That Nigeria is in the grip of its worst economic crisis in decades is no longer in doubt. A combination of oil price fall at international market, devaluation of the Naira and rising inflation have cast a cloud of uncertainty in the nation’s economy.
In the face of present reality, many investors and individuals have adopted what has been tagged ‘watch , wait and see’ attitude to investments, especially in the housing sector.
The irony of the situation is that despite the challenges in the economy, the nation’s economy, the country’s population keeps growing, soaring the housing deficit which had long been pegged over 17 million.
Unfortunately, the price cement, a staple construction material in building of homes was recently increased by about 44 percent in Nigeria.
Stakeholders have expressed concern over the sharp increase in the retail price of cement, saying that it would compound the housing deficit in the country, if not checked.
LEADERSHIP check showed that many individuals who were building houses, suddenly suspended work as soon as the new price regime came into effect.
A major cement dealer at Ojodu Berger area of Lagos State told our correspondent that the hike would negatively affect the building industry, saying the new price would make it difficult for many Nigerians to build their own houses.
He said, “This is a very sad development. There is no one that is happy about this development. We selling the product are deeply worried over the sharp increase in the price of cement. With the price hike, our sales have dipped. Nobody ask us what we are selling, we just come here and whether we sell or not we must eat and feed our families. We the dealers are the worst-hit and if care is not taken many of many of us might soon go out of business.”
In the same vein Moulders of blocks in Nigeria piqued by the sudden hike in cement price have also raised the prices of blocks by between 11 per cent and over 30 per cent, following the recent increase in the prices of cement.
The moulders who had suspended operation to protest the latest increase in the prices of cement, granite and other construction materials had also come up with a new price regime pending when the prices of cement and other moulding materials are reversed.
According to the President, National Association of Block Moulders of Nigeria, Alhaji Rasco Adebowale with the new price regime, the 6x9x18 load-bearing blocks would sell for N220 per unit, accounting for a 37.5 per cent increase over the previous price of N160.
He said, the 9x9x18 load-bearing blocks will sell for N250 per unit, up from N220, while the 6x9x18 and 9x9x18 non-load bearing blocks will sell for N200 and N180, up from N180 and N160 per unit, respectively.
Professionals are not also comfortable with the development as the former President of Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Mr. Moses Ogunleye, pointed out that the development will affect building production process in the country.
According to him, the number of housing units that can be delivered to Nigerians will be depleted despite the fact that the country already has a grossly understated housing deficit put at 17 million, saying the current cement price hike will frustrate efforts at bridging the gap.
Ogunleye noted that the increase could be a reaction to the general increase in price of goods and services caused by the challenge of sourcing Foreign Exchange (forex), adding that the rising cost of production caused by lack of infrastructure, particularly power supply may have become too heavy a burden for cement manufacturers to bear.
He said the much expected improvement in electricity supply by the power generation and distribution companies is yet to come the way of industrialists including cement manufacturers.
Corroborating him, the Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) , Builder Kunle Awobodu, said: “This is going to create crisis in the construction sector and bad blood between clients and contractors, as developers will make claims for fluctuations.
“Invariably, it will lead to upward reviews of contract sums. New and on-going projects will be delayed until there is agreement on the contract variations. It can also expedite construction activities because of the anticipation of further increase.”
Now that the country is at the cross roads, experts are of the view that it is high time the nation adopted creative and innovative ways of building its homes.
A frontline structural engineer, Elder Rufus Bambola Akinrolabu, said the way out of the wood is to look at alternative building materials, saying “The adaptation and use of locally sourced building materials and components is not a reason good enough to bring down the cost of a house.”
He explained that factors such as good and economic building; design; efficient production systems; competitive pricing of input; site production of most components of building; good construction management; adoption of tested cost-saving technologies of building that can reduce the cost of the foundation work; walling and wall finish; flooring and floor paving works, roof cladding and roofing structure are jointly capable of drastically bringing down costs of building a house.
Akinrolabu posited that, “Talking about site production of most components of building and adoption of tested cost-saving technologies in building, my innovation comes handy and this is building with local materials as alternative to the conventional ways of building.”
The difference he explained is that while the conventional way is when blocks are made from cement and laid with same, saying with the alternative, which has laterite soil as the main component is also used to make bricks, except in cases where cement are used to stabilise the bricks.
As the nation mulls policy to may bid farewell to mud houses, he added that the method is cheaper and more economical, pointing out that, “Laterite soil, the main material used in making bricks, is often cheaply found in any market centre in Nigeria. Houses built with laterite soil are durable, aesthetically pleasant, cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. And the production technique is easy to learn and be produced on the building site using cheaper local labour.”
Akinrolabu said with a budget as low as N2.5 million one can build a modest house in the city suburb, informing that, “If you must build a house with between N2.5million and N3million, you must know that you can’t acquire land in the city. You have to go to the outskirts where you can get a plot of land or half for between N300, 000 and N500, 000.
“For a two-bedroom flat consisting a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, store, toilet and bathroom, Akinrolabu estimated that the foundation would require about 40 bags of cement, four loads of granite, three loads of sharp sand and about 420 pieces of nine-inch sandcrete blocks at a cost of about N400,000.
“A unit of two-bedroom house, including preliminary work, foundation, lintel, beams and columns, doors, windows and lock fixing, plastering, painting, electrical works, plumbing and sanitary wares will cost about N2.8million.”
To those that care to listen and have a roof over their heads, he said, “I use laterite in my building projects and I recommend it to whoever wants to save cost in building his house. The number of those who sleep under bridges is swelling. Those who are tenants, for sure, far outnumber those who are landlords. Even some tenants, one way or the other, find themselves homeless at some point. It is either that the landlord has evicted them, or that their building has collapsed.”