“What’s a better alternative to loans and high-interest rates? A retired civil servant tells us how he was able to build his house in Lagos Mainland.”
Please introduce yourself, sir. What do you do?
My name is Mr. Saheed. I am a retired civil servant.
How is life after retirement?
It has been really easy. I give glory to God that I am not begging to eat because 35 years in service is not easy. Coming out of service has been my most outstanding achievement because I worked very hard for it and I am enjoying myself.
When did you buy it, and how did you get to hear about the land?
I got the land in 2003 through a close friend of mine. We worked together in the same ministry. He had land there so he used his influence to get the land for me.
What was working as a civil servant like and did it really influence you to have a land?
Getting to meet different sets of people was the best part of my working experience in the ministry. I was also influenced positively by the competition in my career as a civil servant. So, you just have to work hard enough to make more money.
What type of house is it and where is it located?
It is a four-storey building flat located at Alagbado.
Why do you decide to build In Alagbado and not any other parts of Lagos?
I decided to build in Alagbado because of the serenity and its quiet environment, Alagbado is a well-reserved area with no trouble, unlike other areas with touts and insecurity. Alagbado is a government-reserved area with tight security and I love it there.
How long did it take you to complete the house?
I completed my house in 4 years. I was building gradually and funding it with whatever I had. I worked within my budget and that helped a lot. It saved me from going through the unnecessary stress of having to borrow to complete the house.
Where did the capital to get the land come from?
I saved aggressively. I was also part of a cooperative society. When you’re part of a cooperative society, you’re at liberty to take home triple the amount you have in your account with them. After that, you’d be given 18 months to pay back. What this means is that if you’re part of a cooperative society and need a huge sum of money, you’ll be given and required to pay it back over 18 months.
Most people go for loans but I don’t take loans because of the high-interest rates. How can you loan me money at a 23% interest rate? Even with a time frame of 6 months or 1 year, I don’t think I would be able to pay back the loan. So, I would rather build capital gradually even though it would take me more time to finish my project than go for a loan that would give me hypertension.
How long did you save while building the house?
If I can recollect vividly, I saved up for the house for about three years. I was also in a cooperative society.
Was it really easy than saving in two different places?
It was not really easy but it was just a sacrifice I needed to pay to own my personal house. I was left with no choice but to do it except I want to continue leaving in a rented apartment.
How much was your savings every month since you were a salary earner?
I was saving at least 50,000 monthly. Then I would spend the remaining money with my family.
While building your house, did you have any issues with artisans and the Omo Onile to be precise?
I have Government-allocated land. Despite that, I still had omo onile issues. But I wanted peace to reign so when they came, we negotiated the exact amount I would have to pay. After the discussion I had with them, nobody came to disturb me. As for the artisans, there’s no way you won’t run into issues with them. I knew that my engineer was cutting corners but my focus was on my target- having a personal house at a certain age.
If you dwell more on the problem with artisans, you won’t get anywhere. If I catch anyone stealing my property, I would deal with them because that’s a betrayal of trust. Immediately trust is broken, I change them immediately. If you’re not careful, these artisans would end up taking most of the properties without your consent.
Now don’t say you won’t build because of these issues. All you need is a personal conviction that you want to own a house at a particular age because you’d surely run into issues while building.
Was your wife supportive during the whole building process?
She was really supportive during that period because she was very eager for us to move into our own house. She used to support me monthly with N40,000:00. She was also the supervisor at the building site because I was working at the time.
For how long did you rent, and how much did it cost annually?
I rented for four years. My last rent was N250,000.00 annually.
What did you hate the most about renting?
One of the things I hate the most about renting is the absence of privacy. People love poke-nosing into other people’s business.
I on the other hand; am a private person so I don’t like staying in the same compound with people that would want to make friends with you all because they stay in the same compound with you. I just had to manage till I get my house. While living in a rented apartment, challenges will always come up except you get your house.
Where were you living before you moved to Agbado?
We were staying at Meiran- Ijaiye.
How would you rate your first accommodation in Lagos on a scale of 1-10?
Ah, that place! I will have to give it a 5 and that’s me being generous. The road was bad and there was an absence of electricity.
What kind of apartment was it?
It was a three-bedroom flat.
So you said you did not borrow because of the high-interest rates. Is there any other reason? Have you had any issues borrowing?
I have never borrowed and that’s just me with my faith, I don’t believe in interest. I won’t lend somebody money and ask them to pay me back with interest to me- that’s my faith. I am a Muslim and I don’t believe in interest.
Instead, what I do is lend without interest. The only exception is if the person is a trader and makes a profit from the borrowed money. So, I share the profit with them. But I wouldn’t tell you this is what I want. It’s left for you to search your conscience and say how much you made from the business permissible in Islam.
In the same vein, I won’t go for loans with interest. Moreso, getting a loan for a personal project like building my house.
What were the things you gave up while saving to build the house?
I made my wife understand that we had to cut down on our social engagements until we had a roof over our heads. I had to tell her that because she loves to attend parties and owambe. Thank God she cooperated.
I cut down on other extravagances and expenses. One mistake people make is that they believe they need a huge sum of money to start building. However, it’s not really necessary. It is just a matter of disciplining oneself.
I also cut back on unnecessary things like outings with kids. I did that to redirect money to savings. If I had not done that, I may not have finished the house at the time I did. The only thing I did not stop was my children’s education. I cannot deprive them of that because of my desire to build a house.
What’s your take on properties or real estate investment?
I don’t believe in real estate. Build your house and let your mind be at rest instead of eyeing real estate. Why don’t you just manage what you have and be fine?
If you are to build again, where else would you like to build? Is it on the Island or Mainland?
I prefer the Mainland. Once there’s a crisis on the Island, there would be chaos.
What is your take on living outside Lagos?
I don’t think I can live outside Lagos. I was born and brought up in. I would say Lagos is the best area to stay in in terms of development.
What advice would you give civil servants who are still in service that are planning to get their own house?
There is a saying, ‘’make hay while the sun shines’’. It means you should do the right thing at the right time. Build your house while you are still in service with strength and time so you don’t retire still, staying in a rented apartment. Always save up for the future.