Dr. BAMIDELE ONALAJA, GMD RevolutionPlus Property Company
When Nigeria went to the polls in February many real estate players felt that the elections will take just 3 weeks and Nigerians will be back to their business. Many couldn’t wait for things to return back to normal.
But things didn’t go that way. Not only was one of the elections rescheduled the ethnic and religious dimensions that the elections took didn’t help matters, especially in Lagos where the Igbos and Yorubas slugged it out. The Igbos were desperate to take over Lagos and called Lagos no man’s land. The Yorubas fought back. There was also the religious dimension as some Christians leaders took sides. And there was palpable tension in the land. As real estate players intensified their marketing bid to get people of means to buy land, houses/apartments in the many housing estates all over Lagos, they got a lets wait and see attitude from their clients.
Lets wait and see what will happen was their. Let the inauguration hold first. Many interested buyers have been scared of what will happen. All the noise of Interim government did not help matters as people became apprehensive and afraid that the President elects victory might be annulled.
Last week, City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE & ISAAC ABIMBADE visited Dr. Bamidele Onalaja, a leading real estate player in Lagos and GMD of RevolutionPlus Property. And he told us how the uncertanties of the elections results has affected Real Estate Sector negatively. Read his views below.
How has the Real Estate sector fared since the beginning of the year. How has the election, and uncertainties here and there impacted on the real estate sector?
I think the economy of the country is in a state of comatose, maybe it is so because of the new government coming in or the election, etc. This has affected almost everything. Not only in the real estate sector. I have friends in other sectors too. The economy is not going according to the calculation of the economists but I think it’s just getting better now. The projection now is that, by the 3rd quarter of the year, we expect things to start getting better. By that time we would have a new government. Things would have stabilized. Because almost everybody you ask to come and invest we tell you it’s after the inauguration. That’s what people say now whether you are into the business of real estate or another. This has affected the real estate business so badly. Many of my colleagues in the sector are complaining. We build houses everywhere and we ask people to come and buy but they are saying it’s after the inauguration as if there’s one money that is coming after the inauguration. We pray that the new government’s policies will help and have an impact on real estate and other sectors.
For the new government both at the state and federal levels, what is your advice for them in terms of policies and ideas?
For the state government (Lagos State), that’s continuity. He is not new. We know some of his policies already. His Excellency Babajide Sanwo-Olu is a man that loves real estate. He loves housing. Don’t forget he’s the former MD of the LSDPC. He’s a Surveyor by profession. He’s a friend and a close associate of the real estate sector. I think the real estate sector is dear to him. Now that he has been elected for another four years, I expect him to pay more attention to affordable housing. Because I want him to follow the legacy of Papa Jakande in Lagos. Even though things were cheaper at that time. The economy was much better. But he can still go in that direction. Because the housing deficit keeps increasing. And this is so because we keep having rural-urban migration, people are giving birth every day. And the economy is not that good. If the government can do affordable housing, it will be good. The informal sector as we all know in any country contributes like 70 percent. The tailors, vulcanizers, welders, traders, etc. These are the informer sectors that contribute too much to the economy. I think the incoming president is an experienced man and I think he needs to work with the informal sectors, he needs to work with developers like us. And he needs to work with governors. They can give us free land and also provide joint ventures for developers to build.
I will advise the government to create a low-housing scheme that almost everybody in the informal sector will be able to afford. Let’s say 2 bedrooms for 10 million naira and they will have the opportunity to pay for up to 10 years at least. The government can have collaborations with some mortgage banks to provide loans and mortgage banks will listen to you. If the government can access the informal sector, there is so much money there, they just need to find a way to them. Because many of them want to buy property but they are always come expensive.
I think there should be a robust collaboration in the next four years of Babajide Sanwoolu. We all know that the private sector drives the economy. The government doesn’t. Take a look at many developed countries today, it’s the private sector that drives their economies. The government can only provide infrastructures, provide guidelines, and policies. They aren’t meant to be builders, for instance. That’s why I love some of the governor’s Sanwo-Olu policies. Some of the buildings the government builds today are PPP. We encourage them to do more but it should be more affordable.
Once you can provide an affordable house for the common man, you have solved part of their major problems. The three basic need of man is food, shelter, and clothing. Once you can take shelter from their problems, the remaining are secondary.
What is your experience running Lagos REDAN?
Running Lagos Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) has been very eventful. I have wonderful members. Maybe because most of us do the same thing. We see ourselves like we are complementing one another rather than competitors. That’s my preaching anything we have a meeting. When we have a meeting with our excos, I tell them we are not competitors but complement one another. Look at the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, they render the same service but we but we are developers. We build houses, and sell land. Because I believe if we have a common voice, we would be able to talk with one voice to the government. We can tell the government this is what we have come and do business with us. The government can do business with REDAN because it’s an association of over 10 thousand members. They can do a PPP with REDAN just that the economy is really affecting us.
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