CHIKA OKEKE writes that the shortage of skilled artisans in the building and construction sector is a major factor impeding housing development in the country.
When Mrs. Dominica Amuta wanted to rent a two-bedroom apartment in federal housing estate Lugbe, her decision was to move into the house as soon as possible. Her hopes were dashed as she discovered that the apartment needed serious renovation, which the agency firm promised to do after payment.
She was given three weeks timeframe for the renovation and other necessary repairs, after which she would move into the apartment. Amuta was dazed to discover that the renovation was hapzardly carried out and that she needed to do additional repairs before moving into the apartment.
She told LEADERSHIP that she spent additional N100, 000 to fix the apartment, which would have been averted if the artisans that renovated the apartment did a perfect work. The mother of two, noted that despite pleas to deduct the monies spent on the additional repairs when renewing her tenancy, the agency firm declined.
Amuta’s quagmire was synonymous with tales of over a million residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who are either hoodwinked or duped of their hard-earned resources in search of shelter.
Interestingly, the construction and building sectors are crucial to the growth of any economy whether in developed or developing countries. While the housing sector in the United States contributed 36 percent to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), South Africa had 30 percent but in Nigeria, its 5 percent.
This is because, Nigeria’s building sector is confronted with enormous pitfalls such as unskilled manpower, difficulties in land acquisition, incessant building collapse due to use of substandard materials, delay in government’s consent, absence of long-term finance, bogus interest rate and among others.
These problems are believed to have ignited the over 17 million housing deficit, over-bloated cost of rents, increased slum settlements, use of crude materials in construction and building, completed and vacant buildings across the major cities in Nigeria.
Notwithstanding, not less than five to 10 million skilled workers comprising of masons, carpenters, steel fabricators, plumbers, electricians, tillers, painters and among others would be needed to build at least one million housing units annually in the next 20 years.
Regrettably, Nigeria with over 180 million population has been challenged in the provision of mass and affordable housing for the informal sector, civil servants and low income earners who constitute over 80 percent of the population.
Given the dearth of skilled workers in the built sector, jobs hitherto meant for Nigerians were hijacked by expatriates while leaving the indigenous artisans in abject poverty.
Due to the role of skilled workers towards the socio-economic development of Nigeria, J. Hausen Limited, a real estate development firm embarked on Construction Skills Training and Empowerment (C-STEmp) for the artisans.
The C-STEmp designed an accelerated skills development programme meant to prepare beneficiaries for employment as skilled workers, independent labour contractors and entrepreneurs in the sector.
It was also intended to enhance employability, improve productivity and stem the influx of artisans as well as craftsmen into the country with a view to training, assessing, certifying and registering construction artisans in line with the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) framework.
To this end, experts advocated holistic skills acquisition training in the built sector in order to reposition artisans in line with international best practices. The Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) was established to regulate and control the building profession.
The registrar of CORBON, Mr Peter Kuroshi stated that the council received series of complaints from subscribers who berated the quality of houses built by developers, noting that such subscribers had spent almost half of the amount used in purchasing the house to make it habitable. He lamented the spate of substandard buildings in Nigeria especially in Abuja.
Kuroshi hinted that the council is seeking alternative means of improving the quality of building across the states even as he emphasised that utilising the services of quacks in construction were the rationale behind building collapse in the country. The registrar maintained that the essence of registering and licensing of artisans and craftsmen was to enhance the visibility of the built sector.
He pointed out that the National building code clearly stipulated that the supervision and regulation of artisans and craftsmen on building site is the responsibility of CORBON, adding that the registration would enable them to closely monitor their activities and improve on their job.
Kuroshi disclosed that the licensing is an identity card that would contain the artisans and craftsmen biometric data including their area of specialty, noting that it was part of the measures instituted by CORBON to monitor substandard buildings.
He pleaded with subscribers to request for CORBON’s license issued to artisans and craftsmen when engaging their services in the future so as to ascertain if they are dealing with a registered member of the council.
Lending his voice, the author of ‘Handbook of Skill Acquisition Training and Empowerment Programmes’, Dr. Benjamin Onoriode Irikefe stated that holistic skill acquisition training and empowerment programme should comprise of four components such as vocation specific training; soft and life skills training; entrepreneurship development training; and post-training empowerment.
He suggested that starter packs should be provided and made available to trainees before they exit their training camps even as vocational and technical education should be taught alongside and within conventional academic curriculums so that graduates would be equipped with vocation specific trades.
The author noted that graduates enskillment programmes should be prioritized in order to assist graduates of tertiary institutions unlock their creative and vocational potentials while operationalisation and reporting templates are needed for effective and successful training programmes.
The federal government has joined forces with stakeholders in the construction, research, standardisation and building materials sector to harmonise the quality of materials in order to avert incidences of building collapse.
The minister of power, works & housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola said that the ministry is currently reviewing the curriculum of centres for the training of artisans, which he described as a sure strategy towards the delivery of quality and durable houses.
He asserted that the ministry has commenced the pilot phase of National Housing Programme (NHP) in 34 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with the exemption of Lagos and Rivers states whose governors failed to donate land for the project. Stating that not less than 1,000 people are currently employed on each site apart from the staff of the contractors.
He described the housing sites as an ecosystem of human enterprise, where artisans, vendors, suppliers and craftsmen converge to partake of opportunities and contribute to nation building.
Fashola disclosed that the ministry is also tackling the backlog of issuance of consent and Certificates of Occupancy to federal government land, stressing that a total of 1,216 application for consent to transfer interests in land application and 1,300 certificates of occupancy have been approved and signed respectively as at 25th October 2018.
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