Enyeribe Ejiogu, Olakunle Olafioye, Henry Okonkwo (Lagos), Chuks Onuoha (Umuahia), Tony Osauzo (Benin), Jeff Amechi Agbodo (Onitsha), Jude Chinedu (Enugu), Noah Ebije (Kaduna)
In keeping with the electoral promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 and 2019, Nigerians who had hoped to see real steps towards ameliorating the housing deficit situation in the country may have again been disappointed as evidenced in the unfolding details of the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented by the Federal Government to the National Assembly, last month.
With the nation currently contending with a staggering 17 million housing deficit, the World Bank had recommended the construction of 700,000 units of houses yearly as a way of bridging the wide gap and to keep with the growing population, as well as urban migration.
However, signs that the Federal Government may have taken the suggestion without any seriousness have continued to multiply in the recent years. However, some state governments have initiated putative steps towards redressing the slide as Sunday Sun reports revealed.
At the summit of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, stakeholders seemed to agree that the average cost of building a house in Nigeria today is N15 million. A speaker at the event and Director, Deals Advisory, Mrs Bola Adigun, put the average cost of building a house in Nigeria at $50,000 while the same would be built for $36,000 in South Africa while the same building would cost $26,000 in India. But with the entire budget for the Ministry of Works and Housing put at N262 billion, experts say that the Federal Government may not perform better in the coming year than it has done in 2019 with its proposed 2,383 housing units.
In Lagos, one of the states mostly affected by housing deficit in the country as evidenced in the proportion of residents living in slums and shanties as against those living in decent accommodations, the state government’s yearly contributions to the World Bank-proposed annual delivery of 700,000 housing units, remain a far cry from expectation.
Official figure from the state showed that the state government funded housing projects between 2011 and 2018 with N390 billion, an amount of money, experts said, would hardly add 30,000 housing units to the existing ones in the state.
The federal and state governments have often expressed commitments to addressing the housing challenge with various initiatives, but ordinary Nigerians who bear the brunt of the housing deficit are quick to criticize such initiatives, with many of them insisting that only housing programmes in the mould of Lateef Jakande’s schemes are capable of easing their pains.
Lagos State has over the years been a leading light in the provision of affordable housing. Specifically, during the tenure of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the administration’s massive housing units built across the state still stand out and unforgettable. The over 30,000 housing units were built in Amuwo-Odofin, Ojokoro, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ilasan-Lekki, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu and Badagry.
The houses were essentially built for the masses, a development that underscores why they were regarded as low-cost housing estates. Massive construction of houses was not just the highpoint of the Jakande housing initiative as his administration also ensured that people in the low-middle income bracket for whom the housing estates were built got the larger portion of the allocations of the residential units. But since then, no government in the state or outside the state has matched that feat.
A concerned Nigerian, Mr Bamidele Rufus said Nigerians, particularly residents of Lagos, would continue to yearn for the Jakande era housing schemes, which were designed with the financial strength and needs of the intended beneficiaries taken into consideration.
He noted that what currently obtains in the country are housing programmes specifically designed for the rich whose only interest is to buy them and re-sell or offer them for rent to the poor.
“To the credit of Fashola as Lagos State governor, his housing project known as Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) shoulder above others, but that is far after the Lateef Jakande era (1979 and 1983), which is generally seen as the golden moment of public housing projects in the state. But one major poser regarding the Lagos HOMS initiative is that its success was overshadowed by a number of factors including the cost. This perhaps informed the reason several of the completed housing estates housing estates are still unoccupied,” Rufus noted.
He further pointed out that a room and parlour apartment, for instance, was sold for over N4 million in 2016 while a three-bedroom apartment sold for as high as N15 to N20 million under the Lagos HOMS initiative. “Besides, you have to pay 30 per cent of the money upfront aside processing charges and pay the rest in installments with interest over a period of 10 years. What this simply implies is that these houses are far beyond the reach of ordinary people,” he said.
To bridge the housing deficit, experts had said that 1 million houses have to be built every year to achieve the goal by 2033. However, housing delivery is being affected by major constraints, which include the prohibitive cost of securing land title, inadequate access to finance, slow administrative procedures, and the high cost of land acquisition.
Alhaji Rasheed Awofeso, director of Awofeso Shelter and Property Development, opined that the government has more major role to play in closing the housing deficit in the country. Awofeso, who has been in the housing business for over 25 years, decried the government’s lack of interest in dealing with the problem of housing deficit.
“The legacy in the housing sector during the time of Lateef Jakande between 1979 and 1983 is still there for everyone to see. But now our government is not doing much in ensuring formal affordable housing for the populace. You can imagine a government-funded three-bedroom flat in an estate going for calling for N18 million. Which common man can afford that? Government housing schemes are no longer people-oriented projects, rather they see it as an avenue to enrich themselves and their cronies. During the time of Jakande, there was price control mechanism; every state maintained a bulk purchase arrangement and regulated the price of building materials. Housing projects in this era have become a mirage because government is no longer in control and does not even interested in delivering housing for the people.
“Government should within its own circle strive to bring down the cost of building materials. The cost of building houses is so high now and that is why people now choose to leave in slums and shanties. During that era of Jakande, a three-bedroom flat went for just N1,300 and back then majority of the people where employed. So civil servants where given flats because they knew they had steady source of income where deductions would be made from their salaries to pay for housing loans. So it wasn’t difficult for them to own houses. But now most people have been thrown out of their jobs. Can our government provide insurance scheme? Can they guarantee job creation to engage the teeming population?”
Awofeso made suggestion on how government agencies can partner with stakeholders to improve the situation: “Agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria, Bank of Industry and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria should reduce the bottlenecks for housing investors to access loans. Another issue is that the interest on loans is on the high side. Naturally one doesn’t borrow money to put into construction, you only borrow money to do finishing. So they need to bring down the interest element of these agencies to one digit to encourage Nigerians to access mortgage loans. Many loans go bad because of the interest rate. If this is done, it would boost the economy through improved GDP, get people engaged, reduce unemployment and further reduce social problems and crime rate among youths. Also government should try to give tax holidays to producers of building material producers. One major reason for the high cost of building materials is the very high Customs duties paid on imported materials and other high taxes and levies.
Another real estate practitioner, Mr Chukwuebuka Anijeke, the managing director of Danbrig Estates, Lagos, also suggested that mass housing initiatives in partnership with the government and financial institutions would a laudable idea if only the synergy could be well harnessed.
Anijieke also harped on the need for government agencies to bring down the interest rate of mortgage loans.
“One of the problems of mass housing project is unavailability of land. In partnering with the government, it is pertinent that they provide free land for these projects. This will ensure a very low rental value of each unit of these apartments or increased rate of sales as the case may be. The financial institutions must keep the interest rate for these projects at less than five per cent for this issue of mass housing to come to fruition. In Britain and America, it is possible to get 25-year mortgages which people gradually pay off. This encourages developers to build houses, assured that they would sell the homes. The stability in the system has made housing delivery possible. If these suggestions are applied, devoid of corrupt practices, we would soon eradicate lack of housing for our teeming population” he said.
In Abia State, the Commissioner for Housing, Hon. Ugbaja Theophilous Odionyenfe while acknowledging that some states have done a lot in the area of housing for the people, however criticized some states for what not having right priorities.
His words: “I think they misplaced their priority because they were building houses for the elite, and the number of elite we have are few compared with the low income earners and the poor people in our midst. For a government to achieve more in housing, it should be able to take census of greater number of their indigenes.
“In Abia, we have low income earners in and someone is building a five-bedroom duplex and placing it at a cost of N75 million. Who will buy such a house? The houses will stay there and become dilapidated. What we have done is to look at the populace we have. They are more of low income, poor people, and we are strategizing to build houses that will accommodate them so that they can pay. If we break the cost between two or three times, they will pay.
Today, Abia State Housing Ministry has come up with a housing policy, fully written, well detailed and we have submitted it to other MDAs for their contributions. Once it comes back to us, we will send it to the House of Assembly to domesticate it. We are taking into cognizance the limitations as per land in Abia because we don’t have land space like other states in the zone or the North.
“In the area of public-private partnership (PPP), it is not really thriving because I have visited the only estate along Ubani Ibeku that was given out on PPP basis, the job done there was ok, but I think where that house was built is not okay in my view. I visited them when there was flood issue and the developer built a canal that was not concreted, he just opened the ground for water to flow and it is not serving the purpose. I see that place is water logged if they had made a palatial solution to cushion that effect, they would have concreted the canal.
“That may be one of the reasons most of the houses are not yet bought, so we are not discouraging other developers from coming in. Today, we are prospecting for land through the Ministry of Lands to enable us start. We are going to do houses that will accommodate everybody. For the elite, we can do five-bedroom duplexes and for the low-income category, we have a plan to build two and three bedroom bungalows. We even plan to build one-bedroom bungalows.”
In Edo State, the housing deficit is being addressed with two housing estates, one by the Federal Government and the other by the Edo State government.
The Federal housing estate located in Egba Community along the Benin-Auchi road, is the first phase of a two-phase housing project, consisting of 45 housing units made up of three-bedrooms, two-bedrooms bungalows and a Condominium.
The project executed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has attained over 90 per cent completion. On the other hand, the Edo State housing project, known as Emotan Gardens Estate, located in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, is a 1,800 housing project being executed on Public-Private Partnership arrangement between Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA) and Mixta Nigeria, a real estate company.
Currently, over 100 units have been completed and were recently commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Commenting on housing deficit in the country, a Benin-based legal practitioner, Douglass Ogbankwa, said: “It is one of the major problems that plagues our society. The housing policy of government at all levels has not been able to solve the problem because of the exhorbitant nature of acquiring government-built houses and the cash and carry policy of government housing projects.
“The absence of ascertainable mortgage system, which will allow citizens to pay for houses over time has made the matter worse,” Ogbankwa said.
In Anambra State there are some housing estates in Awka, the state capital and Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the state, already built and the ongoing ones in the state.
Some of the existing estates are not enough to contain the number of people in the state especially in Onitsha, which has made traders and other people working or doing business in the city to live in outskirts of the city and rural areas.
There are other housing estates springing up in a new city, 33 Onitsha, Nkwele-Ezunaka, Umuleri and Aguleri being handled by cooperative societies, clubs and groups of individuals who buy the land from the communities and sell to interested persons with specification of low or high cost housing.
But recently, precisely in August this year, the Willie Obiano administration in Anambra State has launched a housing estate for traders in the state located at Nkwelle in Oyi local government area of the state, by handing the land initially earmarked for a farm to the traders to build their homes.
The Commissioner for Housing Mr. Mike Okonkwo, conveyed the cheery news to the traders when he visited the Traders House Onitsha and met with leaders of Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA) led by Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu and markets chairmen and secretaries in the state.
Okonkwo expressed the need for traders to embrace the development opportunity, which has already been designed with modern facilities, and urged them to utilize the opportunities to key into the housing scheme.
There is only one federal housing scheme in Onitsha known as Federal Housing Estate Trans-Nkisi GRA Onitsha which the allocation started in 1982 for low cost while the high cost was done in 1992 with over 5,000 housing units.
The Chairman of Federal Housing Estate Trans-Nkisi GRA Onitsha Chief Arinze Anyaorah said that despite the fact the estate belong to federal government no amenities was provided to the estate, saying that the landlord association undertook to construct some major roads, provided electricity and street lights.
He said that the same thing goes to other estates in the area where government or its partners would allocate lands to interested individuals and go to sleep without provision of basic amenities in those places, saying that most of the roads to housing estate were not motorable.
“This estate as it is today is the land association that made it what it is, we started with free-will donations and levies which we used in constructing roads and after some time it became tough for us, we ran to state government who came to our aid and constructed Ogbatuluenyi road and one other road. Apart from that all other roads and other amenities were provided by us and we are still doing the roads to be motorable. We are calling on Federal Government to come our aid,” Anyaorah said.
The tendency of the government to use housing projects for political patronage will never address the country’s housing deficit. That is the position of the President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Rowland Abonta, who advised the Federal Government to depoliticize housing in Nigeria.
Abonta expressed this view during the 50th anniversary seminar of NIESV, which held in Enugu on Thursday. He said that it was unfortunate that most efforts of government toward housing were to score political points.
“We want the government to depoliticise housing because we think that most of the efforts made now are more of political motivation. Which state supported this government and so they decide to allocate a particular number of housing units to the state. Not in relation to the housing needs of the people but to make a political statement,” Abonta said.
He further blamed the continued housing deficit in Nigeria on the failure of government to adhere to professional advice from the body insisting that mortgage banks had the best funding arrangement which would have settled the issue of funding for houses in the country.
To his credit, Enugu State governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Mr Victor Nnam, acknowledged that it was the priority of the state government to provide affordable housing for its citizens, and added that Enugu State had always recognized the role of estate surveyors in the development of the state.
Kaduna State is one of the few states in the country that is actively working to address the housing deficit in the country. Last year, under Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, it commenced building of 500 housing units in its Millennium City project.
Kaduna Millennium City is being built on 11.8 hectare land located within the state capital. The land is strategically located in the centre of town and just some minutes’ drive from highbrow neighborhoods such as Isa Kaita and GRA areas. It comprises of three-bedroom and four-bedroom bungalows
It is being executed by a private firm, Nurus Siraj Nigeria Limited, which commenced work last year. Similarly, another firm, Ummhi Nigeria Limited, will also construct 100 housing units while Jifatu Nigeria Limited is to build a shopping mall in the millennium city.
Director of Nurus Siraj Nigeria Limited, Umar Yahaya, who once welcomed Governor Nasir El-rufai during an inspection visit to the project located in DanHonu11, Chikun Local Government Area, explained that his firm was collaborating with the NNPC Staff Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society, Abuja, towards financing and actualizing the initiative. Yahaya said the purpose was to ensure that people get affordable houses in a good and secured environment.
The governor who performed the ground-breaking ceremony noted that the project design made provision for two, three and four-bedroom duplexes, detached and semi-detached apartments for medium and low income categories of people.