Nigeria’s biggest and most reputable housing advocacy group, Housing Development Advocacy Network has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his support for the growth of agricultural sector in Nigeria and have prevailed on him to replicate the same commitment that is much needed in the development of the country’s housing sector.
While receiving some select state Governors during the Sallah holidays in his hometown Daura, the President revealed that he has instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to discontinue the issuance of foreign exchange to food importers, especially because the country can now rely on domestically made food for consumption.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, the president said the directive is to ensure the steady improvement in agricultural production and attainment of full food security.
“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,’’ he said.
Buhari said he was delighted that young Nigerians, including graduates, have started exploring agric-business and entrepreneurship, with many posting testimonies of good returns on their investments.
Reacting to this, the President of Housing Development Advocacy Network, Festus Adebayo, said that President Buhari has shown political will by supporting agricultural development in Nigeria and creating way for local production of food.
‘’This is commendable. It may be termed an interference in the CBN autonomy, but to some Nigerians, it is a demonstration of political will for self-sufficiency in the area of food production. How long can Nigeria continue to import food that can be grown in Nigeria?’’ he quizzed.
The President according to him should endeavour to make this initiative all inclusive in order to spur other critical sectors like housing.
He said, ‘’The President has been quoted saying that he will sufficiently take care of the poor in his second term. The current decision by the President convince us at Housing Development Advocacy Network that he has the power to declare a single digit interest mortgage rate especially for low income earners, civil servants, and firs time home owners in Nigeria.
‘’We are therefore calling on him to repeat the same political will in the area of housing, and with his intention to care for the poor who are the ones that mostly voted for him, we believe housing is the best way to go. The best way to reward them is to commence a social housing project for them and their children. This will significantly improve their productivity and self-sufficiency,’’ Adebayo said.
For him, the call for such intervention in housing is even more critical because it will have ripple effects on the economy.
‘’A house can change the lives of many. Majority of the banditry activities as we have them today are mostly as a result of homelessness. A man who has a home will not want to die by involving in banditry. Having a home will contain his excesses and inspire him to do more for himself and his family. Criminalities are usually as a result of poverty and social exclusion. If affordable housing can be guaranteed for the poor, it will drastically reduce the rate of crime in the country,’’ he said.
Adebayo also mentioned that the provision of mass affordable housing will greatly improve the health and living condition of Nigerians and reduce the country’s expenses on health care.
‘’Housing sector is a very big value chain. If developers and mortgage lenders are given the adequate government support to drive down the cost of housing, it will increase not just houses, but creation of jobs across the different ladder of housing value chain.
‘’If housing is to contribute to Nigeria’s GDP as it should, then it is important for the President to also consider a special intervention that will create an enabling environment for developers, and create more home ownership opportunities for the poor through affordable and flexible mortgages,’’ he advised.
A decision by the President to specially support housing according to him will hasten the development of local content and increase the number of Made in Nigeria homes, catalyse sustainable housing projects and of course improve affordability.
‘’When the federal government leads through action statements in favour of housing, it will inspire state governments to follow suit.
‘’On our part, while waiting for action, we shall continue to engage all stakeholders including those in charge of policy formulation.
‘’We have forwarded the communique of the 13th Abuja International Housing Show to all the governors to consider the recommendation that have been outlined to improve housing development across the country,’’ he said.
Adebayo also commended the President for saying that he will not appoint anyone without experience in agriculture to manage the sector as a Minister.
On this note, Adebayo urged the President to also ensure that only someone with experience and capacity in housing development is made the Minister of Housing, to ensure that a square peg is placed in a square hole.
If this is done, Festus Adebayo said that he is confident of a rapid change in the country’s housing sector that is currently dealing with a deficit of about 17 million.
By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja