in the US. The role of government is crucial. There is no way we can escape government putting in significant funding, and putting it smartly in other to de-risk the kind of capital that then becomes lendable to those who are doing housing projects such as this today.
We started that process in our Housing for Jobs Programme under the Economic Sustainability Plan. The Economic Sustainability Plan was the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The Family Homes Fund was the arrowhead for the first phase. The CBN in that arrangement, was to provide the intervention fund for mortgage finance through the Family Homes Fund. Part of that fund was provided, but not adequate to get the fund to the stage where we thought it would get to.
We are still working on the programme, but there must also be affordable private-sector funding for housing. We must commend Odu’a for providing support for the project. The future is bright, if we stick to the vision of providing de-risking funds supported with development finance funding such as from Odu’a. Private capital is also going to be important. But I think that it is very crucial government and private sector see this as an important investment opportunity and also as an important developmental opportunity.
Mass housing is crucial, we cannot do without mass housing. We started the mass housing project also under the Family Homes Fund, some of the governments that have done exceptionally well in mass housing, including the Borno State government, for example, partnered with us on the mass housing project through the Family Homes Fund and today, they have done 10,000 unit of mass housing.
It is entirely possible for us to do mass housing on a scale that we need to do in order to make up for deficits. It is also entirely possible for us to do affordable housing, housing that is a bit more middle class and make it affordable for people in the middle class, people in the civil service, teachers and for private business people through the de-risking facilities that the Federal Government and the State Government can provide.
Today we congratulate the management and staff of Chapter 4 and Odu’a Investment Limited, on this landmark investment but not just for this landmark investment but for the hope that this project gives us for the future of housing in Nigeria.
I commend you all and I thank you for seeing to it, that not only did we talk about this, but that we actually made it happen.
Thank you very much, God bless you.