Housing development in Enugu State has taken a new turn for good under the administration of Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the Executive Governor of the State.
This has become possible through the appointment of Mr. Agu Chukwuemelie as the General Manager/CEO, Enugu State Housing Development Corporation (ESHDC), who can be described as a round peg in a round hole. In less than 24-months he assumed office, Hon. Agu’s business prowess has come to bare with new estates springing up in the Coal City.
Apart from the ESDHC building low cost houses with flexible payment plan in all the 17 LGAs in the state, they have set a vision of opening new towns within the State. In an interview with GrassRoots.ng, the GM bares his mind on the progressive ventures of ESHDC.
GRGuest: Good morning, Sir. Please, can we meet you?
My name is Agu Chukwuemelie, the General Manager, Enugu State Housing Development Corporation (ESHDC).
GRGuest: How has it been since assumption of office, especially in heading a Corporation that caters for one of the basic needs of man- housing?
Actually, it has been challenging. This table is broad; my job responsibility is huge. But, we are called to serve. I am up to it.
GRGuest: Housing Deficit is a serious challenge in Nigeria, but there are new towns and housing projects scattered around Enugu, how has the Corporation been able to do that?
All honour and gratitude go to God almighty and the Governor of the State who has been supportive of this work. He is someone who came from private environment as well. Based on my experience, I want to transform housing from civil service perspective to private sector or profit oriented perception. That is what has led to the transformation you have seen.
GRGuest: There are number of projects ongoing, like the 9th Mile, Liberty, Heritage, etc., what is the scope of work at these projects?
Actually, I have done seven estates judging from the time I assumed office. Starting from Transparency Estate to Heritage, WTC-Citadel 1&2 to Rangers 1&2. All we have done on sites and service. This implies enabling people to develop these estates themselves. We give them communal living- gates apartments, water, electricity and other facilities. We also give them little time to develop; therefore, within one year to two years. If you fail to develop we revoke the certificate. So, we are working with willing and capable people to develop these estates. We want them (the facilities) to be fully occupied within two years period.
GRGuest: At what rate have houses appreciated in Enugu, in terms of Affordability and occupancy?
Before now, we are seeing heavy congestion in Enugu which was not there when we were young and growing. Thus, under this dispensation we are developing the outward parts of the metropolis. We want a situation were value is added to the out-sketch of the State. In places like the United States, you see people drive 30minutes to an hour to go to work and still go back. That is what we are trying to achieve here; such that people can come from Abakpa, Awkunanau, Four-Corner, Nsukka to attend to their daily activities in the metropolis and still go back for 20 to 30minutes drive. I would say, to an extent, we have achieved that. But, our programme is still running.
GRGuest: Financing is one of the challenges faced in the housing sector. How has ESHDC tackled this?
Sincerity is one key thing that has helped us; people know us that when you pay we plug back the money into infrastructure. So, any Estate project we have isn’t done as ‘usual’. Also, we are selling to people that have effective demand. They want a facility and ready to put in fund to develop the place. Therefore, as they put in their money, the infrastructure are also put in place. We have capable contractors who can afford to invest on Infrastructure and recoup their funds over-time. All this we have put together to get viable results.
GRGuest: Following the rate of population growth in Nigeria, what is the future of housing in Enugu State in particular?
The future is bright; basically, we are laying the foundation for those coming after us to think and develop better. Technology has improved in the housing sector too. However, you can’t do much without adequate funding. With the number of estates we are developing during my dispensation is going to add values to what my predecessors have done. Many of them we have served on this capacity did creditably well. What this means is that with time, people can afford to have enough funds to maintain the old estates and dig into the future. Because land is a scarce commodity, currently, we are trying to discuss with communities where lands are sold at N200,000 or N400,000, so we want to develop estates around them which will automatically add value to the remaining lands. This will also accord them security; normally, we have armed security personnel for all our estates. Apart from that, you are bringing people from different spheres of life to the communities. With that, the economy of that community will go up; shops, markets, schools, hotels, and other demands will come up. So, the future is bright for the housing sector in Enugu State. Already, we have 36 estates. With the grant rents, service charges, there will be enough funds to maintain existing estates and develop new ones.
GRGuest: When Can the people start seeing low cost housing schemes developed?
Often times, I hear people demand for low cost housing. To me, it is interesting. But, we have to tell ourselves the truth. First, we should have low cost cement, iron rods; generally speaking, we should have low cost infrastructure and building materials, because I don’t know how people want us to do it in as much as we have that in mind. Meanwhile, as a commercialised entity, we are making money to pay our salaries, taking care of the overhead cost. We don’t have any money coming from the State per say, as much as we would have if we were under the State fully. We build based on relative cost of what we are using to build the house. Nevertheless, we have integrated low income earners through the Federal Mortgage Bank (FMB), so that they can pay over time. For instance, if a cost of one bedroom is N3million, most people might not be able to achieve it. Some people in the society can’t even save up to N50,000 per annum. If you multiple N50,000 (assuming they don’t touch the salaries), how many years will it take them to pay back. So, we already have relationship with the Federal Mortgage Bank and other primary mortgage institutions. Therefore, we have a plan for low income earners; where the alottees will pay the mortgage institutions over time. Therefore, building low cost houses depends on cost of materials.
GRGuest: What are your legacy projects?
This year, we have a different perspective or plan. We build for everybody depending on what our market says. So, we are going to have some ‘nucleus apartments’ in some of our estates. Also, in some estates, people have not started developing their property; we are going to encourage them by building in some of them. So, we have four new projects coming up. We are doing 4-bedroom terrace apartment; which is not common in the country. In some we are developing 2-3bedrooms terrace. The cost of land is high now which we are putting into consideration. This is one of the reasons we are going to build in terrace form which will give us more houses in small portions of lands. I have a dream of developing a new city entirely. But everything depends on our partners- investors who will assist us to achieve this. We have a vision of doing that, but I can’t disclose ‘where’ for now, because it might affect our productivity. The kind of development there will include houses, schools, tennis lawns, golf courses, all built in one area. It is going to be massive and will touch lives, inclusive of both high, middle and low income earners.
and many more….
GRGuest: What factors gave rise to the kind of structures in Enugu. For instance, there are no high rising buildings coming up?
It is a combination of many factors- economic, socio-cultural and environmental. Also, you don’t have power. If you have high rising you need escalators; I wonder how people will feel if they get locked up in an escalator or someone climbing like 10-staircases. It is something we are threading with caution. Culturally, you need highly productive people or cosmopolitan people who can co-habitat in same area so you don’t create room for issues like this person is occupying my car park space or the other person is using my staircase and he is making noise. But the main issue is sustaining such high-rising buildings.
GRGuest: From Housing sector perspective, what value will the electorate see that will make them align with His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who has indicated interest to be voted in for the second term?
His Excellency has already returned. It’s just for us to join the winning team. He has done well on his part. We call him ‘Magic Governor’. We can’t fathom how he does the numerous projects in the State. God knows why he probably came at this period in time. Whatever we are doing in the housing sector rubbed-off from his style of governance. He believes in due diligence, due process, humble and transparent person. He is a workaholic. We are trying to match-up with this pace and be able to satisfy him a little. On his coming back, I believe, has been endorsed on earth and in heaven. I don’t think anybody can stop that, because good product, they say, doesn’t need much marketing. So, we have the same winning mentality and we are waiting for the celebration of his return.
GRGuest: What is ESDHC’s relationship with private developers?
As the general manager of the Corporation, my duty is to get investors that are into real estate. Money is one thing, technical expertise is another. So, we are bringing, finance and expertise together. Before you become our partner we must have seen your precedents. That will give us the understanding that you have both financial and technical capacities to work with us. Also, your activities must be in line with the corporations regulations. We have seasoned engineers who carry out thorough supervisions. In all ends ‘it is closed’.
GRGuest: What is the value of ESHDC’s selling property at the moment?
The value varies. We are actually trying to reach out to Nigerians outside the country. We have started sending out letters to such organisations. We noticed that most of them would want to invest, but they are scared of being duped. As a government arm we offer you protection and give you value on money spent, because what we have in our offer letter is what you will have in your estate. We don’t promise and fail. So, we are trying to reach the people to let them experience what we do.
GRGuest: How Do you relax after office?
I used to socialise, but this office currently demands a lot of time. After the office we have series of meetings; I still report to His Excellency as well. But all the same I go to church and still play soccer.
GRGuest: Most time, productivity happens when you work with people of like-minds. How would you describe your staff?
These are civil servants. You need to be on toe using the carrots and sticks to reward productivity and punish indulgences. Motivation is key, especially for those who are ready productivity. There is no room for excesses or passing on blames.
GRGuest: What is your message to young people in Enugu State?
It is important they know that one can shine from anywhere. There is always a God-factor in everything we do. There is a saying, ‘work as everything depends on it and pray as if everything depends on God’. Both put together, you will get your result.
Funds, graft, taxes, others bane of entrepreneurship in Nigeria – Muyiwa
BY: Nmerichukwu Igweamaka
Folorunso Muyiwa is the Chief Executive Officer of Divergent Enterprise, the parent company of Nigeria’s biggest pig farm, PorkMoney. In this interview, he talks about the country’s investment climate, economic diversification, among other issues. Excerpts.
The Federal Government of Nigeria maintains its determination to diverse the economy, do you think that is achievable?
It is definitely achievable. The diversification of the economy is probably the only option left for development. This is because the economy continues to rely so much on crude oil. The numbers speak for themselves. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of government’s revenue and 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. No country, especially one that is blessed with a lot of natural resources like Nigeria, can totally depend on one economic sector.
I believe that there are great opportunities for non-oil sectors to grow, and this growth has been visible since 2001. Of course, the changes cannot be very quick and the transformation will not happen overnight.
However, the Federal Government can develop different sectors by taking important steps necessary for growth to take place. We can no longer be a mono-economic country.
Could that explain why you ventured into pig farming?
The idea of PorkMoney grew out of the desire to tap into a neglected sector of the livestock farming that has the potential to create value and change the agricultural ecosystem for good. Long ago before PorkMoney was launched in 2018, I visited a pig farm in Ogun State, one of the biggest in the country, and realised how fast the pigs grew and the viability of pig farming system in general. I knew this was something I needed to be a part of and I’m glad for the decision that I took. We are currently the leading pig farming enterprise in West Africa and our achievement speaks for itself.
Did the idea of establishing PorkMoney emanate from that?
My visit to that farm was definitely a turning point for me. Before then, I was oblivious of the untapped goldmine that is pig farming.
What challenges did you encounter?
Every business comes with a few challenges. One of the challenges we constantly face is the need to micro-manage casual workers from farm handlers, managers, production managers and other workers. Many of them compromise on set standards by cutting corners, especially in meat processing and livestock welfare.
Another challenge is the religious sentiments in this part of the world towards pigs and pork products. However, this was a more pronounced problem at inception and it is dissipating with time.
Knowing the religious sensibilities of the country, did aversion to pork cross your mind?
Not at all. In as much as there is a religious proscription to the consumption of pork, we cannot ignore its usefulness and benefits to our health and nourishment and just how lucrative pig farming is. I mean, Nigeria is a major consumer of pork and 80 per cent of it is imported. This means that a lot of people enjoy this animal protein. All we are doing is localising its production.
Is it possible to alter negative public perception about pig farming?
Definitely. One of our key responsibilities is to enlighten the general public about the great side to pig farming and inform them of the many benefits of pork consumption. Somehow, our environment and the kind of information we were exposed to as a people have influenced our idea of certain things. There are a lot of things we might need to unlearn as time goes on. So by using all our platforms – our social media, our website and even our adverts, we have ensured that we always show the good sides of pig farming because they are much.
Did you consider the possible health challenges in pork breeding?
Of course, we do. However, we ensure that we take the appropriate steps to mitigate any possibility. We also take proper hygienic measures like vaccination, quarantine and biosecurity, which keep our weaners very healthy.
Are you saying there are no associated diseases?
Livestock farming comes with a risk of epidemics; but if managed properly, they can be prevented. The great thing about pigs is just how resilient they are, compared to any other livestock, to farm. They are simply incredibly disease-resilient.
Vaccines and disease surveillance have always been the bane of animal husbandry. How do you take that observation?
Livestock are very prone to diseases; hence the need to constantly take precautionary measures such as administration of vaccines and disease surveillance activities across the farm to prevent outbreaks. Very recently, China witnessed its biggest animal disease that claimed livestock and cost the country billions of dollars because of its flawed surveillance.
So it’s important for other pork-producing countries to take adequate disease surveillance and testing programmes to detect these diseases early enough and prevent a fast spread.
So far, our farm partners under our management have taken adequate measures that have seen us not witness any outbreak since our launch in 2018. We expect that with our measures, this would continue to be the case.
What would you consider the most limiting factors to entrepreneurship in Nigeria, especially for youths?
Lack of capital is one of them. Aside that the Nigerian environment is not too conducive and encouraging for budding entrepreneurs, access to funds is one of the biggest challenges for youths in business. Another is the unfavourable tax policies, poor management, corruption, lack of training and experience, poor infrastructure and lack of specialised skills to scale one’s enterprise, none of which is insurmountable for a determined person.
How would you rate Nigeria’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, compared to other countries like Malaysia?
The SME sector is the backbone of major developed economies and an important contributor to employment and economic growth. Malaysia is doing remarkably well when it comes to the business scene. About 98.5 per cent of business establishments in Malaysia are SMEs, which contribute 36.5 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and 65 per cent of the employment. This is impressive. Despite the significant contribution of SMEs to the Nigerian economy (48 per cent), challenges still persist that hinder the growth and development of the sector. Some of the overriding issues are access to funding, lack of skilled manpower, multiplicity of taxes, high cost of doing business, among others. This proves that there is still much to be done.
As an entrepreneur, how did you overcome initial apprehensions, especially funding, and what areas have you exerted your ideas so far?
When I was starting out in business, I had no capital, training or resources to start my journey. The brilliant ideas were there. All that was needed to execute them was finance, which was lacking, but I had to start small and grow multiple businesses over the years till I was able to afford the capital needed to start my current pursuit.
Operation Amotekun: Southwest Govs stole out idea- Ebonyi Govt.
The Ebonyi State Government on Monday said it was the brainchild of Operation Amotekun security outfit in the South-West that was launched by governors in the region last week.
It said governors in the South-West region ‘stole’ the security idea from it, saying, “When the Governor of Kano State, muted something about this kind of security architecture in the South, recently,” he was referring to the South-East geo-political zone, in particular.
According to the State Government, until the launch of Operation Amotekun, last week, governors and leaders of the South-East zone, had had elaborate and far-reaching security meetings on how to curtail insecurity in the region, saying the South-West zone only ‘borrowed’ a leap from its South-East counterpart, in its establishment.
The Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Mr Stanley Emegha, stated this in a telephone interview with our Correspondent, in Abakaliki, on Monday.
Emegha, who disclosed that governors and leaders of the zone, last year, appointed Gen. Obi Umahi, to coordinate the security architecture of the region, added that much was being done to mitigate all forms of insecurity in the land.
According to him, by the end of January, the security efforts and plan of the region would have been made clearer. He added that the creation of the Ministry of Homeland Security, in Abia State, was one of the moves being made by stakeholders, to reduce crimes in the zone.
“The launch of Amotekun in the Southwest is what is already in vogue in Ebonyi State, in particular, and South-East, in general. This is so because traces of insecurity like kidnapping, car- snatching, armed robbery, etc are no longer found in Ebonyi State.
“The actual region the Governor of Kano was talking about for this security initiative, is the South-East, not the Southwest. What they have done is they have just copied what is already in existence in Ebonyi. This kind of security strategy is being put in place and has been made possible by the South-East Security Consultant, Gen. Obi Umahi (retd). But we have been silent about it because we are waiting to launch at the right time.
“Security as a technical endeavour, and that was why many efforts of governors of the zone in this regard, had not been made public. Security is a very serious thing. No dull person can be a criminal. Those who go into criminality are smart and intelligent persons. So we downplay what we do because we don’t want those we are targeting or fighting to cash in on our strategies.
“This is why we don’t disclose some of the things we put in place, in order not to create room for the criminals to strike. Currently, all the happenings in virtual all the Discos in Abakaliki metropolis, are monitored in our server room. Nobody knew when we mounted those cameras and CCTVs.”
Meet 19-year old Ebube Rebecca Okeke UniLokoja Best Graduating Student – Economics
- In this era, sorting isn’t a way out. If you run out of money, you’ll give your body and if they get tired what then do you give? – Ebube
BY: Sandra Ani
Nineteen year-old (19) Ebube Rebecca Okeke has emerged the Best Graduating Students (Department of Economic) and Best Graduating Student from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with a CGPA of 4:71, at the Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State.
She attributed the feat to the mentorship by her mother, hard-work and prayers, stressing that she learnt a lot, not just academically but also about the environment.
GrassRoots.ng has a chat with Ebube…enjoy the dialogue
Can we meet you
My name is Ebube Rebecca Okeke, a graduate of Economics from Federal University Lokoja. I am 19 years old and I hail from Enugu State; Isi-Uzo Local Government Area to be precise.
Tell us about this big win of yours
To the glory of God; I emerged the Best graduating student from the Department of Economics and the Best graduating student from the Faculty of Arts and Social sciences with a CGPA of 4:71.
I particularly want to thank God for the grace, wisdom and strength. I also want to specially appreciate my mom; my best friend, mentor, role model and teacher. She thought me the value of hard-work, goal setting and goal getting. I’m grateful mom. To all of my lecturers, the entire staff of federal university Lokoja, my friends and family, Thank you for the support
I started this journey in the year 2015 and made straight A’s with a GP of 5.00 during my first semester in the university. That semester was tough and amazing. I learnt a lot, not just academically but also about the environment I found myself and how to make proper and beneficial decisions. I learnt the importance of relationships and diligence too. I made some pretty amazing friends, not just with students alone but with lecturers too and I’m grateful.
Every success story has bumps, but with the help of God, my family and friends I overcame. To everyone reading this, in which ever field you might be in you’ll definitely encounter challenges but don’t let it stop you, keep pushing.
To every student, read like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on God and get a skill or develop your passion. Improve yourself mentally and other wise. The world’s changing, you should too.
How was it like growing up
I had an amazing child hood; went to the best primary and secondary schools; Spring Nursery and Primary school and Harmony Secondary school. Mom was very strict about the kind of movies and TV shows I watched; my social media activities and all that. It was annoying then, but now I’m grateful
Was there a time when teachers or mom had to force you to read?
Teachers; No. Mom; No. She basically just encouraged me, advised me and helped me through it. She was my lesson teacher. We did all my assignments together. During my undergraduate days, there were courses I didn’t really understand like Philosophy, Mom would read them and make notes/summaries for me.
In this era, some students believe it’s all about sorting, how can one stand out?
In this era, sorting isn’t a way out. If you run out of money, you’ll give your body and if they get tired what then do you give? Be diligent, don’t give the lecturers to put a negative tab on you. Attend classes, write all of your tests and assignments and submit on due dates
What’s your next plan?
To begin the real journey towards greatness. To start living and working towards my dreams and make impacts.
Thank you so much for this great opportunity and the feature.
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