The minister of power, works and housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed that the built environment was not dominated by expatriates as against popular notion that foreign nationals like Togolese and other West African citizens have taken over activities in the sector.
He stated this in Ilorin, Kwara State at the 5th National Council on Land, Housing and Urban Development organised by the ministry in collaboration with Kwara State government with the theme: “Building Adequate Capacity of Professionals, Artisans and Tradesmen in the Built Environment.”
According to him, “There may be artisans from foreign West African countries on our construction sites not because we are unable but partly because our economy is bigger than their own and they come to seek for inclusion and opportunity in the sub-region beyond the shores of their country.”
He said Nigeria was signatory to treaty of free movement in the ECOWAS sub-region, which he linked to the presence of foreign artisans into Nigeria.
“It is also partly because we are focused more on other sectors such as banking, oil and gas as well as telecoms and that is why you will see that in Gambia, out of 12 twelve banks, eleven are Nigerian, which does not mean that Gambians cannot bank,” he added.
The minister said if Nigeria must dominate the built environment that it must be actively involved in training, stressing the need to promote economic opportunity by budgeting for capital spending and utilising homegrown and homemade materials.
“Why should anybody want to spend his time being an engineer or artisan when government has been spending less than 10 per cent of the public purse on capital projects? Why will people not go and ride motorcycles, or look for oil and kerosene supply allocations, when construction companies have been owed for work done since 2014.Why will our artisans want to build when construction of houses is not an on-going and yearly exercise,” he asked.
The minister acknowledged that government was building roads, schools and bridges but inquired the number of houses that were constructed across the 36 states at a time when Nigeria earned more dollars from petrol.
He said given the reduction in price of petrol that states should spend more on housing construction even as he recalled that Empire State Building, New York comprising a 102-storey building was built at the time of the United States great economic depression by 3,400 in only 13 months.
“With limited resources, the administration has chosen roads that connect states, roads that evacuate goods from sea and airports, roads that transport agricultural produce and roads that bear very heavy traffic,” he explained.
Fashola listed the selected roads as Sokoto-Kotangora-Makera highway, Kano-Maiduguri, Jebba-Ilorin- Bode-Sadu, Ogbomoso- Oyo; Lagos- Ibadan; Loko- Oweto, 2nd Niger Bridge and Enugu- Port Harcourt roads.
“Federal government has committed to spend more in spite of earning less in order to provide inclusion and create jobs but I must also advise that inclusion and employment will not happen if Nigerians abdicate the responsibility to foreigners or for building or even prefer foreign goods to locally- made ones,” he concluded.