Nigeria has failed woefully in housing delivery

Date: 16-12-2010 12:43 pm (13 years ago) | Author: Aliuniyi lawal
- at 16-12-2010 12:43 PM (13 years ago)

House is the second basic need of man after food and, as such, one expects that any good government should make housing delivery a priority. But, unfortunately, this has not been the case in Nigeria, as successive governments since independence have been paying lip service to the issue of housing delivery.

A World Bank report stated that for the issue of housing to be properly addressed in the country, a minimum of one million housing units should be built annually. However, not up to one-tenth of this figure is met annually, which simply means that the housing situation in the country would continue to grow from bad to worse.

Bode Adediji, president of Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), and also a member of Vision 20-2020, took a look at the high and low points of the housing industry in Nigeria and insisted that the problem of housing in Nigeria was created by the colonial masters who did not consider housing delivery important.

According to him, the colonial masters were only interested in exporting Nigeria’s mineral resources to their home country instead of putting infrastructure on ground. In this interview, he looked at housing in the pre-independent and post independent era and then proffers solutions.

Housing under the colonial masters
The starting point in discussing the housing issue in this country is to look at where we were in the pre-Independence, where we are now and where we ought to be. The period before independence, it was clear that housing delivery system in Nigeria was virtually non-existent, to the extent that the conscious effort on the part of the colonial masters was centred around catering for the top civil servants and the expatriates.

There was no need for them to think of mass housing because more than 80 per cent of the people they were governing were residing in the rural areas and there were no pressure from any quota to essentially direct their attention for the need to cater for the masses in terms of housing. That was understandable. The major plank of governance then was to be able to have access to the sources of raw materials, which they were transporting to their home country.

Housing at the early days of independence
When Nigeria became independent, the three regional governments began to become sensitive to the housing problem of the masses. That was what led to the Lagos Executive Development Board, which created housing estates in places like Surulere, Ikeja and so on. There were also similar initiatives in the Eastern and in the Northern parts of the country. But even at that point in time, the major target were the civil servants, that is to cater for their housing needs. However, all those efforts became insignificant for two reasons.

The first was the growth in population, as well as the mass migration of people from the rural to the urban centres. It was the aftermath of this crisis starring government in the face that actually served as impetus to begin to think consciously about how to house the people. Based on that, they began to see housing becoming essential aspect of the national development plan.

Now, look at what we have done between then and now, Nigeria, I must confess, has succeeded in terms of policy formulation and enactment but as far as translating all these into action, we have failed woefully and there is no other area to point out our failure than to look at the current housing deficit, which hovers around 16 million for the entire country. Also, look at the fact that we have not been able to meet the majority of the targets in the Millennium Development Goals. It is good to say that housing delivering system in this country has not been successful.

Way Forward
Now, how do we go forward? The first thing we should address is to state in absolute terms that we have not been able to deliver as far as housing sector is concerned and, in comparative terms as well, we cannot compare ourselves with what other nations with far less resources than us have been able to achieve. If you look at the two issues, we will be able to pin point what are those things that we ought to have done but have refused to do? These can be itemized as follows:

As far as land tenure system is concerned, it is very germane to the housing delivery system of any nation. Wherever you have a land tenure system that is not mass oriented you cannot have mass housing. If it becomes a case of a political weapon or mystified system of governance, you cannot have mass housing delivery system. If a country aspires to become self sufficient as far as housing is concerned, she must be prepared to mobilize all human and material resources over a long period of time to tackle that problem frontally. Nigeria has failed in that regard that to the extent that at 50.

She still imports more than 70 percent of her building materials. Nigeria still depends on artisans and technicians from neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire to cater for installations like tiles, plumbing, electrical and others in spite of the fact that we have a country that can boost of 140 million people. Even when all the technical and land matters are sufficient, there is no nation that has actually concerned housing problem without the involvement of a virile mortgage regime.

At 50, Nigeria has nothing to show as far as workable mortgage regime is concerned. It must be acknowledged that various regimes in the past have attempted to address the issue and all of them have failed and that is why a few weeks ago the pioneer mortgage bank in Nigeria that is the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, the board has to be dissolved. The reason was because the performance of the organization was nothing to right home about.
So in summary, we are saying that unless the land tenure system is overhaul so that everybody no matter your economy status can key into a land system that is people oriented, access to land which is very germane.

You must generate internal capacity in terms of building materials and man power to be able to deliver sufficient products as far as housing delivery system is concerned. Where that is lacking there can be no progress. The other one is financial infrastructure. This must be given a priority of place because no nation has attained sufficiency in housing delivery system if it fails to roll out a virile mortgage institution that is affordable and workable. But the last but not the least is that we have got so many instruments and enactments in this country, the singular reason most of them failed could be that various regimes have continually lacked the political will to do what is right.

If you set up an instrument that is bold and workable but fail to put in place structures and systems to implement, without any political, tribal or primordial consideration, such policies and programmes will fail. So, for government to be serious about the housing delivery system in this country, such government must be able to walk her talk by way of marrying formidable instruments of policies on one hand and the human resources on the other hand.

Dissolution of the FMBN
We have canvassed that the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria should be decentralized at the recently concluded 2020 meeting but a school of thought objected to it. But the truth remains that if you want to have a workable and functional federal mortgage bank, it must have competition. It must not be seen as a government agency that is just there to cater for the interest of a few. If you have a federal mortgage bank that is decentralized and has a competitor that is private sector driven. Then the performance of the bank becomes easy to accomplish.

Land Use Act
I must be frank with you, I am not sure that any government in this country has been sincere about the necessity to overhaul the land use act. Otherwise we have seen in this country in the last one-year when the entire national assembly had to convene a special plenary session to take certain decisions. This therefore goes to show that the housing problem in this country is seen as an issue of class struggle.

Any matter that affects directly the interest of the upper class, the legislators has a way of rallying round to do the needful at the shortest possible time. But when it is an issue that concerns the masses, there is no exigency to prevail on government to look at the issue and do the necessary correction. My advice to government is, we are not saying that everything about the land use act is bad. That would be uncharitable but to the extent that it has become a clog in the wheel of housing delivery system, it has become incumbent on the executive; it has become incumbent on the legislators to ensure that at the shortest possible time this aspect is examined and overhauled
Housing economy.

If you look at the magnitude of the crisis that we have in the housing sector today, you would realize that it would take more than one sector of the economy, both private and public to actually participate in the housing delivery system. However, the one that is more relevant to the government is to ensure all the bottlenecks that affect smooth running of the housing delivery is removed and some policies that would encourage local production and patronage are put in place.

A situation where you encourage your local people to invest in the production of building materials and the same government throw its door open to the massive and unrestricted importation of the same product is like you are biting your nose to spite your face that is the tragedy in this country which we must all address and I must say that this is the time for government to declare the housing sector as an emergency sector. We may do this for a period of five years and mobilize all resources to tackle the problem.

Why I am saying this is because unless we make progress in housing, there is no much progress can be make in terms of health delivery system, in terms of security and in terms of employment. If you look at these three issues that I have mentioned they are very germane to our negligence or otherwise as far as housing matters are concerned. For instance, where you have plan neighbourhood, where everybody can be identified, incidence of kidnapping would be minimized. Where you have buoyant construction industry and carpenters and engineers are gainfully employed, incidence of armed robbery would be reduced. Then where you have mass production of housing and infrastructure, diseases and ill-health attendant to slum dwelling would become a thing of the past
Vision 2020

World Bank record on housing in Nigeria is not 100 percent accurate because if you look at the consumer of housing products, it is not a static statics. If you at the population trend, 16 million as at today, would become about 20 million in the next couple of years. So it is a moving scenario. My advice is this, no mater how big a problem is, where is political will on the part of the ruling class and the population in general; we can actually surmount this problem not by talking about them but by doing something. Imagine if every government has delivered about 200,000 per annum, we would have been in this situation.

My advice is that we should not be looking the problem but what actions that are fundamental and crucial to the execution of projects that would assist us in meeting those targets that should be what government should be concerned with.

Posted: at 16-12-2010 12:43 PM (13 years ago) | Gistmaniac