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Kumo: Driving Purposeful Reforms to Mitigate Housing Deficit

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By James Ume

A recent World Bank publication estimated the cost of bridging the nation’s 17 million housing deficit at N59.5 trillion. Also, the managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Gimba Ya’u Kumo only recently stated that it will take about N56 trillion to adequately meet the housing needs of Nigerians, a figure which he said was based on a conservative cost of construction at N3.5 million per unit. This estimate underscores the vast untapped investment potential of the nation’s real estate sector.

Indeed, experts have agreed that formidable problems militating against bridging the housing gap remain and unless these issues are dealt with decisively by the government and its relevant agencies, the quest for affordable housing for all will remain a mirage. The Land Use Act of 1978 which resides ownership of land in state governments and a complicated and cumbersome property registration process are some of the factors which have militated against the housing development and home ownership in our nation.

In spite of these formidable challenges, the present Management and work force at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Gimba Ya’u Kumo are optimistic about the future. Such optimism is not illusory but is anchored on a broad vision and a revolutionary road map envisioned by Kumo to jumpstart a housing revolution.

Although the nation’s housing sector accounts for about 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a far cry from its untapped huge potential which will witness exponential rise when fully harnessed, Gimba Kumo and his crack team of fully motivated experts are however not deterred by these formidable challenges. Riding on the mantra of transparency and credibility, the hallmark of his public service record thus far, Kumo has successfully streamlined the processes of mortgage acquisition and payment scheduling for the benefit of prospective home owners within his first tenure as the Managing Director of FMBN.

This seamless process has effectively banished the decadent order which had hitherto frustrated, stymied and held in abeyance, the legitimate quest of the citizenry for home ownership. Among some of the notable achievements of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Gimba Kumo, include the introduction of National Housing Fund e-card, the introduction of a housing scheme for the informal sector, the construction of FMBN aviation village, completion of the FMBN office complex Lokoja, provision of 735 housing units for NHF contributors in Adamawa State, construction of Elim Housing Estate, phase I and II of Yusra housing estate Katsina, among others.

These verifiable achievements may not be enough to jumpstart the much needed housing revolution but they aggregate into concrete and decisive steps of a thoroughbred first class administrator determined to make the difference. Already, his policy blueprint is beginning to yield the desired results by laying a solid foundation for the growth of the mortgage sector of the economy.

As a result of the many reforms he initiated and implemented, the rate of defaults on mortgage payments has plummeted by a record 70 percent under his guidance and leadership.

Rather than rest on his oars and celebrate these achievements, Kumo is working hard to improve on the about 1 percent contribution of the mortgage industry to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He is determined to raise this contribution from the paltry 1 percent to 15 percent contribution to the GDP by the time he leaves office. Considered as ambitious by many industry watchers, Kumo believes that his plan is realisable given the broad range of policy blueprint he has put in place and of course his vision and strength of character to see through these policies.

At the heart of his plan is the recapitalization of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to the tune of N250 billion, a request which Kumo has already made to the relevant organ of government. With full recapitalization of the Bank and the creation of a memorandum of understanding with NLC, TUC and NECA, he is confident that the Bank can create one million mortgages yearly which translates to four million mortgages for the remainder of his tenure.

One of the enduring problems militating against mortgage financing and home ownership is the prohibitive cost of materials for the production of these houses. Given the prevailing salary structure and the purchasing power of a large segment of Nigerian workers, those who are in the lowest rung of the social ladder in the civil service are not in the position to buy even a one-bedroom apartment going by the present structure.

Kumo continues to vigorously campaign for the reduction of cost inputs such as cements, rods, and is presently exploring with the Ministry of Lands, Housing ad Urban Development, the possibility of achieving a discount on some of these inputs to reduce the cost of these houses.

To tackle the issue of land accessibility, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria have put a Memorandum of Understanding in place and are actively working with various state ministries of land and various organizations for the land to either be allocated to FMBN as a government bank or to be allocated directly to labour. This he hopes will help lower the price of the houses and make it more affordable for Nigerians. As a result of this initiative, all the lands for the pilot projects, Kumo is carrying out on the Ministerial Pilot Scheme in all the six geo-political zones, which was given to FMBN free by the various state governments.

The paucity of funds occasioned by dwindling oil revenue, the competing needs, security, infrastructure, access to the N250 billion recapitalization for the Bank as requested by the present management of FMBN may prove herculean but Kumo and his management team are already exploring means and strategies to overcome this challenge. The plans and strategies Kumo has already put in place, he believes will attract offshore funding for affordable housing which will lead to the improvement of service delivery to NHF contributors nationwide.

There is a convergence of opinion that Gimba Kumo’s tenure at the FMBN has not only been eventful but signposts an inauguration of a new order of action driven by vision. There is no doubt that he has improved what he met on the ground when he was first appointed as the helmsman at FMBN. Given his profound vision, the plethora of policies and the blueprint he initiated, his zero tolerance for corruption and his promotion of hard work, his second tenure promises to be value loaded, impactful and result oriented.

Commendable is his determination to complete all ongoing housing estate projects under the Ministerial Pilot Housing Scheme nationwide, completion of the Goodluck Jonathan Legacy Estate in Kaba District in the federal capital territory and his avowed determination to improve the Bank’s balance sheet to enhance its standing as a financial institution. If he achieves these laudable goals he has set for himself, his tenure will no doubt be recorded as a golden era in Mortgage financing and administration in Nigeria.

Ume wrote in from Abuja