If shelter is one of the most basic human needs, it means it is a necessity and the second most important human need, after food.
This may have informed the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele to throw his backing to the development of housing. In doing that he is also creating employment.
Interestingly, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) has registered to become a member of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria.
This move by FHA will evidently change the narrative in the housing sector in Nigeria.
The board of FHA, along with others, are ready to go the extra mile in addressing challenges facing the housing sector.
The choice of Senator Lawal Shuaibu as the board chairman and Senator Gbenga Ashafa as the Managing director of FHA is a step in the right direction.The duo, unarguably, have all it takes to fix the housing problem the nation has been grappling with.
Of couse, it is largely on thisv score that many have hailed President, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Minister of Works & Housing, Babatunde Fashola for shoving politics aside in the selection of those to manage the agency.
From the British colonial era, succesive administrations have introduced different housing policies and programmes to ameliorate the housing needs of Nigerians.
Some of the policies are reflected in the Land Use Act, the Mortgage Institutions Act, 1989; the Federal Housing Authority Act, 1990; National Urban Development Policy, 1997; Housing and Urban Development Policy, 2002. unfortunately, the housing challenges have remained .
Even with government intervention in the housing sector like that of the Nigerian Army Housing Scheme; the Nigerian Police Force Housing Scheme; the Nigerian Port Authority Housing Scheme: Freehold Housing Scheme and Sites and Services Estates; and Workers Housing Estates, the citizens’ need for housing have not abated
This may come as a surprise to some but the minister is not taken aback. He has a reason for feeling that way.
Housing challenges, some experts argue, include the Land Use Act of 1978 which puts all land under the management of the government. Yet, not everyone can afford acquiring Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government. Other issues include lack of infrastructure; documentation; shortcomings of Mortgage Institutions; rural-urban migration/urbanization; poor quality houses and dilapidated condition of houses; and inadequate implementation of policies
Sometimes, institutions shy away from their primary responsibilities and focuse on urban development at the detriment of the rural areas, thus increasing pressure on the few houses around.
High level of ignorance is affecting housing development. Key organisations like the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) and the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development need to enlighten Nigerians on how best to develop their property.
The new FHA board, in colloboration with the management, is poised to bring lasting solutions to the housing problems by partnering research institutes on how to exploit local raw materials to produce alternative building materials .
For a start, the board would support a critical review of rural and urban housing policies. Also, consideration would be given to the national development plan of Nigeria with regards to housing needs
Also, the board would look into development of rural areas to reduce rural-urban migration as well as partner cooperative societies and real estate developers to provide housing infrastructure.
The new board would step up efforts at working with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Mortgage Finance Limited (FMF), Urban Development Bank (UDB), and all other relevant agencies.
The board should equally look into the processes of registration and documentation of property to reduce the bureaucracy involved in getting approval for building plans and acquiring Certificate of Occupancy by property owners.
And the issue of provision of social amenities like electricity, good road networks, proper drainage systems among others, in rural areas will be tackled as these will go a long way to ease housing development in areas where amenities are lacking .
Some have argued that a minimum of additional one million housing units per annum is required to reduce the national deficit of about 17 million housing units if a housing crisis is to be prevented by year 2020.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, however, thinks differently. He said that there was nothing like housing deficit in Nigeria against what operators in the housing sector and government officials stated before now.
Recently, at the inauguration of the Board of Directors of the Federal Housing Authority, he submitted that the housing deficit claims had no scientific and logical basis.
According to him, “There is something out there before we came in that Nigeria has housing deficit. It’s a lie.
“Unfortunately, it was a document that originated from this Ministry in 2012. It has no scientific basis, nor logical basis; so ignore it.”
I don’t agree with Fashola less, that the housing problem in Nigeria is an urban problem. People who rented houses in the urban centres had empty buildings in their villages.
Listening to Fashola sounds convincing as according to him: “whether in Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja or Ibadan, we see empty and unoccupied houses and we need to begin to understand this problem”.
He further said“If we have things that are not used, does it make sense when we say that we have deficit of things available but not used?”
The biggest challenge now is how to unlock and bring the empty houses into the housing market.
This charge by the Minister to the newly appointed board members was apt, as they would have been blocked by the definition of deficit, rather than channel their understanding and professionalism for the benefit of all in unlocking the solution to empty houses in our villages and communities across Nigeria.
The Federal Housing Authority Act is the key for the board members to operate and the Minister didn’t mince words when he said: “essentially, your role will be as defined by the FHA Act and I urge you to quickly acquaint yourself with the responsibility under the act.”
With the leadership of the new FHA Board Chairman, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, the Minister won’t regret finding the team worthy to support the adminstration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
For Senator Shuaibu, excuses of non-perfornance is far fetched as he had already assured the Minister that the board would implement the policies according to the FHA Act.
The board chairman who is from Zamfara state is supported by other hard-working members which included Mr. Modestus Umenzekwe, Anambra State; Mr. Mumini Hanafi, Kwara State; Mr. Adamu Dadi, Yobe State and Mr. Adamu Ismaila, Adamawa State.
Source: Sun News Online