As part of its oversight function, the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Housing has commenced a two-week tour of Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (HOMS) projects spread across various locations in the state.
The chairman of the committee, Hon. Olanrewaju Ibrahim Layode revealed that it became imperative to as a matter of urgency, carry out the exercise in view of a number of petitions the House has received.
Lagos HOMS project was an initiative of the immediate past Governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) led administration. The scheme which officially came on board in February 2014 was designed to address the challenges of housing as a result of population explosion in the state.
At the fifth raffle of Lagos HOMS held at Agidingbi in 2014, Fashola explained that the scheme “does not in any way discriminate on any grounds. It encompasses the diversity of our country. From the draw, we can see applicants from Igbo, Hausa and Delta among others duly participated in the scheme and won in the process.”
Also, Fashola said the scheme had not been infected with bribery, saying it “is free from bribery and man-know-man syndromes. Applicants do not have to know any government official at any level to benefit from the scheme.
However, there have been some complaints over the project. Some Lagos HOMS winners had written the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) after an earlier letter to the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to intervene.
The winners, in a letter dated November 7, 2015, said their hopes had been dashed by the state government after committing their life savings to the project.
The CPC has therefore asked the state government to investigate the delay in the completion of the Mushin project and alleviate the pains of the winners.
In its effort and going by its constitutional responsibility, the Lagos House Committee chairman, Hon. Layode decided to embark on the oversight function to address the complaints of some of the would-be-owners of the projects and see the progress made so far by the Ministry of Housing and the contractors handling the projects in an effort to ensure that the dream of the Lagos HOMS is kept alive,
The exercise began on Wednesday February 3, 2016 with a tour of Amuwo Odofin Lagos HOMS, Mushin Lagos HOMS, Gbagada Lagos HOMS and Ilupeju Lagos HOMS. Also, the committee visited Staff Quarters, Alausa Lagos HOMS, Oko-Oba, Lagos HOMS, Omole Phase I and II Lagos HOMS, Magodo Phase I Lagos HOMS and Akanimodo Ketu Lagos HOMS on Thursday 4th February.
Layode said in an interview with journalists during the visit that, It was necessary to go out there to see what has been done with Lagos HOMS, and that the visit was good for the image of the state and that of the government.
“It is part of our oversight functions. Today, the first one was in Amuwo Odofin and the level of performance was interesting. We discovered that the work is in progress, we don’t know the agreement between the contractor and the government.
“When we call on the Ministry of Housing after the exercise, they should be able to give us an update. I would say that the project there is averagely okay by us. When we confirm more, we will know better.
“We went to Mushin Lagos HOMS and it also exposed the project that it is ready for occupation, but we need to complete the agreement with the contractors in terms of payment for the job done. We will look into the grievances of the people that took us to the Consumer Protection Council, we will work on their petition,” the lawmaker said.
It was gathered that the Mushin Lagos HOMS has been completed but there were issues over the payment of the contractor by the state government. According to the contractor, Jericho Construction Limited, it appealed to the government to come to its aid as according to him, money was borrowed to execute the project.
Layode, who was accompanied by other members of the committee, stated further that the committee also visited Ilupeju Lagos HOMS that has already been occupied, and added that the committee also went to Gbagada Lagos HOMS, which he said is in a bad state.
“We will call on the Ministry of Housing to explain what really happened in Gbagada. We will call on the necessary groups and agencies before we write our reports,” he said.
The Committee on Housing has however summoned some of the contractors which included Armonia Properties Development Company Ltd, Oat Construction Nigeria Ltd and Abrafem Construction Ltd among others. They are to appear before the committee for allegedly abandoning the projects.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Layode, who stated this expressed dissatisfaction with the current level of the housing project being handled by the companies was, especially when it was discovered that most of them have been properly mobilized.
On funding, the lawmaker revealed that money was appropriated to the government for the project, and the concerned government agencies would shed more light on what is happening, when they are eventually invited by the Assembly to explain what really happened.
As regards Mushin HOMS, where the houses have not been occupied because the contractors are still being owed, the chairman promised that everything would be sorted out in due course by the committee.
“People paid some money and the money they paid can be used to pay the contractors. We have contingency and liability money in the budget, but I cannot give a final judgment on that,” he said.
Reacting to the complaints of the residents of Ilupeju HOMS on electricity during the visit, Layode explained that some of the issues raised by the occupants were not envisaged, when the projects were designed.
He pointed out that the government should have provided alternative electricity for the residents because, according to him, they could not be using individual generating sets in the estate. They have a common generating set of about 125KV that could only power the water treatment plant and the street light in the estate, but they need 500KV set for the entire estate. The state government might not be able to provide this, the residents can contribute money to buy one and maintain it. That is what is happening in the estate, where I stay,” he stated.
However, some contractors of the Lagos HOMS Project have expressed dissatisfaction over delay in funding. They noted that the state government has not updated the payment which according to them has affected the progress of the project.
In his comment, Obi Bombey, the Managing Director, Cyrou Turnkey Builders handling one of the project sites at Ilubirin in Victoria Island told the committee that the work has been slowed down due to financial constraints.
According to Bombey, 66 blocks of 19 flats each were awarded to the company in March 2014, but only 27 per cent of the project had been completed. He said that the work was still on the first phase which comprised 20 blocks due to the problem of finance.
“We started in March 2014 but we could not do much until February 2015 except the skeletal 27 per cent of the contract done so far. We stopped work in April 2015 because of elections and funding. The biggest thing we have been facing is finance,” he said.
Also speaking, Reuben Oyewole, one of the contractors handling four blocks of the 12 blocks of the project at Lekki Phase I, said, “we are mobilized with 20 per cent and later another 10 per cent, that is why the work stands at 40 per cent. We have written to the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation for more payment, we are still waiting.”
Another contractor handling four blocks also at Ilubirin site, Rotimi Ogunlola of Hammer Realtors and Developer Limited said, “We have challenge of finance, so far we have got 30 per cent and the project is 40 per cent completed.”
On his part, Biliaminu Fashola, one of the contractors handling the project at Lekki Phase II said he was given only 40 per cent of the two blocks contracted to his company, Bikafash Construction Company.
“The work is 70 per cent complete, I would have finished the projects if other payment had been made,” Fashola said.
In his response to the constractors’ complaints, Layode said, “What we saw is slow, we have other things to use our money for. We need to sit down together to know what the problems are.”
The lawmaker however, said that the committee would invite all contractors to the Assembly to see all the challenges and ways to address them.
He however threatened to drag any contractor who planned to waste the public funds to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The projects, which are in 24 sites in the state with 338 buildings, are being supervised by the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), New Towns Development Authority, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.