By Kenechukwu Obiezu

TO decorate man’s often difficult journey through life a bit, to dip what often proves a devastating journey into some dignity, food, shelter and clothing have historically been recognised as irreducibly relevant.

However, it has long been ironic that it is precisely that which is of central importance to the well-being of people that is so often lacking. This is incontestable when the staggering number of people sorely lacking the basics of human existence are taken into consideration.

Without roofs, without respite: With the rainy season gradually setting in in Nigeria, and bringing with it all the anxieties the season is known for, the vulnerabilities of those who lack adequate shelter are about to be brutally highlighted and exploited. In Nigeria, that time of the year when entire families are forced to spend dark, mosquito-infested nights outside while the rains lash them, exposing children to all manner of ailments, is again at hand.

In overcrowded cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, among others, poor urban planning and poor flood preparation to tackle flooding will leave children and their families in danger of being swept away when the angry storms come surging.

A homeless world: Perhaps, more than any other human predicament, it is homelessness that paints the most despairing of pictures: of people who have no where to retire to after the wear and tear of the day takes its toll on them; of people who because they have nowhere to retire to, and have their dignity and privacy guaranteed and protected, have to camp outside, wherever, fully exposed to the elements and   the other horrors that haunt the night.

It is estimated that about two per cent of the world‘s population is homeless. It does not sound much at first until just a little prodding reveals that it translates to about 154 million people living on the street, in temporary dwellings, at refugee camps and in other transitory and often dangerous conditions. Aside from these homelessness statistics, another billion people currently live without adequate shelter and by 2050, it is believed that the number will reach close to three billion.

Unfortunately, the Giant of Africa contributes a large chunk to the global estimates of homeless persons. It has been estimated that about 85 per cent of Nigeria‘s urban population live in single rooms often with eight to 12 persons per room. Approximately 24. Four  million homeless people live in Nigeria with forced evictions exacerbating the problem. Natural disasters as well as terrorism which uproot people from their settlement have also been known to compound the problem.

UN-Habitat and a fundamental right to adequate housing for all: To create a world that breathes equality, it is fundamental to recognise that everyone has a fundamental right to adequate housing. From its inception, promoting the realisation of the right to adequate housing for all as a transformative force that can lead the world to overcome challenges related to poverty, exclusion, inequality and positively influence cities to embark on a path to inclusive, planned and sustainable urbanisation has been at the centre of the work of UN-Habitat. The body is realising this through a number of measures.

How Nigeria is tackling the problem: In spite of a ruinous raft of official denials by government officials that there is no housing deficit in Nigeria, and the stark ubiquity of empty houses in the Federal Capital Territory which is one of the many faces of Nigeria‘s housing problems, Nigeria has in place a number of measures to tackle the housing crises.

There is a National Housing Fund established pursuant to the National Housing Fund Act of 2004 with the main goal of allocation of funds for the provision of affordable housing for Nigerians, especially low-income Nigerians. Primarily, the fund allows a contributor to access a loan for the building, purchasing, or renovation for residential accommodation.

Another of such initiatives is the Family Homes Funds Limited, FHFL. The company was registered in 2017 and commenced operations in 2018 as sub-Saharan Africa‘s largest housing fund focused on affordable homes for Nigerians on low income. It is an initiative promoted by the Federal Government of Nigeria as part of its Social Intervention Programme with initial shareholding by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Sovereign investment authority.

The vision of the Family Homes Funds Limited, FHFL, is to use housing to improve the living standards of Nigerians on low income by building quality homes and providing home ownership financing solutions and creating jobs through the process.

A crisis for children: Homelessness in Nigeria is indeed a harrowing problem which disproportionately affects children, leaving a staggering number of them out on the streets where they quickly constitute problems to the society. As long as a considerable number of Nigerians do not have decent and dignified accommodations to rest in at the end of each grueling day, Nigeria can expect many of its problems to continue.

Obiezu, a public affairs commentator, wrote via: [email protected]

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