MR. Bosun Jeje, the Lagos State Commissioner for Housing turned 52 on Wednesday, February 12, 2014. The astute politician, who holds three degrees (Law, Environment and Sociology) though did not roll out the drums to mark the special day, nonetheless there was a small gathering of his friends, colleagues and well wishers who came to share in the joy with him. After two failed attempts, ENCOMIUM Weekly was able to get him for interview on Friday, February 14, 2014 in his office.
Aside fielding questions on what has kept him looking good at 52, he also fielded questions on Lagos HOMS (Housing Owner Mortgage Scheme) recently launched by Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the governor of Lagos State.
Congratulations on your 52nd birthday celebration.
Thank you very much.
How do you feel turning 52?
I feel good. I feel good that I am still alive. I have had several challenges but that one is alive is good enough to say, God, I thank you.
What will you say you are happy about turning 52?
I am happy that I am alive and still able to serve the people that I have been called to serve. That despite the challenges that I have had I have people solidly behind me. I thank the people that have stood solidly behind me. I thank my governor as well. He’s been a wonderful and very supportive governor. I also thank my national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He has been very supportive and many other leaders. All of them have been very supportive.
What will you say you are sad about turning 52?
I don’t get sad about anything. The fact is that one learns from his mistakes. We all make mistakes and we learn from the mistakes but I don’t regret doing anything. So, I hardly get sad. I try to make myself happy as much as I can.
Will you say you are lucky turning 52 in a country where the average life span is said to be 45?
Anybody that wakes up every morning is lucky. In today’s world that disasters is everywhere if you wake up the next day the first thing you should do is to thank God you are still alive, that I am able to see today. Everybody who wakes up every day is lucky. So, if you turn a year, what is a year? What is birthday? It’s just another day in our life and when it accumulates to a year is when you call it your birthday. And you thank God that I have seen another year and I am starting another year. The struggle continues.
What will you say is the secret of your looking younger than your 52 years?
That is a relative term. All I know is that I live well. I live healthy, I eat good food and I do regular exercise. That is something I don’t play with. I do regular exercise and I try to follow healthy guidelines.
Many people of your age and status usually spot pot belly but you are not spotting one, could it be because of the exercise?
I must say that is one of them. As I said, I don’t play with exercise. I exercise a lot. I do two to three hours every day. And I don’t joke with it. At this age, I think it is one of the things everybody must cultivate the habit of doing. We are getting old, in fact, we are old already. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves. Right now, our children are already getting married. What can keep us going now is to ensure that we live a healthy life.
Two weeks ago (Monday, February 3, 2014), the governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), officially launched the state housing scheme called Lagos HOMS, which is being handled by your ministry. What has been the response so far?
Lagos HOMS (Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme) is a programme that Lagosians have been waiting for eagerly. Before we launched it, there have been so many enquiries by Lagosians. The moment we launched, the next day when I visited the website about one million, two hundred people have visited the website too. So, it showed the enthusiasm of the people to the programme.
Lagos HOMS is about addressing the housing deficit and challenges in Lagos State. It is a scientific way of addressing it. We’ve been on the programme for several years. The governor on his second term pledged to Lagosians that if voted back into power he would address housing challenges. That is the promise we are keeping now.
Yes, we cannot solve the problem at once, people should realize that. The houses cannot go round, that is why we’ve devised several ways to address it. Right now, what we’ve done is that you go online, download the form, fill it and submit it. And then we go by draw. Everything is going to be by a draw because we have few houses and many subscribers that want the houses. In doing this, we want to be as transparent as ever. Some people have accused us that the houses were already bought and there are no open houses in place. I have asked them to provide me evidence of a particular house that had already been allocated before the launch. Nobody has been able to come up with one. This showed that the houses are there waiting to be allocated on a transparent basis. That is why we are going for the draw. We will put the forms in a draw process and ask credible people to come and pick it. It will be in the glare of everybody.
If you win it will be by merit and your own luck because we are going to pre-qualify you. There are criteria you must meet before you can play in the draw. Number one, you must be a Lagos resident. You must have LASRRA (Lagos Resident Registration Agency) number. You must be a tax paying Lagosian who has been paying tax in the last five years. Arrears for tax is not allowed. You must have your 30 per cent equity contribution that you will pay the moment you win the draw. You cannot let out the house. You must live in the house. You must be able to pay your monthly mortgage. If you default in paying your mortgage, that means other people waiting will not be able to get the house. So, we are very strict about that. If you don’t pay your mortgage it is a ground for forfeiture.
People are still of the view that a lot of people cannot afford the mortgage fees of many of these houses?
It is not everybody that can own a house. You must be at a certain income bracket before you own a house. Even in advanced countries you must be within a particular income bracket before you can own a house. We have done it in a way that you cannot say that the houses are too big or small. We have a one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedrooms. We even have a room and parlour. So, you choose the one that your income can accommodate. The rent you are paying to landlord is what you will be paying now on a monthly basis and the minimum period you can pay it is 10 years. The interest rate is 9.5 per cent, the lowest interest rate in the country. There is no interest rate that can march that. There is no arrangement that can be better than this. When you pay rent on a monthly basis, you are paying rent to own. When you finish paying, the house becomes your own. Unlike the landlord house, after you pay for several years, you must still leave the house for the landlord.
2015, the year of another election is around the corner, what will you be jostling for then?
For 2015, the timetable is out, people are already jostling but we are waiting for divine direction. I still have a job here, that I have been called to do. I still have one year and some months to do the job. Getting the job done is certainly more important than any political aspiration out there. God will direct me and I will know what to do.
– TOLANI ABATTI