Abbas: House to Review NHF Act, Says Non-remittance of Fund Grievous

•NLC threatens to pull out of scheme

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, has said the House would review the National Housing Fund (NHF) Act.

The Speaker said this in Abuja, yesterday, during the inauguration of the Ad-hoc Committee tasked with investigating the non-remittance of contributions to the National Housing Fund and utilisation of the Fund from 2011 till date.

He said the NHF represents a commitment to addressing one of the most fundamental needs of citizens –affordable housing.

Abbas, said the scheme was designed to ensure that Nigerians have access to affordable housing mandates for all employers – in both the private and public sectors – by contributing 2.5 per cent of workers’ monthly earnings into this Fund.

The Speaker noted that as a noble initiative rooted in the principles of collective responsibility, the scheme identifies the critical need to ensure access to affordable housing by hard-working Nigerians, in order to bridge the housing deficit gap in the country.

His words: “The House will look into this law which is obsolete now. From 1992 till date, calls for a review. There are other issues that the House will inject to make it fit for purpose.

“However, for this to become a reality, we all know it is crucial that the Fund is managed transparently, efficiently, and in strict adherence to the law.

“The House was therefore alarmed to receive allegations of non-remittance by employers and in other cases, mismanagement and misappropriation of the hard-earned salaries of Nigerian workers, by the administering institution.”

Abbas, noted that it was within this context that the House convened to investigate the alleged non- remittance to the National Fund and critically reviewed the utilisation of the Fund from 2011 to date.

He said the task of the Committee was to shed light on the utilisation, “of these contributions, to ensure that the NHF fulfills its mandate to provide affordable housing solutions.”

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The Speaker stated: “The allegations of non-remittance are grievous, and we must uncover the truth, in order to hold those responsible accountable, and safeguard the interests of those who have diligently contributed to this Fund.

“I implore this Committee to embark on this investigation with a profound sense of responsibility, bearing in mind that the National Housing Fund holds the potential to transform the lives of countless hardworking Nigerians by providing them with the opportunity to secure affordable housing.

“As the investigative hearing commences, let us be guided by principles of fairness, equity, and diligence. Our mission is not only to uncover any irregularities, but also to propose solutions that will strengthen the NHF and ensure it serves its intended purpose, while also preventing a recurrence of these issues.”

Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Dachung Bagos, said the hearing was to get needed inputs from relevant stakeholders on the issue at hand and to ensure that the challenges faced by Nigerian workers in the housing sector is reduced to its barest minimum if possible completely solved.

He said despite efforts by successive governments, housing deficit in Nigeria was still high with contributors to the scheme still don’t have a roof on their heads.

Bagos, added that the process of applying for facility was stringent.

He said the House has resolved to do due diligence to unravel any set back and to ensure that an average Nigerian worker and contributors benefits from the scheme.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) to pull out civil servants from the NHF contributory funds over non-remittance of deductions made.

NLC President, Joe Ajaero said the FMBN had failed to send alerts to civil servants of how much they have been contributing including their monthly deduction.

He urged the lawmakers to take drastic steps to remove the encumbrances to affordable and quality housing to millions of Nigerians especially workers who make the most contributions to the NHF.

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He said in spite of making the statutory contributions of 2.5 per cent of annual salary to the NHF, many workers were unable to access the loan due mainly to administrative bottlenecks.

“While the Act provides for 90 days from the date of application for the loan to disbursement, the experience by many workers are horrific as the undue delay in approving the loans force many workers to abandon pursuit of the loan,” Ajaero added.

The NLC President noted that the immediate past Managing Director of FMBN, Mr. Ahmed Dangiwa, who is now the Minister of Housing and Urban Development said he left behind N120 billion in the coffers of  the bank.

According to him, the minister said he was able to mobilise N249.1 billion to Nigeria’s housing fund, and increased subscription to 197,000 between 2017 and 2022.

Ajaero, stressed that in spite of these milestones, millions of Nigerian workers who are in line with Sections 4 and 10 of the Act are still unable to access finance to acquire, build or renovate personal housing property.

He said the ease of reimbursement to retired workers of contributed funds even after failure to access housing loans was also cumbersome and unnerving.

He said many resort to third party agencies to fast track the loan application at unofficial fees, thus creating perception of corruption in the process of housing loan approval and disbursement to workers who needed the funds.

On his part, the Managing Director of FMBN, Mr. Madu Hamman, said the total amount of contribution from MDAs from 2011 till date was N238 billion, adding that individuals’ contribution from 2011 till date was N225 million

He said the ministerial housing scheme was N34.5 billion.

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