In continuation of its periodic disbursement of loans to the contributors of the National Housing Fund (NHF) scheme, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) in the last quarter of 2011, specifically within the months of November and December, disbursed a total of N782, 626,700.00 to 119 beneficiaries who are contributors to the scheme.
The disbursement, made public through publication in selected national dailies, according to the apex mortgage bank, is aimed at enthroning accountability and transparency in the operations of the NHF scheme. Stakeholders and finance experts however, say that FMBN needs to do more in the operations of the scheme, which it midwives, explaining that many Nigerians who desire and deserve to own their own homes do not know what to do to access the NHF loan.
“Beyond opening an account with an NHF accredited primary mortgage institution (PMI) through which I would be contributing to the scheme, I don’t know any other thing about how to access this loan even as a contributor,” John Igbe told our correspondent. Igbe, who claimed to be a contributor having opened an account with a PMI for that purpose in 2004, said he wanted the FMBN to take up the challenge of putting life into the operations of the PMIs and ensure that contributors have access to the NHF loans.
He added that the bank needs to do a lot of sensitisation and create awareness through whichever means it deems fit so that people know what to do and how to do it.
Benneth Anekwe, also “a registered contributor” agrees, stressing however, that the FMBN reform which seeks, among other things, to recapitalise it, is uncalled for, “because, if you asked me, I would tell you I don’t know what FMBN needs that fund for; I don’t know if it is going to disburse funds directly to the PMIs or the contributors. I really don’t know what purpose the FMBN recapitalisation will serve.
I would rather the PMIs are strengthened and made viable so that they can advance loans to those who need loans.” NHF scheme established in 1992 was aimed at giving housing loans to contributors at an interest rate as low as six percent and for up to 25-30-year repayment tenor, but the operations of the scheme make access to its loans very cumbersome.
Through the ongoing reform aimed at repositioning the scheme and making it more contributor-friendly, minimal success has been achieved with its increased contributor-base and ICT-based operations. Part of the main problems of the scheme derived from the challenges faced by FMBN which supervises its operations, and according to Gimba Kumo, the bank’s managing director and chief executive officer, it is yet to realise its full potential.
This, perhaps, explains the huge gap in housing demand and supply that has left the country with over 16 million housing units deficit. Kumo explained that the bank was yet to realise its full potential in line with its motto which states that “everyone deserves a home” because it still needed to perfect the expansion of mortgage services to encompass the non-salaried, informal sector of the economy which constitutes about 85 percent of the Nigerian population.
He however, has good news for NHF contributors, saying that “FMBN is upgrading its information technology to enable contributors to the scheme have access to their accounts online. They will be able to check their NHF Account statements online and find out if their contributions to the fund are being remitted up-to-date by their employers by way of electronic passbook. It is our intension to get this operational on pilot basis soon and full implementation by the end of 2011.”
The essence of the on-going reform in the bank, he revealed, was to expand its functions from being an institution that sorely provides funds to PMIs for on-lending for social housing needs under the NHF window to commercial lending for housing to PMIs, universal banks and other mortgage institutions among others.
“The bank has also embarked on expansion of funding for housing finance which led to the launch of the mortgage-backed bond programme in 2007,” he said, adding that the bank recorded the first mortgage-backed bond transaction in sub-Saharan Africa with the successful floatation of the first tranche of N26 billion of a N100 billion mortgage-backed bond (MBB) programme to refinance civil servants’ acquisition of 9,525 non-essential Federal Government-owned residential houses sold in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.