It is with profound delight that I welcome you all to this ground breaking ceremony. I particularly thank the Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and other distinguished guests for honouring us with their esteemed presence.

  1. The journey to this site began in January this year when Aso Savings and Loans Plc offered to partner with the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in housing delivery by donating about 1.5 hectares of its land at Plot 553, Lugbe District, Abuja, for the development of a model social /affordable housing scheme. Recognising that the land was in a very good location, accessible from the Airport Road and is also within a short driving distance from the city centre, the Ministry was happy to accept the offer. I wish to also emphasise that the Ministry was encouraged by the offer because it was given without pre-conditions. Further discussions were later held between the Ministry and Aso Savings and Loans Plc, and with valuable inputs from the Ministerial Team for Housing Delivery in Nigeria, under my leadership, as well as the support of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Plc (FMBN), the discussions were finalized, and an agreement was reached that the project should be executed speedily.
  1. I wish to commend the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria for being a worthy ally in the conception and execution of this project. The impressive strides of the Bank, under its new leadership led by Mr Gimba Ya’u Kumo, have led to the quick repositioning of the organisation which has enabled it to record its first profit in 20 years in the sum of N188, 082,845.00 in the first quarter of 2012. This is a monumental achievement bearing in mind that within the same period in the 2011 fiscal year, the Bank recorded a deficit of N256, 414,699.00. The corresponding deficits between 2007-2010 were N4,419,624,000.00 in 2010, N8,897,871.000.00 in 2009, N6,559,844,000 in 2008 and N5,974,371,000.00 in 2007.
  1. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the defining features of this social /affordable housing pilot scheme is that it was conceived through the shared understanding and commitment of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and Aso Savings and Loans Plc, for the delivery of public good. This is with a view to jumpstarting the development of a Social/ Affordable Housing Scheme in the country in a pilot phase, beginning from Abuja, which can be modified to fit varying socio-cultural contexts in other parts of the country. It is, therefore, a good example of a venture involving partnership with the private sector on one hand and partnership within the public sector on the other for housing development, though on a modest scale.
  1. Other distinguishing features of this pilot scheme are that it is designed as a scheme of mixed development, consisting of a combination of one, two and three bedrooms flats and infused with cross subsidy, as the affordable segment will subsidize the social housing component. In view of the rising need for efficient land utilization in Abuja, it is designed as a 4-floor multi-storeyed complex of six blocks of flats totalling 144 housing units. This is a radical departure from the existing trend of building bungalows which is fast eating up our land space. On completion, it will have all the enabling infrastructure and complementary services. It will equally be managed sustainably to enable it to continue to serve as model estate in the foreseeable future.
  1. Today’s ground breaking ceremony is the first in a series of good things to come in our effort to revitalize the housing and urban development sector. In this regard, we shall draw inspiration from this project and continue to work collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders in the housing and urban development sector to move the sector forward. I, therefore, urge Aso Savings and Loans Plc to ensure that the project is executed with the highest level of professional excellence, quality and standards.
  1. With the cooperation of the Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, we are assured of the provision of adequate land to the Ministry to meet all the components of our housing delivery models. These include mass housing, social housing, cooperative housing, rental housing, new towns development, slum upgrading, regeneration, public-private partnership (PPP), public-public partnership (Pb-Pb-P) and site and services. Accordingly, we are confident that before long, the pains and anguish of the residents of the Federal Capital Territory will be assuaged through the combined efforts of the Ministry and the Federal Capital Territory Administration. We will also build on the on-going fraternal relations with State Governors to ensure that all tiers of Government in Nigeria focus more attentively on the housing and urban development sector in order to urgently address the huge housing deficit in the country and effectively deal with the challenges of urban development for the transformation of our rapidly growing cities into centres of growth and economic development. We are also working with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and Aso Savings and Loans Plc towards the provision of affordable housing units in every non-city Local Government area in Nigeria which will be demand- driven and needs-based.
  1. The importance of putting in place a policy framework to effectively guide the course of action in the housing and urban development sector cannot also be underestimated. This we have already addressed through the development of the National Housing and Urban Development Policies. Following the adoption of the Policies by the National Council on Land, Housing and Urban Development and the Economic Management and Implementation Team EMIT), they will be presented to the National Economic Council (NEC) on 7th May, 2012, and thereafter to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval. With the two policies in place, complemented with a Housing and Urban Development Sector Road Map which we intend to develop shortly, we can begin to run unhindered with our programmes on housing delivery aimed at meeting the needs of all income streams, particularly those of the low and middle income earners in both the formal and informal sectors of the national economy.
  1. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing this address, let me once again seize this opportunity to reiterate that our doors are open to all willing investors who desire to partner with us in the provision of affordable housing in Nigeria. Indeed, with all the measures that we are currently putting in place, we are convinced that the time is ripe for all investors to take full advantage of the current situation to come on board and be solution providers and strategic development partners in the housing and urban development sector for the realization of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, in this sector. With all stakeholders working together, I see unimaginable wealth and job creation opportunities in the housing and urban development sector for the prosperity of our people. In this connection, as we made impressive strides in the telecoms industry, the moment is ours for the seizing in the housing and urban development sector.

10.    I thank you for your kind attention.

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