- The Promoter/CEO of Abuja International Housing Show, Mr. Festus Adebayo, in this interview with Housingedgenews Editorial Team, says the 12th edition of the annual event will be a convergence for industry stakeholders to address the challenges confronting housing provision. Excerpt:
Who is Mr. Festus Adebayo?
I’m a lawyer, a housing development advocate, once a banker for 5 years and have been in the sector for the last 25 years. I’m the CEO, Abuja Housing International Show (AHIS). I’m also the president of Housing Development Advocacy Network, an NGO known for the promotion of home ownership. I’m fully involved in the production and dissemination of housing programmes on several TV outlets and recently have the permission to run housing television, the first of its kind in the country.
What attracted you into housing having qualified as a lawyer?
The first compelling force was my experience in the banking industry then in Lagos coupled with my experience as a tenant in Lagos. Working as a banker, I discovered that the sector especially the commercial segment has no interest in housing. I also went home with the fact that the bank is only interested in trade and anything that will attract or bring in quick return on investment, it is my opinion that this shouldn’t be. As my interest grew in housing especially through contacts with Prof. Akin Mabogunje, the late Mr. Fortune Ebie and the late Akin Fadahunsi, they actually mentored me in the housing sector and of course my law background helped me to know that Nigerians have rights to access housing and shelter that in itself is clearly documented in the constitution that government has the right to provide houses for its citizens.
Tell us how you initiated the Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS)
The AIHS started in 2005 and by the grace of God, we shall very soon roll into its 12 edition, beginning from July 16. The idea started crystallizing during my various interactions with my mentors in the sector, alongside the fact that I have gathered unique experience attending housing programmes outside Nigeria for the development of the sector. I then asked myself, how will (we) Nigerians continue to attend these programmes. I then came with the understanding that we can though differently replicate this in Nigeria to help transform the sector where all the stakeholders are brought together to rub minds. By the way and as a matter of fact I don’t belong to any of the professional bodies in the sector as I have always remained neutral, devoting my effort on the promotion and advocacy of housing development and growth across the country. I actually have no reason to compete with any of the professional body because that is not my field. My field is to bring them together through advocacy to make them agree and disagree on pertinent issues. True to its mandate the annual exhibition has been able to bring together major stakeholders in the industry: building materials manufacturer, Architects, Estate Surveyors and Valuers, REDAN members etc and it is on record that the programme has featured policy makers like the leaders of the two law making organs, and governors. The show has succeeded in proffering solution to the problem of construction development, development, mortgage development in the country.
What are the expectations in the coming (2018) AIHS?
At the 12th edition beginning from 16th July, we shall be addressing housing issues that has to do with housing affordability, access to land, housing finance, we shall also be pontificating on how long will the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), continue to be the one providing affordable housing at one digit interest rate, for long are we going to be living under the 2 digit interest to finance housing and how long will the commercial bank maintain the ‘siddon’ look posture to the issue of housing problem in the country. We shall be concerned with the issue of alternative funding for housing development. We hear the economy and at the same time there is growing un-employment is growing which shouldn’t be the norm, not supposed to be. The event will espouse to government that housing can be used as driver of the economy because if you grow the economy with housing, the unemployment problem will be arrested because of its multiplier effects on the economy, from the level of the artisan to the level of the professionals you can be rest assured that with housing a lot of employment will be created.
What were your peculiar challenges promoting this programme?
At the beginning, it was extremely discouraging indeed. When we started, our first outing attracted only 20 people. Indeed the stakeholders in the industry were not interested and they did not even want to identify themselves with it. Nobody was interested in sponsoring a programme that return on investment cannot be guaranteed. At the fourth series I made a loss of N5 million and somebody told me to look for something else to do. I refused to quit as I remained adamant, I felt my purpose of organizing the AIHS was not to make money, so I kept going on and begin to change its level from 5th to 6th to 7th through to the 11th edition and here we are today. Today, stakeholders and would be participants are ‘fighting’ for space, as at today I can tell you that we have recorded more than 200 spaces taken up from not less than 10 companies.
How many attendants did the last event garnered?
So far we have 10, 000 attendees from our 10th edition and about 14,000 attendees from the 2017 edition. We are expectant that this year’s show will even attract more attendees considering the enthusiasm that is already been generated.
Can you boldly say that the annual event has attracted some FDI into the country?
Yes, I can very boldly say that we have attracted both local and foreign direct investment into Nigeria. From our records in the build up to the coming event, Turkey, has recorded the highest number of attendants at the show followed by India, the Chinese, U.S, United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland. For this year we have United Arab Emirate (UAE), leading with highest participants. They have beaten others to it and this is followed with Turkey, India, China, Kenya and Ghana. The Minister of Housing for Ghana referred to as the Deputy Minister for Works and Housing has confirmed his attendance at the at the event.
Challenges of stakeholders
Running this show with various players and professionals, I have come to discover that it is difficult for the stakeholders to speak unanimously speak with one voice on major issues so at the 12th show our aim and intention is to see that we bring all stakeholders together so that they can speak with one voice. For instance, the building engineers have their views, the Architects have their views, the Estate Developers have their views and on the other hand, the problem of fake developers have been one issue that the Abuja Housing Show try to work on. For instance, if you want to exhibit on this show we insist that we must see your documents, your building approvals and we will make sure that you evidence of titled documents embarking on buildings and approval.
What is the impact of the show on housing development across the country?
- Nigerians and their affiliated companies have been empowered one way or the other as participants record massive sales, and that is why on yearly basis, they keep coming again and again. Also, in the area of policy making, Ogun and Yobe States have formulated robust housing policy from our dialogue session on how to grow the sector. Ogun State has already indicated interested in the 12th Show. At the federal level it has impacted so well so much so that they have listened to us which resulted in the creation of separate ministry that will be responsible for housing and that was the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, until it was again merged with Power and Works. We view the emergence of these 3 ministries into 1 as a setback for the Abuja Housing Show. I can assure you that if President Buhari comes back in 2019, he will recreate a ministry for housing. That is why PMB having seen the work load on the neck of Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, that he brought two junior ministers and for him.
Why is housing still not accessible to a greater number of Nigerians?
There are a lot of mitigating factors here, the attitude of the youth towards housing must change. For, some of them, their interest has to do with more of ostentatious life…flashy cars and other ostentatious goods. Their interest is not like on capital goods like housing. Therefore, there is the need to work on the attitude of these younger generations. We conducted an experiment went on a street of Abuja to ask questions on what people know by mortgage and out of 20 people interviewed only about 3 could answer what mortgage means. I’m saying the youth are not equipped in the area of mortgage, housing information that can affect them not to even start thinking of how to own their houses even at their early age. Therefore, we shall devote a session for the ‘Not Too Young’ to own their houses. We shall be bringing experts to talk to the youths on how they can own their houses.
What is your take on 2018 budget and housing delivery?
Moving housing delivery forward, government needs is to get it right. We cannot get it right by still engaging government to build houses at this age, government cannot get right by getting themselves involved in direct construction. What we need is the creation of a conducive environment and formulating a conducive environment that will attract investors that will make their investment to scale through whenever they are invested in real estate development. What we need is private sector driven in the real estate sector, it is the private sector that is most credible people that most Nigerians will sign, developer with excellent record and engage them to build the houses. We will also need to change our style of construction. We cannot be using the conventional method and be feeling that we can get a different result. We must use a different building technology. We also act on the type of houses that we are building, for instance in Dubai and China as they built their own styles. There is need for political will to change the way we are used to doing things our orientation regarding housing construction must change and also the issue of land must not be something that we must be discussing and making promises and workshops and seminars that cannot if the political will is there, the government should demonstrate will by recapitalizing FMBN.