Prince Nixon Ndubuisi Opara is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Onix Properties and Real Estate Limited based in Lagos. In this interview with JOHN SILAS, the public affairs analyst scored President Muhammed Buhari low and questioned his decision to run for second term, among other national issues.
Buhari has just declared for second term, looking at his anti-corruption fight and all that is happening in the country up till now, tell us your view?
Well, I don’t believe personally in his approach of fighting corruption, for instance, in your home, if you litter your house with a bill of $1000, where there are people, when you go out and come back somebody must steal it, and the more you do it the more it keeps missing. Now when you come back, you gather everybody that is inside and put them into jail. If you put 20 there and recruit more staff, and still litter the house again, they would still do the same thing, so you keep dumping the whole members of your family inside jail. Have you achieved anything?
What we are saying is that because there is a rat in the house and there is fish in the house, you must make that fish unavailable to the rat, and those rats that would take the extreme risk would be the victims of punitive measures. That is what I feel.
So what do we do? Government policies that will make the fish unavailable to the thieves; that is the rat. Then the few scapegoats are the ones you should come so hard on. You must be able to close loopholes because every policy must have a loophole. Successive governments must continue tightening them up that is the essence of legislation. The executives should be able to initiate policies, the legislature to pass it into law, but how would you do that when you have square pegs in round holes?
Your view on the recently released looters’ list?
If you ask me, where we need amnesty in Nigeria for Nigeria to work is on the elites, they need amnesty. The government should just give all of them amnesty and make a stiff punitive laws against corruption. No matter how many lists you provide, it is endless, it must be selective unless you bring all of them and kill everybody, from the beginning of Nigeria to the end of where we are today.
Sir looking at Buhari’s administration and Jonathan’s administration, how would you assess them?
That is why we talk about visionary leadership, when Jonathan was there you could see where we were heading to, people talk about corruption, but there was a direction. Unlike the present administration, what I know they have succeeded in doing is silencing everybody that can talk about corruption, covering up corruption, making sure it is within a cabal, nobody would know what happens inside. The government has no direction.
On the activity of herdsmen across the country
I think that is where active approach is required. One, we have the fundamental problem of keeping data. Who is a Nigerian? Where are they coming from? If they are herdsmen, what are they producing, if they say they are cattle rearers, can those people afford one cattle? The cheapest Cattle cost 120,000, 10 of them is N1.2m. How much is AK47? Who are the sponsors? Who are the owners of cattle? Why not get a data? Those who are asking for ranching, or cattle colony, who are they? What their associations? Give us your members. Data is our problem, but if people are not doing what they ought to do, I think there is collaboration from a very high level.
The issue of Land Use Charge in Lagos State, your take?
The Land Use Charge. Yes, these are means of raising revenues to the state government, but the challenge is the application, double taxation. Let me tell you what is happening, when you go to Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC) in Lagos, they have what is called the Land Charge, this land Use charge, then again every year you pay Land Use Charge to the Ministry of Finance, does it make sense? Multiple taxation.
Then you pay heavily after your C of O, after paying for the approval, there is physical planning, Lagos Building Regulatory Agency, Soil and Material Test, there is MOE, that is, Ministry of Environment, these are charges you continue to pay. At the end of the day, all these things add about 30% to the cost to owning a house.
The people are now on self-help, trying to get housing for themselves, what the government supposed to do.
Ordinarily 0.79 % for owner occupier of about N70-N80 million value is less than 15,000 yearly; it is not too bad, but what we are saying is, this person that is paying, where is his access road, after buying from omonile, he rebuys from government, pay exorbitantly for C of O, approval, LASBRA, Soil and Material Test, after building they would do drainage, construct roads for themselves, they put up light, buy transformers, somebody will come and charge them estimated billing, you get borehole for yourself, then you come again to charge them Land Use Charge.
What can be done to achieve affordable housing?
First of all those obsolete laws should be done away with. When you see everybody shouting and complaining there is a problem, a time will come so many people will resort to self-help. Self-help in infrastructure, even in security we are on self-help. Many people organize vigilantes in their own estates, otherwise they cannot live there. So government should look at policies that will make land available to the people.