This is Part of the Change We Promised!
GUEST COLUMNIST BY Babatunde Fashola
Let me start by telling you how pleased I am that the National Housing Programme that was initiated by our ministry at the onset of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is now delivering on its objective.
Apart from stimulating the economies of the 34 states and the FCT in the communities, where work is being undertaken for the construction of houses, by providing work for artisans, builders, engineers, and other skilled persons in the built industry, the construction sites have been and remain centres of supply for building materials and other commodities.
Many people, who hitherto were unemployed have had their dignity restored, because they can leave home every day saying to their families – I AM GOING TO WORK. This is the part of the change we promised, and Sokoto state has not been left out.
I am also pleased to report that we are now in a season of completion, as many of these houses have been completed and are now being handed over to the beneficiaries, who follow the allocation procedure set out in the National Housing Programme web portal (nhp.worksandhousing.gov.ng).
Across the states, the ministers of the federal republic, have been representing President Muhammadu Buhari, at the commissioning and handing over of these houses.
On the 22nd March 2022, the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, represented the president to commission the Sokoto State National Housing Programme. This first phase included 80 units of housing, comprising four units of one bedroom, 48 units of two bedroom, and 28 units of three-bedroom bungalows.
Today, people, who had long dreamt to be homeowners now live that reality as they have been successfully allocated some of these houses.
Again, that is change.
Perhaps, one of the most pleasing impacts of this National Housing initiative by the federal government, is that, it has been used by President Buhari, to redeem the housing promise made to the 22-man squad of the Super Eagles since winning the African Nations Cup in 1994.
A promise that remained unkept for 28 years, has been redeemed by President Buhari, and if you ask the members of the Super Eagles, they will tell you that things have changed for them for the better. But the National Housing Programme is only one initiative of the federal government to address the housing needs of our people.
There are others by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) by way of direct construction in various states, just as the Federal Mortgage Bank, has financed the construction of about 6000 housing units at various stages of completion.
Similarly, the federal government, has increased its financing intervention support for housing through the Federal Mortgage Bank, by increasing the number of mortgages that have been issued and reducing the equity contribution requirement to make it more accessible.
Of course, I cannot ignore the various interventions by state governments, who have sensibly deployed resources to provide housing in their states and our host, Sokoto State, is a good example.
Let me use this platform to inform the meeting that state governments can apply on behalf of their residents or indigenes to fund the acquisition of parts of the National Housing Programmes constructed in the states should they be so desirous.
Of course, whatever the states and federal governments can do by way of housing construction, is limited, compared to what the private sector can do. The evidence out there shows very clearly that the bulk of housing in our society and across the world is delivered by the private sector – individuals and corporate.
In this regard, I am happy to report a visible increase in the participation of the private sector in Nigeria’s housing sector. Nationwide, on many media platforms, we daily see, hear and read about the development of one estate or the other across Nigeria and this is most welcome and must be encouraged.
And this brings me to the theme of this year’s council meeting, which is “HOUSING OUR PEOPLE, BY ALL OF GOVERNMENT AND ALL OUR PEOPLE.” The message is that housing provision is a collaborative effort by all levels of government and the private sector.
From what I have said so far about what the federal government is doing, what the states are doing and what the private sector is doing, the Nigerian housing sector is heading in the right direction even if there is more work to be done. It is to the work that needs to be done that I now intend to turn my attention.
The first thing I wish to address is that we all must remain conscious that not everybody wants a house built by government, as there are those, who wish to build by themselves and only seek access to land. We must, therefore, reform the process that governs allocation of land and issuance of title documents such as Certificates of Occupancy.
While the federal government has some lands, mainly acquired from the states, the bulk of the work that needs to be done here lies with the state governments, because of their almost total control of land by virtue of the Land Use Act. Some have argued that the Land Use Act is the problem about access to land. I beg to differ.
If there is a problem, my view is that the problem is not with law but with the administration of the law. How much have we automated our land administration processes in order to make them efficient before complaining about that law? States that have made this type of investment will report an improvement in their land administration system.
Today, I can tell you that since 2017, when the president delegated his power under the Land Use Act to grant consent and issue certificate of occupancy, to the Minister, we have issued over 5,000 certificates of occupancy and granted 2,738 consent to land transactions.
These are important documents to facilitate housing delivery and housing finance that we need to pay more attention to, in addition to the process involved in granting of construction permits and approvals.
Ladies and gentlemen, the other important matter we must pay attention to is the issue of rent. Housing supply and demand must be seen beyond ownership alone and must include rental housing.
At the federal government level, we have introduced Rent-to-Own into our acquisition/sale model for the disposal of the Houses in the National Housing Programme. I concede that a majority of the houses belongs to the private sector and they expect legitimate income from rent for the properties.
However, I hold a strong view that asking for 2 to 3 years rent in advance from working class people (as distinct from corporate tenants, who may prefer to pay in advance) does more harm than good to all concerned and to the economy.
Interestingly, rent is a matter over which the federal government, has no constitutional authority, because it is a local matter and rightly so. But I use the platform of this meeting to challenge and provoke all state representatives to thoughts and action about how we can make the payment of rent easier and comfortable for both tenants and landlords.
This would be a most revolutionary intervention when working class people can pay their rent when they receive their salaries. This is possible if we try and this will give the fullest possible expression to the theme of this meeting, which is, “HOUSING OUR PEOPLE, BY ALL OF GOVERNMENT AND ALL OUR PEOPLE.”
*This is part of the remarks by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, at the National Council On Lands, Housing And Urban Development, delivered yesterday, July 28, in Sokoto State, on the theme: “Housing Our People, By All of Government and All our People”.