Ehikioya Kingsley, chairman Enforcement Committee, REDAN, believes grace and integrity grounded him in real estate first in Benin, and then Lagos, in the last 20 years. The Ehi-Kings Prroperty’s CEO speaks with the National Daily on what makes the sector tick.
Nigeria, with N6.4tr real estate market size, was among the biggest in Africa in 2015. Has anything changed between then and now—considering the political instability, insecurity, and the pandemic?
Yes, you may be right. But I will say because of the peculiarity of the sector, the COVID-19 didn’t really affect the real estate industry because shelter is an integral part of life, and a necessity. It is something that no matter what happens, people would still need shelter, it’s like food. People always strive to put food in their stomach.
So I would say, because of what real estate represents, the pandemic didn’t cripple activities in the sector. It has over the years proven to be resilient and solid. Nigeria is a big country both in population and landmass, and Lagos is one of the biggest cities in Africa. Real Estate will always thrive when the population is like that of Lagos, so for this sector, everyday people are investing regardless of the pandemic.
The insecurity in Nigeria has intensified the call for secession. How does this affect the real estate industry?
People always want to migrate. If you go down memory lane, during the civil war, so many people left the country. I saw a video recently which captured the departure at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. It was like a market place with many people trying to leave the country. But once such people are sure of their safety, investments in real estate is the next thing on their minds. I can tell you 90 percent of our clients at Ehikings Construction and Properties are in the Diaspora. For those that are running away—they are doing so for safety. When they finally settle down, wherever they go to, the US, UK or Canada, they always know home is home. They will invest in real estate back in Nigeria. So the security threat to some extent affect the real estate in a very minute way.
Nigeria has a growing middle class. What’s the effect of the purchasing power of this growing class on the real estate sector?
So the nature of the country’s economy doesn’t not affect their purchasing power for real estate. And it is like for other operators in the sector. If we’re to go by the current state of Nigeria’s economy, then the real estate industry would have suffered. But we have lots of Nigerians in diaspora, who regardless of the crisis at home still invest in real estate as a form of security for them when they eventually return home. Although, most times they expressed their reservations. They are like: No I don’t want to have anything to do with Nigeria. But when you stretched the conversation, you find them say well, Nigeria is my home. So for us as marketers, we also try to convince them to let them know that what is going on in this country today is only a phase. Of course, the sector can do better if the economy is much better.
You have lots of competitors in this neighborhood. What’s unique about Ehi-Kings Properties?
It is the Grace of God. At Ehi-Kings Real Estate and Construction, we live by His Grace. Yes, because everything we do, the Grace of God follows us. And then secondly, we also try as much as possible to render credible, excellent real estate and construction services to our clients. You know one of the things that we hold dearly is integrity. Now, it will interest you to know that Ehi-Kings Real Estate and Construction Company has been in existence since 2001. You know, we started in Bini, Edo state. It was in 2016, we expanded to Lagos. So God has been faithful.
Why is Lagos always the reference poit of real estate market in Nigeria? What about Port Harcourt, Abuja, and others?
Basically, real estate cuts across every part of the country, and is not restricted to a particular place. Anywhere you have people, real estate is there. Now why Lagos is key is because of its population and volume of businesses in the state. On a daily basis, over 6000 people come to Lagos; so, it is the centre of attraction. People have this belief that when I get to Lagos, you know, I’m going to make it. And over the years that has indeed been true. There are also viable lands here because of the development in the State. For instance, from Ajah down to Dangote Refinery, all the way to the sea is being developed on a daily basis. And again, you know, people want to live on the island, because there’s this impression that there’s money on the island. When you live on the island you live amongst the big boys. You know stuff like that.
Lagos especially the Islands, the Lekki, the Ajah areas form the priciest and most vibrant estate hub in Africa. When will they reach a saturation point, and the law of diminishing returns will set?
The law of diminishing returns can’t affect real estate because in the long run, properties always appreciate. Prices don’t come down. Again you know that Lagos landmass is on the islands. People live in Mowe, Ibafo and other places in Ogun still claim they are Lagosians. That’s why the state real estate business is vibrant on the islands. If you watch, prices of real estate in Ikoyi are much higher than those around Ajah here because of development. So when there is development in an area, prices of real estate in such neighborhoods will go up. It is like that all across the globe. Victoria Island is a commercial area, in fact over 80% of activities there are commercial, so real estate there is quite expensive, and will not go down in the nearest future.
What’s your take on the federal government mortgage programme?
It is actually good for our business. It is a good package by the government, but accessing it readily is another thing entirely. There are certain requirements attached to it, and therefore, not many people can access it. I will suggest the federal government simplify the process so that more people will be able to access mortgage loans in the country. And going to banks is actually out of the question because of the high interest rates. In our line of business, I mean real estate, it is capital intensive, and any policy put in place to afford us access to loans is a good thing for the industry. You know I am a member of the Real Estate Developers Association, Lagos chapter. I’m the chairman of the Enforcement Committee. At the state level, we have strong Lagos state government backing. We have had a series of meetings with the government on how to make land and building approvals more seamless. And Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has contributed in no small measures to the development of the real estate because of the provision of infrastructure which has aided development.
Let’s talk about you, how did you come into the real estate business?
I’m from Edo state. I did all my education in the state, right from primary school to university. I have been in real estate for 20 years now. Ehi-Kings started in Bini, Edo state in 2001. There was so much need for us to expand. And then I decided to come to Lagos in 2016, and have been here for the past five years now. It was a good decision for me. I studied business administration, and I’m currently doing a civil engineering program in Atlantic International University, Florida. I came into construction because my dad was into building construction. I remember many years ago while I was in primary school, I used to go and visit my dad on site, and would sometimes assist him with some things. So, I developed interest in the business right from my childhood.