Nigeria has the potential to house all its citizens at 61, going by the presence of abundant natural and human resources, but due to failure of leadership, many of the citizens are without a roof over their heads, while some others live in slums and unhealthy environments.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune when interviewed at the weekend, most of the built environment experts chorused leadership failure as a major factor responsible for the nation’s housing and infrastructure woes since independence.
According to the United Nations’ (UN) estimates, Nigeria has over 17 million housing deficit, and would require over N59.5 trillion to bridge the gap at N3.5 million per housing unit.
Taking a critical look at the Nigerian housing sector, former President of the Nigerian Institute of Building, Chucks Omeife, stated that lack of genuine commitment by various governments to well articulate housing policies has become the problem of housing in Nigeria in the last 61 years.
“Government has continued to pay lip service to the provision of housing for the people,” he said.
According to him, there has never been a lack of virile and robust housing development policies in Nigeria, adding that the problem had been lack of sincerity on the part of the government to carry out the provisions of these policies to impact on the sector.
Omeife added: “Government has failed to understand that activities in the housing sector can go a long way in reducing poverty, create employment, impact on the standard of living, encourage skill acquisition and ameliorate the present hunger in the land.
America-based housing finance expert, Kunle Faleti, a Nigerian, identified failure of the government to create the enabling environment that will ensure full public sector participation in affordable housing delivery as a major challenge.
According to him, there were different initiatives set up but lacked the required collaboration, adding that the informal sector, where most low income earners belong, was also neglected.
“Most policies focus on white collar, blue collar and people in diaspora,” he said.
He added that lack of will on the part of policy makers and regulators was also a challenge, noting that there was a big knowledge gap and lack of required skills set on the part of mortgage bank employees.
“Round pegs are being put out in square holes to implement policies,” he said.
According to Faleti, the nation’s mortgage system was unable to deliver due to an obsolete business model, noting that “FMBN’s role 45 years ago is still being put in practice.
“It cannot work. Banks do not have the long term capital for obligations such as 25 year mortgages. Risk assessment modules are non-existent. Credit bureaus are not fully leveraged. As a system we are not pro-active, we only react,” Faleti said
Chairman, HOB Estates Limited, Chief Olusegun Bamgbade, aligned his assessment of the nation at 61 with the general view of the populace, blaming failure of government for lack of affordable housing delivery and economic growth.
He pointed out that the state of housing and major infrastructure in the last 61 years was appalling and nothing to write home about.
“The founding fathers of the nation were positively competitive with regards to regional developments. However, every housing and infrastructural development achieved before the first military incursion into power was wiped off with the advent of the unitary system of government.
Positive regional competition died a natural death especially in housing and other infrastructural developments.”
According to him, the leadership failed to utilise the functionality of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to better the lives of the citizens on housing.
He emphasised that the leadership failed to regard housing as an essential part of good governance, pointing out that without infrastructure and good housing provisions, there won’t be governance.
“Everyone must have a shelter. Everyone must enjoy a taste of good governance via infrastructure. The leadership failed to realise that absence of good shelter will affect per capita products in the country. When you don’t have a good roof over your head, you can’t have a good rest. When you failed to rest well, you can’t be efficient at work thereby reducing the per capita products.”
Apart from leadership failure, Bamgbade explained that major challenges confronting housing and other infrastructural developments in the country were hydra-headed, multifaceted and numerous. He identified corruption, nepotism, partisanship, political foolishness and other vices as some of the challenges.
“Some would say it’s lack of funds, but an intelligent mind knows that funds are not the issue but the foolishness of the leadership on salient matters affecting the citizens. Where there is a will, there is a way,” the chairman of HOB Estate said.
Former President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP),
Stephen Onu said there was nothing to assess as Nigeria marks 61st Independence anniversary.
According to him, leadership had not shown any sense of direction to enhance homeownership among the citizens, especially those in need scattered around the landscape.
He said: “Have we planned new settlements in our urban and rural areas in a safe environment away from exposure to disasters?”
He identified inability to translate policies into workable programs for project implementation as a major challenge in the country
Besides, he pointed out that the mortgage system was crawling because of insincerity in its management.
“Why is FMBN not an apex mortgage institution? Why should it be competing with other secondary mortgage institutions on mortgage issues?” Onu asked.
Bamgbade urged leaders in government to put up good thinking caps and pilot the affairs of the nation right, saying time waits for no one.
“There’s need for improvement, there is need for seriousness, there is need for honesty of purpose, and there is need for patriotism among the elites and leaders of the country.
If the leaders can jettison nepotism and be fair to all, Nigeria can become great in all spheres,” he said
Faleti said “It is in the national interest of the developed economies to work out a strategic response to the problems and opportunities associated with urbanisation in the developed and developing world. If they ignore these problems, it is at our own risk. If they address them, economic and social development will expand, business opportunities will grow, state and local governance will be stabilized, and the need for crisis intervention will decrease.”