20 January 2013

Nigeria: Encouraging Public-Private Partnership to Bridge Housing Deficit

That many Nigerians are currently going through serious housing challenge is no longer news as a lot of people have taken permanent shelters under bridges and in shanties. It is a deplorable condition worse than imprisonment. EVELYN OKORUWA takes a look at this phenomenon.

Shelter is one of the most basic human needs. In most developed countries of the world, the government spends huge amount of funds in providing housing for its people either directly or through public private partnership.

Unfortunately, this is not the norm in most developing African nations as government tends to abandon its responsibilities to the citizens in so many ways. Nigeria is not left out in the fiasco. Nigerians have been suffering in terms of getting good housing.

Considering a vast housing market that exists in Nigeria, it has been estimated to have a housing deficit in the estimation of 17m.

Stakeholders in the housing sector have pointed out that many factors have contributed to the poor performance of the sector in Nigeria such as absence of long term funds, land tenure system, insincerity on the part of government, lack of social housing system coupled with haphazard housing policies on the part of the government, and also the lack of continuity from successive administration. There has also been the recurrent issue of demolition.

They also lamented the fact that though the government has not been able to do much in building mass housing to ease the current housing deficit, it has done more harm by demolishing several houses built through personal efforts of the citizens.

The FCT Minister, Bala Mohamed has stated during the good governance tour in Abuja that more than 124, 000 houses were demolished in the territory since his assumption of office in 2010. "We are doing this to get the Abuja Masterplan correctly, we are demolishing and we will continue to demolish." he had stated.

Stakeholders have however urged the government to reduce negative interference in the housing sector since it is affecting the sector in a negative way. While almost all past government have underscored housing as a major priority, Nigeria is yet to develop a vibrant housing and mortgage market through social and affordable housing policies. Housing continues to be provided through traditional methods of buying lands and building after some years which could be an individual's entire life.

A real estate developer Mr. Umar Audu opined that the government should desist from demolishing houses especially in Abuja since the same government contributes less to the development of the sector. He also blamed the demolition exercise as failure on the part of the government since it means that some people are not doing their jobs saying if they know the houses were illegal, they shouldn't have been allowed to be erected in the first place. "I still blame it on the government.

Abuja is a town where accommodation is a problem. The private sector is trying to provide houses for people to curtail the problem of accommodation and it is demolished because there are no proper checks and balances. If the government does what they are supposed to do, structures will not go up when they are not supposed to. You cannot demolish a structure of 80 per cent completion just because you think they bypassed due process.

If they don't have approval, the government shouldn't have allowed them to start it in the first place. You allow people to invest their money then you wake up one day and demolish it; that is cheer wickedness. I see it as a very big lapses on the part of the government. If they had done what they were supposed to do in the first place, those houses wouldn't go up."

"Imagine what they did recently in Abuja where over 500 houses were demolished. That is people's hard earned money that was put down like that. This is a country where people cry of accommodation, poverty is at its peak, and you go over to demolish properties worth over N3 trillion when your government has not put in any funds to curtail the accommodation issues.

The effects of this things is that people work there, people are paid to work there, now, so many people have been displaced, so many people has been chased out of those houses, they have now become jobless and homeless. In essence they can turn round to become hoodlums on the streets because of what the government has done." He added.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Housing, Senator Abba Bukar Ibrahim also shares the same school of thought. According to him, the idea of demolishing houses is crazy in a country where people are struggling for more houses.

In his words, "For somebody to demolish a house that has already been built is crazy. Those whose responsibility it is to monitor the standards in the FCT, equally allow people to lay foundation, roofing and finishing and then you demolish.

Why can't you stop them at the initiate stage? If they don't stop by just telling them to stop then, use the law enforcement agencies to stop them. To me, there is no excuse for somebody to say they were asked to stop and they refused. I don't think Nigeria is that lawless. If anybody is doing something wrong, stop him at the beginning."

The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) that has been charged with the task of providing housing to Nigerians has not actually found the drive to do so. Its Managing Director, Terver Gemade had revealed that for the 37 years of its existence, FHA has only beenable to put up about 37, 000 housing unit on ground which gives an average of only a 1000 housing unit per year.

He however noted that presently more than a thousand housing unit is being developed by them. He also lamented the issue of lack of funding noting that the FHA has been out of the budget for 10 years and as such has been surviving on its own through partnership. He admitted that they have been doing better since they were cut off from the budget, however, they would need intervention fund of N300b in order to erect more structures on ground.

He said: "Some amount of money has to be devoted to housing. This is exactly what we want the government to do for us. Years ago, there was an agreement between the government and FHA on commercialization. That agreement has expired. We were thrown out of the budget that we should go with the BPE to be commercialized.

"We believe we can do better if given an intervention fund. We have always been asking for N300b as a revolving intervention fund. If FHA is given N300b, we will be able to recycle these funds and give out homes to target market. N300b will give us just 60, 000 housing unit of N5m with associated infrastructure. N300b is not much money because housing is a capital intensive project. Like a deficit, what we are talking about is in trillions of naira".

He also stated that there was also the issue of acquiring land in some strategic locations like Abuja saying it has been difficult to provide homes apart from Gwarimppa. "Except that recently, we got the Apo land through partnership but we have been forging ahead." However the present FCT minister granted the FHA 1000hec of land. Arc Gemade noted that 50 per cent of the land will be devoted to low income earners.

"We are devoting about 50 per cent of that development to low income earners and 30 per cent to the medium income earners, and 20 per cent for the higher income earner. Having studied this within the city, we felt that it is a pity we see at prime times, mornings and evenings that the road are always choked up because people live outside the city in the suburb. We looked at all these and decided that the solution to all these is to decentralize the living areas and by developing a new town in Bwari. It would solve part of the problem."

On how the government and private individuals can collaborate in making sure the housing deficit is addressed, Mr. Ogar Mark, a realtor stated that government should make lands available to developers so that they would be able to build affordable houses for the benefit of the masses.

Similarly, a group called Forum of Advocates on Social Housing (FASH) called for a comprehensive Housing Provision Law that recognises housing right as a specific provision in the constitution and not just as a preamble in the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.

According to them, "Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his/her control".

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