By Jude Njoku
Festival Town popularly called Festac in Lagos and the Shagari housing schemes built all over the country, failed as a result of poor sites selection. This view was canvassed by a housing expert, Prof Timothy Nubi.
Prof Nubi who oversees the Centre for Housing Studies at the University of Lagos, Akoka, spoke to Vanguard Homes & Property at a two-day training/ workshop on Real Estate Packaging and Infrastructure financing organised by the Centre last week. The workshop was the maiden outing of the Centre which was inaugurated in January this year. Nubi posited that some private developers who invested billions of Naira into housing projects, have little or nothing to show for their efforts today, simply because they failed to do thorough feasibility studies to determine the suitability of the site chosen for such schemes.
Buttressing this assertion, the don said; “FESTAC for instance, failed right from site selection. We selected a site that is below sea level to build a town. At that time, Nigeria still had money, so they said, the waste cannot flow into the water treatment plant and we said no, we will use pump to pump it. We were using pump to pump. But when Nigeria started running into electricity problems, the pump packed up and Festac is today what it is.
Festac’s failure is right from site selection. So, a real estate development can fail if you chose a wrong location. Shagari housing schemes failed not because the houses were not good but they were built in wrong places, far outside people’s reach. You can develop your estate in a place that is too far from where people can live and nobody will buy it. So, Shagari Estate wasted”.
The Professor of Estate Management described housing education as the missing link in the quest to provide affordable housing to the millions of homeless Nigerians.
“One thing we have found out is that we have housing problems in this country and we have tried so many means and government policies but you find out that the missing link is actually housing education. Housing education is lacking. Many of the developers are doing trial and error so you find out that many of them have wasted so much money. They go into projects without really understanding what it is all about. Nigerians know so much about stocks and agriculture but we don’t know much about housing investments,” he lamented.
The Centre for Housing Studies, according to Prof Nubi, will “drive the housing sector to capacity building at different levels”.
“The people that are attending this course are investors in real estate, the are Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN members. They have invested into real estate, money running into billions of Naira. But when you see the estates, you know that they have really tried but it is almost costing them their lives because they went into it without proper training and grounding in it. That is the gap that the Centre wants to fill. We are going to train people on feasibility studies as well as site and land acquisition,” he said.
Prof Nubi make a strong case for urban regeneration. “Real estate investment is not only on new sites. Investors also invest in Makoko, Ajegunle. The Lagos State government’s project going on at Ijora Badiya today is on Ijora slum. So, this government is championing it, the developers when they see the opportunities there, will come there. It is a developer that developed Oluwole. 175 families were relocated at Shasha and Oluwole is today a very big estate,” he said.
Declaring the training open, the Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences at UNILAG, Prof K.T. Odusami enjoined the participants who were drawn from different parts of the country, not to be deterred by the myriad of challenges facing the housing sector, but to borrow a leaf from countries which have conquered such challenges.