By Ismail Sokunbi•
Nigeria today, has housing deficit of about 18 million units and for any nation with close to 200 million populations to meet this shortfall, Nigeria as a country will need a minimum of at least two million housing units annually for10 years.
Successive governments right from independence have been grappling with this problem. However, it is like they have only been digging a well with no water gushing particularly as the country’s populace has continued to increase exponentially, rendering government efforts in this direction ineffective.
It is advisable to note that the challenge of providing enough housing accommodation is not only peculiar to Nigeria. According to the United Nations Habitat, about 30 per cent of the world’s populations live in slums, under deplorable conditions or, worse still, in buildings that are structurally weak and without security of tenure among others. The report also stated that 30 percent of the world’s rural populations live in unacceptable conditions, which means that over two billion people are in need of a better housing.
In Nigeria, the government has estimated the housing sector would need $400 billion investment over the next 25-30 years to resolve this shortfall. The World Bank on the other hand said bridging the deficit will cost the country about N59.5 trillion, which also tallies with the estimation of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria which puts it at about N56 trillion to be able to adequately meet the housing needs of Nigerians.
There are numbers of obstacles to providing housing for all. They are the land use Act of 1975, which rested the ownership of land on the state governments, the devious property registration process, the high cost of building materials, the un-abating rural-urban migration and the associated inadequate planning development policy which focuses on urban development to the detriment of the rural areas. There is also the failure of mortgage institutions to fulfil their core mandates.
Several suggestions have been made as a way forward which includes the need for the National Assembly to review the land use Act purposely to ease the process of land acquisition and documentation in order to make land more easily available for investment. The law according to some Nigerians at the moment is so cumbersome and fraught with corruption that many investors are frustrated in their attempt to contribute to alleviate the housing problem.
It was also suggested that the research institutes should be challenged and motivated to explore the possibility of coming up with cheaper but equally effective local building materials.
Another suggestion is that there is need to provide the necessary infrastructure and social amenities in the rural areas to improve living conditions there and check the rural-urban movement which helps to complicate the housing issue.
Here in Ogun State, stakeholders in the housing sectors have also gathered to brain storm on how to assist the state government in providing quality and affordable housing for the citizens.
Specifically, recently in Abeokuta the state capital, Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria institute of Quantity surveyors organized a seminar themed “Effective housing delivery in a developing economy” which was part of its efforts towards partnering the state in its housing policies.
The bottom line of the meeting according to the President of the institute, Obafemi Onashile, was that there is need for the government to evolve an effective housing policy, which would guarantee more affordable house to the low-income earners and the masses. Onashile who was represented by the Vice-President of the body Mr. Olayemi Sonubi, stated Nigeria, with a growing economy, needed more affordable housing units.
He also said that the government’s housing policy had failed because there was no systematic plan to build houses, adding, however, that it was not enough to build houses that the low-income earners might not afford.
He called on the government to bring the interest rates on mortgage loans to one digit, because according to him, a two digits mortgage loan regime would take a long time to pay back.
Federal Government in swift reaction has said that it was going to build at least one million housing units annually to bridge housing deficit in the country.
This was made known by the Minister of State, Works and Housing, Abubakar Aliyu during an inspection of a housing construction site in Abuja.
Also, the Ogun State Governor, Prince (Dr.) Dapo Abiodun has also vowed to face out housing problem among the people of the State by embarking on massive housing projects particularly for the common man or low income earners, and this he has demonstrated by giving approval for construction of 250 housing units by the Ogun State Housing Corporation.
“Our government understands the importance of housing as a major social need of our people. We intend to work with private sector and financial institutions in the development of affordable homes and ensuring availability of mortgages for prospective home owners”.
According to the Ag General Manager of the Corporation, Mr. Akinwale Ojo, the 250 housing units would be spread across the three senatorial districts of the state. Mr. Ojo maintained that the construction had commenced with the site in Ogun Central Located at Kemta-Idi Aba, Abeokuta while work would being in both Ogun East and West respectively.
Past governments according to records have embarked on series of housing programmes. Such as Laddering Workers Estates, AAK Degun Mitros Estate, Ibara Mews, Valueville Estate, HID Awolowo Housing Estate, Orange valley Estate etc. But the concern of the people is that Governor Dapo Abiodun must ensure that its own housing projects accommodate officers in the lower cadres particularly levels 1 – 6 in the Ogun State Civil Service or generally, the low income earners.
Because record has also shown that hardly could officers on grade levels 1–6 or low and medium income earners being able to key into or benefit from the previous housing policies.
This is indeed a good start for the administration shortly after taking over the mantle of leadership. Surely, if a government begins the construction of 250 housing units with just one out of a number of MDAS in the state’s housing sector, in fact it will definitely have soft landing at end of its tenure. To some people, Governor Abiodun is just like a nightmare with the way he takes his steps because they say, “slow and steady wins a race”.
A part from the Ogun State Housing Corporation, the governor has also given other agencies in the housing sector the go ahead to begin the construction of more housing units for the citizenry at affordable rates.
It is believed that with the agenda of the governor to partner the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), National Housing Fund (NHF) and other stakeholders, the state would be able to get it right this time around. The Governor should not also leave out the Gateway Mortgage Bank, which is our own in Ogun State in this campaign because it is closer to the state work force. Also, the Governor should try to streamline some of its packages that seem to be too high for the low-income earners possibly by subsidy from the state government.
It is hope that the housing agenda of the president administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun would bring succour to the masses in particular and Ogun people at large, if all the suggestions outlined are strictly adhered to and carefully implemented.
- Sokunbi is of the Ogun State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.