By Yinka Kolawole
THE authenticity of the 17 million housing units deficit figure in Nigeria being bandied about is in doubt, not being backed up by any proven data, Prof Mohammed Al-Amin, Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) has said.
Al-Amin stated this during a visit to the UN-HABITAT Programme Office in Abuja, where he was received by its Programme Officer, Mr. Kabir Yari. He noted that though an attempt was made to incorporate a housing census into the 2006 national headcount, the data obtained from the exercise was unreliable. He attributed the failure to defective nature of the tool designed for it. For instance, he noted, enumerators were only trained on how to capture data on individuals and not housing units.
The lack of reliable housing data, he noted, had hamstrung proper planning and called for concerted efforts to address the situation.
The FHA boss explained that the organisation is in touch with the National Population Commission (NPC), which he disclosed has indicated that it would embark on a proper housing count during the next population census. He, therefore, urged the UN-HABITAT to make its expertise available to ensure the success of the exercise.
He declared the readiness of FHA to work with other agencies on the development of a national housing profile for the country to tackle the unreliability of the country’s housing statistics. Al-Amin said the FHA was keen to participate in the implementation of the resolutions of the just concluded Habitat III- the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development held in Quito, Ecuador.
He regretted that Nigeria had not been taking advantage of platforms opened to it by international organisations, adding that FHA was poised to participate in the follow-up to Habitat III at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. In addition, he said FHA was eager to work with the United Nations’ agency on critical housing issues, such as slum development and the rising housing deficit in the country to improve the quality of urban life.
In his response, Yari noted that the UN-HABITAT had helped many nations to develop their housing policies but expressed regret that monitoring and implementation had been the bane of policies in Nigeria. According to him, a nation should be able to project into how many houses it needs for its populace in the short, medium and long term with available statistics.
The UN-HABITAT official said his agency and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had projected that the global population of urban dwellers would rise to three billion by 2050. He said in view of that projection, it was important for policy makers to be on guard to ensure the availability of adequate waste disposal facilities and sustainable use of resources.
He noted that low income earners who formed the bulk of the housing need base got their housing mostly from the informal sector which, according to him, is characterised by acute lack of infrastructure. He asserted that if nations could get it right with pro-poor housing, they would reach the majority of those who needed housing. According to him, though the UN-HABITAT was not a funding agency, he promised to provide technical assistance to the FHA in the execution of its programmes.