Lagos

INTERVIEW: How FG can regulate the real estate industry, says Segun Abolaji, Leisure Court MD

With over a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Segun Abolaji, managing director of Leisure Court Estates, has advised the federal government to regulate the sector to make housing affordable for Nigerians. 

In an interview with TheCable’s SAMAD UTHMAN in Abuja, Abolaji said the government has a lot to do in terms of land access for the industry and a working mortgage system for the masses. 

TheCable: How did your background influence your career

Abolaji: I am from Osun state, Ikirun to be precise, Although I was born in Lagos. I grew up in Lagos, my life. Growing up in Lagos taught me a lot of things, including challenges.

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy background. I came from a very humble background. And that has always been a guide in my life. I do tell people, just like Nasir El-Rufai in his book ‘Accidental civil servant’. Coming out from secondary school with very good grades, one of the best in school and then at the end of the day, you find yourself in a very tight corner writing JAMB here and there. At the end of the day, it didn’t scale through. Someone told me, “why not think of this Building Technology course instead of doing Electrical and Electronics Engineering, we don’t even know what those courses entail”.

That’s why I always tell people that mentorship is very important in education. I know that the same thing applies to the business world, where some people jump into a business without knowing about it and the challenges therein.

The course — Building Technology — formed the basis of my career and business from that time, and I’ve never regretted it.

TheCable: How did Leisure Court start?

Abolaji: Leisure Court started after my university education. It started as a result of moving from an agent on the street of Abuja to a professional builder.

As a professional, I infused my knowledge in building construction into the property market and that gave birth to the real estate company.

Talking about Leisure Court itself is a whole different story. From getting an appropriate name for the business, talking to my lawyer and visiting the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Leisure Court gives a better description and understanding of pleasure and an estate or group of houses where one can come and relax after a stressful working day.

TheCable: What are the challenges facing the real estate sector in Nigeria?

Abolaji: When you’re talking about business environments in Nigeria, we all know what is obtainable. There is no enabling environment for businesses in Nigeria.

Land disputes formed an integral part of our challenges in the real estate sector. If land issues are solved, you have solved virtually 50 to 60 percent of the real estate problem in Nigeria. Most often, the issues in real estate are basically due to enabling government regulations or provisions.

Most real estate companies buy properties from third parties, which involves extra costs. It is also difficult to get loans from the banking sector to grow your business. We cannot do it all alone, we hope government come to our aid and make things easier and better for us in the sector.

TheCable: How do you think government can come in?

Abolaji: As I said earlier, one of the four things is to provide land. The government has done this in the past, but it got into the wrong hands due to corruption and inadequacies.

It doesn’t even get into the hands of developers at the end of the day. And then the developers will have to buy from those appointed homeowners, and then the costs increase. If the government can allocate land to the developers, not politicians, not cronies or families, it would be a lot easier and then give us an enabling environment.

The mortgage bank should function better to provide mortgage loans. It is effective in every other part of the world.

Sometimes we have to take advocacy to some of these civil servants to tell them that they contribute to the National Housing Fund and that the money is there. You know it’s your right to apply for it, and most employees will retire without knowing they’re supposed to benefit.

So we should make it easier. In Nigeria, it looks like the only people that can assess mortgage loans are civil servants, but it should be everybody, every citizen. And if adequate support is given to the developers, it will be a lot easier.

TheCable: What was your share of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Abolaji: The pandemic dealt with everybody, and the real estate sector was one of the worst hit. How do you talk to someone to buy a land or a house when they are struggling to eat or have health concerns?

The sector is gradually picking up. Apart from COVID-19, the country also fell into recession, and we have an economic crisis. So all these are factors affecting the sector.

For us, we do more affordable housing, the kind of housing that goes around and touches ordinary people in society. The affordability of our properties made us cope with some of the economic challenges.

TheCable: Apart from federal mortgages, what is the real sector doing to increase home ownership in Nigeria?

Abolaji: As I said earlier, we’re more into affordable housing. Although affordability is relative but when you’re talking about price, we have landed properties that you can get for even as low as a million naira or even less. We presently have offices in Abuja, Lagos, Osogbo, Akure and some other offices coming up.

In Osogbo, we have land for as low as a million and even less than a million in places. These properties are located in places where people will ordinarily think they would be about 5 million. We have acquired some other properties as low as 400000 where people can easily contribute and pay in instalments.

We also have flexible payment plans within which you can pay. We have some that are six months payment plans, one-year payment, 18-month payment plans and so on. That’s affordability and our ways of helping the government to allow more people to become homeowners.

Yes, we have a total of about over 10 estates in Abuja. We have in Idu, Apo, about five different estates on Airport road and virtually all of them are affordable.

TheCable: So in the next five years, or less, what is the target of the company?

Abolaji: The company’s target is to provide more housing solutions for the Nigerian populace. We are proud to ensure that a lot of people have been taken from the status of being a tenant to landlords. So our target is to build over 10,000 houses — presently, we have achieved about 3,000 in eight years of doing this business.

TheCable: If you have the power to change something about the real estate sector. What would that be? 

Abolaji: Well, if I have the power to change anything, I think regulation. The real estate industry is not adequately regulated.

I will say the government should put proper checks on the activities of real estate companies — in terms of quality, better administration and value for money.

Ibeju Lekki: Lagos hottest real estate investment location

Ibeju-Lekki is the fastest-growing commercial and residential hub located in the Epe Division of Lagos State, Nigeria. Ibeju-Lekki is undoubtedly one of the hottest locations to invest in Lagos as it offers the perfect escape from the rowdy, crowded parts of Lagos. Ibeju-Lekki gives you just the perfect living environment; allowing you to explore and experience a better work-life balance, access to great outdoor activities and, cheaper living costs. Here are some of the benefits of living and investing in Ibeju-Lekki:

  • Beautiful Scenery and amazing beaches

Ibeju-Lekki is home to one of Nigeria’s most palm-fringed beaches. Its beaches, landscapes, and lagoons make this area a prime tourist spot. Most of the indigenous people make a living from fishing. It’s quite common to see children swimming in the ocean or the grown-ups cozying to a bowl of special fish soup.

  • Infrastructure

Most of Ibeju-Lekki is connected to Lekki and other areas of Lagos by the Lekki-Epe expressway. It’s easy to move around Ibeju-Lekki using public transportation or a private vehicle. In the coming years, Ibeju-Lekki is going to be directly opened up to many other parts of Lagos through the 4th Mainland Bridge. With this development, we are looking at the price of properties along the Ibeju-Lekki axis doubling within a year and could cost 5 times more upon completion of the 4th Mainland Bridge.

4th Mainland Bridge: Lagos selects 3 companies in final stage, contract to be awarded in March 2022.

  • Low Crime Rate

Ibeju-Lekki has lower crime rates compared to other areas of Lagos. The possibility of robbery and other crimes is relatively low. Life on this side of town is more peaceful and generally calm. If you intend on raising a family in a serene and tranquility, then this is the pristine region for you.

  • Job Opportunities

Ibeju-Lekki has attracted massive industrial projects like the Dangote refinery and fertilizer plant at the Lekki Free Zone area, a petrochemical and power plant, a deep-sea port, the fourth mainland bridge, the New International Airport, a blossoming tourism sector, and even the Pan-African University all make this area the new commercial hub of Lagos. Ibeju-Lekki is also one of the locations for the Lagos Smart City deal with Dubai. With the actualization of this blueprint, this region would become a central hub for business, manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics and will create many job opportunities.

  • Endless Entertainment and Shopping Options

Ibeju-Lekki is a growing town and has attracted a good number of hotels, resorts, and lounges. This budding town offers you a wide array of fun activities. You can visit the white-sandy Eleko beach or give your family a treat at Funtopia, Tickle Bay, Omu Resort, La Tropicana, and many others. Many shopping centers are located across Ibeju-Lekki to cater to the shopping needs of the residents.

  • Investment Opportunities

Even if you don’t intend on moving to the Ibeju-Lekki region, it is an ideal location for investing. Leisure Court Estate, Ibeju-Lekki gives you a perfect opportunity to own properties in the axis with massive expected return on Investment. Leisure Court Limited also has Estate developments at Eti Osa, Lekki Conservation Centre, Orchid Road, and parts of the Lagos mainland.

READ: Magnificent Off-Plan Property Deals In Nigeria

Mercy Aigbe

Leisure Court Limited Unveils Mercy Aigbe as Brand Ambassador

Award-winning and super talented actress, filmmaker and producer, Mercy Anuoluwapo Aigbe has signed as the new brand ambassador to the renowned real estate firm, Leisure Court Limted. The event which took place at the headquarters of Leisure Court Limited in Abuja saw the award-winning actress signed to one of the fastest growing real estate companies in Nigeria. Speaking at the event, the MD/CEO of Leisure Court Limited, Bldr. Segun Abolaji praised the new brand ambassador for her work ethics and how she is an upright role model to the coming generation. He emphasized on the importance of relationship, how the Mercy Aigbe brand and the Leisure Court brand can both work together to achieve big things. Responding, Mercy Aigbe who was wowed by the reception, thanked the management of Leisure Court Limited for finding her worthy of this feat. She promised to give this new role her all and help showcase the company to the world. She stated the relationship is going to go beyond just business, as she’s now part of the big Leisure Court Family.

The BOT Chairman addressing stakeholders

LEISURE COURT MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE SOCIETY LTD

The housing deficit situation in Nigeria is a well-known fact, it needs addressing and it is obvious that only government cannot solve this challenge facing the Nigerian populace. There is need for conscious efforts by organizations and private individuals in Nigeria’s housing sector in order to overcome the challenges we currently face. Innovative methods and friendly government policies towards housing development is a must now, we all need to start working together to build a future we dream of. Actualization of this dream is what gave birth to Leisure Court Multipurpose Cooperative Society. The society is looking to help create enabling environment and also help raise capital for development in housing, businesses and other projects by the members of the society.

Definition of Multi-Purpose Cooperation Society

Housing is a basic need of every human being just as food and clothing. It is very fundamental to the welfare, survival and health of man (Fadamiro, Taiwo and Ajayi, 2004). Owning a home is one of the best ways of improving one’s standard of living and place in the society. A good home can give people physical and financial security, let them care for one another in healthy living conditions and serve as a base for the family which is the foundation of every society.

A cooperative society is multipurpose because capital raised within the society can be deployed into multiple sectors of the economy. It is an organization which is owned and operated by a group of individuals for mutual benefit.  This cooperative attempts to achieve various objectives whereas other cooperatives’ objective is limited. Whenever any cooperative society is established to attain various goals such as production, purchasing, selling, credits sanction, creation and so on this cooperative is called multi-purpose cooperative society. The purpose for which these societies are set up includes; credit procurement, housing, agricultural, health, etc.

Challenges of the Nigeria Housing Sector

There are various challenges mitigating against the housing sector in Nigeria. These challenges are the main causes of serious housing deficit, which the nation has encountered through the years. The challenges include:

  1. Land Tenure system- There is high insecurity in the current land tenure system being operated in Nigeria. With the Land use Act vesting the title to all lands in a state, in the hands of the state Governor who holds same in trust. By this mandate, the Governor reserves the right to revoke title to any land in the state for public purpose. This Act has resulted in low investment on the part of property developers who constantly entertain fears about investing in housing.
  2. High Cost of Infrastructure- high cost of land infrastructure is a serious challenge to provision of housing both by the private and public sectors. This instance is further worsened if the land is located far from other building facilities. In most cases, investors and developers are required to fully bear the high investment cost of provision of water and road infrastructure to the new site. This trend will significantly affect the final price of the land and ultimately the cost of the housing unit, thus affecting the affordability of the facility.  
  3. Bureaucracy in Government- Cumbersome Legal and Legislative frameworks for land acquisition. The housing sector faces numerous bureaucracies in the process of land acquisition and titles, such bureaucracies include availability, affordability and the ease of acquisition. For example, it may take up to four year to acquire a certificate of occupancy (C of O) from the government authorities in charge of issuing such documents.
  4. Taxation- Investors in the Nigerian housing sector are subjected to multiple taxation. These taxes and levies include; income tax development levy, building plan approval levy, land use tax, property tax, etc. These payments act as disincentives for existing and potential investors in growing the sector.
  5. Hight interest rates and Inflation- the high interest rate in Nigeria (16-24 per cent) has deterred to a large extent investment in Nigerian housing sector. High interest rates have discourage potential investors especially those within the low-and middle-income bracket from seeking mortgage loans. This has resulted in such group(s) resorting to personal savings, local thrift societies, friends, etc.
  6. Naira Devaluation– Devaluation of Naira at certain points in the country’s history has not impacted positively on the housing sector, due to dependence on importation of material and equipment. When the Naira is devalued, it raises the cost of imported building materials needed to stimulate the housing sector. This will ultimately affect the affordability of the housing units.
  7. Rural-Urban Migration/Urbanization- One of the challenges facing the housing sector is the imbalance in the distribution of the population due to rural-urban drift and rapid urbanization. The movement of people to urban centres has increased the demand for housing units in these locations. The housing deficit in Nigeria is highly observed in urban centres such as Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, etc. The main challenge facing the housing sector in this instance is the provision of adequate housing units for the teeming population in the urban centres.  
  8. High costs of property Development- Building a house is highly expensive in Nigeria. The cost of construction is high for three reasons; high costs of building materials, high skilled labour costs, and costs associated with poor roads and sewage systems. The high costs of building materials has negatively affected the rate of building housing units in the country. The main reason for the high cost of materials is the reliance on imported goods. Most of our local building material industries are incapacitated in the operations, hence not meeting up with the demand for the products. This condition is further worsened by lack of public infrastructure such as roads, power supply. Etc.  

Leisure Court Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd is the brain child of stakeholders in the Nigeria housing sector. It is set up to help reduce the rate of poverty by increasing the number of house owner or land owner in the country. Statistics shows that 60% of Nigerians are not land owners or property owners, a large percentage are also displaced. Owning a property or land acquisition serves as an asset which keeps on appreciating over the years. This cooperative society is a special type of society, which is established by Leisure Court Limited mainly to achieve progress in the housing sector and it is made multipurpose so as to also help its members raise capital for other businesses. The BOT Chairman, BLDR Segun Abolaji while addressing the first general meeting of the society pointed out that one of the purposes of this society is to help people escape poverty by empowering them through housing development and giving members support in their various businesses. The Secretary of the Society Barr. Seun Adeojo spoke about the society’s drive to cure the deficiency issue in the housing sector. He pointed out that the cooperative is also targeting empowerment for low income earners, where they can show a habit of savings towards acquiring a land or developing a land they own.   

Simply speaking, we know that cooperative means to work together to improve member’s economic condition. This organization is based on “all for each and each for all” So this organization will function under the mutual cooperative of all the members. In this organization, all member will be equal and free for their rights.

OBJECTIVE OF LEISURE COURT MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE SOCIETY

The objective of the society is to promote the economic interest of its member and especially;

  1. Any other measures designed on co-operative principles to encourage among its members the spirit and practice of saving, mutual help, self-help and facilitate severance package for members.
  2. To raise capital through share holdings by members in the society to undertake such other activities as are necessary for the attainment of these objects.
  3. Receiving shares, deposits from members and paying dividends and/or interest respectively.
  4. Investing some of our collective monthly contributions regularly and distributing surplus annually as dividend on prorated basis.
  5. To provide credit facilities to members at fair and reasonable rates of interest for provident and productive purpose.
  6. To engage in cassava production, processing and general agricultural activities.
  7. To stock quality seeds, fertilizers and agricultural chemical for sale to members and non-members at reasonable price.
  8. To promote modern poultry keeping by individual or on group basic and to affordable prices.
  9. To acquire access of land for sale or farming activities or Estate development to meet the housing needs of members or for industrial purpose as a form of investment for the economic benefit of members.
Photo of Executive members of Leisure Court Multi-Purpose Society

The housing sector in Nigeria is definitely overdue for different disruptions, we need new and innovative ideas to take center stage. This one of a kind idea from stakeholders at Leisure Court Limited is a step in the right direction. This cooperative has the potential to usher in new and younger generations of Nigerians into the housing sector due to the ease of access it offers. This society is definitely one to look out for and a must for everyone interested in Nigeria’s housing sector.