Nigeria, with an estimated population of nearly 200 million, has about 108 million of this population without homes. This is not only alarming, but also frightening. The country’s present housing deficit is estimated at a staggering 20million units, requiring about N59.5 trillion to finance.
The World Bank recommends that Nigeria builds at least 700,000 housing units annually to keep up with growing population and urban migration. Unfortunately, the country barely builds 100,000 of such units per year.
Over the years, successive governments in the country have come up with fantastic housing development policies and programmes, including the creation of the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, but the challenge has remained intractable owing, essentially, to lack of political will on the part of government to frontally address the issue.
Apart from being a basic need of life, housing is a right of every citizen. It is one of the three necessities of life. Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory clearly states, among others, that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services.”
Curiously, many Nigerians are denied this right to standard housing. It is a common sight to see some Nigerians living under bridges, dilapidated or uncompleted buildings exposed to harsh weather conditions, mosquitoes and other elements that make them susceptible to diseases.
This is dehumanising and unacceptable in a country with the kind of resources Nigeria has. Good housing is necessary for good health and sanitation. It goes a long way in raising the living standard of the people.
It was the great former South African president, Nelson Mandela who wrote in one of his books, ‘A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.”
The rate of home ownership in Nigeria is reportedly the lowest in Africa at 25 per cent. Available statistics show that other developing countries such as Singapore with 90 per cent, Indonesia, with 84 per cent, Kenya, with 73 per cent, Benin Republic, with 63 per cent and South Africa, with 56 per cent are doing far much better than Nigeria.
One of the factors militating against mass housing for Nigerians is the lack of an adequate mortgage finance system. Housing statistics show that Nigeria’s mortgage finance industry (as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) is gravely low at 0.5 per cent when compared with other countries such as UK (80 per cent), US (77 per cent), South Africa (31 per cent), and Ghana (2 per cent). Sadly enough, housing and construction sector accounted for only 3.1 per cent of Nigeria’s rebased GDP in May 2016.
The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), which is responsible for the provision of mortgages to low-income earners through the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), has operational and financial capability restraints that limit its efficiency. Stakeholders have at different fora called for the recapitalisation of the bank to enable it provide enough funds for lending to the primary mortgage banks. Currently, the prime lending rate in the banking sector remains as high as 17.5 per cent and it is almost impossible to use such funds for housing development.
We recognise the efforts the present administration is making to address this all important sector of our national life, but we also believe the government would achieve more if it creates an enabling environment for the private sector to operate.
The government should also ensure that bank loans for housing are brought down to single digit, with longer tenors. Government should also prioritise the construction of affordable housing units for the masses. Most of the current housing schemes in the country are designed for affluent Nigerians who can pay deposits running into millions of naira. There is the need to embrace the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in solving this problem.
To increase housing stock in Nigeria, there is the need to incorporate affordable housing delivery scheme into the formulation and implementation of housing policies and programmes, which should not be the exclusive preserve of the federal government to the exclusion of governments at both state local government levels.
There is a need, now, to reach out and effectively involve the people and governments at grassroots levels in the formulation of housing policies.
It is necessary that housing must be considered as a personal service and as such, the primary responsibility of housing should not be left to the people themselves who should be assisted in some ways in order to realise their aspirations for self-actualisation of owning individual houses.
Morocco provides a concrete example of how restructuring the relationship between the state, the private sector, and the community can accelerate progress in easing the housing crisis.
The strong political will demonstrated by the Ethiopian government in its Integrated Housing Development Programme is another notable example. The starting point for government support should focus on creating an enabling environment that induces private agents and nongovernmental organisations to build and finance housing acquisition for all household segments, especially low- and middle-income families.
In most of the urban cities in the country, especially Abuja, there are thousands of empty houses unoccupied because of high rents, government should find a way of forcing the owners to put them up for rent by increasing the taxes on unoccupied buildings.