By Stanley Onyekwere with agency report
Some workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have reacted with excitement and despair to the recent kick off of the process for development of 40,000 housing unitsat Apo Tafyi District, for workers in Abuja.
The multi-billion-naira housing project, which is in partnership with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Good Homes Development Company Limited, the project’s private developer, aimed at alleviating the suffering encountered by workers in the Territory, by proving affordable, quality accommodation for workers.
It would be recalled that the FCT minister, Bala Mohammed, who last week signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the FCT Administration and the private developer for the project, also inspected ongoing works on the site, which is at preliminary stage.
However, some workers, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the development, commended the initiative as a way of ameliorating the high cost of accommodation in Abuja, while others advised parties to the agreement to extend such opportunity to workers in the private sector.
According to an Abuja-based civil servant,Mr. Samson Isah, the housing initiative was commendable and should be encouraged by well-meaning Nigerians.
He advised government and the labour unions to monitor the project thoroughly to ensure that the contractors delivered on schedule.
He said: “the idea is a good one and will assist most average workers in the country to own houses before retirement.
“I will, however, advise both the FCTA and labour to closely monitor the contractor to ensure that the project is not abandoned as we have experienced in the past.’’
A construction worker, Mr. Celistine Buba, also commended the initiative and suggested that the initiative should be extended to workers in the private sector.
He said “initiatives like this have been seen in the past, but it is only government workers that benefit.
“Even when they say it is a `workers’ housing scheme’, it should also include workers in the private sector, after all, we are all Nigerian workers.’’
Another civil servant in Abuja, Mrs. Yemi Muyiwa, advised the NLC to extend the housing scheme to all parts of the country.
“The FCTA has done well in earmarking a district for this housing scheme, but I will advise the NLC to also work out similar arrangements with state governments across the country,” she said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the project site in the new workers layout, Mohammed said the collaboration was part of government’s effort to promote the welfare of workers.
Speaking at the project site, the FCT minister stressed that the project has been designed in a manner that would ensure affordability by the workers, thereby contribute greatly to the reduction of the housing deficit in the country especially, in the FCT.
Describing the scheme as the first of its kind in history-that 650 hectares of land is being given to Nigerian workers to develop quality and affordable housing for themselves, the minister noted the big sites will also provide avenue for over 7,000 skilled and unskilled job opportunities to Nigerians, which will go to a large extent towards reducing unemployment.
According to him, President Goodluck Jonathan personally gave the FCT Administration a matching order to initiate a viable housing scheme that would cater for the needs of the Nigerian workers, who are the engine of the nations’ economy.
“The President, Goodluck Jonathan had called me and the Minister of State personally and given us marching order that we should give districts and make pivotal, the housing where they can put their heads,” he stressed.
He added that in order to ensure the project is delivered in good time, the FCTA is going to collaborate with the partners, while assuring stakeholders that the district will not be different from Maitamaor Asokoro districts, as the administration going to leverage on finances from various sectors to provide necessary infrastructures in the District.
“The financing of the infrastructure aspect of the project is to be driven under the SURE-P Progaramme of the Federal Government.
“On our part, we will make sure we bring water and electricity to all the districts we are building for Nigerian workers.”
He said the administration has also made sure the resettlement and compensation of the people of the district areas are settled before the developer started the work.” he said.
The Minister however, directed the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to immediately commence arrangement to ensure thorough engineering design for the project for quality infrastructure to be put in place in the site.
Peoples Daily reports that beneficiaries of the scheme cut across public and private sector workers, and those contributing to the National Housing and Pension Funds, including the self-employed in the society.
Also, to own the property, beneficiaries are expected to make 10 percent and above initial deposit, depending on the house value, balance can be obtained through mortgage.
Earlier, the NLC President, Comrade Omar Abdulwahid said on assumption of office, his administration prioritized the issue of workers housing.
According to him, seeing the position of Nigerian workers based on the salary they earn, they are not able to own a house.
“I have always said Nigerian workers are worst of when it comes to the economy of this country. Even a person who sells grass for animal or tomatoes is far better than a worker.
“We believe one of the major things we can do to assist Nigerian workers is to partner with relevant agencies so they can have qualitative and affordable housing. So that Nigerian workers can be house owners not tenants anymore,” the NLC President said.
Urging workers in to take advantage of the scheme to own a house, he however appealed to the FCT minister to prevail on the Federal Morgage Bank to ensure that the project is not stopped half way.
On his part, Chairman, Good Homes Development Company Limited, Owele Nicholas Ukachukwu, restated that the project was borne out of the President’s and FCT Minister’s love for workers.
He promised that that quality housing units will be delivered in good time.
“If you (workers) don’t owe a house you cannot blame the Government. It is for you now to take advantage of the Federal Mortgage loan,” he stressed.