Gbola Oba is one of the brightest brains in the real estate business in Nigeria of today. He is the visionary and co-founder of ULDA Limited, and top game changer in the building industry with outstanding and affordable policies and approach. He uses his journalistic prowess to advocate collaboration through establishment of viable cooperatives as the only sustainable way of getting out of poverty and addressing homelessness in the country.
He is currently and religiously committed to drastically reducing Nigeria’s near-20m housing-stock deficit and the near universal culture of incompetence which defines the building and construction industry; by encouraging diaspora and returnee industry experts to kick-start a strategic interventionist TRAIN2BUILD youths and artisans the skills and enterprise-empowerment as well as skills upgrade programmes respectively.
In a chat with City People Magazine, Gbola Oba gave an extensive talk on why many find it difficult to own a home and how one can own a house with 10,000 naira.
How is your firm tackling the issue of housing deficit in Nigeria?
The concept of Cooperation solves it all. We have tried it and it works for us here at ULDA cooperative. We have ultimate material and physical evidences of what we are able to do from the time we started. On our site in Mowe, Ogun State we have already procured 50 plots of land. In Magbon before Ogijo we have several plots of land which we have must build 300 buildings there in the next one and half year.
I got a report from our mortgage adviser that at present out 50 applicants showing interest in activating their mortgage; about 31 of them are qualified to get a mortgage of 25,000 per month. These are people who ordinarily standing alone could not even have had the opportunity of approaching experts. These are people earning 65,000, 70,000 a month. After taking out cost of feeding, cost of transportation and so on they barely have nothing left. For so long the concept has been abused and this discourages people from owning a house.
Why are some cooperatives failing their members?
Against the general notion that our people are poor, the market women and traders especially those into cooperative are poor, as I’m talking to you now, 540 billion naira in cash belongs to cooperatives in Lagos state lying idle in bank accounts. This money eventually got mismanaged making that members not to get value for that money.
How did you firm raise money to finance its projects?
What we did was that we went to diaspora. We went to England and encouraged Nigerians in the Diaspora who have free money to save. We bring them together to form a working corporative. By this, with whatever you contribute we will help you translate it into Real Estate Properties in Nigeria. We have the man power. We have the faculty of people who were formerly functioning in the Diaspora who returned and are practising in Nigeria. This facility is now training and empowering young Nigerians. With the little change that the people put together; hundred- hundred pounds every month, the faculty of experts and the young trainees would help you translate it into real estate asset. To be honest with you, when we came back in Nigeria, we discovered that there are some many people in Nigeria who really want to be part of it. So in Nigeria, we started a corporative. The two cooperatives; Lagos and London. In mentoring them, they have translated their money into where we are now. We are in a building that is owned by a cooperative. This estate is owned by the cooperative. So you can see the dynamics of human capital development, social enterprise mentorship in the cooperative, leveraging the expertise of our faculty members. Engineer Babatunde Faleye is the Deen of that school, Madam Joy Igbodike is one of our directors. She’s a trained engineer who functions as a functional carpenter in the building and construction industry. Builder Oresanya is a qualified builder and a trainer in our institute.
What are you doing differently that gives you edge over other real estate companies?
The collective worth of ULDA Cooperative assets in Bluestone Garden City on Mowe-Ofada Road is over 350 million naira. All money contributed by members of our cooperative both Nigeria and abroad is not up to 100 million naira. But the level of appreciation of our assets is impressive. We bought 50 plots of land in February 2020 at the rate of 2.5 million naira per plot totaling 125 million naira. In that estate, land is now sold for 6 million, this mean for us buying a plot at 2.5 million as at the time land is being sold for 5 million in the estate, we have gotten 100 percent appreciation on the land alone. We are almost done building 6 houses on it. What I have been trying to say is that the strategic people managing a cooperative go a long way in making people have value for their money. My plan is to get a minimum of 70 percent of my members to own houses through me.
How can someone own a house with just 10, 000?
Any member of our cooperative is pre-qualified to be eligible for a given amount of mortgage, once he meets the 20 percent of the value of the mortgage. We will support the person to get the house and start paying down even if the cooperative would first take the possession of the house on his behalf. This is because the cooperative can be easily assessed to be worthy of the value of the property. We would make such a person meet the qualification of the amount to be paid. So once we secure the house for him, as he’s paying down we are also increasing our assets. Once he pays up in time, he gets his house quickly and if otherwise the cooperative assets add up. So it’s a win – win situation especially on the side of the person the system supports. But it’s not a win –win situation on the side of the mortgage company as against a private individual.
You pay 10,000 naira every month. The cooperative is investing it into something else with other people’s money. The return of the investment annually if rolled over for two consecutive years now would build equity that you can use as minimum commercial deposit.
What are the criteria for joining ULDA Cooperative?
The only criterion to joint ULDA cooperative is the affordability to meet the minimum contribution in Nigeria which is 10,000 and the minimum monthly contribution for those in London which is 100 pounds.
Tell us about your training institute?
At ULDA Training Institute, we provide trainings in the basics of the construction industry. Essentially, we provide training in brick layering, domestic plumbering, construction carpentry and still fixing. That’s who we are. When we established the training institute in Nov. 2017, we had always that we are not just going to kick start a training institute for training sake or for just minting out people who will be turned into joblessness, we knew we were going to be creating an ecosystem that will not only skill-empower people, but also enterprise-empower them. The only way make that young beneficiaries of our training projects become useful to themselves would be to encourage adults who already make money to encourage and mentor them to create a system that will engage the young alumni of our training school to do what they desire to do in their lives.
What benefits await your trainees after graduation?
Many adults in Nigeria desire to own homes and because of this desires there should ordinarily be work opportunities for young graduates of our training schools. But because some of our adults are not properly mentored, that industry is in a lock jam. Those who have skills don’t get employment opportunities, those who desire homes don’t get the homes, because they are not mentored into the strategies of getting homes.
So how is the institute fairing?
When we started the training school in November 2017, we started getting sponsors putting money on our table from about June 2018 to train Nigerians. We trained them in all the skills that ordinarily translated into making this possible but you know what, many young Nigerians don’t find the idea of getting skilled up in building and construction training. The don’t find it as attractive as trying to be OAPs or wanting to be musicians. Every year we have good money to train Nigerians. At some points we came up with the idea that founders should give some stipends to trainees. There are scholarships on the table and there are job opportunities given the ecosystem we created. I can say in the next 2 and the half years, if any young person comes into any of our programmes and invests diligently, finding job would not be a problem. This is because the opportunities are there.
– Jamiu Abubakar