- Housing Minister, Mr. BABATUNDE FASHOLA Gives Details
When in 2016, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Housing Minister came to Lagos to deliver the 1st City People Real Estate Lecture, he promised that the Buhari administration would provide Affordable Housing and commence a National Housing programme that will take care of the housing needs of ordinary Nigerians. Two years after, that programe has taken off in 33 states of the federation, employing so many workmen and artisans.
In this report, City People reveals the current situation of things across the country about this much talked about housing program. Its very, very revealing.
One of the basic necessities of life is Housing. In a country like Nigeria with an estimated population of over 180 million the need for government to ensure that people have good housing is not only necessary, but also critical. However, this has not been the case. For decades and after successive administrations in Nigeria, a truly National Housing Program that seeks to provide affordable housing for the average Nigerian has happened only twice. That was between 1979 and 1983, when Shehu Shagari was President of Nigeria and the present administration, under President Muhammadu Buhari. With improved funding and a clear mandate to provide affordable housing for the people of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, with Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as Minister and his Minister of state, Surveyor Usman Haasan Zama and Mustapha Babashehuri, set out to understand the peculiarity of the housing sector in Nigeria and how best to approach this mandate. Today, Nigeria has a truly National Housing Program that is delivering housing that is not only affordable, but also acceptable.
In a recent documentary released by the Housing Ministry on Affordable Housing, the Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola remarked that there is the temptation to mix Policy with Program. And I think they are two different things. Affordable housing is a global policy which almost every nation has subscribed to.”
“ But how do you deliver that? Those are matters of Program and Action. So, do you want to build X house units? What type of housing unit? And so on and so forth.”
“Now, what the Buhari administration has embarked upon is a National Housing program. This is the second time that that is happening in my own lifetime and experience. This is not to say that other governments have not done housing. There have been interventions, but none on a national scale, and that is what we are implementing now. The other thing that I want to add to that is to say we have learnt a lot from the errors of yesterday, and it is now manifesting in our decision to first run a pilot program. Based on investigations, research, consultations with some of the would be end users and off-takers, to find out what type of housing they want. What type of income they earn, and how much they are willing to pay. But as we speak about housing, let me also correct another, perhaps common assumption, that we need to change: that housing must be defined beyond ownership, it must include rental housing.
The assumption is that once you talk about housing, everybody must own a home. No economy has delivered 100 percent home ownership in any part of the world. And I stand to be corrected. It is always a mixture of ownership and rental, the ultimate goal being to increase the number of people who migrate from rental to become owners and reduce the numbers of people who lose their housing and who are or able to afford ownership. Two models that I studied extensively; the Syngaporian and the UK model are very good case studies that have guided my thoughts on this matter for the last one decade.”
The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, through the Housing program is not only building the housing that is believed to be good for the people, but building in almost all the states of the federation and ensuring that houses built are affordable and acceptable to the people they are meant for. The program is so carried out to ensure that people of the state will directly or indirectly benefit financially and in terms of employment from the project. These projects, though federal government owned, has the involvement of individual state governments, hence making it an all inclusive venture.
“When a nation commits to Infrastructure generally, one of the things it wants to see is improved quality of public utilities. Transportation, water supply, shipping and so and so forth. But the end game is Growth in the economy, employment for some of the most vulnerable people in the society, and a movement of goods and services within the economy and that is what we are beginning to se already. From the housing program we have started in the entire country, where construction is now going on in 33 states, we asked each state to give us land. Just as you know the current land legislative regime vest land in the state government.
As I said earlier, we also wanted to prove a concept that shows that we have learnt something from the first National Housing Program. So, one of the things we are subjecting our pilot to is the acceptability, the way that it is built. So we asked the governors, give us no more than 10 hectares. Let us use the 10 hectares to build in your state. What our research and consultations suggest to us is that your people will accept and can afford it.
So 33 states gave us land. We are still waiting for three states, Bayelsa, Lagos, I think we have land from Rivers now, but there are still challenges about access and so on. So those are the three states we are still waiting to hear from. But in all those 33 states now, what we found out is that largely in the North, they prefer us to build Bungalows. In the South, they are not aversed to block of flats. But either way, they don’t mind if it’s one bedroom, two bedrooms or three bedrooms. That is what they share in common.”
“The need to have white collar jobs, get involved in politics, enjoy the conveniences of the urban centers and the total neglect of the agricultural sectors by Nigerians have spurred a rural-urban migration, which has stressed the facilities in the urban centers and exaggerated the housing deficit in the country. This administration is addressing with a creative and workable manner that is yielding positive results already.”
“There are people who require housing, but the question is, the pressure we feel in urban centers; people who migrated from rural to urban centers do not factor in the houses they have left empty or the homes they have left from where they originated. And so when President Buhari focuses on Agriculture, one of the things you would see is a slowdown ultimately, in rural-urban migration. That’s what we are already seeing. People who used to lease out their lands to farmers to farm are now the ones saying we are not leasing out our lands again.
We are farming on our land. So they are not moving again. And you will see more of that as the agricultural activities deepens. But that is one index in quantifying what the real deficit is. Then there are houses that are empty even in urban centers, simply because people cannot afford or people do not accept how they are built or a combination of both. Either the rental income is too high or the house is too big or too small for the need of the person, so in really discussing the cause of the deficit, we must factor all of these as well.”
“Then how did we arrive at those figures that we’re banding around, because the basis for competing these kinds of things is a credible census. So at the very best approximated guess work that you have, so we need to do a new census. We understand that not enough houses exist. We understand that some are too expensive. We understand that some don’t like the way they are built. But we are not going to be prisoners of the deficit. We are going to continue to work on a methodical basis and what we want to do is to pilot what we are doing, prove that it works, prove that people like it, prove that people accept it so that they won’t be like the old Shagari housing estate. I have a request now, I think from Kwara, I have a request from Taraba and one other state, people just write to tell us we want to take over this place, we want to refurbish them; they’ve been empty”
“The Muhammadu Buhari administration has a policy of growing the nation’s economy, through infrastructural development. With this in mind, the Ministry of Power Works and Housing is not only building houses but using the housing program as a strategy for job creation for the most vulnerable population of the country and movement of goods and services. With an average of 100 people working on all 33 sites all over the country and in some cases over 1600 people working. The housing sector is a very effective way of creating employment and encouraging trade, in and around the site nationwide. This means that there is improved financial activity and more money is circulation, which positively affect the economy of the country.”
“This is a clearly well thought out strategy by the President, the Party, and the Government is faithfully implementing these programs, in all the states where there have been a housing estate. The purpose of a housing infrastructure is already being met in the very first contact, creating employment for the most vulnerable people. I remember two young men that I met in Taraba and in Bauchi, they were masons, and they said to me, please thank President Buhari for us, we didn’t have work before this housing project started. We are now employed.”
I remembered the couple that I met in Oyo, the husband is a builder, and the wife is a food vendor. They migrated from Lagos to Oyo. They said the housing program is an opportunity for them. So the wife sells food to all of the workers on the site, the husband builds.
In the same construction station in Oyo I remember one man who delivered a Cement Mixer. When I asked him when he came to the site, he said he moved to that site about two weeks before my visit. And I asked him what he was doing before then and he said there was no work. And once there is no work, what you are heading into is actually a recession. And I asked him again how much does he earn with that mixer and he said every day that that mixer is on site, he earns 20,000 naira in a day.
I remembered the Carpenters I met at the Gwagalada site, they were road side carpenters. Business was infrequent, but they said when they saw construction work going on, they moved there, so they are now helping to construct panels use to construct fornmworks or casting concrete.
This one I will not forget because he bears the same name with my Orderly, Ado that I met in Kaduna. Ado was one of the laborers on the site and as I was leaving, he was next to me, so I decided to chat him up, that that was when he told me his name, and I introduced myself, and he laughed when I introduced myself.
He said he moved to that site a couple of months back, that he was unemployed before and he was looking for money because there was a woman he wanted to marry but he couldn’t afford to pay the bride price. And that he has made enough money to pay the Bride price, he had married the woman and they were now expecting a child. So for these people, President Buhari has delivered. And there are thousands of them. I remember the workers I met at the Kano site, the electrician who was working for one of the contractors there, how enthusiastic he was at his work.
And on each of those housing construction, the minimum number of workers you have there is a thousand. Some are 1,900 some are 1,600. So those are people for whom first of all, the President has hit the Bull’s eye, not only in what they say in appreciation, but in the objective of ensuring that the most vulnerable people; the plumbers, the carpenters, masons, welders, electricians can go back to work. But that is not the end of story, that’s just the beginning. Quarrying, Minning, have picked up according to the NBS statistics, that’s infrastructure for construction. What are they minning? Sand, laterite, limestone, all of the materials used for construction, rocks. Now, at every site, there is an exchange, we are supplying materials, transporting them, water suppliers, food vendors.
That is the story of how we got out of recession. It is empirical. At the end of each business day, those people make money. They go back home with pride to face their families and out money on the table. That is what the president meant in the economy and growth plan, when he said the commitment to invest in the Nigerian people. That’s a commitment that is obviously being played out.”
“The interesting thing about the Housing program by the Federal ministry of power works and housing is that it is not only building houses for Nigerians, but has a clear cut way of directly and positively affecting the economy.” Mr Babatunde Fashola explained what the housing economy means, how it affects the people now and what it would do for the people and the country’s economy in the near future.
“We’ve talked about those who are employed, those who are supplying and those who are actually involved in many aspects of developing the housing units. I have spoken to you about the average number of people employed in each site; over a thousand. So assuming that as we prove the concept and we validate our pilot, so instead of one site in a state, we now have 5, 6 sites in a state. It means that over a thousand people in each site in 5 places times 36. That’s the housing economy at its base. Let me move that forward a little bit. We have prescribed also that no appliances in the housing value chain should be used except Made in Nigeria unless they are the things that we can’t manufacture. So just assume that the current supplies now are raised to five times their demands. It means that all of the small and medium enterprises who make paints, nails, wires, tiles, wash hand basins, locks, ceilings, electrical fillings need to multiply their production by times five. That means that all of our people who are looking for jobs, have the opportunity to work in small and medium size factories producing Made in Nigeria housing components. But that is not the end of the story. As houses are being built and those numbers go to 5 times their value, our brothers and sisters who operate the mines, where the building materials are produced from, have to, not double, but times five increase their current output. You will need more trucks to move, you will consume more fuel to transport those materials.
You will need more Tyres, you will need more drivers. As the numbers of people working on site increase, vendors will output more food. Farmers will grow more. Again, the housing economic story is not finished. When the houses reach completion, they need to be furnished. So you need carpets, you need curtains, you need all sorts of accessories. The market, the manufacturers take positions. Tailors will make money; and those in the upholstery, furniture sector will be involved; it’s a continuing economy and as the houses are moved into, what then happens? Insurance kicks in. you buy a house you want to insure it against fire. Those are the possibilities that lie ahead. But it isn’t even done, when you are insured, you will also have maintenance obligations.
As the maintenance obligations kick in. you now have to hire local plumber, the local painter, the local electrician, once in a year, once every six months, your air conditioning, your fan, your air conditioning is not working very well; it doesn’t happen unless you own a home. So, that is the economy that has driven United Kingdom since 1918”
With a history of successive administration, neglecting and shutting down program and projects of their predecessors, no matter how good or importance it is to the economy and the people of Nigeria, one wonders how such a laudable program will be sustained.
“We have demonstrated that a new Nigeria is upon us. What used to perhaps happen was to abandoned programs and the projects of the previous administration. The president and all the ministers are committed to completing all the projects that we met on ground, in a way that shows that this is about Nigeria. This is about development. What is different is the ideology behind how we approach it. We will save money, and put it to project instead of filtering them away and that is why this administration is doing more with less on project that could have been completed if they are properly funded the time the nation was earning a hundred dollars per barrel of oil.
That is one. Two, the compelling rationale for sustaining the housing program and economic opportunity, is a rationale that will cut across the party line, It is a rationale of common sense. It’s a rationale for the people who vote. That this is where our livelihood are defined. And any government that doesn’t commit itself to it, will certainly become undeserving of the votes of those people, because once people have tasted it, and they know the value, they won’t give in.”
With a strategy that is building affordable and acceptable housing, creating direct and indirect employment, injecting the much needed fund that is needed in the economy and its presence in all the states of the federation. With increased funding by the Buhari administration to the Housing sector and the methodical and creative approach employed by the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing in providing affordable and acceptable housing, Nigeria can now look forward to a bright and assured future, where they can enjoy one of the most basic needs, housing.