Delta State, Housing Commissioner, in this interview with Adekunbi Ero, executive editor, Tony Manuaka, senior associate editor, Stella Sawyerr, associate editor and Adewale Adelola, photo journalist, assures that genuine investors would get land allocation in less than 30 days. He says government’s focus now is building houses for workers
Since the inception of democracy in 1999, what would you consider as major achievements in the housing sector in Delta State?
I think it has improved. We are doing quite well. We’ve done better than what it was in 1999, because some of the structures which we have today in Delta State as it affects the housing sector, were not there in 1999 when that government came into power. The former governor, Chief James Ibori built a lot of houses to accommodate public officers and top civil servants like permanent secretaries. We keep improving on a daily basis. But from 2007 till today, there have been lots of work and the goal of every administration is to improve on what its predecessor had done. For example, they built some houses in some areas, they didn’t complete them. This administration completed them. Today, for instance, we have about17 completed out of 21. They’ve paid for them, and were allocated. Most of them, the owners are living in them, some have been taken over by illegal occupants when the owners did not move in, and government has asked the ministry of housing to eject them forcibly, and we are doing that. For instance, the housing estate at Ughelli, illegal occupants took the whole flats and we are forcing them out. That place was fully completed, but those to whom they were allocated, did not move in.
Would you say the housing policy of this administration has met the aspirations of the people of Delta State?
I think the present administration in Delta State has met the aspirations of the people. Our housing policy gave the people of Delta State affordable housing. We’ve done just that, and we are still doing more. For instance, what we are doing now is to build houses for workers. As I speak with you now, a few days ago, the government released about N357 million to three contractors, to start the Workers’ Village along Ibusa Road.
In all, how many housing estates are initiated by this administration?
This administration has a lot of functions. My pain is that many people like attaching importance to only residential houses, which is not just that. This ministry, for instance, is in charge of maintenance of all public and government residential buildings. Africans, especially Nigerians, lack maintenance culture; but this government of Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan says no, if we fail to take care of the old buildings, and we are building new ones from our lean resources, it won’t augur well. We must maintain all existing buildings. And we have been doing that.
People are interested in mass housing, how affordable is it for the people of Delta State?
Very affordable – N3 million, N4 million, the highest is about N6.5 million for a three-bedroom flat.
What are the terms of payment, the beneficiaries being civil servants or low-income earners?
Through mortgage from the bank; that is why the government has a Mortgage Bank here. And the government is also working with the Federal Mortgage Bank. The Federal Mortgage Bank, aside from what the government brought, has approved N1.5 billion for building of houses for other civil servants. And as at today, aside what we are doing at Ugbolu, we have about 100 housing units there, after Anwai campus of the Delta State University.
How are these projects distributed across the state?
They are distributed across the three senatorial districts we have. We try to put one at Ogbokuko. As I speak with you, we have given N761 million from the Federal Mortgage Bank to a contractor at Ikokodo to construct houses, not only for workers, but also for people around that zone. Ogbokoko is in Delta Central. We have an estate going on there. We have here in the South senatorial district, we have spread our houses. The only one we have not done for now, is the housing estate for workers which had just been approved. It will go round the three senatorial districts. But we started from Asaba with the one along Ibusa Road.
What are the financial implications for an investor or land developer to acquire land from the state government?
You don’t pay any money. You only pay for the form, which is about N3000 or less, you fill the form, and they give you the charges for that magnitude of land you seek for. You pay to the bank, not to the Ministry of Lands. They process it, and once there is development, government approves the letter within 30 days, and you get the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O. Bank of Industry got their land here along DBS Road within few days. New Estate Communications is also planning to build a new security printing press here. CBN wants to build here; I think they have one already, but how many people have time to go there to do security printing? So, a firm came here, we have given them land. They got their C of O within 30 days. Genuine investors will get a land in Delta State in less than 30 days. Let a genuine investor come out today and say I wanted to invest in Delta State and cannot get land. I will say you lied.
How do you cope with the activities of self-acclaimed landowners?
They are all over the place. There is no day I don’t settle disputes among them. For instance UAC Property Development Company, UPDC, is an investor. Now, UPDC says it wants to build in Delta, we gave them land, and they are building now. Some groups of boys went there to disturb them; they brought them here, and I told them that we will send them to jail. They ran away.
What about the safety of the lives of those buying the lands?
Once they know that government is involved they don’t go to those plots again. It is everywhere. It is not only in Asaba. Some people sell land to two or three different people, so it is better to go through government. If you do that, you get genuine land. Even in government, you still get some bad eggs, but those things are being handled and taken care of. It is not only here.
In general, how would you describe the property market in Delta State?
Cost of property here is high because the demand is high. But we have also crashed it because we are doing something about it. But like people say, taste dictates the price. There are some areas in Asaba today that a three-bedroom flat can go for about N400, 000 to N500,000, and there are some areas too, where you can get for N300,000 or even N250,000. So it is like that everywhere. That is why people run to such areas because the price is low compared to the [high-class] areas. Take for example houses around the Niger Bridge, they built them, they buy them off because there is no land again in Onitsha.
What other challenges is the government facing in providing affordable houses for the citizenry?
Everywhere in the world, especially here in Nigeria today, the problem is funding. The government is ready to put in money, but where is the money? As at today, from the federation account, for over two years now, we have been having reduction of 25 per cent every month without any notice. And remember that salaries of Delta State, for instance, are the largest among all the states. And we are still recruiting.
What is the future of housing in the state?
There is bright future for housing in Delta State. Because of the interest the government of Dr Uduaghan has in the housing sector the state is devoting 17 per cent of its annual income to providing housing for the people. We have done very well in the public building sector today. We have a new auditor-general’s quarter, and it is completed. Today, we have a new administrative and library block for the House of Assembly. Today, we have a new ICT block in the state, and we are still constructing another one in a village around Ugbolu, to show that Asaba is moving towards Illa. Today, we are having the best of government lodges in the country in Lagos, completed and furnished. The ministry of housing, under my supervision, did the reconstruction.