Viewpoint

December 22, 2020

The Imperatives of SDGs: Prognoses and Remedies for Housing Deficit in Nigeria

New executive officers emerge in REDAN South-West zone states

By Debo Oladimeji

This report aims to look at the problems in the housing sector in Nigeria and the solutions.  It is in my opinion that we should take a cue from declarations by the United Nations on Housing and such other development initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 3, 6, 11 and the rest that set targets for minimum development requirements within a given period to solve the problem of housing deficit in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s population is currently put at about 194 million people, while the United Nations estimates that the figure will rise to 400 million by 2050.  By that estimate, Nigeria will be the most populous country in the world after China and India.

However, available data put Nigeria’s housing deficit at 22 million. Aware of the consequences of the fast-growing population in the housing sector, various governments had put measures in place to address the housing challenge.

The measures and policies included-enactment of the Land Use Act of 1978, Mortgage Institutions Act, 1989, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Act, 1990, National Urban Development Policy, 1997, Housing and Urban Development Policy, 2002, among others. In spite of the numerous policies on housing, not much has been achieved.

One of the problems in the housing sector is that of affordability by Nigerians. Most of the houses for let are beyond the reach of average citizens.

The high number of unoccupied houses in Abuja and Lagos is gradually becoming a cause for concern, especially as many residents cannot afford the rent.

Inaccessibility of land has been a major hindrance to Nigerians having their own houses. In some places in Abuja and Lagos, the cost of buying a land is much more than building a house. Many Nigerians cannot afford to build houses due to their meagre earnings.

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The cost of construction in Nigeria is high.  A bag of cement was sold for N150 in 1987. A bag of cement was sold for N2,300 before the government intervened in 2011 and the price dropped to N1,950.

Today a bag of cement is sold for N3,600. The prices for other building materials had equally doubled if not tripled, making it difficult for many people to build a house of their own.

Lack of a well-defined cooperative society is another factor responsible for the housing crisis in Nigeria. Here in Nigeria we are more into agric cooperative. We don’t have a structure for cooperative housing yet.

We also have the problem of poor infrastructure. In most villages and cities the basic amenities like good roads, potable water, health facilities, etc are either lacking or not functional. It is no longer news that in Nigeria, every home and corporate organisation is like a government, providing all the basic facilities it needs to function optimally.

Inconsistency in government policy is another concern.  The ongoing National Housing Programme is a new housing policy conceived by the present administration with the aim of providing affordable houses for Nigerians.

However, the Federal Government is yet to settle those people who paid for the Federal Government low cost housing schemes since 1994.

Another area that lacked government’s attention over the years is on adequate data of the housing population. Lack of adequate data for planning was discovered during the covid-19 lockdown.  That impeded the government’s effort in distributing economic stimulus, which comes in form of food packs during the pandemic.

We also have the problem of omoonile (land grabbers).  The problem people have with buying land has to do with the nature of Land Use Act in Nigeria.  In 1978 when the Land Use Act was promulgated, it was illegal to sell or buy land. So where does omoonile come in? Both the buyers and the sellers are doing illegal thing, because, according to the Land Use Act, selling of land should be the business of the government.

Many Nigerians are having issues with supply of prepaid meters, which will make the people enjoy right billing of electricity.  Another issue is that of transformers. Most communities are now finding it difficult to replace their old transformers with new ones.

There is also the problem of forced evictions by the government. Recently the civil servants living in 1004 and other Federal Government Estates in Lagos were evicted from their houses. The 1004 Estate was sold to the high and the mighty in the society after the civil servants were evicted from their houses.

There was also the case of the residents of Maroko that were chased out of their houses by the military government and their land was forcefully taken over. The place that the government claimed that was a slum then is today a cynosure of all eyes. Since the people of Maroko were evicted from their houses most of them have been living in slums.

They don’t have access to social distancing and potable water to flatten the curve of covid-19 pandemic. This is against the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

In Nigeria today, there is really not a mortgage finance industry. Where they exist, their effect has been minimally felt with the few mortgage institutions undertaking almost purely commercial banking activities. This unfortunate situation has been aggravated by the fact that financial institutions operating in Nigeria do not have access to long-term funds.

Most estimates suggest that only around 20 per cent participate in informal banking sector, with the remaining 80 per cent dealing almost entirely in cash. With this in mind, much of the population is ineligible for loans of any kind, as it is impossible for financial institutions to confirm creditworthiness due to a lack of history.

If Nigeria must solve its housing deficit issues, it must look at the issues holistically and develop concrete plans that will address basic needs that will promote equal growth in all its urban locations.

To start with and most critical of all in remedying the situation is the need for the government to fund a proper census that would address the various types of accommodation currently available nationwide. The results should then be harmonized with the current population census with a proper stratification of the various age groups and their numbers.

The Land Use Decree should be reviewed to make it in consonance with the times. Land titling should be made affordable like it is the practice in the developed economies. Nigerians paying 15 percent of the cost of land is very disheartening.

Addressing the housing deficit must go hand-in-hand with the promotion of the use of local building materials and technology.  There is need to continually bring to the fore, trends, technologies, systems, and policy issues that impact on the building industry’s intervention and responses to everyday living.

With Over 3,000 Housing Estates in Abuja, deficit still reaches nearly two million.

Consequently, many people have to seek more affordable accommodation in the outskirts of the city. The solution to the vacant houses is for the government to provide more affordable houses for the people. Housing being one of the basic needs of man, government should not see investments in this sector from the profit motive only. Governments should view the returns more from the positive social impact of developments.

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There is need for a robust savings schemes through cooperative society to ensure inclusive growth and development in the housing sector.  We must save for the raining day and the system in saving and credit is that whatever you have saved would be given to you double the amount.

Other solutions are: Research and Development in association with local manufacturers. There is also the need for the government to fast-track the development of infrastructure in the satellite towns to check the high cost of accommodation in Nigeria.

Policy inconsistency is unhealthy for the growth of any country’s housing sector. The Federal Government should adopt strategies that developed nations had used to optimally provide accommodation for their citizens.

Also crucial is the need for an urgent passage of several bills in the housing sector that have been lying dormant in the National Assembly for years.

It is also the time the government to take to the advice of the United Nations (UN). Due to the housing deficit in Nigeria, a UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Adequate Housing, Leilana Farha advised the Nigerian Government to start taxing vacant houses in the country.

These monies can be ploughed back into the construction of decent and affordable homes for Nigerians to buy. The government should also tackle the issue of corruption head-on.

Where evictions become inevitable, it should be carried out in consultation with the affected communities with provision of an alternative relocation.

Oladimeji wrote in from Lagos.

Vanguard News Nigeria