by Peace Oluwadara, AJALA

FG to begin sale of New Housing Units Nationwide —Fashola[1]

Policy Issues: Public Goods, Economic Growth and Human Development.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has reportedly announced that the ministry would soon commence the sale of housing units built under the National Housing Programme, nationwide. According to the Minister, this would be done through an online subscription to make room for transparency and to reduce human interference in the allocation process, to the barest minimum. The Minister also noted the need for more states to play a more active role in ensuring better experience for citizens in this area. Expressed optimism as to the support of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council in driving the Ease of Doing Business (EODB), he said it would, among other things, enhance the confidence of prospective land buyers in the system.

Even Foxes have holes

“Foragers mov ed house every month, every week, and sometimes even every day, toting whatever they had on their backs… Moreover, the new agricultural tasks demanded so much time that people were forced to settle permanently next to their wheat fields. This completely changed their way of life.”[2]

The opening excerpt was culled from Chapter Five of Harari’s Sapiens, and the heading of this particular chapter seems to sum up its content. The chapter titled History’s Biggest Fraud, seems to provide a backdrop and history to the problem bedevilling many countries today, developing countries especially. According to Harari, the Agricultural Revolution brought about a need for the sapiens specie to settle, thus creating the need for houses as opposed to what obtained in the forage years. Is the problem necessarily with the fact that there became a need for houses, as people had to settle? Maybe not. As portrayed by Harari and by history, the men of the Stone Age built stone houses and granaries, storing grain for times of need. Housing was therefore not a difficult need to meet as the average man could build a stone house, easily accessing the major resource required – stones. Alongside settlement however, came the ripple effect of population explosion. In the words of the author of Sapiens, ‘population growth burned humanity’s boats’[3].

The Agricultural Revolution necessitated settlement and the latter invariably led to an exponential increase in the population of the sapiens specie from that time till date. Over the years, human population has increased so much more with Nigeria having a population of over 200 million people. Although the problem may at this point begin to seem like one that has population explosion at the core of its causality, it may only have contributed to it. A major fact that may crumble Nigeria’s potential defence of population as the reason for its high homelessness rate, is the sheer existence of the Chinese state. China, a country with a population of about 1.386 billion, has a homeless population of about 2,579,000 (per night) on the global ranking scale. Nigeria on the other hand, with only a population of about 200 million people, has statistics showing a housing deficit of 17 million units.[4] What accounts for China’s massive population, yet nearly-sufficient provision of housing for its citizens, seems a function of the country’s working system and effective institutional framework. By ‘working system’, this work in no way refers to the totalitarian nature of the Chinese government but its fundamental ideals of citizen welfare and provision of an average standard of living. This clarification is important to avert an isomorphic mimicry of the Chinese structure all in a bid to achieve similar results. It seems that until the ideals of both our leaders and the entire citizenry (potential leaders), begin to change and lean towards a fulfilment of the leadership end of the social contract bargain, no tangible shift can occur.

In addition to the prior causal or correlating variables, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has highlighted terrorism as a contributory factor to the growing housing deficit existent in Nigeria, as it has displaced thousands of people from their homes since 2014.[5] In 2017, the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) cautioned that urgent attention needs to be given to the housing shortage in the country which has made over 108 million Nigerians homeless.[6] The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has also recently put the nation’s housing shortage at 18 million, a situation that has been described as highly unhealthy for a developing country.[7]

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights compels state parties to recognize the right of citizens to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. Nigeria, by being signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), is obligated by virtue of Article 11, to take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.[8] Having voluntarily signed to be a member state to this international treaty, the Nigerian Government has taken upon itself the responsibility to recognize the right of citizens to an adequate standard of living, including housing amongst other things, and has a mandate to take steps towards the realization of this right. In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to address Nigeria’s housing issues by embarking on a mass construction project that will build 5,000 homes per year for three years.[9] Although the recent Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)[10] included an ambitious new affordable housing initiative, the Family Homes Fund (FHF), which sought to employ a public-private partnership financing scheme, the plan’s year of expiration is only months away and no plan in this regard has come to visibility.

According to the World Bank (Nigeria Affordable Housing Project) Information Document[11], demand for affordable housing in Nigeria is large and growing in the face of a sizable deficit and there is a dearth of existing interventions to support closing this gap. Asides the inadequacy of ongoing constructions annually, majority of the new housing production only seem to cater to upper income households, leaving an acute housing shortage for middle and lower income households. There therefore seems to be a great need for affordable housing in lower income households and relevant stakeholders may begin from these disadvantaged areas. With more focus on households at the bottom of the wealth pyramid, particularly in rural areas, migration to the urban areas will immensely reduce, thus de-congesting industrial cities like Lagos where the deficits are grossly felt. Better and more inclusive housing policies committed to fully grafting in low-income earners have become most pressing and the Minister for Housing’s recent step is a welcome one.

“Quality, affordable housing is a key element of a strong and a secure economy” – Thomas Vilsack.

 

[1] This article was taken from The Punch Newspaper. Available at: https://punchng.com/fg-to-begin-sale-of-new-housing-units-nationwide-fashola/. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[2] Yuval Noah Harari; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Page 42 and 73, Chapter Five, Part Two.

[3] Ibid. Page 78

[4] Motolani Alake; Homeless in Lagos: Nigerians are sleeping under the Bridge. Available at: https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/homeless-in-lagos-nigerians-are-sleeping-under-the-bridge/pt3hq82. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[5] Homeless World Cup Foundation; Homelessness Statistics. Available at: https://homelessworldcup.org/portfolio-posts/nigeria/. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[6] The Guardian Newspaper; Over 108m Nigerians are Technically Homeless. Available at: https://guardian.ng/news/over-108m-nigerians-are-technically-homeless/. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[7] Ibid.

[8] General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/cescr.pdf. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[9] Pulse Ng; President Reveals plan to build 1 million houses every year. Available at: https://www.pulse.ng/news/muhammadu-buhari-president-reveals-plan-to-build-1-million-houses-every-year/p7639lr. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.

[10] The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020).

[11] The World Bank; Nigeria Affordable Housing Project Information Document. Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/278041531299329812/pdf/Concept-Project-Information-Document-Integrated-Safeguards-Data-Sheet-Nigeria-Affordable-Housing-Project-P165296.pdf. Date Accessed: 31/10/2019.