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Beyond Reducing Housing Deficit

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Efforts by the government to reduce the challenge of housing deficit may have been yielding positive results but how much attention is given to the quality of job is still an issue to be addressed, EMAMEH GABRIEL writes

With an estimated population of 180 million, the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria, has continued to battle with the challenge of addressing its housing deficit in the last decades.

Successive governments in the country had in the past designed several policy frameworks to address this challenge. Unfortunately, such policies failed due to poor planning and implementation and especially the lack of the political will to channel adequate resources to the housing sector.

With the ever exploding population, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2017 pegged the nation’s housing deficit at about 17 million units. This, by carefully selected statistics, means there are about 85 million Nigerians desperately in need of decent accommodation. This accounts for over 50 per cent of the nation’s population.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2016 disclosed that the Nigeria required one million housing units annually to reduce its current housing deficit in order to avert housing crisis in 2020.

Consequently, the current administration had in the last three years placed premium on infrastructural development in the country and the housing sector has continued to receive greater attention from the government to reduce the gap in housing deficit in the country.

The government had in this period so far invested well over N200m in the housing sector with N35 billion marked in the 2018 budget. With this, it is clear that the Buhari administration’s infrastructure renewal policy is achieving the envisaged purpose of boosting socio-economic development for which it was formulated.

This is outside other billions devoted to the housing sector through the government social intervention programme.

However, there is the need to look beyond reducing the nation’s housing deficit as questions have been raised over the quality of jobs carried out and facilities provided by some contractors handling the Federal Government’s housing scheme in some states.

Recall that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while on a recent inspection tour in one of the federal housing projects in Birnin Kebbi condemned the quality of work done by contractors handling the project, saying the project failed to meet the specific terms of agreement between the government and the contractors.

Fashola had warned that the Federal Government would not accept the project if it was not carried out within specifications. He had also observed that most of the roofing of the bungalows in the Federal Housing Estate and road’s culverts were not done properly.

“The roofing is not standard and road culverts are not properly done. They have to reconstruct some of these buildings because we cannot accept them; their roofs are not well constructed,” he said.

“The government has overcome the challenges of funding but is now faced with the challenge of getting the project done in compliance with contractual agreement. With all clear intention, we cannot do the work, we have to entrust the contractors to do the work for us hence they should do it according to the agreement”, the minister had warned.

While subscribers of some of the Federal Government’s housing estate have continued to commend the Buhari led-administration for its commitment to providing affordable housing for them, contractors have been criticised for not meeting with the terms of agreement with the government.

In a few weeks from now Fashola would be commissioning the Walidah Federal Housing Estate, Ungwan Jarme, Keffi, Nassarawa State. Speaking with WEEKEND LEADERSHIP, some of the beneficiaries said the government had done well by keeping to its promise on the provision of housing for the common man. They described the development as commendable but the contractors had failed to put up the necessary infrastructure required in the estate.

Shehu Danjuma, one of the residents of the estate and chairman of the Resident Association of Walidah Federal Housing Estate, said initially it was acceptable that when you subscribed to some of these things, you didn’t basically expect to get fully what you desired from them but as time went on they wanted to believe that there were one or two amendments that could be made just to ensure that some of these projects were worth it.

He said there was no need denying the fact that they were enjoying the facilities for now but there were still challenges they felt that by the time the government got to know about, they would help them out.

‘‘One of our major problems right now is the access road from the express way leading to the estate. The road is not tarred, though the developers tried to do that, their efforts failed due to one reason or the other. We have complained at our meetings and have pleaded to them to find a solution to it,’’ he said.

‘‘If you look at it too from the major roads down to the estate, the drainages are not there and because the drainages are not there, these villagers settled along the entrance to the estate, dump refuses on the small part which is supposed to be water run-ways. Because of this, the road is exposed to gully. We would be grateful if the government can come to our aide.

‘‘Before we came in, we were made to believe that all these things were inclusive in the developers’ plan. The developers made us believe that all these things would be taken care of but as it are right now, it is a different story and very soon they are going to be commissioning the estate,” revealed Dajuma.

Suleiman Muazu, a civil servant and resident, said aside access road to the estate, water is another serious challenge giving them serious concern.

‘‘I was expecting them by now to have made provision for a borehole in the estate. We have 100 housing units in this estate but the only borehole they built is not serving us well. In a day, they pump water for less than twenty minutes. I can only get 120 litres in a day for a family of five, he lamented.

Stone Musa I, also a civil servant, said the effort of the government was really commendable ‘‘for trying to see that the common man owns a home of his own. I am comfortable with the design but for the construction itself, I will give them 75 per cent because some of the things I was expecting to see are not in the buildings.”

He said, “Most of the tilling works were done by them with the exemption of the kitchen and toilet. The mechanical works are very poor.”

Musa said he could only hold the developers responsible for the lapses because of what they were made to believe before subscribing.

Like Fashola had observed in Kebbi, Musa said, ‘‘The burglaries, doors and windows are not good enough. The internal road facilities are very poor and if you go round you will see that the drainages are already falling apart because the construction method is very poor.’’

On security, he said even if they had yet to record any security threat, ‘‘the place is not secured because the fencing work around the estate is not completed.”

On cost of subscription, he revealed that the cost was on the high side compared to the quality of job on ground for them, calling on the government to find a way to further subsidise the cost due to the current economic situation in the country.

Retson Tedheke, a farmer, said he saw a concept that he loved when he first visited the estate because of its serenity. Security wise, he said, ‘‘what we have on ground is not as viable as what should be in a place like this. I will say, the place is not that secured yet. Not all the fences are with barbwires. We have a central entry point that needs to be beefed up properly. We need a better lightening system and a central alarm system.   

‘‘Water is a major crisis in the estate,” observed Mr Tedheke who called on the minister to ‘‘either provide more supports for the developers to do something about the lapses or ask them to make provision for that if it is within their mandate.’’

Despite the efforts and commitment on the part of the government to provide affordable housing for its citizens, it is evident in most cases that sustainable housing is, however, yet to gain its due prominence in developing countries like Nigeria experts have said.

It is often difficult to see that the social, cultural, environmental and economic facets of housing addressed is integrated in most government housing policy.

National housing policies need to be closely monitored and harmonised with other development aspects such as economic, social and environmental interests. For instance, beyond the mere provision of shelter, housing projects have to be understood as playing an active role in boosting security and improving human development in areas where they are cited.

Real estate experts have said the problem that affected the previous approach still exits and they have not been addressed even though the approach has changed.

Pascal who is the initiator of the Build For Nigeria project, currently champion by the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigeria told LEADERSHIP Weekend in an exclusive interview that, apart from affordability on the part of would-be subscribers, funding was another issue.

He said, if the government wanted to move from one approach to another, they must identify why previous housing policies failed.

“The government is no longer providing and they said the private sector should come and assist whereas the issues that led to the failure of recent housing policies remained unaddressed with the assumption that the private sectors have all it takes to fund such projects. So they signed in MoU, Developer Leas Agreement and nobody cares where they get there funding from.

’’Unfortunately, apart from the double digit interest rate (27 per cent interest rate) the commercial banks cannot fund long term loans because they don’t have specialised development funds to do that. What they have is the demand deposit which is short-term fund. So they take this funding and they build in the cost of that. Then such housing is no longer for the lower-income earner.”

On his part, Engineer Kingsley Ezemoh said it was good that the government was now taking steps to identify these lapses but the blame must not be shifted sorely on contractors.

He said in the past there were cases where people around government influenced some of these contracts to developers they were familiar with and the result was some of the things observed now.

‘‘I am glad that Fashola is really putting contractors on their toes to get value for what was paid for but the issue still remains the ability of the government to identify such defaulters and sanction them to serve as deterrent to others.

‘‘Things have changed from the past; it is no longer business as usual. The government is really investing on the housing sector but it should as well be ready to inject more funds and monitor closely all of these projects to prevent any form of defaults along the line, he advised.

‘‘Those always at the receiving end are the subscribers who will have to begin to change some of these substandard materials used in building with their own money. That is not encouraging for particularly low income earners who most often have to pay through their nose to buy a unit of house,” he added.

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