Alhaji Rilwan Aruna is a retired Civil Servant, who has worked in different capacities of the Real Estate sector. Alhaji Aruna is also a Lawyer, who specializes in estate management. Before his retirement from the civil service some years ago, he went for training and learnt about Real Estate, IT business and food business, but passion and providence led him to real estate. Currently he has developed 12-block of flats in Lekki Phase 1.
Last week, City People’s Senior Property Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE, engaged him, enjoy the piece.
Can we know more about you sir?
My name is Alhaji Rilwan Aruna. I am a Lawyer, a retired Civil Servant, community leader and currently I am the Chairman of Central Lekki Phase 1 Residents Association/Zone 8.
What is your understanding of real estate?
Real Estate has come to stay, whether there is a recession or not, because more and more people are in need of accommodation.
Tell us about the project you are handling as we speak?
I am currently handling a block of 12 flats (residential) and they have been roofed and plastered. We are fixing the windows now.
Where are these properties?
One is in Lekki Phase 1, the other one is at Ajah and there’s one at Ijeshatedo.
What are the challenges you are facing in the sector?
Sourcing materials, both locally and from abroad. Scarcity of Dollars is affecting everything, even though we purchase some materials locally, their prices still have dollar influence. Land is also a problem. To get land is a problem, to easily get approval from government takes time. A minimum of 1 year.
What about scarcity of the artisans?
Yes, you are right, even a bricklayer calls himself an engineer. Technicians call themselves engineers. You hardly have registered engineers among all these people. Structural engineers are very few, licensed and registered Architects are very few. Semi-literate persons are in the practice and it is actually one of the challenges real estate is having. I personally as a Lawyer, employ only registered staffers because if I need a technical know-how I have to employ somebody who is qualified in that sphere. My area of specialization is in Estate Agency as a Lawyer.
What led you into the building sector?
I went into real estate after my retirement. I was a management staff at Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, it’s a subsidiary of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where the currency is printed. We went for training before my retirement. Some of the facilitators at the training suggested Real Estate, Food business, IT business. They said we could go for any of the businesses after our retirement, that any of them is safe to do. I looked at it and I started with IT business, I discovered it was becoming saturated, then I went into real estate and since then I have not looked back.
If you were to advise the government to use real estate to improve on the economy, what would you suggest?
Our mortgage system is not modern. In some developed countries, you are told to come and collect mortgage funds, but here, corruption is everywhere even before you get a loan, facilitators would want their palms greased. And loans are not easy to access, either by estate developer or estate subscriber.
When the US was in a recession a few years ago, it was real estate that got the country out. How can Nigeria government adopt the system?
You are right, when Obama took over, the economy was in a recession. What did he do? He went into construction of bridges, roads, hospitals and residential houses, that created many jobs. In fact, employment is more widely distributed in real estate than in farming. Government doesn’t take employment seriously. Government can even borrow money to boost construction business. There, you have jobs for the bricklayers, the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, increase production rate of the manufacturers, turnover of building materials, and traders selling them, all these lead to increase in employment.
I hereby advise the government to fund real estate because Construction/Real Estate employs wider range of workers.
Why are Nigerian estate developers not patronising locally made materials?
Well, if we are talking of standards. There are some locally made materials that are good. For instance, the electrical cables, made in Nigeria are the best. When it comes to carpentry materials, the imported ones are not durable as the locally made ones and you can’t compare most imported ones with those made in Nigeria. But because of the cost, people go for the imported ones.
I know Government doesn’t really have to restrict movement of certain materials that is imported. For example, the Adeyinka Bricks is far better than the imported ones and the home-made furniture is more durable than the imported ones.