A major paradigm shift in the use of indigenous building materials for housing design and construction may take long to come, following the inability of the Federal Government and its agencies to implement the new National Housing Policy.
Under the 2017 National Housing Policy, the government was urged to pursue vigorously the adoption of functional design standards that will facilitate cost reduction, affordability, acceptability and sustainability, which will respond to the cultural and regional peculiarities of potential users; expand and improve the manufacturing base for building materials production from all available local materials and evolve a more efficient distribution system.
According to the policy, the development of appropriate capacities to achieve sufficiency in the production of basic building materials and components of acceptable quality from local resources will stimulate effective economic growth and development; and structured manpower development programme for domestic requirement and international engagement.
The document further called on the authorities to encourage the expansion of existing industries producing building materials from local sources such as clay, bricks, concrete products, timber, glass and tiles.
It wants collaboration with other developing countries in the development of technical know-how for building materials manufacture; and encouragement in regional spread of building materials industries to stabilize cost as well as widen distribution.
Notwithstanding the good intentions of the stakeholders to ensure a robust indigenous building materials market, the absence of effective indigenous technology for the production of building materials, new building materials factories due to high cost of finance; inadequate and inefficient Infrastructural facilities (roads and rail transportation, water, sanitation, and power supply have worsened the plights of manufacturers and investors.
Besides, the recommendations of the policy for government to encourage the production and use of locally manufactured building materials by: providing incentives to, and creating the enabling environment for the private sector in order to encourage rapid flow of funds into building materials manufacturing through tax relief, accelerated depreciation and generous capital allowances are not adhered to.
There is also minimal support in providing matching grants for investments into research in the use of local materials for building materials manufacturers; providing loans at reduced rate of interest to manufacturers who will in turn supply self-built housing cooperatives and developers of low-income housing with their products at reasonable prices; attracting foreign participation into the building materials industry; and using local building materials for public projects at all tiers of government.
The Building Materials Producers Association of Nigeria (BUMPAN) formed to promote and encourage the production of building materials has remained in comatose.
The association is supposed to lay a solid foundation for the development of robust, effective and economically viable small and medium scale industries for the production of building materials.
Other strategies that are enshrined in the document such as strengthening the administrative, regulatory and institutional framework to ensure certification, registration and control of professional practices; supporting an integrated action programme for the organization of the informal building materials marketing sector; restructuring and adequately fund the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI); and encourage establishment of building materials testing laboratories by the private sector have not been supported by the government.
Experts say, the non-adherence to the content of the policy is impacting negatively in the housing delivery, which should reduce the housing gap.
According to them, since the aim of the housing policy is to solve housing problems, there is the necessity to enhance the workability of the policy in order to achieve the goal.
Consequently, they stressed the need for periodic review of the housing policy to make it functional and acceptable.
The immediate past president of Nigeria Institute of Architects, (NIA), Tonye Braide, said the policy is a mere paper work as there are many cheap materials coming from China, which are competing with the local materials.
According to him, government should come out with a better policy as the price of the local materials are still high, which is reducing the local component needed for housing delivery.
He lamented a situation where materials that come from outside the country is cheaper and of higher quality, which will not help in mass construction of housing and ultimately reduce the housing deficit.
He said: “ it is not right that some body will carry materials all the way from China and it will be cheaper than the one manufactured locally.
“Like the project, we are doing in Akwa ibom, there is no local content element in the project.
“In the presentation of proposal, you have to put it that construction will use local content and local labour but in practice that is not the case.
“I feel that there must be a conceited effort than the lip service we are seeing in the implementation of the policy”, he added.
For NIA second Vice President, Enyi Ben-Eboh, there is a noticeable difference to the extent that such materials like cement are locally available. “To a large extent, there are areas in basic housing that foreign components are utilised.
“ One of the few aspects is roofing aluminum sheets where we still depend on foreign materials imported.
He also said the foreign doors from China is becoming common. If you look at the cost in relation to a wooden door, which may not be as durable, people will still prefer Chinese metal doors.
“To that extent, the government may have to look into how some of these materials that are unfavourably competitive with local ones can be either made to pay higher tariff or allow incentives for local manufacturers to be able to compete to achieve mass housing and eventually reduce the housing deficit.
According to him, affordable housing thrives on mass production.
“Whatever is manufactured, if it is done over a large quantity ,the prices come down, so if most of these components are produced locally like cement, it can meet the housing demand in Nigeria.
“We will get to a time when local product outweighs demand, then competition will come and the price will begin to come down.
“Presently, if you assemble available materials for a two bedroom bungalow, the price will still not be affordable to those who wants it.
“You found out that those who can afford a two bedroom bungalow are senior civil servants who do not need that level of housing .
“For the people below level seven and downwards, they cannot afford the local materials based on their salaries”, he added.
Speaking also on the local content consideration of the policy, an official of the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), Razaq Babatunde Lawal said the institute has been able to develop building materials like Pozzolana, a cementious material, Mardotile roofing, and other varieties of machines but mass-producing it for the housing industry, has been a big challenge.
“Pozzolana is an ancient materials of construction that is coming back in view of its advantages and need to have an alternative cementitious material apart from over dependence on ordinary Portland cement hundred per cent.
The material like Pozzolana was developed and used in the past but it is now staging a come back become of its affordability and its usefulness as a building material.
Pozzolana materials include volcanic ash, power station fly ash, burnt clays ash from some burnt plant materials; siliceous earths. When mixed with cements, it activates the cementing properties to reduce cost of concretes made from composite materials often referred to as blended cement”.
According to him, the product reduces cost of efficiency of mortar and concretes, improves workability of mortar and concrete, reduces heat of hydration and reduction on effects of alkali aggregate reactivity.
He disclosed that the first pozzolana plant in Nigeria has been commissioned and ready for investors to show interest.
Lawal who works in the Engineering Materials Research Department (EMRD) said “NBRRI has developed interlocking block making machine in which the blocks made don’t necessarily need to use mortal while plastering yet you will have very aesthetic building.
The institute, he said hasn’t been able to mass-produce the materials and equipment because its mandate is solely to carry out research.
He explained that while it carries out research, the institute expects the public, based on exhibitions attended that investors should reach out to it and develop the products to the next level in terms of commercialization and forming partnership through proposals.
He stated that the fund to mass-produce its products might not be available. However, he said with institutional, private and foreign supports, the commercialization of its materials could be possible.
“Government has tried by going into pilots of the inventions but as a research institute over the years, we just write papers and it remains on the shelf if the products of the efforts is not commercialized”. Now we are having pilot plans in some universities. Through research we can avoid emissions by stopping the use of cement and start using alternative material. Cement industry and construction firms can partner with us through programmes on affordable housing and when they are using their cement, they could think of Pozzolana”, he said.
He observed that for the past 11years, interventions from the institute were not been felt, however, the current crops of leadership are desirous to let Nigerians feel its activity through development of exceptional building materials for building construction in the country.
He lamented that government’s direct involvement in the housing sector over the years has led to politicisation of policies and programmes including those relating to housing, to the detriment of Nigerians.
He blamed the situation on issue of corruption in system, which has made ‘nothing’ to be implemented in the previous years.
Akinrolabu, who is a manufacturer of low-cost housing equipment based in Lagos, explained that Nigeria’s housing problem could become a thing of the past if only the government and people will look inwards and use the local materials that God has blessed the nation with.
“Many of the policies require money to implement and with the fall in the global price of oil, where is the money? Nigerian government has no business in housing because everything has been politicised. if you politicize everything and you go to the national assembly, ask them to budget funds and the money is appropriated and at the end of the day, the money is shared. How can policies be implemented when the government has no money”, he said.