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Nigeria’s Democracy and Housing Development from 1999 to Present

Nigeria’s housing sector has been defined by a litany of housing policies and initiatives since its uninterrupted return to democracy in 1999.

In this piece we shall consider the policies and housing development agenda of successive governments since 1999.

Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007)

The Obasanjo government was marked by the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and a proposal of multiple housing reforms including the restructuring of the FMBN. These policies also became an offshoot of professional bodies like Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN and Building Materials Producers Association of Nigeria, BUMPAN.

Obasanjo started his housing agenda by hosting a presidential breakfast meeting on housing with Governors and leaders in the housing sector. The meeting led to setting up of a presidential technical committee on housing under the chairmanship of Dr Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers state.

After the submission of Odili committee report, president Obasanjo inaugurated a presidential technical committee under the leadership of Prof Akin Mabogunje supported by team of highly respected technocrats.

The recommendations of the committee led to the establishment of the Federal ministry of housing and urban development from the then federal ministry of works and housing.

The period between 2000 – 2004 policy focus was on the private sector to serve as the main catalyst for housing delivery in Nigeria while the government will concentrate on the provision of basic infrastructures on the new housing development.

Issues in the Land Use Act were equally given attention for review as well as the financial structure such as the FMBN and provision of incentives to developers inform of tax holidays for five years.

The policy recognizes the private sector as the main solution to the housing deficit in the country while the government opt to function as an enabler and facilitator in the housing delivery.

The Nigerian Housing Policy (NHP 2006)

The inability of earlier policies and programmes to adequately resolve the backlog of housing problems in the country necessitated more pragmatic solutions and this formed the basis for a review of the 1991 National Housing Policy. Given the importance of housing in the national economy, the federal government of Nigeria set up a 15 man committee on urban development and housing in 2001.

One of the responsibilities of the committee was to articulate a new housing policy. The report of the committee as accepted by the federal government was published in government white paper on the report of the presidential committee on urban development and housing in the year 2002. Part one of the report contain the new housing policy, which was subsequently published as draft national housing policy in January, 2004.

The draft policy was subjected to critical comments and inputs across the different states of the federation and the New National Housing Policy published in the year 2006.

This policy came up with some transitionary strategies in which government made significant effort in partial disengagement into housing provision and encourage privately developed housing. Under the policy adjustment such as the amortization period which was 25years under the previous policy was jacked up to 30 years, interest on NHF loans to PMI’s were scaled down from 5% to 4% while the lending rate to contributors is reduced to 6% from previous 9%.

The new policy aimed at removing the impediments to the realization of housing goal of the nation. The goal of the policy is to ensure that Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and healthy housing accommodation at affordable cost. This goal is similar to that of the 1991 policy except that the fulfillment of the policy is not tied to a specific period. The scope of the policy objectives has also been widened to include some of the issues put under the 1991 policy strategies.

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The main policy thrust is on institutional reform, capacity building, and increased financial mobilization to the housing sector, local building material production and adequate access to building land.

The development restructured and capitalized the following institution to effectively perform their statutory roles: the federal mortgage bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Federal Mortgage Finance Limited (FMF) and Urban Development Bank (UDB).

The new policy emphasizes private sector participation in housing finance and investment. In fact, one of the short term measures advanced in the policy is the commencement of the implementation of a private sector lead housing construction programme.

Appreciable success was recorded as the reformed FHA was able to deliver houses, especially for workers in some cities of Nigeria, especially Abuja.

While the implementation of the Nigerian Housing Policy 2006 was based on the set goals and objectives is to ensure that Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and healthy housing accommodation at affordable cost, the policy implementation has proven deficient vis-à-vis the objectives.

Majority of the city residents who are low income earners whom the policy supposedly deemed to address cannot afford the housing produced under the programme. The policy has not made much contribution to housing provision. The primary mortgage institutions (PMI’s) which are the catalyst of policy implementation are not available in the state and most of the residents of the city are not aware of the policy and its potentials in financing housing. Even where government was involved in the direct housing provision very little was achieved in terms of meeting the target group

Umaru Musa YarAdua (2007 – 2010)

Musa YarAdua had a short-lived presidency after succeeding Obasanjo through an election he admitted himself to be flawed.

While there were no grandiose ambitions about housing, one of the points in his famous 7-point Agenda was Land Reforms.

While hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost through unused government-owned landed assets, changes in the land laws and the emergence of land reforms is supposed to optimise Nigeria’s growth through the release of land for mass housing, commercialised farming and other large scale business by the private sector. The final result is supposed to assure improvements and boosts to the production and “wealth creation initiatives”. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see this through.

Goodluck Jonathan (2010 – 2015)

Goodluck Jonathan who was Yaradua’s deputy was sworn in after the death of the latter in 2010, and also went ahead to win a fresh term for himself in the 2011 presidential election.

In 2012 Goodluck Jonathan announced that the Federal Government was committed to revolutionalising the Housing sector by translating the National Housing Policy and National Urban Development Policy into a roadmap for housing development in the country.

In line with this, NMRC was established for mortgage refinancing with the support of world bank

The Nigeria’s Mortgage Re-Finance Corporation (NMRC) is private sector driven and established as a Public Private Partnership Initiative with partners including the Federal Government, Nigerian commercial banks, as well as multinational institutional especially the World bank which is providing concessionaire credit of 300 million US dollars.

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On July 31, 2014, Jonathan’s Government, in Abuja, launched the first 10,000 mortgages for affordable homes scheme. The then Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated that the Federal Government’s 10,000 mortgage scheme was inspired by the former President’s pledge on January 16, 2014 when he launched the Nigerian Mortgage Refinancing Company (NMRC) with a view to making mortgage accessible to Nigerians to enable them purchase and own their own homes.

Through this scheme, Nigerians were assured of being pre-qualified for 10,000 mortgages to be provided by lenders most of whom were present at the launch. The NMRC was set up as a re-financing vehicle to provide mortgage lending institutions with increased access to liquidity and long-term funds, since the ability of banks to deliver mortgage services is limited by the fact that 80 per cent of all bank deposits are for 30 days only. Housing has a longer gestation period than commercial loans can accommodate. The NMRC, in ensuring greater access to finance for tenure of up to 20 years, was to accelerate the growth of the mortgage market for all income levels. Regrettably, the 10,000 mortgages scheme has been derailed by inconsistency of government policies in Nigeria.

One of the major problems with the above scheme is patronage by Nigerians. Demand for housing is a factor of income. In a country were over eighty per cent of the adults are either not employed or under-employed, one wonder how the mortgage will be repaid. In countries with higher employment rates like United States of America and United Kingdom, mortgage repayment still pose a problem, how much more Nigeria where over 80 per cent of the workforce are not employed or underemployed

Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – Date)

When Buhari was elected in 2015, his first impact in the housing sector was to merge the ministry of housing with two others – works and power. This move raised a lot of concern, given the importance of housing to a country like Nigeria.

After completing his first term, a lot of stakeholders believe that the decision to merge housing with works and power undermined the performance that many had expected in housing, especially as the country’s housing deficit remain.

Against the backdrop of the widening housing gap in the country, new partnerships and initiatives supported by the federal and state governments to address the housing shortfall were put in place, thereby raising the hope that government can actually help bridge the housing deficit in the country in the next 15 years.

The Family Homes Fund Limited is one of such new initiatives. The Fund is a partnership between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority as founding shareholders. The Fund is the largest affordable housing-focused fund in Sub-Sahara Africa, leveraging its significant capital (in excess of N1trn by 2023) to facilitate access to affordable housing for millions of Nigerians on low to medium income groups. Through strategic partnerships with various players in the sector and some of the world’s main Development Finance Institutions, the Fund has an ambitious commitment to facilitate and supply 500,000 homes by 2023.

So far, the Fund which is barely a year old has constructed some homes and is still constructing and working to increase awareness about its programs and how people can key in to them.

The Buhari Government also established a pilot scheme called National Housing Programme, with construction ongoing in about 34 states.

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According to the outgone minister, Babatunde Fashola,“…No less than 1,000 people are employed on each site apart from the staff of the successful contractors.

“These sites are an ecosystem of human enterprise, where artisans, vendors, suppliers and craftsmen converge to partake of opportunities and contribute to nation building,” he added.

The Minister also disclosed that a total of 1300 Certificates of Occupany (CofOs) have been approved with 1,216 Application for Consent to transfer interests in Land application as at October 2018.

He said this was borne out of its resolve to tackle the backlog of issuance of consent and Certificates of Occupany to Federal Government land.

“Some of these transactions started over a decade ago and those just getting certificates acquired their properties years back but never got title,” he stated.

While this is plausible, a lot of sector stakeholders believe that there is little to appreciate in Buhari’s first four years.

Stakeholders argue that previous governments in Nigeria had drafted a national housing policy (since 2012), and that Babatunde Raji Fashola was supposed to have studied the policy and compelled relevant agencies to come up with action plans for the achievement of the sectoral goals instead of embarking on a pilot project for a NHP that did not address the housing challenges.

Major Challenges of Housing Development in Nigeria’s Democracy Since 1999

Some of the challenges confronting the sector included lack of political will to unleash a housing revolution, policy inconsistencies, institutional inability, undue politicization, piece-meal strategy of housing delivery at the expense of mass housing development, and lack of ownership/title rights partly attributable to challenges associated with the implementation of the Land Use Act, 1978.

Others are poor land administration, little effort in computerizing state land registries, delay and high cost of processing land titles, cumbersome and slow foreclosure procedures, non-availability and high cost of construction materials; low capacity of builders and developers and unprecedented urbanization, among others.

Nigeria as a country should develop housing policies and programmes in line with the unique diversity of its cultural inhabitants as well as the financial, human and material strength for a systematic implementation over a period of time.

There is the need for government to still consider public housing as a form of social responsibilities considering the financial arrangement with the mortgage institutions the required minimum deductible amount which is beyond the reach of a low income earner in Nigeria. Rental housing are still very relevant and should be incorporated into the housing policy especially based on the demographic and resource pattern of each state of the federation only if the housing problem is to be reduced. They could either inform of subsidized housing or incorporating social housing into the policy.

Housing advocacy groups in the country have suggested that there should be cooperative housing models backed by law and an enabling environment, simple land allocation system and affordable finance options.

By Festus Adebayo CEO Abuja International Housing Show

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