Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) Program, Opportunities It Holds For Cross River State Government BY ARCHIBONG JEREMIAH

In Breaking News, National News, Opinion, Reports

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

In Nigeria, public servants are faced with numerous handicaps which affect their level of productivity.

Some of these handicaps include poor salaries, poor working conditions and environment as well as inability to own a landed property with at least a moderate living home during service and even after retirement in most cases.

The high level of corruption perpetuated in our public service for decades, massive looting from the treasury, laziness, lack of dedication and commitment to duty, sexual abuse in offices and kickbacks negotiation among the rank and file of the public service have all added to exercebate the working conditions of the Nigerian worker.

Another class looks at it from the perspective of the German born Professor of psychiatry and neurology, Prof. Ernst Josef Franzek, who attributed the high rate of mental health patients in Nigeria to poverty and lack of care for mothers during birth.

He also traced the bad leadership which is abided and abated by public or civil servants in Nigeria and high rate of crime rate to mental disorders suffered during birth.

Food, clothing and shelter are the three basic needs of all human beings, be you employed or not.

To curb most of these bedeviling factors in the public service many have suggested that wages be increased, working conditions improved and more incentives be added.

Aside from salaries and other incentives, housing is one of the fundamental component in Employer—Employee relationship.

This shows great level of care and concern to the welfare of staff and in return many believe it will lead to high level of commitment to service which in turn leads to high level of productivity.

Again from the perspective of Prof. Josef the only way to stop this is to increase the number of psychiatric hospitals across the country, initiate periodic psychiatric testing for public office holders and in the civil and public service as well as sporadic enlightenment campaigns across the country.

When civil service administration system was first introduced during the colonial days, establishment of government offices were accompanied by corresponding housing for workers such “Government Quarters, Judges Quarters, Custom Quarters, Clerks Quarters, Assembly Quarters, Doctors Quarters, Nursing Quarters and so on.” where they leave while working and the quarters were cool houses according to the standards of those days but this doesn’t take care of post service life, you will agree with me.

When the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita launched the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) program it got me thinking.

After x-raying the FISH project, I see it as partly a key to tackling the post housing problem.

Also, it got me pondering as to why my dear Cross River State Government shouldn’t jump on this program because it looks like one that will come to stay.

The FISH program according to records was necessitated by insufficient inflow of statutory funds to the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB), to ensure adequate funding for the board through collaboration with the National Pension Commission, National Housing Fund, Sure-P, MDG and Special facility from the Ministry of Finance, Budget Office, group allocation of parcels of land in different locations by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, Lands and Housing to build housing estates for different categories of civil servants, nationwide.

Part of its rationale is to provide affordable houses for federal civil servants through an integrated strategy involving group land allocation, site services, infrastructure development, inter-ministerial collaboration and utilization of expertize residual in the service.

The program is expected to garner support from Federal and State Government, Federal Agencies and Parastatals through active collaboration, structured construction and mortgage financing and setting up intervention fund.

Also strategic partnership with private developers, international developers and funding agencies are valued as well as goodwill from socially responsible organizations and philanthropists.

Also it is aimed at increasing access to loans towards purchasing of houses through the program by federal civil servants.

Already developers have been commissioned to build houses on build and transfer basis at negotiated rates across the Federation.

Back to my pondering why my dear State should make the best out of this program.

This is because the State had unconsciously positioned itself for this opportunity; there is New Cities Development Ministry, Greater Calabar City Development Agency and Ministry of Social Housing, all strategically positioned for this mandated to cushion the pain of owning affordable houses by in habitants of the State and its indigenes.

The New Cities Development Ministry is currently working on building new cities like Calas Vegas, planning to turn Bakassi to Lugano and others, the Social Housing Ministry is currently working on a 5000 housing unit scheme across the State with the first phase 40% in progress while for the Greater Calabar City Development Agency I’m yet to know what is cooking.

On the FISH radar right now, Cross River State is among the first six States that have been chosen for the pilot stage; and three private indigenous developing firms have been commissioned to build and transfer 1000 housing units across the State.

Yes, I know what might be running through the mind of many right now. You are possibly asking what makes it different from others?

The three firms are Asi Ita Estate to build and transfer 200 housing units, Kabom Developers to build and transfer 300 housing units, and Xeous ltd, to deliver 500 housing units all in Calabar, the Cross River state capital.

Why you shouldn’t worry is because these firms are very visible in the State as they are known names that have physical presence in the State.

Why many other programs like this failed in the past is simply because they were executed by firms without track record and no physical presence in the state while others too were executed by sole contractors.

The FISH program which has two funding models (construction financing and mortgage financing) has the following housing options: 1 bedroom apartments going from 3 – 5 million naira, 2 bedroom apartments for between 5 – 10 million naira, 3 bedroom apartments within the range of 9 – 13 million naira, and 4 bedroom apartments ranging from 13 – 17 million naira.

The most beautiful thing about the program is that there’s no interest rate applied and the repayment condition is dependent on current salary structure, years of service left and any outstanding loan.

Available records shows that since the FISH program was launched at a Housing Finance workshop in Abuja early last year by President Muhammadu Buhari, more than 23,000 civil servants have registered to become beneficiaries.

It is now very clear, that no less than 16,000 civil servants are expected to benefit from the program in the first phase of the scheme which Cross River is one.

It will be worthwhile if the Cross River State Government keys into the program using its various SPV’s in the strategic MDA’s mentioned above to subsidize the cost for Cross Riverians that are in the federal civil service.

Don’t forget that this 1000 housing units will improve the economy of the State as it will make use of direct and indirect labor to build, it will boost market for building materials sellers, water vendors, petty trader and lots more.

I rest my case!

Archibong Jeremiah is Managing Editor of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Calabar.

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