Hope is in the air for Nigeria’s struggling housing sector and the wider economy that the obsolete Land Use Act and the largely elusive National Housing Fund (NHF) are included in the legislative agenda of the 9th Senate for intervention.
Expectation is that a review of the Land Use Act would free land for housing and other economic activities, including agriculture and industrialisation, while the NHF would ensure more people would be able to get a mortgage to build or buy houses, leading to increase in the country’s GDP.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan, speaking through Ashiru Oyinlola, a senator, who represented him at the ongoing Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS), was optimistic that with this intervention, all other policies required to get Nigerians closer to their dreams, especially housing, would be achieved.
“The importance of housing cannot be over-emphasised. Our needs are enormous while resources are lean. But the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. Today presents us with the opportunity to consolidate on what we have built and to start new projects where necessary,” Lawan said.
AIHS is an annual housing event organised by Fesadeb Communications Limited, a housing sector promotion and advocacy firm. The show, now in its 13th edition, is arguably the largest gathering of housing sector stakeholders in Africa. This year’s edition has as theme ‘Driving Sustainable Housing Finance Models in the Midst of Global Uncertainty’.
In a veiled reference to this theme, Lawan noted that concerted efforts were required to think of the multiple ways of funding housing development in a way that would not only lead to the provision of homes, but to the growth of the economy.
“I am aware that there are critical areas that require legislative intervention like the Land Use Act, the National Housing Fund (NHF), housing regulations, and many more enabling policies. It is in the legislative agenda of the 9th Senate to see to it that all policies required to get us closer to our dreams are achieved,” he said.
The Land Use Act, enacted by the military government under Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978, is an obsolete land law that has overstayed its welcome and outlived its usefulness. The Act, which was aimed to ease access to land for housing, industrial and other economic purposes invested land ownership on state governors.
But the governors have, more or less, bungled the Act with its implementation. Land has now become a political tool in the hands of the governors. It is used for political patronage or victimisation, depending on which side of the divide the prospective beneficiary stands.
Every attempt to amend or review the Act has failed because amending it requires legislative action, which, in turn, involves expunging it from the constitution that only the National Assembly can do.
This is why the assurance of legislative intervention on the Act by the Senate President is something to look forward to with expectations of positive impact on both housing and other productive activities.
The NHF is another Federal Government intervention in the housing sector whose implementation has defeated its good intentions. The NHF, established in 1992 to aid the demand side of housing, was aimed to provide single-digit, 6 percent, interest rate to a subscriber to the fund seeking mortgage loan with repayment tenor of 20-30 years, depending on the age of the subscriber.
Today, the fund, which is being managed by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) is avoided like leprosy because the primary mortgage banks (PMBs), through which the fund can be accessed, have made it not only inaccessible but also unaffordable through spurious demands from subscribers.