Engineers seek more private sector’s participation in housing delivery

Nigerian Engineers have expressed their concern over the inability of the  private sector to drive housing delivery in the country, instead, governments both at the federal and state levels taking the lead, a situation considered inappropriate.

Besides, the group urged government to look into how Ajaokuta Rolling Mill and others could be resuscitated so that the dream of local production of building materials, especially, steels be quickly realised.

Speaking on the backdrop of President Muhammadu Buhari’s three years in office and his comments on infrastructure drive by his administration, President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr Kunle Mokuolu, has called on the Federal and State governments to provide proper framework that would ensure better housing delivery for Nigerians.

Mokuolu, while assessing infrastructure growth under Buhari’s administration in the last three years, scored the government high on road and power infrastructure, but expressed reservations about the housing sector.

He was of the view that governments at the two tier, would succeed better in mass housing drive if more private sector participation is facilitated, stating that housing delivery in advanced countries fared better because they are been driving by the private sector.

“While one can commend government’s efforts on provision of road and power, my advice to the current administration is to create the enabling environment for private sector initiative in the housing sector.

“I am satisfied with level of road infrastructure delivery but I want government to pay more attention to Nigerian content in the delivery of this infrastructure.

“If we are spending our sovereign wealth fund, then, we should be spending it for the sole benefit of Nigerians and for building of intellectual capacity, because the most important thing is the intellectual capacity of those projects, and not solely the physical ones that somebody need to carry bags of cement, or load of sands.

“Although we need people to carry the cement, but firstly, we need people to design the different infrastructure that would be for our domestic use,’’ he said.

However, to the NSE President, housing should be off the hands of government, and should be totally privatised, with government duty-bound to provide the policy and laws that would back housing delivery. “With that, bridging housing deficit will be properly addressed and pursued”, said Makuolu, who enjoined government to concern itself with social housing for those who cannot pay rent because they were either out of job or had other financial handicap.

“Social housing should be handled by the local government with financial support from the federal and state governments, so that when such economically disadvantaged citizens found their financial footing, they could start to pay rent or buy homes.

“Federal government is to provide the framework to ease the delivery of housing. I am not really satisfied with the housing delivery, some things must be in place to achieve this”, he said.

Among those things that need to be in place is the local production of building materials, especially, producing of steel, which is the backbone of housing project.

Mokuolu said that Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill could substantially reduce the housing deficit in Nigeria, noting that steel accounted for about 25 per cent of the cost of construction of houses.

“We need to revitalise Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill. This is very important. Whatever it takes to produce steel in this country, government should just do it, because steel component was important in building high rise buildings as the nation’s population was growing geometrically. It’s high-rise buildings that’s capable of accommodating more people. High-rise buildings occupy less spaces or land, but take care of more population”.

On power, he commended government efforts in adopting measures to get eligible consumers for the excess of 2,000 megawatts of electricity not being utilised.

He said that it was good that government was also working on its distribution and exploring alternative sources of energy.

The NSE President lauded the success recorded in tackling insurgency, stating that inadequate security would had made nonsense of all infrastructure development of the government if not effectively tackled.

“The major variable is security, so I am appealing to Nigerians to be more law abiding and obey the laws of the country and seek appropriate legal ways of addressing grievances,’’ he said.

Tunde Alao

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