Civil servants in the South-South have expressed disappointment over the difficulty in accessing housing loans from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
The workers, in a survey, said that the conditions for getting the loans were too stringent and had hindered them from accessing them.
They called on government to device other means of improving the scheme, including relaxing the conditions to enable workers to access loans from the bank to build houses.
A staff of the Federal Ministry of Information in Cross River State, Mrs Enawan Effiom, said in Calabar that she had approached the FMBN to access funds to build a house.
Effiom said she was disappointed to be told that she could not access the loan, except he came with a third party who should be a property developer.
The Grade Level 14 officer said that on making further enquiries she was given the phone number of a developer who was based in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
According her, she was told that it was her responsibility to bear the cost of the developer’s movements to inspect the building site if she eventually secured the loan.
“This is outrageous because it simply means that if I need say N2 million or N3 million to build a two-bedroom flat, the cost will eventually rise by the time I finish bearing such additional costs.
“Like many other civil servants, I became discouraged.
“I have also tried the ones built by the Federal Government that workers are expected to apply for. I abandoned the effort because the requirements only favoured the rich and very senior civil servants,” she said.
According to her, the houses are usually built at the outskirts of the state capital.
“The ones for this state are located between Calabar and Odukpani.
“The inhabitants have faced so many security challenges because of the location. I cannot leave there in this era of insecurity,” she said.
Effiom said that it was easier to obtain a loan from a commercial bank to build a house than getting it from FMBN.
She however called on government to attach less stringent conditions that would encourage workers access the loan to be able to build houses of their own.
Another civil servant, Mr Edet Archibong, said he gave up hope on the scheme long ago because it “lacked sincerity.”
Archibong lamented that every month deductions were made from his salary yet accessing the fund was “practically impossible.”
According to him, it is difficult to see civil servants in Calabar who would say that they got assistance from FMBN to build their houses.
He said the loan scheme could only benefit workers if government relaxed the requirements for the loan, especially for low income earners.
The Coordinator, National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in Delta State, Mr Sylvanus Onyeogo, said in Asaba that the stringent conditions for accessing loan from FMBN has remained discouraging to civil servants.
Oneogo said that he applied for a N5 million loan sometime ago while serving in Bayelsa, to enable him complete a housing project, but it was not realisable.
“I owned a piece of land that I wanted to develop then and I needed N5 million to augment what I had to build the type of house I wanted.
“I applied and all what they demanded from me, though stringent, l presented to them, but rather than approve the N5 million I requested, they approved N2.5 million for me.
“It was tough for me and I rejected the money. I rather sourced funds from our cooperative society to complete my project,” he said.
He said though the fund was accessible, the approvals may not meet the subscriber’s need.
“For those who are subscribing for federal government housing units, it may be a bit easier because the houses are fully developed and ready to be allocated.
“In that case, civil servant who are interested in such low cost houses can apply and if selected, may not have as much difficulty accessing the fund.
“Those civil servants who have many years to go can apply, and in not too long a time, they may get the loan.
“Even if you have your own land and you want to develop it, there are so many stringent conditions that you have to meet.
“This is why many civil servants find if difficult to get the fund,” Onyeogo said, urging government to make the requirement more attainable.
On his part, the Federal Controller of Housing in Delta, Mr Victor Uduokhia, said that the first phase of the housing estate built by the federal government at Issele-Azagba, had been fully subscribed for.
He said however that he was not certain whether or not the subscribers sourced their funds directly from FMBN or from other sources.
“As we speak, the first phase of the low cost Federal Government Housing Units at Issele-Azagba have been fully subscribed for.
“We are in the second phase on same site and work have reached advanced stage,” Uduokhia said.
In Rivers, a respondent complained of poor housing programme for the civil servants in the state.
A staff of state Ministry of Information, Mr Kelvin Nengia, said: “Since I came into the civil service in 2008, not much has been done in the area of providing housing for civil servants.
“The last time the government had a raffle draw for housing at Iriebe, Oyibo Local Government Area was around 2009.
“Since then, nothing has been heard of the programme until recently when they gave loans to some workers in 2021,” he said.
A staff of the state-owned Radio Rivers FM Station, Mr Stanley Job, however, said that the state government had granted loans to its workers, though not enough to build houses.
Job said no fewer than 30 workers in the station received housing loans in 2021.
According to him, some civil servants in Rivers State Television also obtained the loans.
“They were given about N1 million each which is not enough to build a house. The most the money can be used for is to acquire land,” he added.
Job urged the government to partner with private investors to drive the housing programme in the state.
On his part, the Akwa Ibom Coordinator and Manager, FMBN, Mr Ifiok Umoren, called on the National Assembly to amend the existing laws regulating housing policies.
Umoren said in Uyo that the measure would enable the country to tackle emerging exigencies in the housing sector.
According to him, the bank had tried to ensure that the current legal framework was amended but had not succeeded.
He said lack of revised laws to address housing problems had caused serious set back in the sector.
He regretted that the revised bill to regulate the sector had been pending in the national assembly for a long time now, and urged the lawmakers to do the needful.
“In the past 10 years, the bank has tried to get this law amended but it has not been possible,” Umoren said.
He commended civil servants in Akwa Ibom for remitting their monthly contribution to the National Housing Funds (NHF) promptly.
“NHF is working in Akwa Ibom. The civil servants are paying money to us. In facts it is 100 per cent efficient. All workers under the employment of the state pay money to FMBN.
Umoren however hinted that the bank had not adequate funds to finance housing as required.
He also decried the difficult workers faced in meeting the requirements for loans such as providing Certificate of Occupancy, Right of Occupancy, Registered Deed of Assignment, Registered Deed of Sublease, among others.
“Most times one will want to acquired two bedroom flat which may be as high as N7 million depending on the location.
“But because of how much you are earning, you can’t afford it; what you earn can’t guarantee the repayment of the loan for the property,” he said.