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* Lauds FG On New Social Housing Scheme For Nigerian Masses

By Chinwendu Agoha (Governance Reporter)

The Buhari Media Organization (BMO) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari over what it described as showing commitment to due process and fiscal responsibility by sticking with the January-December budget cycle he restored.

The group said in a statement by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, that the current National Assembly also deserves praises for keeping to the President's timeline for the second year running.

BMO said "This is yet another sign that the Buhari-led administration is resolute in its resolve to maintain the January-December fiscal year in line with constitutional provisions.

"We want to remind Nigerians how the President was prepared to stake his reputation when he made the vow and he took steps to realize it in his first term, but for the deliberate mischief of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly.

"But now with more responsible leadership in place in the federal legislature, which some disgruntled people had dismissed as pliable, Nigeria is fully on track with a January-December federal Budget cycle which tallies with that of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and global best practice.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the President tabled the 2021 Budget proposal before the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2020, the exact same day he presented that of the outgone year in 2019, and it took the lawmakers not more than two months to complete work on the appropriation bill.

"We invite Nigerians to compare this to the trend between 2015 and 2019 when it took federal lawmakers, then led by the duo of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker Yakubu Dogara an average of four months to pass Budgets, with that of 2018 taking the opposition-led legislature as long as six months to pass.

"So the 9th Assembly deserves as many plaudits as the Executive for not putting cogs in the budgetary processes, since its inauguration", the group added.

BMO also cited the 2020 budget performance as a major factor of the successful switch to the January to December budget cycle.

"it was gratifying to hear President Buhari saying that as of December 2020, N1.748trn out of N1.962trn voted for critical capital projects had been released. This unprecedented move represented about 89% disbursement and an overall budget performance of 97%.

"This is the first time in decades that Nigeria is recording such a budget performance and we dare say it is a reflection of a deliberate policy to end the country's budget implementation conundrum.

"So we are not surprised that virtually all the States are either keying in or have keyed into the steps taken by the President to restore the Budget cycle to what the Constitution originally stipulates".

The group is convinced that the 2021 Budget which kicked in on January 1 would record a similar performance, especially as the government is keen on ensuring that Nigeria exits the Covid-19 induced recession within the first quarter of the year.

In another development, the group also praised the Buhari administration on its new social housing scheme, describing it as a reflection of the President's life-long pro-masses and pro-people mindset.

The group said that this is why the government is going to great lengths to ensure that people earning as low as N30,000 a month can easily benefit from the Mass Housing Programme.

"The Buhari administration has since 2016 not hidden its intention to bridge the country's 17 million housing deficit, and made it clear, through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the 22nd Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, that it was keen on raising N1trn for a housing scheme that will set the country on a path to reducing the deficit.

"Now a part of that dream is gradually being realized with concrete steps to build 300,000 houses for different categories of Nigerians, including low-income earners and we make bold to say that this is the first time, in a long while, that minimum wage earners can aspire to own their own homes.

"It is nothing more than a humane step by an administration which came to power on the strength of President Buhari's nationally acclaimed masses' appeal to focus on delivering on a housing scheme which, in the words of Professor Osinbajo would be accessible for anybody 'earning N30,000 a month and is ready to spend a third of that amount to afford one of these houses'

"This is the first time, at least since the military-era, that minimum wage earners are given consideration in a public housing scheme where other higher-income earners are also covered. Again we invite Nigerians to note that only a President with a pro-masses mindset can contemplate this, even to the extent of extracting commitments from cement manufacturers.

"And for those who have a habit of dismissing programmes initiated by the Buhari administration for political reasons and other considerations, we need to add that the Central Bank is releasing a cumulative maximum limit of N200bn to provide construction finance facility as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan of 2020", the group said.

The BMO however added that there is every reason for Nigerians to key into the scheme which is also aimed at creating jobs for young professionals.

"This is a scheme that the administration is taking seriously not only from the angle of the provision of affordable housing but also from the job creation end and this is why it is providing the necessary finance facility.

"Unlike what many Nigerians are used to, It's not another contract bonanza for the boys". it has some level of economic impartation built into it to the extent that only domestic professionals in the building industry are qualified to apply for contracts under the programme and would also be availed of loans to execute the contracts.

"There will also be mortgage facilities available for interested subscribers and the government has already put up a template for a level playing field for interested Nigerians just like it did with the 'survival fund', when it set up an open portal for the selection process".

BMO says it is convinced that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration will deliver on its promise and ensure that the National Social Housing Programme ends up as one of its enduring legacies. NNL.

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