Following the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, experts in the real estate industry have urged him to consider separating the ministry of power, works and housing, to enable his government to concentrate on the three critical sectors of the economy.
Describing the combination of the three sectors as one of the biggest mistakes of the Buhari administration’s first tenure, some of the experts said issues in the sectors, especially housing had not been adequately addressed.
According to them, if one minister is allowed to continue to preside over affairs in the three sectors, the economy will remain challenged.
A former National Secretary, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Mr Jide Oke, said in the last dispensation, works, housing and power were tied to one minister, adding that the decision had more demerits than merits.
Oke said, “You cannot have development with that in a country that is yearning for speedy development. So, now is the time to build on what has been achieved in the last four years and I think the administration need to learn from the mistakes of the past.
“The minister in charge of these sectors of the economy is not a machine; he did well as the governor in Lagos but as a minister overseeing 36 states, it is a different ball game. This country is diverse in everything and one man should not be saddled with the three critical areas; I think that was a big mistake.
“This time, let the minister handle one portfolio, let the ministry be unbundled and let the president bring in competent hands to manage them, which is the only way we can have development. There are people with knowledge who have done well in the public and private sectors who can handle these ministries. If you put these big ministries under one person, you cannot expect him to perform magic.”
Oke explained that unbundling the ministry would enable the government to put more money in the construction sector, create jobs and curtail the rate at which poverty had been growing in the country.
“People are hungry and the best way to change the narrative is to put money in the system and construction is known to create jobs; so many sectors will be touched through the construction sector. That is how economies are reflated all over the world; let the government also provide land for development and it should not be for the party boys only, let it spread across,” he said.
According to Oke, Nigeria is blessed with competent economists who can adequately handle the sectors and improve on their contributions to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The 1st Vice- President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Kunle Awobodu, noted that electricity was as crucial as works and housing, and that the government made a mistake by combining the three unrelated ministries together.
“This has not helped. It is the major problem we have because they all require specific professional focus. These ministries are crucial to all aspects of business in the county but there have been no significant improvement because there is no specific focus on each of the sectors,” he said.
Awobodu said despite all efforts to bring down the country’s housing deficit, there had been no significant improvement due to lack of proper focus.
He added, “We are just hearing of it, those of us in the industry have not seen much improvement, it is all abstract, meaning there has been no impact. When we talk about roads, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has become a problem because we have been on it for too long a time.
“The ministries should all be separated for us to get the desired result; it was an error from the start because these ministries have a lot of work to do.”
According to the Principal Partner of an estate surveying and valuation firm, Kola Akomolede &Co, Chief Kola Akomolede, stakeholders in the industry expect the government to take housing more seriously than it did in the last four years.
He said the government was aware of the housing challenge in the country, and had initiated some housing projects which should be continued with the addition of more units.
“I also expect better provision of mortgage because if they build houses and people don’t have money, they won’t buy. Within the last four years, there have been some attempts, the government should do more. The mortgage banks should be encouraged to do more. The cash and carry system we operate encourages corruption,” he said.
While commending the government for the fight against corruption in the last four years, Akomolede said sanity had been restored into the property market where many politicians used to hide their “stolen wealth”.
He said the property market had been down with many vacant houses, especially in Lagos and Abuja, adding that there might not be much difference from the current situation in the next four years.
Akomolede said, “I do not expect any radical changes in the property market. Before the Buhari regime in 2015, the property market as a business was booming in an unrealistic way which cannot be sustained by our economy.
“Property prices as well as rent were getting higher and people were paying as much as $100, 000 in three-bedroom flats in Ikoyi and Victoria Island because there was free money that many people did not work for, so they were ready to spend it on property no matter the price.
“But since 2015, it has stopped. No more free money to throw about and now the property market is completely down with so many properties still vacant. So, I don’t expect any change because even those who have the money to buy are scared of bringing it out because they cannot justify the source of the money.”
He, however, stated that the market would begin to react to the normal realistic level in the next four to five years, which he said was good for the economy.
“We cannot continue to live in an artificial economy,” he said.
Oke also urged the government to consider putting a viable and potent economic team together, as soon as possible.
“Nigeria cannot remain like this. The presidential election was keenly contested which would not have been so if certain things were in place before now. For those who want to do business, let there be businesses for them to do, the government should put money into the economy,” he added.