Nigeria: 'Providing Affordable Houses Is Our Focus'

interview

Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development FAUSAT IBIKUNLE explained how the massing housing project of the El-Rufai administration will put roof over the heads of many residents of Kaduna State.

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, you launched the Rigasa Housing Project? How far has the project gone?

Before that time, we awarded the contract of about 212 housing units to various contractors in small packages. Work is in progress and most of the construction are now at lintel level while some are just at foundation level and some are at the roofing stage already. Then the lockdown commenced, which really slowed us down. At the first stage of the lockdown, movement was restricted but along the line, we made a case for priority projects that contractors be allowed under strict precautionary measures to return to site. We then communicated this to the contractors and few of them returned to site while some found it difficult to. But at this moment, more of them have returned to site and work is in progress.

What is the scope of the project?

The Rigasa Housing Project is not the only project going on; during the same period, we awarded another housing project of over 200 units at Ungwan Tanko in Chikun local government. In total, we have 452 units that have been awarded. Immediately we showed the contractors the site, the lockdown commenced, but when the lockdown was partially lifted the contractors returned to site and they are currently at the foundation level.

The scope of the project is to have mass housing across the state. Our plan is to construct 1000 housing units and spread them across Kaduna, Zaria and Kafanchan towns. The housing project is a programme of the El-Rufai administration and we will ensure its continuity for as long we have the resources.

During the ground-breaking of the project, the projected completion time was the end of this year. With the three months setback brought about by the lockdown, is the completion time still realistic?

I believe we will still achieve the said date, because the actual duration of the project given to the contractors was four months. So, we were optimistic that the project will be delivered before the end of the second quarter. I am optimistic that if there is no serious spike of Covid-19 cases, that will call for another total lockdown, we will meet the stipulated time.

Is the government funding this project wholly? What is the funding arrangement?

The houses are not free, though the government is funding the construction of the housing units. We have made presentation to the Executive Council regarding to the off-take price we will set. We have received a lot of comments and we are addressing the issues that came up. The State Government is investing in it and it intends to sell it to people at an ideal rate; profit making will not be the major motivation. The idea is to reduce the housing deficit and ease the access to housing in the state. People can key into the mortgage plan by the State Government, which is being handled by the Kaduna State Mortgage and Foreclosure Authority. The houses will be sold not let out, the modalities of the payment arrangement is what we are currently work on.

Are there criteria that would-be beneficiaries ought to meet, in order to make them eligible to buy the houses?

We made presentation to the Executive Council and what can be deduced from the presentation was for the ministry to work with stakeholders and MDAs to formulate a process. But the council has directed that we shouldn't be too restrictive and should allow any interested persons to participate.

At what stage is the Kaduna Centenary Park and how soon will the project be completed?

The Centenary Park is a government owned park and the plan is to get a private investor that will bring some other facilities and manage it. So far, the State Government taken up the aspect of providing infrastructure around the park; structures like parking spaces, go cart track and some aspect of the greening, fencing and some other aspects. The private investors will also put up other structures in the park. On our part, 85% of the construction has been done. These construction will be done in five phases and the subsequent phases are the ones expected s to be done by the private investors. The gym and restaurant are under construction at the moment, though the lockdown slowed down the pace of work.

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