Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) has said that Nigeria’s efforts to build affordable and liveable homes for its citizens through mass housing schemes initiated by governments at federal and state levels have recorded little successes because stakeholders have refused to include local materials and processes in their design and building of the homes.

NIA said that each time governments in the country launches any mass housing schemes, Nigeria eventually ended up enriching the economies of countries where building materials and accessories are procured and used in the projects.
The President of NIA, Tonye Oliver Braide stated this in his opening remarks at the 2016 edition of ‘Archibuilt’, an annual exposition of materials and building technology used in Nigeria’s built environment. The annual event was organised by Archibuilt Development Services Limited (ADSL) in Abuja.

Braide explained that the decision of IDSL to harp on local content development as the theme of the 2016 edition was quite apt. He noted that notwithstanding the remarkable results achieved by builders who have used local materials to execute their projects, most builders and developers have rather cultivated the culture of executing their projects wholly with foreign components.

He stated that the foreign components were not entirely superior to local materials but that they were more about ego. He said such attitudes have resulted to the country being unable to bridge her housing deficit which is estimated to be about 17 million.

“Local materials are the materials indigenous to our communities which have been in use in our early settlements to present day. They represent the cultural identity of the Nigerian people and can form the template to develop architecture that can truly be called Nigerian.

“Many builders have used local materials to achieve marvellous masterpieces like most of the palaces in northern Nigeria and the vanishing walls in Kano and its historic gates,” said Braide.
He added: “We as a people therefore have an innate capacity to build and meet the requirements of shelter for the Nigerian people but have failed to build on this capacity to create solutions which are exportable and self-sustaining. We have been too eager to seek solutions outside our shores than look inwards when it comes to building design and construction.”

“The result of this attitude may partially be contributing to our ever growing housing deficit. Each time we make an effort in developing mass housing we actually end up expanding the economies of foreign countries,” he noted.
Braide also said the huge foreign exchange disparities could become a god omen for the country’s built industry. According to him, builders are now forced to look inwards to develop home grown solutions to Nigeria’s construction requirements.

However, he said there are steps needed to ensure that the momentum in the use of local materials is sustained.
He listed the steps saying: “We have to develop the process of commercialising the production of local materials for buildings. This will involve developing the entire value chain of using local materials in building construction.
“We have to develop production optimisation and sustainable methodologies to make the products cost effective and competitive. We have to add value to the existing process and develop the practice as going concerns.”
Braide also said the NIA will become pragmatic in seeking solutions to low and middle income affordable housing, adding, “we should not stop at fancy talk.”