*Says its foolish insisting country has 17 million housing deficit
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday opined that President Muhammadu Buhari was leaving Nigeria better than the way he met the country
Fashola also said it was, “absolute foolishness” for some Nigerians to believe that the country has as much as 17 million housing deficit, maintaining that there’s nowhere in the world where that figure exists.
Speaking on ARISE News Channel, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, argued,
“Things are better. In the construction industry, they were laying off people when I took office, and that includes housing construction, and now they are employing more people.”
“The support industry, mining for construction materials, sand aggregates, crushed tools, that industry capacity has doubled in the last eight years,” he posited.
For those who have plied the tortuous Benin-Sapele-Warri road in recent times, Fashola stated that the contract has just been awarded.
“Talking of Benin, Warri, Sapele road, we have just awarded the contract because we got funding from the NNPC. And there are other roads that we have not touched. And I understand that the ones that we have done are no longer newsworthy,” he said.
Nigeria has a huge shelter problem, with a large number of the citizens going after the largely limited houses, making purchase and rental of accommodation extremely expensive, unaffordable and inaccessible for many Nigerians.
Although he admitted that Nigeria has an urban housing gap, Fashola stated that the deficit data quoted by several Nigerians was non-existent.
He disclosed that in the past, he had reached the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the World Bank as well as one of his predecessors in office to authenticate the information, which he said they all disowned.
“First of all, I am not disputing what doesn’t exist. I’m just telling you that it doesn’t exist. If you have the figure and the basis for arriving at it, put it out and let us have a discussion about it.
“I am saying that the first figure that was in the public space, even when I was governor, was 17 million. When I became minister, I said, how did you arrive at it? I am here to solve problems.
“And in order to solve problems, I must diagnose and define the problems before I start implementing solutions. So if you tell me there were 17 million, how was it computed?
“And if you want to stick to a figure that doesn’t exist, I can’t really stop you. But I’m saying that we should stop. This is absolutely foolish, because that figure doesn’t exist. I don’t know any nation that has a 17 million housing deficit. Please show me one,” he argued.
Fashola, added that while the then NBS Director General, Dr. Yemi Kale and the World Bank had disowned it, the minister of housing at the time who said she signed a foreword to a report, told him she signed without paying attention to the content because she was under pressure at the time.
“I’ve had a conversation with her. And she said she signed without paying attention. It was an error. And we are owning that error and racing down to the bottom with it.
“I admit there are deficits. The deficits are in the urban centres because people leave their homes in the rural areas to come and squat or rent houses in the urban centres,” he contended.
The minister however said he wasn’t sure of the current specific data, but that he had requested the National Population Commission (NPC) to add it to the items during the next nationwide census.
Fashola contended that if the Nigeria has a 17 million housing deficit, it presupposes that it has to do 17 million houses to solve the problem, explaining that there’s no way Nigeria can have a gap of 17 million or even the new 28 million figure being touted.
“Nobody could provide an answer to how that figure was arrived at. They first told me it was the World Bank, the World Bank denied it, they told me it was African Development Bank, African Development Bank disclaimed it. I asked the NBS, Dr. Kale, at the time, he said no, that wasn’t their figure and that he had doubts about the figure.
“But I finally found out that it was in a housing policy from this ministry in 2012, before my appointment, three years before my appointment, it was in the foreword of the minister. When I called her, she said, well, she just didn’t pay attention and that she was under pressure when she signed,” the minister added.
While noting that there was a shared constitutional responsibility on housing between the federal government and the states, Fashola explained that the most problematic side has been rentals, urging the states to focus more on that.
“But the rental side, which is where there is more damage is not being addressed, and the federal government has no responsibility there. The federal government has fiscal responsibility in cost of foreign exchange and all of those things, because they impact the cost of supply,” he argued.