Minister for Lands & Housing, Ms. Ama Pepple
Were you present when the Honourable Minister for Lands & Housing, Ms. Ama Pepple gave her presentation at the Ministerial Platform in May 2012? The platform was designed to give cabinet ministers an opportunity to defend their stewardship during the first year of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. According to eye-witness reports, Pepple made one of the most spirited defences of her stewardship yet; sometimes even going as far as brandishing the microphone in her hand as a gladiator would a sword, stretching her arm pointedly at images on the board, as she put her entire heart into it. But then the unthinkable happened! As the story goes, she had barely returned to her seat amidst the rapturous ovation of a captivated audience when she vanished into thin air and went straight to heaven!
Or at least… so it seemed, because her testimony could not have been anything less than heavenly. In a classic presentation that lasted about 40 minutes, she reiterated point-by-point the achievements of the Lands, Housing and Urban Development ministry in the 10 months since she was appointed, starting by reiterating the importance of housing to humanity: “Housing is universally accepted as the second most important human need, after food,” she began, “and the Nigerian state is enjoined by the Constitution to provide suitable and adequate shelter for all its citizens… Also, under the transformation agenda of the President and Vision 20:2020, the provision of accessible and affordable housing is one of the strategic imperatives for guaranteeing the well-being and productivity of the citizenry.
“The housing sector has the capacity to reduce crime rates, insurrection, militancy, terrorism and substantially address wealth distribution and security problems, while our cities are centres of economic growth and centres for commerce and wealth creation, and for the promotion of healthy living environments.”
She defended the role of her ministry as “the arm of the Federal Government charged with the responsibility of ensuring adequate and sustainable housing delivery that meets the needs of the citizenry…” Its mission, she said further, was to “facilitate the provision of adequate and affordable housing for all Nigerians, in both urban and rural areas, in secure, healthy and decent environments...”
Pepple went on to mention what is arguably her administration’s most poignant success as the reviewing and updating of both the national housing policy and the national urban development policy “with the goals of ensuring that all Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and sanitary housing in healthy environments with infrastructural services at affordable cost, with secure tenure and, to promote a dynamic system of urban settlements, which fosters sustainable economic growth, promotes efficient urban & regional planning and development, as well as ensures improved standard of living and well-being of Nigerians”. She added that a ministerial team for housing delivery in Nigeria had been inaugurated to propose modalities for implementation of the reviewed policies.
Other successes mentioned include, the delivery of 1,873 housing units through the agencies of the Federal Housing Authority, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Initiative and directly through the Ministry, stating that a further 24,188 units were on-going. The PPP unit of the Ministry alone has engaged 89 developers to build 17,267 houses on a total expanse of 889 hectares! There are also housing schemes in Kuje, Abuja and Asaba, Delta state.
If there was any disappointment at all in Pepple’s presentation, it was simply in the fact that many had expected to hear of a major social housing initiative in the offing. While that particular occasion may not have offered the ideal location for the announcement of such an initiative, it was however a little regrettable that the only mention of social housing was in connection with a collaboration with Aso Savings & Loans and the FMBN to develop 144 (!) mixed housing units at Lugbe, Abuja, as well as a token 1,000 units under another partnership with a private developer – both projects newly in the offing.
Pepple’s tenure has so far been defined in terms of Social Housing. If the public will excuse her this first year because she is new to the job, they may not be so lenient next year. Next year’s report card must compensate for this deficit by prominently carrying her signature characteristic backed with solid achievements in that area.
Despite the lack of a definite report on her social housing programme however, there was progress reported in other areas, such as a partnership under the PPP Initiative with Cyrus Projects to build Unity villages (10,000 units) in each of the six geo-political zones; 109 units by Royal Sanderton awaiting commissioning in Lagos State; the conversion of 12,500 analogue and cadastral maps to the digital equivalent; the issuance of 1,291 certificates of occupancy in respect of federal government lands; The agreement of the FCT ministry to issue C of Os to about 5,000 beneficiaries of the FHA Gwarimpa housing scheme; the establishing of 15 fully serviced residential plots per site in 13 states of the 6 geopolitical zones of the Federation and the FCT;
Others include, the rehabilitation and maintenance of the 23 existing federal secretariats in the country & the construction of 6 new federal secretariats at a total cost of 14 billion naira; the completion of 259 projects, covering the execution of public buildings & utilities, construction/ upgrading of access roads, slum electrification, water and sanitation under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme.
Within the Mortgage Finance sector, developments reported include the opening of a loan window by the FMBN using co-operative structures to expand mortgage financing to the non-salaried informal sector including artisans, bricklayers, mechanics, farmers and market women; the development of a joint working program with the Cities Alliance (World Bank Group) to undertake a comprehensive survey on housing that will assess and identify data gaps in the sector.
Another notable accomplishment within the mortgage finance sector included a roundtable on Mortgage finance hosted by the Finance Minister to address major concerns on affordable housing and mortgage finance, and to obtain alignment on the implementation steps required to achieve a vibrant and diversified sector. The roundtable secured stakeholders’ commitments to establish a private Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (PNMRC) which would make catalytic investments in strategic financial institutions that would mobilizing funding to the sector; pilot housing construction scheme in the states; provision of technical assistance to develop sector capacity with $700,000 already provided by DFID; the establishment of mortgage origination standards & training institutions to manage risk using best practices; and, slum upgrading.
“Housing carries a huge potential for job creation,” Pepple concluded, stating that “for 1,000 units of 2-bedrooms, we can create 76,000 jobs”. She believes that Nigeria can create 2,812,000 jobs on an annual basis if as many as 1,000 units of 2-bedroom bungalows are built annually in each of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
The new Financial System Strategy (FSS 2020) is said to have assigned special roles to the housing sector, expecting it to drive the financial system and contribute no less than 20% to the GDP by year 2020. Nothing less than a mass mobilization programme touching every nook and cranny of the nation, will achieve this feat. Pepple’s natural charm will continue to help her public image, but in order to really ‘hit it big’, she will need much more than that. She will need to go beyond individual projects to an all-encompassing social programme accommodating thousands of such projects and initiatives under its umbrella.
If Pepple’s May presentation represents a statement at the starting blocks of a 3,000-metre Olympic Steeplechase event, then Nigerians are ready to give her that concession. However at the next May event, she will be expected to announce the major delivery of some of her signature social housing programmes. If she has any problems along the way, she should ask the Kenyans…
•Odia (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a National Director of The Fuller Center for Housing