Through the provision of mass housing projects, the Kayode Fayemi administration intends to not only address the accommodation problem in the state but also provide its residents world class infrastructure
From a near rural town it once was some two decades ago, Ado Ekiti, in recent years, has evolved into a modern capital city with amenities that make life tolerable for residents and this status is set to improve even more with the infrastructural development currently being witnessed in the housing sector in the state. The initiative, as conceived and embarked upon by the Kayode Fayemi administration, is to build 5,000 housing units in different parts of the state as a way to cater for the growing population in Ado Ekiti and elsewhere. Adeyemi Ope Akeju, the Programme Director, Ekiti Homes Agenda, said the mass housing project is one of the key agendas of the state government aimed at not only providing quality and affordable housing to Ekiti indigenes but other Nigerians also. The housing estates are billed to come in phases in the different localities in the state including Ado Ekiti, the capital. This ambitious project, by the time it is completed, will not only ensure comfort and reduce the acute accommodation problem experienced by residents of the state, but, for Ado Ekiti particularly, change also the face of a town that still has ancient structures dotting its landscape.
Since its creation in 1996, Ekiti State’s population, especially that of Ado Ekiti, in terms of visitors to the town and those who live and work there, has increased over time. But this increase, over the years, wasn’t met with a corresponding rise in the number of buildings in the state by successive administrations, thus leaving a gap that has been difficult to ignore. So serious is the acute accommodation problem in Ado Ekiti that, according to Akeju, even Fayemi’s aides, in the early part of the administration’s life, found it difficult accessing quality housing. But all that will soon be a thing of the past as the first phase of the housing project is due to be delivered this June through a public-private partnership arrangement. Under the arrangement, the government will provide the road infrastructure and amenities such as electricity and water while the private companies will concentrate on developing the structures and accompanying amenities. Akeju said that the state government decided to partner with the private sector because it was not in a position to shoulder the cost all alone in view of other competing needs.
The houses will come in different units and are meant to cater for all classes of people, rich or poor. Unlike the situations in many states where housing projects are often concentrated in major cities, Akeju revealed that the housing estates will be sited in different towns within the state, from Ado Ekiti to Ikere, Ikole to Otun. This, he said, will not only ensure balance in the spread of infrastructure in the state, in line with the style of the Fayemi administration, but will enable the indigenes access quality housing wherever they desire. Such spread of the estates will no doubt delight indigenes of the state particularly those in the Diaspora.
Said Akeju: “Our population is increasing. Seventy-five per cent of all Ekiti abroad want a house at home. They are tired of sending money to relatives to build; it just doesn’t work out. Not only that, they want to live in environments that are pleasant.” Apart from its own housing project, the state government is also taking advantage of a housing scheme initiated by the Federal Ministry of Education for teachers in the state to further build more houses for them as part of its commitment to improve the welfare of teachers in the state. The Federal Government Teachers’ Housing Project, like the state’s housing scheme, is currently under construction. A source at the site in Otun said in early April during the magazine’s fact-finding mission to the state that although the project is originally a federal government initiative, the Ekiti State government decided to partner with it to deliver more houses to the state teachers. The Otun site earmarked for the project covers about 31 hectares. Under the initial plan, 250 buildings are billed to be built in the first phase but this will now be raised to 500 to cater for the interest of the state government.
Building houses is one thing, but acquiring them is another. Across the country, tales of housing projects for the masses that suddenly went awry are common. Such houses, as many found out, were hijacked by top government officials and their cronies, thus leaving the people disenchanted. But Akeju assured that this wouldn’t go such way as cutting corners isn’t one of the things Fayemi is associated with. He insists that the governor is genuinely concerned about improving the living standards of his people of which the provision of housing is one of them. And to further make the acquisition of the houses easier for prospective buyers, the state government has arranged a mortgage scheme to suit different categories of buyers. These include Aso Savings and Shelter Afrique of Nairobi as options.
Akeju believes that by the time the houses are delivered, beginning with the first phase in June 2014, Ekiti will become one of Nigeria’s mega cities where housing will no longer be a problem. But that will also require the cooperation of the indigenes as getting to procure land for such developmental efforts hasn’t been easy. In a country where ownership of ancestral land is mainly by inheritance, some family members still don’t see the need to give up their family lands for whatever good cause, even though they normally get compensated by government. But, as pointed out by Akeju, development comes with costs. “Fifteen years ago, this place (Ekiti Home Agenda office) did not exist, it belonged to three, four families. If the families had refused to cooperate with government and give up their land, we won’t have this development. So, it is something we must work out, and we must be receptive to the yearnings of these people. They are our people and the development is for our people, so there’s no other way. Any issues that come up, we have ways of working it out,” he assured.
Ultimately, the goal is to transform the state and ensure it takes its pride of place among Nigeria’s emerging modern states. Akeju is optimistic that at the end of Fayemi’s administration, housing challenges will be history in Ekiti State.