Return of ‘Koro’: A rejoinder

By Musiliu Obanikoro

I read the piece written by Mr. Tope Templer Olaiya on the Greater Lagos section of The Guardian Newspaper of Thursday February 20, 2014 on page 14 titled: “Return of ‘Koro’” and decided it is important to set certain records straight compared to how they were painted in the piece.

   I am particularly worried that as much as Mr. Olaiya attempted to sound balanced on his analysis of the implications of my appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the partisan politics in Lagos State, he largely represents my person as a promoter of election violence and I am compelled to reject such representation.

   First, it didn’t come as a shock to me that my appointment is causing uneasiness in some quarters, especially when it is seen as a political calculation to strengthen the opposition to the way and manner the affairs of Lagos State are being managed. For those with the mindset to conceive a larger picture, my appointment offers Lagos State an opportunity to command the representation it deserves in the National Executive Cabinet. It was based on excellent and impressive performance in my previous engagements in the service of my fatherland.

   There are indications that I have utilized such opportunities in the past to raise the profile of Lagos State to a new level in relation to excellence of ideas, and the pursuit of greater good of Nigeria. My interest at all times- and this appointment offers another opportunity, is to work with willing and positive Lagosians and Nigerians to better the lots of my people. 

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Secondly, it was abhorrent to read from the piece a reecho of the ritualization of our political culture by a supposed All Progressive Congress (APC) stalwart, that I swore to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the Holy ‘Kaaba’ in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that I will ‘not go anywhere’- referring to my defection to the PDP as a Senator. For the records, I do not engage in such kind of repugnant activity. My political poise is based on sound ideology and my leanings shift when the walls become slippery.

 

   The piece again reechoed another supposed APC chieftain labeling my campaigns as ‘always violent’. He cited the 2007 Oregun incidence when my campaign train was attacked by the opposition to draw credibility to this argument. The one sided nature of the report did little justice to my person. For the record, my campaign train did not attack itself on that fateful day. It was a well-orchestrated plan by the party in power in Lagos State that was struggling to hang on to power, to discredit my campaign organization. That is obvious from the continuing use of the same incident to malign me today.

 

   I am a family man with strong family values. I have been married for 35 unbroken years and managed a family I am proud to say, is a successful one. I have raised children amongst who are successful graduates in different human endeavours and who are already contributing positively to their fatherland. These values are arguably not that of a man that can be described as violent. I doubt if these individuals labeling me as violent can parade such credentials in their personal lives.

 

   The same elements are perhaps hyping a pretentious Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) recruitments allegedly aimed at training certain youths for election purposes in 2015 by my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Since FERMA had strongly disclaimed such activities under its guise, it is better to waive it aside as the restless antics of an unsecured group and individuals. The Lagos State Government controls enough security apparatuses to stem any suspicious act of violence as it is being brewed within its jurisdiction, if it fails in its responsibility, it should not lay the blame on the doorstep of the Federal Government or the PDP in the bid to score political points.

 

   I would like to conclude this response by offering a little advice to the writer of the piece that necessitated my response. The hallmark of the fourth estate of the realm is the production of balanced reporting that adds significant values to the lives of the readers. Your respected role is to provide a mirror for leaders and followers to view and review themselves without adding blemishes that are controversially painted by your pen. In this particular piece, you have consciously or unconsciously did that to my person. What I seek are positive suggestions and advices as well as your prayers on the roles that fortune bestows on me to serve Nigeria. 

 

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The return of ‘Koro’

Ko si Koro, ko si ibo

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

Tuesday’s clearance of Senator Musiliu Olatunde Ishola Obanikoro and nine other President Jonathan’s ministerial nominees by the Senate has established the reemergence of Obanikoro into Lagos politics.

   As expected, the former High Commissioner to Ghana got a soft landing from his colleagues as he enjoyed the ‘bow and go’ treatment, but was after briefing his audience and the nation on some details about his life.

   Obanikoro narrated his humble beginnings: From being a newspaper vendor in the streets of Lagos, to an apoti trader and a former cleaner, to his rise as a council chairman, commissioner, promotion to the Senate, an ambassador and now, a minister.

   No doubt, the listing of Obanikoro as a ministerial nominee didn’t come as good news to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in Lagos State, who have been forced to return to its strategy room for a proper analysis of the implications of a ‘Koro, as the minister-designate is called, coming onboard the federal cabinet, a year to the general elections.

   For the Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obanikoro’s new national assignment is an acknowledgment of his previous excellent services to the nation.

  In a statement, PDP stated that it is very proud of the former Ambassador and Senator.

   “We thank Mr. President for nominating Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as Minister. We particularly commend the president for allowing the state to have the benefit of the Southwest ministerial slot. Indeed, Senator Obanikoro is a tested and trusted public servant, whose ability to deliver is not in doubt,” statement reads.

   The PDP also commended the Senate for rising above partisan politics by confirming the nomination of Obanikoro and nine others as ministers. The party noted that all the Senators unanimously suspended further debates on the issue of defection in order to confirm the nominees, thereby putting national interest over partisan politics.

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While the APC vacillates on its choice of who succeeds Governor Babatunde Fashola, it is glaringly clear that the PDP would put its best foot forward and all indications point to Koro.

   Many who witnessed the feverish 2007 governorship campaign involving Fashola, Obanikoro and Jimi Agbaje will not forget in a hurry the many violent scenes on the political fields across the state and would gladly not look forward to a repeat of such.

   Of the many Obanikoro’s catch-phrase campaign slogans, Ko si Koro, ko si ibo, meaning ‘No Koro, no vote,’ comes to mind.

   Tracing his long career in politics, which began in 1989 as a Caretaker Committee Chairman of Surulere Local Government under the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Chairman, Lagos Island Local Government, he was able to win Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s heart in 1999 because of his Lagos Island followership, when he was appointed Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture.

   He was elected Senator for Lagos Central in April 2003, running for the Alliance for Democracy (AD), but later defected to the PDP. According to an APC stalwart, one      reason he has not been able to come back to the progressives’ fold is that the manner in which he betrayed Asiwaju was drastic.   

   “He swore to Asiwaju even in Kabba, Mecca, that he will not go anywhere only for him to return to Nigeria and defect. It was a very difficult time for the party because that was the period former President Obasanjo seized Lagos council funds. Good for him that he has found a sort of solace in the PDP structure, from an ambassador to becoming a minister, but will he achieve his aim of ruling Lagos, it will be fight to finish,” said the stalwart.

   Another APC chieftain at the Acme Ikeja secretariat recalls that Obanikoro’s campaigns are always violent. “You recall the incident at Oregun during his 2007 campaign where several women were shot at. His coming as minister at this time is strategic. Already, there is a Lagosian in the cabinet in person of Aganga. We understand that the only reason they giving him the chance is strictly politics.”

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PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, MUSILIU OBANIKORO (LEFT) AND DR. ADE DOSUNMU.

Feelers from party men confided in The Guardian that Obanikoro’s nomination has made APC edgy in Lagos, as this is happening at a time there are some restiveness in Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). FERMA has been hiring new recruits that are being drilled daily at their office at the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway old tollgate area in Lagos.

   First to sound a note of warning on this development was the chief security officer of the state, Governor Fashola, who told newsmen recently that he doesn’t know the purpose of such mass recruitment by a parastatal under the Ministry of Works.

   “If they are recruiting, what is the purpose? If they want to police federal highways, what is now the role of the FRSC? Have they appropriated funding for it because you can’t have an agency in a constitutional democracy without having appropriation for it in the budget? Or are you funding them with slush fund? Is it SURE-P money, meant for the development of Lagos State that is being used to do this?
   “Again, you ask yourself, ‘what is the need for such a task force?’ There are about 10,000 roads in the state, out of which 6,000 belong to the state government. A little over 3,000 belong to the local government. Less than 120 belong to the Federal Government. So what do you need such a large army for, unless there are some ulterior motives? I hope we are not going back to the days of machetes,” Fashola said.

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One of the theories flying around is that Chief Federick Faseun’s Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) is behind the FERMA-trainee project, considering his relationship with the Federal Government and the recent contract he won to police pipeline installations nationwide.

   “The impression is that already, foot soldiers are being created for Obanikoro to use to engage Lagos in the next election. It has forced the APC to start getting prepared; that with the emergence of Obanikoro, we should expect more violence, more of pedestrian talk and cheap propaganda,” a source said.

   The immediate hurdle to cross for the APC is the choice of a candidate on the basis of religion, which is a worry for party leaders. “If we choose a Christian candidate and Obanikoro enters the mosque, APC may kiss the election goodbye. On the issue of violence, we believe that the APC can take care of him.

   “What may not be so clear is whether a Muslim versus Christian ticket would be decisive in Lagos. Christians within the APC have been saying that they have been voting for all our Muslim candidates in Lagos over the years.

   “But in a year whereby you have a Jonathan also running as president, who is a Christian, there may be a way the Muslims may feel alienated in the state, having a Christian run at the centre and in Lagos,” another source concluded.

 

 

Wale Tinubu, Nigeria’s oil Czar

By DIMGBA IGWE

In 2010, one of Britain’s most distinguished biographers, Nigel Hamilton, wrote a classic book, titled, American Caesars, which chronicled the lives of US Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George Bush.
Inspired by that work, Mike Awoyinfa and I had decided to chronicle the corporate version of such book to be titled, Nigeria’s Corporate Caesars, which would feature some select iconic Nigerian corporate greats, who had charted path-breaking and inspiring exploits in Nigeria’s corporate hemisphere.

In such a series, one of those who would inevitably find a space in the book is a young, ambitious man with a lion’s heart, Adewale Tinubu, who founded what has grown into Nigeria’s “largest downstream petroleum marketing company”, Oando PLC., with a seed capital of N5,000. This corporate profile was triggered by Wale’s latest move, the agreement entered by Oando’s subsidiary, Oando Energy Resources, to acquire the entire business of ConocoPhillips in Nigeria for a sum of  $1.79 billion.

When this deal is completed – and Wale’s group had already made initial deposit of over $400 million with complicated financial engineering in top gear to pay up the outstanding -Oando’s daily oil exploration would skyrocket from 4,500 mbpd to 50,000 mbpd, establishing it as the largest indigenous oil exploration company.

But this is not just happening by chance. Rather, Wale is well on his way to actualising his long held strategy of building “Africa’s first indigenous world-class energy company.”

With a market capitalisation of $2 billion and over a thousand staff, Oando is the first Nigerian company that is quoted not only in the Nigerian Stock Exchange but also on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. With about 500 retail outlets in the country and about 120 km gas pipeline to aid its distribution, the small partnership set up in 1994 and that moved from his father’s garage to an office in a law chamber to become the nation’s leading indigenous energy company is certainly a study in entrepreneurial ingenuity.

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While Wale studied law, his father, Alhaji Kafaru O. Tinubu’s fondest desire was that he had a son to take over his own law chambers, K. O. Tinubu and Co. Alhaji Tinubu – yes, an uncle to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – was a retired Police Commissioner in the old Western Region, encompassing the six states of the Western Region. But he was also a lawyer, who retired to run his own chambers, play the godfather to many in politics, public and private sector. So influential was he that even the current Oba of Lagos was counted among his protégés.

However, when Wale graduated with LLB from the University of Liverpool and LLM from London School of Economics in 1990, he came under the tutelage of one Babatunde Raji Fashola, a crack litigator, who was later, in one of those intricate tales of the century, to emerge the governor of Lagos State and now arguably, Nigeria’s most successful governor and a visionary public sector manager of our time – a story for another day captured in our forthcoming book! By Wale’s confession, Fashola taught him everything he knew about law practice while they were together at the famous Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe and Belgore chambers.

But while Alhaji Tinubu wanted his son to inherit his chambers, Wale instead lured Fashola into forming an independent chambers franchised from his father’s name, K. O. Tinubu and Co. Unknown to many people, there were two K. O. Tinubu chambers – one, belonging to Alhaji Tinubu, located at 2A, Anthony Road, Ilupeju, and another, fully owned by Fashola and Wale, leveraging on his father’s name, located at Igbosere Road. It took the future oil tycoon to come up with such a bizarre notion in the first place and a most indulgent father to accept it.

Fashola wanted a modest office the two young partners could afford but Wale had his sight on an expensive and prestigious office in a strategic location even though, for the meantime, the two partners operated from Wale’s dining table at Dolphin Estate. But the three-year-rent demanded was far beyond their meager resources. “How would we ever pay for this?” Fashola the realist demanded. But Wale the dreamer and daring risk-taker was undeterred, waving off Fashola’s concern. “Don’t worry,” he said.

Wale, instead, entered into a shrewd negotiation of a staggered payment spread over a year and then negotiated another long credit deal with a neighbouring vendor for office furniture. It was a measure of his negotiating skills even then that the property developer acceded to such a deal even when he could have given out the place to people, who could afford the cost. Courage, derring-do and such negotiating skills were to become the defining elements of Wale’s inherent strategic business alchemy. Even as a student in England, for instance, he traded on cars with his school fees first in cross-country runs in Europe, netting profits.

But Wale’s restive mind was not on law. He combined law with exploring deep interest in oil business. “I have always been ambitious,” he told us in an interview. “I had always been somebody that whenever we were advising clients, I would be more interested in the moves the client was making on the corporate side than in giving the client the advice. Having given clients advice once or twice, I suddenly realised that I’d rather be the one making the moves myself than giving others advice.”

Meanwhile, his dissonance with legal practice got even more accentuated by a particularly jarring incident. Fashola had spent a night, preparing Wale for an appeal case for an armed robbery gang, who had been wrongly convicted for a robbery by another gang. The following morning, Wale was in the Appeal Court, arguing his appeal for the robbers when the prosecutor interrupted him to inform the court that the robbers had already been executed early that morning! For a man, who loves to shape events rather than being merely reactive, that finally was the snapping point.

Wale’s interest in oil business became an obsession. At a point, he had two or three-man team permanently inside his office, plotting oil deals. “You oil merchants, leave our chambers,” Fashola would fire back.

“Why don’t you just leave this law and join us in this oil business?” Wale would plead with Fashola.

“No, no, no, no. Law is what I am interested in, I am not interested in oil business.”

Wale-Tinubu-on-the-rig-1

As Wale would rationalise it later, if Fashola had joined the oil business, Nigeria would have lost the great governor he turned out to be. From shuttling between law practice and supplying petroleum products to clients, “eventually, it was clear to me that I would concentrate on the oil side.”

Wale’s oil business took off with a contract from Unipetrol PLC. to transport diesel from Port Harcourt Refinery to service fishing trawlers. The contract was introduced by a friend, Jite Okoloko, who had no vessel to execute the job. Another friend, Mofe Boyo, a lawyer, who worked for an American oil services company that had shipping vessels, introduced them to a boat named, The Carolina. Wale and his friends took an open boat to the Bonny sea to inspect the vessel. With no life jacket, their voyage turned highly risky, as the weather turned stormy and the sea turbulent. “What am I doing here?” Wale kept asking himself.

But his anxiety turned into Eureka when he saw the ship. “The day I went to Bonny anchorage in that storm,” Wale told us, “I saw The Carolina bobbing up and down and I knew it was our destiny. And I told my partners we were going to buy that ship.”

From then, a new partnership, Ocean and Oil, was birthed in 1994 with his two friends, as partners.

They rented the ship for $10,000 dollars a month, a sum of money Wale borrowed from his parents to make the first payments. But because payments from Unipetrol were not coming on time, Wale and his partners fell behind on payments, learning his first lesson on cash flow while playing hide and seek with his creditors until finally, Wale came up with a deal to buy The Carolina despite having no money to pay. The ship owners were in financial difficulty and Wale’s deal was simple: Since his payments were falling behind, why not sell the ship to Ocean and Oil and thereby transfer the outstanding liabilities?

But where would the money come from? To finance the purchase, the partners borrowed $100,000 from a finance house at whopping 10 per cent interest rate monthly (meaning, 120 per cent interest per annum!) and thought themselves very lucky to get the deal. From shipping diesel to fishing trawlers, Wale found they were making even more profits, supplying diesel to oil servicing companies, which were ready to pay at a premium for somebody, who attended to their needs promptly.

Their efficient delivery on time was such a novelty at the time that many of the largely expatriate oil servicing companies were passing his numbers around. Efficiency, quick delivery and integrity became their critical success factor. From one shipping vessel, Wale acquired more until he had seven ships of different capacities, ranging from 1,000 to 30,000 tons. Wale and his partners had arrived – small time.

In those days, Unipetrol PLC. was one of the top 10 quoted companies, with the Federal Government, holding 60 per cent of the shares. That typically meant an over-bloated company, reeling under bureaucracy.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

In 2000, against all odds and expectation, Ocean and Oil won the bid for 30 per cent of Unipetrol, which the Federal Government offered for private core investors. It was the corporate equivalent of a rat, swallowing an elephant. Wale recalled how Unipetrol’s MD, Yusuf Alli, burst out laughing when Wale informed him he wanted to buy Unipetrol. He was not alone. The General Manager of First Bank whom Wale approached to discuss his bid could not control his own laughter either. “You, buy Unipetrol?” he asked with undisguised skepticism. When the young corporate Vikings won the bid, there was a national outrage, with the union up in arms against a takeover of the corporate institution by “Eaglet managers” yet in their 30s.

How were they able to leverage on their $3 million cash to raise $16 million cost within two weeks? How were they able to tackle the powerful unions, who picketed the Eaglet managers, refusing them access to the company they just acquired? How were they able to deliver a stunning turnaround that had held the key to the success of Oando PLC., the new company formed out of the future merger of Ocean and Oil and Unipetrol when the corporate eaglets ultimately acquired all the federal government stakes in Unipetrol?

All these and more are part of Wale’s growing legend in courage, risk taking and negotiating dexterity that should come in his full corporate profile. Suffice it to say Ocean and Oil transformed into Oando PLC., which subsequently swallowed the corporate behemoth, Unipetrol, giving birth to more corporate exploits that today hoist the young Adewale Tinubu, as the oil czar of Nigeria.

 

Eko Club members on warpath over constitution review

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

ATTEMPTS to engineer a change in one of the leading social clubs in Lagos, the Eko Club, is causing bad blood and tension amongst members, The Guardian can authoritatively confirm.
   The bone of contention is the bid by the outgoing executive to rewrite the constitution and tinker with the mode of electing/appointing new executive members. The current constitution of the club, which was last amended in April 1, 2008, is the fifth edition.
   For over five months, there has been raging debate among club members on whether presidents and vice presidents should continue to be elected through democratic systems or by means of selection by a few elders who are trustees and past presidents of the club.
   However, the attempt to seek for an alternative arrangement to the election of presidents is presently tearing the family club, established in 1974, apart.
   Past Presidents of Eko Club include Chief Rasheed Alaba Williams (1975-1977); late Alhaji G. Akanbi Danmola (1978-1980); Chief A. Fatai Dawodu MFR (1981-1983); late Alhaji Waheed O. Gbajumo (1984-1986); Alhaji A. G. Williams, (1987-1989); and late Alhaji M.A Pampam (1990-1993).
   Others are Chief S. Adebodun Williams (1993-1995); Arch W.A. Adebiyi (1995-1997); Engr. Mutiu O. Gbajumo (1997-1999); Alhaji M.M Ashorobi (1999-2001); Omo-Oba Murphy A. Adetoro (2001-2003); and Alhaji S.A Anjorin,  (2003-2005) among other prominent Lagosians.
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Members of the club

 In recent times, election into executive positions of Eko Club, particularly president and vice president, had been raucous. To manage the feeling of animosity among members every election year, the Elders Forum, comprising former presidents of the club and members who had spent over 20 years, came to a political solution of pruning down contestants into the two juicy offices to two.
    In any election year, which occurs every two years, once embargo has been lifted for campaigns and there are more than two aspirants for the offices, they are invited to face the Elders Forum, where their credentials and manifestoes would be screened and vetted before arriving at the best two.
   The last two standing for both president and vice president are then presented before the general members to decide who wins. This practice, according to an inside source, has been in use for the last 20 years.
   There was a growing resentment against this process by some members, who made the claim that it was a subtle attempt by the Elders Forum to install their favourite candidate into office by instigating a stooge to vie for office to contest against their preferred choice, who would in the end lose out or be forced to step down from contesting few days to the election, since the power to select the last two rests with the Elders Forum.
   The latest crisis in the club came to a head on Sunday, February 2, when an emergency general meeting convened to adopt the motion for a review of the constitution led to the suspension of 62 members from the club.
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Members during accreditation at the last election held in 2012

Information reaching The Guardian revealed that all 62 suspended members voted Nay to the motion for constitution review because they raised a counter-motion and protested that the sitting did not form the required quorum of 50 percent of financial members.
   Long-standing members who spoke on condition of anonymity said they are opposed to some vital aspects of the proposed constitution expected to take effect from March 2014.
  One of the new proposals bothered on the creation of another body called the Guardian Council, comprising of the first 21 surviving members of the club in order of seniority.
   This new body would override the Elders Forum by appointing the president and vice president of the club. The offices will no longer be decided by election. The Guardian Council will also reserve the right to suspend the executive members.
    “What this means is that Eko Club will now be run by imposition of leaders. The Guardian Council can appoint the president and his vice, who will no longer have a tenure of office as long as they enjoy the confidence of the council. They can also be suspended anytime the confidence is lost,” a member explained.
   Other likely consequences of this new regime of imposition, according to the aggrieved members are: that the president will no longer be accountable to the members; the tendency to implement orders from those who appointed the president, some of which might be detrimental to the interest of the generality of members of the club; and the danger of god-fatherism and cultism.
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A member casting his ballot

 “Those that are to choose the president will become godfathers and unless you are in their good books, you may never become a president no matter how good you are. Also, the presidency may be up for sale to the highest bidder, even if the highest bidder is a nonentity.”
   President of the club, Engr. Owolabi Lawal, who confirmed the ongoing unease among members, said it’s an internal problem that is being tackled before the expiration of his tenure at the end of February.

Housing for all…

Govt unveils 200 homes monthly, lists eligibility

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor, and Tunde Alao

No doubt the www.lagoshoms.gov.ng, website of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme would be getting hits after hits 72 hours after it was launched. The reason being that shelter is one of the intrinsic needs of man and in Lagos, there is a huge housing deficit occasioned by overpopulation.

   For many Lagosians, who had long stopped hoping of owning a home, the new development seems to have brought back the thought of a better future. From the 4th of March, the first of the monthly draws will be held for the first 200 homes. This number is expected to increase to 300 every month subject to the ability of the contractor to deliver the units on schedule.

   In Lagos millions of residents are in dire need of decent accommodation. While those who are prepared to weather the storm have found succour in slums, many unfortunate ones have fallen victim to swindlers and land grabbers in their desperate search for a place to lay their heads.

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Inaugurating the Lagos State Mortgage Board on Monday, Governor Babatunde Fashola took great delight at fulfilling another electioneering campaign promise. “I am proud because this project is a product of many years of grueling work, long hours and devotion by our team.

   “In Lagos, we hold the view that a home is not something you buy in one day, but over time in a way that your ability to acquire it is tied to your income and continued prosperity. It is an asset that outlives you. As we flag off this scheme, there are 1,104 completed homes with another 3,156 at various stages of construction,” he said.

   The buildings are blocks of four floors, containing 12 flats of one, two and three bedroom on each flour, in an optimal use of limited land space at Igbogbo Ikorodu, Agbowa, Gbagada, Igando, Mushin, Shitta Surulere, Ilupeju, Shogunro Ogba, Omole, Magodo, Sangotedo and Lekki.

  Sites yet to take off include those at Iponri, Ibeshe Ikorodu, Ajara Badagry, Sangotedo Phase II, Obele, Akerele Phase II, Oyingbo, Ilubirin and Ijora Badia.

   The rules of eligibility, Fashola vowed, would be strictly adhered to and enforced to ensure sustenance of the mortgage scheme.

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From Right: Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; Governor Babatunde Fashola;
Commissioner for Finance and Chairman, Lagos Mortgage Board, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi; his Housing counterpart and member of the Board, Mr. Bosun Jeje; Executive Secretary, Lagos Mortgage Board, Mr. Akinola Kodjo Sagoe; two Executive Directors, of the Board, Mrs. Bola Fashola and Mr. Bayowa Foresythe during the launch of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) on Monday.

“Applicants must be first-time home owners. Only those who have never owned a home, whether acquired privately or bought from government, will be eligible,” he stated and that: “Applicants would be required to swear to an affidavit that they have not got houses else-where in the contract that entitles us to repossess the house anytime, even in the 10th year if we have proof that a beneficiary owned another home when he applied to the scheme.

   “In addition, only Lagos residents, not indigenes, who are tax payers will benefit. Applicants would be required to show us their residency card under the Lagos State Residents Registration exercise. Apart from residency, applicants must show proof of payment of tax for a continuous period of five years preceding their application.

   “We also expect successful applicants to immediately pay a deposit of 30 percent of the cost of the house they choose as their equity, while the balance would be paid on a monthly basis for over 10 years. Accordingly, we would match house choices to applicants’ proven income sources to determine eligibility and it is only eligible applicants, whose forms would go into ballot from which successful applicants would be picked.”

   The governor explained that the final eligibility for ownership was being left to chance after a transparent balloting system because demand far outweighs supply, as government was committed to abide by the rules that would stand public scrutiny.

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He advised applicants to bid only for houses in the areas where they are prepared to live and not for every house that is put on the market.

   “We would not allow any successful applicant to rent out the houses. If you do not live in the house that you win, you would have violated our first homeowner rule and it is a ground to repossess the house, pay you off and offer it to those who really need a home. We would only allow you to rent it out after 10 years when you would have fully paid for the house.”

   As people eagerly await the advertised rates of the houses, it was gathered from sources in the Ministry of Housing that houses in the Emeka Anyaoku Estate, in Ikeja GRA, are going for N35 million, while the three-bedroom flats at Gbagada and other mainland areas would be offered for between N10 million and N15 million.

   In defence of the project cost, Fashola said: “In terms of pricing, the Lagos HOMS is about affordability and accessibility.

  “This is so because we have not yet found cheap or low cost cement, neither have we found low cost iron rod or low cost labour.

   “The continuity and sustainability of the entire project depends on our ability to build more at break-even cost without profit. Accordingly, we have applied an across the board discount of 25 percent to the total actual cost of land, infrastructure and building, which is the total cost of the home.

   “The houses become more competitive against what is available on the open market because there is a minimum period of 10 years to pay for it and the mortgage will attract a maximum interest of 9.5 percent per annum.”

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (left) addressing Royal Fathers, Dignitaries, Party Chieftains, Media Executives and other stakeholders during the launch of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House, Ikeja, on Monday, February 03, 2014.

The governor added that prompt payment of monthly mortgages would be enforced as studies show that default of payment and difficulty of repossessing houses from defaulters have been a major disincentive to investment in the property sector by private sector developers.

   Fashola stated further that the Lagos HOMS is not about providing a home alone, but it is also about a total lifestyle change.

   “We are moving our people from a desperation for shelter to an orderly and planned living.

   “Because it is a mortgage-driven scheme, we expect that people would take their jobs more seriously and apply themselves more diligently in order to retain the ability to pay the mortgage. You will lose your home if you lose your job, but we expect to see not only increased productivity but also a progressive reduction of unethical conduct in the workplace,” he said.

   He hinted that the ultimate plan by government is to become guaranteed purchasers to developers, who will acquire their own land and build according to specifications on agreed prices.

   “This way, more houses can come on stream because of the private sector participation, and government would use the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from tax payers’ money to buy from developers and sell to beneficiaries on mortgage.”