Untold story of an uncommon woman, top rate technocrat who transformed Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board in a period of eight years.
Hannatu Adamu Fika, Executive Secretary, Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB) is woman of achievement and an epitome of hard work. On account of her dedication to duty and ingenuity, She has been able to reposition the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB) to exemplary agency for service delivery and pride to the federal Government of Nigeria. Hannatu Fika’s achievements bas the first executive Secretary FGSHLB are numerous.
From a public service career which started in Borno State as Assistant Secretary in 1977, leading to a transfer to Federal Civil Service, in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in 1990, Hannatu was a big asset and repository of knowledge and experience indeed. Through diligence and hard work, she passed through several offices and departments of government before her appointment on November 1, 2009 as first Executive Secretary, FGSHLB. She met an establishment that needed a breath of fresh air..
.As a pioneer ES, Mrs Adamu Fika was faced with the challenge of reviving the place. Ingenuity was needed to turn around the archaic establishment established in 1924 as “Africa Staff Housing Scheme” . The purpose then was to grant housing loans to workers including expatriates that became employees in the Nigeria Federal Public Service.
It is on record that with the enactment of an enabling Decree No. 6 of 1974 and No. 43 of 1977 as amended, now CAP II of the Laws of the Federation, the Board became known as “Federal Government Staff Housing Board” and took over all the assets, liabilities and responsibilities of the Africa Staff Housing Scheme. The Board from 1924 to 1973 had functioned under the supervision of Federal Ministries of Finance and thereafter, Works and Housing. However, in 1994, as a result of the restructuring of Federal Government Agencies, the Board was transferred from the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing as a parastatal to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to carry out the same mandate of granting of housing loans to Federal Public Servants.
Her testimony captures the picture more vividly. ‘’When I was deployed here, this place was almost dying but because my bosses who posted me here trusted in my own ability to be able to move this place forward, I took it as a challenge and made up my mind that if public servants do not work, if they are not motivated, governance issues will not move at all because they are responsible for coming out with the policies that are approved by the government’’.
She then moved to actualize the mandate of the Board. As encapsulated in the enabling act setting it up, the core mandate is ‘’to manage a housing loan scheme under revolving funds for the purpose of granting soft loans to Federal Public Servants to enable them build residential houses, purchase parcels of land for construction of residential houses or already built residential houses and for improving or extending already existing residential houses in Nigeria’’.
Under her leadership, measures were also taken to carry out the functions of the Board. These include the following:
(i) Formulating general policies and guidelines for the operation of the Federal Government Staff Housing Loan Scheme for Federal Public Servants;
(ii) Providing soft loans to Federal Public Servants for the purposes of owing residential houses in places of their choice in Nigeria;
(iii) Scrutinizing building drawings, survey plans and locating collaterals submitted by applicants for housing loan beneficiaries;
The Board under her leadership has continued to pursue with vigour, a number of core programes and activities. Among others, the Board has entered into partnership with Federal Government owned housing agencies as well as private estate developers in the provision of affordable houses for federal Public Servants through the loans scheme. In line with this programme, and in line with Federal Government’s focus on social and affordable housing, the Board recently helped to facilitate the allocation of plots of land to a number of private estate developers by the Federal Capital City administration for the construction of estates for Public Servants in the FCT.
One of the agencies the Board had partnership agreement with, pertaining to implementation of the National Housing Programmes (NHP) to provide affordable low-cost houses to the Nigerian Public Servants who are low-income earners, is the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) .The program under partnership agreement is being implemented under the supervision of the then Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development( now Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing), to construct houses in various estates. Through this partnership, nine (9) Housing Estates in various locations across the country were constructed namely: Lagos , Abuja and Owerri . The strategy involves the release of bulk funds to Agencies to enable them construct houses, thereafter the Board will allocate such to public servants in lieu of cash loan. This partnership is on-going as some of the houses are still in the process of being handed over.
Similarly, the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board also partners with the Armed Forces Post Service Housing Scheme to enable them provide houses to their officers and men. The Board also advances routine loans to individual officers and men of the armed forces. Indeed, out of the over 32,000 beneficiaries of housing loans from 1974, four thousand One Hundred and Seventy Seven (4,177) beneficiaries fall under this partnership. At present, the Board has continued to receive applications for housing loans to pay for houses being constructed under this scheme, and these form part of applications awaiting payment.
The Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (now Ministry of Power, Works and Housing) also has an existing partnership agreement with the Board. Through this partnership, a total of 250 houses had been constructed by the Ministry at Gwagwalada, in Abuja and allocated to interested public servants. The cost of building of the houses is being paid by the Board under the loan programme as funds become available, based on first come first served basis.
The Board also partners with Private estate developers identified and recommended by public servants to construct houses for them at affordable cost. Eleven of such housing estate developers are into the construction of affordable houses for public servants especially in the Federal Capital Territory and Nasarawa State. Seven of the estates built by such identified developers recommended by Public Servants through their MDAs were commissioned and named after seven former Heads of Federal Civil Service. Most of the estates are located at Pyakassa, Giri junction, Lugbe, Mararaba and Kurudu in the FCT and Nasarawa State. The Board is also working timeously to commission others at Mararaba, Kuje and Orozo which will be named after other Heads of Service of the Federation.
Under the leadership of Dr Hannatu Fika as ES , various other assistance has been given to federal civil servants to own houses of residence in Nigeria. Among categories of civil servants who are beneficiaries are those who, under the monetization policy of Federal Government, were offered houses which they had occupied before the policy but could not pay. The FGSHLB from 2007 had continued to assist such beneficiaries to own houses allocated to Public Servants by PIC within the available means. However, when the Board was overwhelmed with the number of applications from the Public Servants, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) was approached to step in and secure such houses for them. In this regard it was agreed that FMBN as a collaborator, will intervene by raising funds to secure houses offered to public servants through the Presidential Implementation Committee.
The Board had also engaged in the service of house renovation in many places and locations. The Board was pushed into carrying out this honerous activity because most of the houses sold to the public servants through the monetization process were later found to be in a very deplorable state. On account of this, a lot of Public Servants who had procured such houses were allowed to apply for a loan through the FGSHLB to renovate such houses. Such applications which were pending because of lack of funds were forwarded to FMBN who agreed to grant the loan for renovation at 8% interest rate through the FGSHLB to enable such officers carry out the renovation works.
The Board has also continued with its mandate of processing of Housing loan to eligible public servants in the employment of Federal Government on availability of funds and on first come, first served, basis to enable them own their homes.
The Board is also involved in mortgage refinancing. With the approval of the Governing Board and ratification of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mortgages provided at high interest rates to procure houses sold to Federal Public Servants under the monetization Policy have been refinanced at lower interest rate by the Board.This has indeed helped in reducing the burden of such loans on beneficiaries. Similarly, houses sold to public servants in the states through the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) have been funded by the Board on behalf of beneficiaries.
Dr. Hannatu Adamu gave reasons, in the interview with Verbatim, especially on the partnership with Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Comapany (NMRC) ,on why she fought for interest rate reduction on housing loans for civil servants. She Said: ‘’No it should be a single digit. Even if it’s 9.9%, because the federal government has the resources. You know it’s the major stake holder there. If you give loan to a public servant, a loan at 15.5% it will be another story. By the time you deduct 15.5%, what will they take home? More so now the public servants are complaining that their salaries cannot take them home’’.
One of the biggest achievements of the Board under Hannatu Adamu Fika is the introduction of Federal Integrated Staff Housing Programme (FISH). FISH is a social housing programme under the supervision of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. The Scheme was conceptualized and developed by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
The desire of the Head of the Civil Service to provide housing as a corporate social responsibility of government, led to creation of Inter-Ministerial Committee comprising of Ministries of Power, Works and Housing, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the federation, Federal Government staff Housing Loans Board, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Pension Commission (PENCOM) among others. The committee was set up to look into how government can pull in resources and other necessary infrastructure in order to ensure the delivery of affordable houses for Public Servants in a sustainable manner.
The main thrust of the FISH Programme is to secure adequate resources to cater for the mortgage needs of Federal Public Servants, especially the core civil servants, for them to own their homes which will serve as motivation for productive service and thereby contribute in the delivery of the dividends of democracy for the benefits of all citizens.
The programme was equally aimed at creating a pool of resources from both Private and Public Institutions so that the Board can be adequately funded to meet the housing needs of Federal Workers thereby strengthening the Board to deliver on its mandate.
Since the establishment of the FISH Programme, the Board has served as a major Stakeholder in the implementation of the scheme. Since the takeoff of its operation in 2017, the FISH programme has been able to address the housing needs of a sizeable number of staff in the core Federal Civil Service leading to the commissioning of an estate in Kurudu, FCT, Abuja in 2017.
The Executive Secretary of Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board expressed optimism that with the determination and commitment of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the FISH programme is sustainable. And she is proud of being associated with the success story. Hear her: ‘’ We played a very key role to ensure that the programme came out and we (public servants) are very happy that today we have a Head of Service that is dedicated and is very interested in ensuring that this program becomes very effective. The public servants can now own their home through the program because she is working on affordable homes for public servants through this program. If you go through Abuja, there are so many unoccupied houses and nobody can buy. Even people in the private sector who have plenty of money cannot own such homes talk less of public servants’’.