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‘Government Should Create National Minimum Planning Standards’

BISI ADEDIRE is the Chairman Lagos state chapter, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP). In this interview, he spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the critical challenges inhibiting the implementation of development plan in Nigeria and other issues in the built sector.

There have been concerns lately on over centralisation of town planning system and process, which built environment experts believe are not the right way to go. What do you think should be the ideal procedure?
Well, looking at the planning administration and process in Lagos State for instance, we can infer that planning is controlled from the state level with little or no recourse to the local level. The ideal procedure is planning administration should be a bottom up approach. Planning process such as granting of development permit should start and possibly end at the local level while formulation of policies, preparation of model city plan, approval of layout plan can be carried out at the state level. With this, the impacts of physical planning will be more pronounced. When we look at developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, town planning is operated from the grass root. It should be the same for Nigeria, if we want to have rapid growth. So I call for decentralisation and a reinstatement of Local Planning Offices in Lagos State.

The standard of planning is very low in Nigeria, how can the nation develop national minimum planning standards and localize the new urban agenda?
Well, I won’t say that the standard of planning in Nigeria is very low. Maybe I can agree that it is inadequate but not very low. The truth is you can’t tell me that there are no impacts of physical planning in some cities in the country.

Yes, we still have a long way to go, however I think when we harmonise the planning standards obtainable in the states, we would move faster. So I am in support of the creation of national minimum planning standards. When I was the chairman of NITP Practice Committee, my team raised this particular issue but it wasn’t looked into by the executive council of the Institute. For us to develop this, the national body of NITP must decide to make this work. We can create a committee that would consider the planning standards applicable in the states. A review and workability of these standards can be looked into. After which the committee can decide on a unified standard that can be used. I believe if there is a minimum planning standard, development can be uniform and holistic.

For the localisation of the new urban agenda, the responsibilities lie with the executive and legislative arms of government with the town planners serving an advisory role. The new urban agenda basically looks at the creation of a just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cites and human settlements. While town planners are committed to the realisation of this, we can only advice and hope that the government follow suits. Government should localise new urban agenda for sustainable cities.

What are the challenges in implementing the Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning Law decree no. 88 of 1992 and the review of the Land Use Act 1978?
We need to know that the urban and regional planning law 1992 has several sections but generally, the law stipulated that planning activities should be carried out at the three levels of governments (Federal, State and Local government). It also specifies the responsibilities of the commission, board and authority that should be established. The law to some extents has been implemented by the states. However I think it is important we know that what drives a law is the regulation. If a law is in place but no planning regulation, it may be difficult to see the operation of the law. So the challenge to the full implementation of the law is the preparation of planning regulations for each state. Apart from this, inadequate personnel and equipment in town planning office, lack of funding are some other challenges.

For the review of the Land Use Act, I think the challenge is traceable to the authority (governors) that has been given the vested right to land. We have been clamouring for the review of the Act but these people are not forth coming. The question is, are the governors willing to let go of the vested authority that they have? As long as the governors are not ready for this, the review can’t be done. Today, many state governments are many huge financial gains from the sales of land, processing of certificate of occupancy, land regularisation and other land documents. This actually negates the provision of the Act, which stipulates that land should be made available at any given time for citizens at an affordable rate.

The impact of technology to practice of town planning is key, how are the practitioners leveraging on the innovations? 
As it stands today, town planners both in the public and private sector are using the available technological innovations in the practice of the profession. We now make use of drones for land use survey and mapping, GIS is also used for most of our planning activities. It helps us in generating accurate data needed. Also, town planners in Nigeria are in tune with the global call for smart cities. These are cities designed to function through technological means. We believe in this and we are ready to make use of all available ICT to achieve a livable and sustainable city.

With your emergence as the Lagos State Chapter Chairman of NITP, how do you plan to contribute to the evolvement of policies and programmes that could enhance physical planning practice, education and research development?
One of the major aspirations of our administration is to see the signing into law and implementation of the new urban and regional planning regulation of Lagos State. This regulation had been at the State Assembly for some years with no head way. My team believed we could do something to ensure it is revisited. With serious dedication and hard work, we have made a lot progress. The final reading for the regulation has been carried out at the Assembly and from the last update I got from members of the State House of Assembly; the regulation would be out for immediate implementation any time soon.

The reason we want this regulation in use is because it would enhance the practice of town planning in the state. I can’t tell you about the contents of the regulation yet until it is released but I can assure town planners that through this regulation, there would be improved standard of living for us. So we are contributing and we will continue to contribute to the progress of the profession.

We have plans and programmes in respect to physical planning and urban development already outlined for the state. As soon as the new Commissioner for the ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is appointed, we would visit him and make them known to him. Sometimes this week, the chapter would be paying a courtesy visit to the new Permanent Secretary. We are fully aware that when policies and programmes are viable, sustainable and financially inclined, the profession would be enhanced.

Nigeria still has huge deficit in the housing industry, how do you think critical stakeholders could really address this pervading challenge in the sector? 
There are basically two critical stakeholders in the housing sector. These are the government and the private developers. The government through its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is expected to create enabling environment for the private investors. From the record, the housing deficit in Nigeria is between 17-20 million. The truth is, there is nowhere in the world that the government solely takes care of the housing needs of her citizen. They do their bit and then provide a conducive procedure, which makes investors or developer carry out their businesses easily. This should be applicable in the country. The difficulty in accessing land for usage should be solved by the government, the bottleneck experienced when processing for the landed documents, planning permit for development should be addressed, and reduction in the cost of construction materials should be considered. With these, the private developers would be encouraged to get involved in the sector.

Following recent upsurge in collapse of buildings across the country, there were concerns for quality and safety in housing sector. How best can the problem be tackled?
Well, I think it is quite simple. Developers should engage qualified professionals when constructing. Standard and certified materials should also be used for construction. In addition, there must be continuous monitoring and feedbacks during the construction process. Importantly, I think developer should be informed on the need for them to build in line with the planning permit received. We have discovered that some of the developers don’t comply with this. Imagine a developer who received planning permit for three floors going to the site to construct four or five floors building. This is very wrong. Finally, there should be post construction audit carried out on the building by a certified professional.

How is your association impacting the young members, especially those in secondary schools?
In the profession we have elders who have taken interest in the younger members. They are presently mentoring and encouraging them. Some of the young members are attached to the firms of the senior town planners; they are putting them through the various avenues available in the profession. For the students in secondary school, some of us visit the schools for career talk to intimate them about the profession. Few years ago, I was in Air force secondary school in Ikeja for sensitisation. Some of my colleagues are also doing same all over the country. In some cases, we have the privilege to speak during church programmes where little children are available, planning firms also sponsor Inter house sport of schools. These are means of public enlightenment.

Source: GuardianNg

Family Homes Funds’ Adewole Canvas for More Housing Initiatives in Nigeria

The Federal Government says it intends to invest N1tn in providing about 500,000 homes through the FHFL by 2023. How much of this fund has been spent so far and how many homes have been provided since you began operation?

First, we have to correct the impression about the financial commitment. The commitment is for N500bn and not N1tn. The N500bn fund translates to N100bn each year. So far, the government has disbursed N20bn. But the process for the disbursement of N45bn has been completed and that money will be disbursed within the next week or so. The reason for the shortfall is basically because there is no need to disburse ahead of the programme. So, the fund is just taking off and therefore the disbursement is in line with the progress of the fund.

I think the disbursement will accelerate as the fund accelerates too, and I think by the end of this year, we will start seeing that acceleration.  As of today, we have just over 3600 homes that are either completed or under construction. About 1,025 of them are fully completed and are in the market for sale.

In addition, we have what we call commitments. So these are projects where we have agreements but it has not started on site maybe because the legal agreements are not completed. If done, this will lead to another 2024 units.

There have been several initiatives by the government in the last few years targeted at addressing housing problems within the low income group. But some stakeholders have said the initiatives have not been very effective. What’s your take on this?

My take is that in Nigeria, we have an approach of impatience towards addressing important social issues. For housing, like many important social issues, it takes time for new initiatives to get up to speed. But sometimes because we are impatient, we want results tomorrow; we tend to act like a gardener who plants a seed and becomes impatient when he doesn’t see any plant after three days. Housing is a very complex project. It takes a while for any initiative relating to it to gain ground.

And it is important for it to happen that way because it builds the bases that will sustain it for a long time. So, I wouldn’t accept that many of the initiatives haven’t been successful; I think they have made contributions. Initiatives like the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, the National Housing Fund, Infracredit bonds, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company, Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board, Federal Integrated Staff Housing and Federal Housing Authority have made a lot of contributions to housing in Nigeria. We can’t abandon them; rather, we need to support them. They are all playing critical roles. Our challenges are significant and one initiative alone can’t solve them. All of these initiatives need to be empowered and enabled to give us a chance of addressing the problem.

But there seems to be so many initiatives in recent times. Would there not be overlapping duties?

Yes there are many initiatives, but let me give an example: the United States has about 187 or so housing initiatives at federal level and at states level to address housing; and that is common in many countries because you can’t just have one.

Of course, when you have many initiatives, there are potential for overlapping, but that is a problem to be solved rather than one to be ignored. As those agencies and initiatives mature, you will find that those areas of overlap would be cleaned out. This is just a normal thing when you have different activities going on. It is just a build-up problem; it is not unusual.

If these initiatives are sustained, what’s your projection on how long it will take for the country’s housing deficit to be addressed completely?

Assuming we go by our famous housing deficit figure of 17 million, which is largely disputed, we have not really started. If you take the numbers, Family Homes Funds wants to do 500,000 homes over five years, which is about 100,000 homes every year. I believe the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria is doing about 20,000 to 25,000 new mortgages per year. If you put all of us together, perhaps we are doing 200,000 homes per year. How long will it take to cover a backlog of 17 million? You can figure that out. But we can’t just set our target on the 17 million.

We should also know that Nigeria is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the world. By 2050, our population will be just under 400 million. By 2030, we are likely to be about 250 to 270 million. Bearing that in mind, our planning should not be for today; it should be incremental to whatever figures we currently have because our cities are growing.

So, this is why I do not agree that there are too many agencies. In fact, we have too few of them. If we are going to have any chance of reducing the deficit, I think we even need to have about four times more initiatives than we have now. We probably need about four different Federal Housing Authorities, four Federal Mortgage Banks, and 10 Family Homes Funds if we are really serious about biting into this shortage.

What is the level of awareness among the people these initiatives are designed for?

As you are aware, we have just started. One of the things we are currently doing in that regard is to hold town hall meetings with our target audience. We have just held one in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, and I was glad to see the people who were there. They are the people we are actually targeting; mostly low to medium income earners. I think we need to do a lot more to improve awareness.

Stakeholders in the industry are of the opinion that affordability is relative when it comes to housing. How affordable is the “affordable housing fund” being provided through the FHFL and are those in the informal sector captured?

Everybody has access to the housing that we support, whether they are in the formal or informal sector. We make no distinctions. For affordability, I think it is a very difficult situation because we are currently banging on the door to improve affordability on a day-to-day basis.

One of the key measures we have taken is to establish what we call target cost indicators. So for example, we want to ensure that one bedroom unit should not be more than N3m; two bedroom unit should not be more than N4.5m, and three bedroom should not be more than N6.5m.

We think that this will significantly help in making the houses that we support affordable to people on low to medium income. I think we will not always achieve it, but our target is that at least 70 to 80 per cent of the homes that we finance are within that range.

How significant has the FHFL been in addressing some of these problems since its establishment?

We have only been here for eight to nine months now. But if I have to reflect, I will say that we have so far made about three significant interventions. The first one is the establishment of collaborative working.

The thing with housing is that it can never be a one-man show or one organisation show. So for example, our collaboration with the NMRC will see a significant increase in the mortgages to be issued in 2019, particularly through our Help-to-Own product. Without that collaboration, it is unlikely that the project will be successful. And I think that is what needs to happen.

We all need to come together. I think the initiative by Family Homes Funds to aggregate some of these agencies is a significant one. People may not see it, but it is a significant intervention.

The second intervention is that we are probably the only agency today in the country that is providing financing for affordable housing outside of the commercial banks where the interest rates, requirements, affordability and development costs are usually high.

The fact that we are able to provide financing at no more than 10 per cent per annum which is about one third of the market rate is also a significant intervention. The third intervention is awareness for states that are actually working with us and our partners that they can provide housing for their staff through the fund. That is a major achievement.

We currently have a very strong relationship with a number of states who have actually given land into the project. Borno State is the latest example, where we are expected to provide about 4,700 homes; 3,000 of those homes will be very low cost homes for Internally Displaced Persons. That is something we are going to achieve over the next couple of months. The sites have been identified; the drawings have been done, and we shall get on to that very quickly. I think those are very significant achievements.

Part of the FHFL’s policy is to support on-going dialogue on local content in building construction. What are the efforts towards implementing this?

Our target is that by 2021, we will make sure that 70 to 75 per cent of the inputs into the process of what we call the white input must be procured locally. Currently, I think we are just under about 50 per cent.

There are still a lot of white inputs (which are things like doors, wiring, light fittings etc.) being imported from countries like China. But we have now put in place in all of the contracts that where it is available, they must procure those materials locally. It takes time for that to pick up because you can’t make it automatic. The industry has to be there. But that is something that we have enabled in all of our development agreements.

Mr President, May We Discuss Your Cabinet?

Your Excellency, I want to seize this opportunity to wish you the best of the Ramadan season as you prepare to be inaugurated for your second term in office. May the lessons of Ramadan — especially the aspects of sacrifice and service to God and humankind — guide your next steps as the leader of this potentially great country called Nigeria. I have many complaints about your first four years in office, some of which I have written about in this space, but I would rather let the past be gone and hope for a new chapter as you renew your mandate on May 29. But I also have many things to say ahead of the next four years, some of which I will be writing about in the coming weeks.

Can we first talk about your ministers, Mr President? Before I proceed, I have a sad story to tell you. I was a fierce supporter of the candidature of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo at the dawn of this democratic era in 1999.

I campaigned for him in my little corner, believing that he had the capacity and the goodwill to take Nigeria to the right place. I believed he was not corrupt, and was further energised by his promise to fight graft if he was elected into office. I was also fascinated that he could keep the military guys in check so that we would consolidate our new experience of democracy. I voted for him even though my political sympathies were elsewhere.

On his inauguration at the Eagle Square on May 29, 1999, Obasanjo delivered a powerful speech, promising to fight corruption. At some point he stamped his foot on the platform to demonstrate his determination. He said it would no longer be “business as usual”. Good God, I was over the moon! I said finally, Nigeria was going somewhere after the devastating years of Gen. Sani Abacha. To tell the truth, Your Excellency, police officers stopped collecting their N20 tribute from commercial bus drivers at checkpoints. Civil servants started resuming work at 8am. Everybody seemed to take Obasanjo seriously. It definitely looked like the dawn of a new era. But it was short-lived.

As soon as Obasanjo appointed his first cabinet and named Chief Tony Anenih as the minister of works, my heart broke into pieces. That singular gesture proved to me that Obasanjo was joking about fighting corruption. At that point, I gave up on Obasanjo. It was not about Anenih per se, but I tend to analyse people’s intentions by their actions. It was a foreboding signal. If Obasanjo had made Anenih special adviser on political affairs or minister of cooperation in Africa, I would not have minded. But ministry of works is too central for any government to use for political patronage, so I immediately understood Obasanjo’s direction. It was a sad story. It broke my spirit.

Now, Mr President, let me say here that I will pre-judge your second term by the ministerial appointments you make after your inauguration. First, I have asked my fasting Muslim friends to help pray that we would not wait for another six months for a cabinet and they have assured me that they would spare no “rakat” in doing that. You are aware your delay in naming a cabinet in 2015 did no favours to the economy. I would even say we are yet to recover from the damage this inflicted on the system. That period was so critical to the repair of many economic fundamentals that would later shape the exchange rate and worsen inflation, unemployment and poverty.

Mr President, I will now be straightforward: if you retain certain ministers, I will finally give up on your government. I have seen enough reasons to lose faith but there is this never-say-die spirit that keeps me hoping even when it does not make sense. That is in my DNA. I have, however, been gravely worried that most of the ministers have been saying quietly that they are returning. In fact, I am told more than half of your cabinet will be re-appointed. I hope this is a joke, Mr President. Tell me it’s a joke, Mr President. Assure me, Mr President, that this is a joke. This is a cabinet you should have dissolved years ago! How on earth would they be retained? Say it ain’t so, Mr President.

Your Excellency, if you retain Mallam Abubakar Malami as your minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, I will finally give up on you. It will show that you are not getting the memo or there is something you are not telling us. One of the most important cabinet positions in a civilised society is that of the attorney-general. In fact, that is the only ministerial position mentioned in the constitution. The position is too critical and too powerful to be toyed with. A president will never get sound and frank legal advice if the attorney-general prostrates to greet him. The position requires a cerebral and principled appointee. I will leave it at that.

Mr President, if you appoint election losers as ministers, then I will surrender. One of them is Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the “constituted authority” in Oyo state who lost his bid to return to the senate after spending eight years as governor. Tell me he is not on your list, Mr President. Of course, we know Alhaji Adebayo Shittu will not return as minister. Or will he? No, Mr President, you won’t do that to Nigeria. Neither would you reward Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari with a ministerial appointment after his election as a senator from Zamfara west was annulled by the Supreme Court. I know you have the power to appoint whoever you want, but use that power wisely.

I hope, Your Excellency, that we are not going to see Chief Audu Ogbeh in your cabinet again. If you love him so much, you can send him as ambassador to Thailand so that he can go and regale Thais with his tale that the Asian country is experiencing increasing unemployment because of the “rice revolution” in Nigeria. Ogbeh is very good at embarrassing the country at the slightest opportunity. I hope never to see Solomon Dalung at FEC meetings again, and this has nothing to do with his beret. To cut a long list short, Mr President, if you return more than five ministers, you will be sending a depressing message to Nigerians about your direction in the next four years.

Beyond the issue of individuals to be appointed, Your Excellency, is the need to bring in relevant people into the cabinet to meet the glaring skill deficiency. I cannot believe that you have never appointed an advanced and experienced economist as minister since you came to office. I just cannot believe it — not at a time of our worst economic crisis in decades. We have a ministerial team full of lawyers and not one economist. I don’t understand. This is a great opportunity for you to address the glaring deficiencies in your appointments. It also affords you a golden chance to correct the lopsidedness against some sections, including women and youth.

Mr President, what is keeping your administration going is not the performance of your team but rather the enduring faith in you and the hope that you will eventually come good. But you are as good as the people you assemble to assist you. If you had IOUs in the first term, you have either discharged them or they have expired. It is now time to prove the growing army of critics and doubters wrong and to reassure the enduring believers that you are on top of your game. You need a brand new team of those whose competence is not in doubt and those who have fire in their bellies. Trust me, Mr President: most of your ministers are fatigued and have nothing more to offer.

If you are bent on doing favours, there are some ministerial slots you cannot afford to joke with. I list them: finance, education, health, defence, petroleum, power, attorney-general, works and interior. Long after you have left the stage, those are the things Nigerians will remember you for. A strong economic team (in which there are indeed economists), a revamped education system, a fit health sector, an infrastructural revolution, an efficient petroleum sector and massively improved internal security will change the fortune of Nigerians if you make them your priorities. All ministers are important, but some are more important than the others.

Finally, Mr President, you must now take your cabinet more seriously. Your “non interference” philosophy, which you take as a strength, is actually a weakness. It is your government. You cannot afford to be aloof! Where is monitoring and evaluation? It would make sense if you fire ministers once in a while. The joke in town is that you are the best employer of labour: you never fire anyone, no matter how woefully they perform! Non-interference has given many ministers the cover to be doing things at odds with the advertised values of your administration, secure in the faith that no one is watching and no one will be punished. Not good, Mr President, not good.

Lest I forget, Mr President, can we have a new way of doing things at the federal executive council? All I hear every Wednesday is that a contract has been awarded to buy dustbins for Damaturu or clear the drainage in Akungba. That is a bit disgusting. Governance is serious business. There should be more to FEC than contract awards. They should be discussing serious policy issues. Let Nigerians look forward to ministerial briefings that will give them confidence that the country is in safe hands and that a great future is loading. All these contract talks are banal. It has been so since 1999. We need a new direction, Your Excellency. Enough of these meaningless routines!

Meanwhile, until my next letter, please accept, Mr President, the assurances of my best wishes.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

ZAMFARA ZEROS

In the end, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has lost it all in Zamfara state. After months of crises and legal battles, the Supreme Court has declared that the party did not hold primaries in the state and therefore was not eligible to participate in the general election. All its results in the house of assembly, governorship, house of reps and senate polls were nullified. Candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) instantly became the beneficiaries. I don’t like to gloat but I just cannot hold myself from celebrating that fact that Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, the outgoing governor, will not enjoy the retirement benefit of becoming a senator after mismanaging Zamfara for eight years. Sweet.

OIL THEFT

Question: describe in not more than two words why crude oil is $70 a barrel but the benefits to the federation account are not commensurate. Answer: oil theft. In April 2012, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then minister of finance, raised the alarm that Nigeria was losing about 400,000 barrels per day to crude oil theft (usually perpetrated with the connivance of security agencies and government officials), the value of which was $1 billion daily. It was one of the reasons we couldn’t build massive forex reserves despite high oil prices. All indications are that oil theft is back in full swing — meaning the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. Slippery.

FULANI RADIO

A few days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke about “West African fulanisation” — which many have taken the liberty to interpret as they wish — the last thing you would expect from the federal government is to announce the establishment of a radio station for the Fulani as “a vehicle for social mobilisation and education”. No matter how well-intentioned, this is difficult to justify in a multi-ethnic society where there is already an endemic suspicion that there is a “Fulani agenda”. Whose brainwave is the radio idea? Will there be radio stations for other ethnic groups as well — in the spirit of balance? Are radio stations not better left to the private sector? Baffling.

Source: Thecableng By Simon Kolawole

Expert Canvas for Sustainable Environmental Structures in Nigeria

Dr. Newton Jibunoh is an environmental activist and founder of Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE). He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the need to improve budgets for federal and state ministries of environment. He also x-rayed the issues of climate change and gas flaring.

 

The fight against desertification has taken you far beyond the shores of Nigeria, campaigning through Europe and across the Middle East. How have you been able to sustain the struggle for a better environment? 

I didn’t start exploring because of the environment rather I wanted to ensure that I was ready to compete with my peers all over the world.

However, it was the exploration, driving from London back to Nigeria when I graduated, that exposed me to desertification.

When I saw the desert, (the Sahara) which is the biggest desert in the world about 12,000miles square and it was seen then, as a forbidden territory where people don’t go. Not only was it seen as forbidden place, I was also looking for how to do the impossible. Having seen desertification in the 1960s and I started by talking about it.

Twenty-thirty years after, the climate change started and desertification became one of the issues that was contributing to climate change. The other issues were rainforest, and the biodiversity issues.

From research, most of the scientists talking about it didn’t go through the desert but I went through and decided that I would be part of the debate because I saw it practically and that is how I got into the issue of campaigning.

The press did a lot because what was needed at that time was for people to get aware, sensitised and be prepared for the consequences of the climate crisis, which we have now. I became an advocate and started campaigning. I was able to tap into some resources from government institutions and private sector, but 70 to 80per cent of resources that went into my activism came from personal resources.

When people started seeing the result of what I was doing and what I started in the 60s/70s, it became a bit easier to tap into some kind of funding.

It hasn’t been easy because I am still putting a lot of my resources about 30/40per cent and the rest come from institutions.

Nigeria is signatory to the Paris climate change agreement and expected to cut down carbon dioxide emissions. Do you think the country would be able to meet its obligations under the agreement?

I doubt it, because of gas flaring. Authorities are playing around the issue maybe due to fear for the companies doing explorations, they are mighty and you can’t fight them.

I don’t know, if Nigeria is scared of offending them because it pays them to flare than to re-inject the gas and use it other way.

Even the fee and the penalty that is put in place, they prefer it. So I don’t see Nigeria meeting the target even though President Buhari was one of the first presidents to sign the accord. But when I look around, those things that are meant to help us reduce the emissions, we have done very little about them.

We are very much behind on issues of cleaning up places affected by oil spills and building of the various walls like the green wall project, city renewals that would bring about better living environment, checking flooding and erosion as well as plastic pollution, among others.

Environmental issue globally is not what one man can address and our ministries in states and federal levels have to rise up to their responsibility. With the way Ministries of Environment operate, Nigeria is far below meeting those targets.

There appears to be policy somersault and inconsistencies in the way issue of gas flaring is managed in Nigeria. Do you think government is on the right part now?

Government is not on the right path on the issue. For instance, look at how long it took, to appoint another minister when Amina Muhammed left. That is enough to let you know that the government is not taking the issue of the environment seriously.

What bothers me is that there is hardly any continuity and that is partly responsible for all the failures. Government has started a lot of things on a good note but when it comes to following it up, there is problem. The reform is affected by change of government and ministers.

Before, I made it a point of duty that any time environment minister is appointed, I will pay a courtesy call and it is always a joy. It got to a stage, I stopped it because of lack of continuity in government.

Are you satisfied with the way government is handing issues of the environment, especially through budget provision? What are your expectations?

I am not because I had thought that at this stage of my campaign and my age, am over 80 years old, that government would have taken full control of some of the things that I started to preach about 40 years ago, but that hasn’t happen.

For instance, government created the Ministry of Environment for the first in 1999. Before then, there was no Ministry of the Environment. That was one of the major plus for me because my activism contributed to the establishment not just for the federal. Almost all the states have created Ministry of

Environment. But the downfall of this is that within the period of 20 years, the Federal Ministry of Environment had 15 ministers.
Continuity became a difficulty issue. In environment, continuity is very important because you are building the future for generations and you must have sustainable structure in place that would outlive everybody. Nigeria needs sustainable environmental structures that would outlive generations.

What I am doing today is something that would outlive me and not something that when I am no longer around, the whole thing would collapse. So that is one of the things I am not happy about.

I found it difficult to see what the ministries of environment are doing. They may do something for adaptation when something happens for instance, flood or oil spill but in environment that is not the issue, the issue is mitigation. What are you doing to militate against such occurrence? That is where the money should go.

When I look around, for instance, 11 states in the North are affected by desertification and those are states that that could be submerged very soon. What has been done? I have gone round the 11 states, they are doing nothing. They would tell you it’s not a state matter and that it is the responsibility of the federal government. So, my take is that they have done very little.

The ministry of the environment is one of the most important ministries because you are talking about the future of the generation and it is usually the number three ministries. I have travelled round the world dealing with ministers and those responsible for environment since 15-20 years ago and I am still dealing with the same people in the helm of affairs of the environment in other countries. In Nigeria, almost one or two years, we change the Minister for Environment.

Already, countries are imbibing the culture of ‘building green’ as a means to mitigate impact of climate change, how can Nigeria build on this and what will be the impact on the environment?

Building green is also known as clean living. Do you know that the recent cathedral in Paris that got burnt that was built over 200-years ago took 20 years to build it.

When they started the building, they discovered that the number of trees they would need for the ceiling and other claddings will take a lot and it would be difficult to go to any timber shop to get the quantity.

While the construction was going on, they planted the trees, developed a plantation. People are crying over the money but they don’t know the history. It takes between 15 to 20years for a tree to develop into timber. At the time, they were ready to start cladding, the massive plantation became useful.

If today there is a big flood that put the whole of Victoria Island under water, somehow, the money will be found for adaptation but if I had gone to the government two years before such an occurrence to tell them that if something is not done, we might likely have flood, let me have some millions of naira to do mitigation work, authorities wouldn’t listen.

For every grass you pull down for redevelopment, you must plant another and this is not expensive. People don’t know that we have a serious environmental crisis on our hands, if we don’t act.

Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and loss of bio-diversity. The ecosystems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating. What is your take on this and what could be done?

Very interesting question, am doing an article to educate the people that humans are the ones bringing about the extinction of other species maybe because we have a bigger brain than the other species. When you look at the effect, most of the species came before us. This is peculiar to Nigeria; in other places, a lot of respect is accorded to other species. We need them. The more of those species we bring into extinction, the more human lives are threatened.

When I was growing up, we were thought how to set traps and our fore-fathers told us that why we must catch some of them and eat them; that if we leave all of them, they would over populate and when they overpopulate, they start to destroy the farm. That was the notion even then; there were a lot of species that people were not allowed to touch. There are some fishes and animals, especially in the evil forest that people are not allowed to catch. Our forefather designed it that way because of environmental consequences.

Most of the fishes are migrating out of Nigeria once their lives is threatened, they migrate as far as East Africa, where they are treasured.

A fish for instance can lay 1,000 eggs and here, we don’t only eat the fish, we also eat the egg. We are taking more than we deserve. There are places whereby, if a fish is caught and there is egg in the belly, you let it go.

Migration of people from the rural areas to the cities has resulted to land degradation, increased traffic and other environmental issues. What is the way forward?

When I was growing up, only 10 to 15per cent of those that left school in my area migrated to the cities.

Today itís almost 100per cent. I did some research and made some recommendations. Look at Abuja; it became a reality because Lagos was becoming overcrowded not only that we wanted a capital that would be central to every part of the country.

Abuja was developed in less than 15years. I did recommend that if Nigeria could develop mega cities build around the country even if it half of Abuja, we wouldnít have the kind of migration that we are experiencing today.

Once you develop a new mega city, there would be employment, environmental sustainability and other benefits because people will find something doing.

Look at today, people will either come to Lagos or go to Abuja for survival, job, businesses and employment. We therefore need to develop more mega cities, the way we did for Abuja.

Source: Guardianng

I never rejected House offer for Borehole, says Jigawa Gateman

Musa Usman is a gateman who served his Indian boss for 25 years in Lagos and was celebrated for declining an offer of a house for a borehole in his community. In this interview with Daily Trust, he denied the report, and classified other issues.

Daily Trust: When did you head out to Lagos, considering the fact that you are from a rural community in Jigawa State?

Musa Usman: I started going to Lagos when I was young, probably at the age of 35. I was introduced to Lagos by some of my brothers who go there for seasonal menial jobs. I first went with them to take part and later became involved in gardening, where we farmed a variety of vegetables.

DT: How did you meet the Indian national for whom you’ve worked for 25 years?

Usman: At the area where we were living in Lagos, there used to be an Indian national whom I have asked to help me secure a job. He agreed to assist and gave me the address of one of his fellow Indians in Victoria Island. When we met, I told him of the person who asked me to see him and the purpose. It did not take long, and I started working for them. There were two Indians in the house. At a point, my two bosses had some misunderstanding and parted ways. My present boss therefore asked me to stop working for the other man. Hitherto, they jointly paid my salary, but since then he took sole responsibility.

DT: Why do you think you are so dear to your boss?

Usman: I have been working for my boss for the past 25 years. For the period under which I served him, honesty has been my watchword. My boss trusts me immensely. As a security man in his house, I ensured that I worked diligently. There was never a time where an item went missing under my watch for that 25-year period. So, dedication to duty and honesty earned me a lot of respect from my boss.

DT: A hand pump borehole was donated to your community by your boss. Can that gesture be attributed to your honesty and dedication to duty?

Usman: Yes. But my boss has a way of doing things. When he has a plan for you, he hardly tells you. In my own case, he only told me that we would be visiting my community, and for the fact that he has been visiting the state, I did not care to ask the purpose until my boss’s driver revealed that my boss wanted to do something there. I think my emphasis on the importance of a borehole in our community due to the water shortage in the area may have inspired him. When we arrived, I was asked to show the location where I wanted the borehole to be constructed. I volunteered a part of my farmland located at the centre of our community.

DT: During the commissioning of the borehole, encomiums were showered on you because of the information that you rejected a house offer for a borehole in your community. How did this happen?

Usman: Nobody talked to me about a house. It is only the issue of a borehole that is at hand for now. If there is any other thing that may be due for consideration, it could be for some other time.

DT: But people were made to believe you sacrificed an offer of a house for the welfare of your community…

Usman: This is because of my hard work and honesty. I am a source of pride to my people. What I have come to realize with my boss is, when he wants to render assistance to anyone, he does not make noise over it.

DT: Have you been prevailed upon not to talk about the house offer?

Usman: There is no such thing. The offer was for the borehole and it has been constructed.

DT: Now that your son has taken over from you as gateman for same boss, do you think he will be as committed as you have been?

Usman: My duty as a gateman is not only to man the gate, but to put on generators, and also some other duties. So, I will actually be going back to continue with my job.

Source: Dailytrustng

Housing Expert Speaks on How to Solve Housing Deficit in Nigeria

Lookman Oshodi is the Project Director, Arctic Infrastructure and member of the technical committee for 2018 Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation. In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he gives an insight on the way out of the housing problems bedeviling the country.
What do you consider as the best approach in tackling the nation’s housing deficits? 
The first step is for the states to key into the existing housing policy of the Federal Government and make adjustments to reflect their own priorities in housing. Capacity building across the board is very important to understanding the dynamics of housing in Nigeria. For instance, while Gombe State may not necessarily set housing as its top most agenda, Ogun State needs the understanding that by virtue of its location, it stands to produce the most viable, accessible and large scale housing market not just in Nigeria but the entire West African sub region. Many states require the involvement of local governments to play active roles in housing delivery process.In the area of funding, a number of initiatives are coming up to make funding accessible, but currently they are disconnected from one another. There is also the need for that cohesive approach that will bring all funding initiatives together and sensitise them to housing providers in Nigeria on the ease of accessibility and the benefits.What roles can infrastructure play in addressing the nation’s housing deficits? 
The success of any housing system rests majorly on the supporting infrastructure. Housing will remain inadequate qualitatively and quantitatively, if infrastructure is absent. Over the years, the deficit quantum of housing in Nigeria has remained stagnated at between 17 to 20 million, depending on where you are getting the figure. This could be more because majority of housing available lacked critical adequate housing indicator and infrastructure.

A well-developed infrastructure, comprising good transportation system, water and sanitation, energy, healthcare, education and connecting technology among others will attract tremendous investments into the housing sector. It reduces the production cost of housing, increases supply of units, improves land value around housing, creates better physical and economic accessibility for the beneficiaries, improves social and environmental quality of Nigerians and improves the nation’s prosperity index. If well conceptualized, planned, executed and delivered, infrastructure is a backbone of reducing housing deficit in Nigeria.

According to a survey, Nigeria needs about N10.63tn ($67bn) to tackle infrastructure gap. What role should private sector play in meeting the huge financial outlay? 
The private sector has significant role to play in attracting funding for Nigerian infrastructure needs. In any infrastructure investment market, private sector possesses ability to navigate the complex market and rapid turnaround period. Whether on or off the investment road show, private sector has comparable advantage in attracting infrastructure funding, especially when funding partners are gradually realising that state led infrastructure in many cities in Sub Saharan Africa are not fully yielding the desired results.

In Nigeria, the private sector had made huge funding commitment to infrastructure development. Majority of housing in Nigeria are the products of private capital, the fledging energy sector currently relies on funding from the private sector while infrastructure for tax model is being introduced in the road sector. All these are considerable history of private sector financing of infrastructure and pointer of interest to make further contributions.

However, for private sector to make effective contributions, government must play substantial enabling role and create accountability platform that will draw private sector funding. At this stage, the Nigeria needs to be very clear on the type of economic model it wants to pursue, social, capitalism or clear hybrid system. A bit of social, welfare, capital and communal models without concrete loop end leading to the multiple mis-interpretation on the part of state actors, inconsistencies, policy somersaults, nepotism and obscured transparency in infrastructure procurement process are all inimical to private sector interests. They are doing substantial damage to the private sector contributions in bridging the infrastructure gap.

Do you think the present administration’s housing policy can bring about solution to homelessness in the country? 
To measure the sustainable solutions on housing of any country in the world, the first indicator is the housing situation in about five flagship cities. Observations in these five cities can give valid opinion on the success or otherwise of the housing delivery structure. In Nigeria, housing situation in Lagos and Abuja will readily come to mind. Then, situation in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna and Ibadan can provide answers to the assessment of the present administration’s housing policy.

The administration is doing its best within the complex housing environment, but there are still milestones for us to cover as a nation. However, housing question in Nigeria is a resolvable dilemma if we set our priorities right and address the fundamental issues.

Which areas would you want to see improvement? 
I am not sure if the merging of housing ministry with works and power ministry is translating to housing for many Nigerians. I am yet to see quality housing for people of Ajegunle or Okokomaiko in Lagos and residents of Dutse-Alhaji and Jikwoyi in Abuja. Land accessibility, as also acknowledged by the Minister, is a major obstacle that the administration needs to improve upon. A lot of reforms are being executed in the housing finance sector but they need to be cohesive from the present silos framework. Sustainable building materials require further attention while capacity improvement at all levels of manpower should be strengthened.

The new trend now in the housing industry is smart homes. How can developers embrace the new technology associated with it? 
The smart home concept is growing in Nigeria among new homes coming to the market. Although, the rate of retrofitting at individual’s level is not too clear, but the trend is largely common in high and medium income communities. Homes in the low -income communities are making sporadic investments in procuring one form of smart home equipment or the other.

Smart home is fast emerging in the country but scope of adoption is still being limited because of broader environment restriction. The concept of smart home becomes seamless and rewarding if there is interoperability with city smart response system such as security, emergency, utility and supplies. How many cities are smart enough to encourage internet of things with various homes?

Smart homes functioning relies on regular energy, internet connection and equipment batteries. Energy supplies in Nigerian cities are too low while it is a considerable challenge to access internet in many cities outside Lagos, Abuja and few other cities. Take notice that basic pre-paid electricity meters that measure households’ consumption on the utility is still intractable. The infrastructure gap in the housing sector is imposing limitations on the full -scale deployment of smart homes, but the market is optimistic with investment opportunities.

The Land Use Act amendment has been stalled. Is it possible to do away with the Act without its amendment? How? 
At present, we cannot do away with the Act since it is a substantive national law, which every citizen must comply with. The act has its both advantages and disadvantages but one thing that is clear is that the act has encouraged multiplication of slums and spread of informal settlements in Nigerian urban centres. Sometime, you may not need elaborate lobbying or conferences to highlight the deficiencies of certain system. The obvious outcomes of such system should be compelling for policy makers to initiate changes. Many citizens have been consciously confined to the realm of informalities because of the provisions and implementation of the Act.

In this case of Land Use Act, it is ideal for states to begin creative ways of working around the Act in making formal land accessible to their residents. Ogun State Home Charter programme is making progress in expanding access to formal land holding while some other states too are working under the framework of Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform to expand formal accessibility. In any case, it must be noted that the revision and amendment of the Land Use Act is long overdue.

Rural to urban migration has continued to increase, do you think we need a National Urban and Regional Planning agency to give direction to the development process? 
A process without a direction will find it extremely difficult to achieve any meaningful success. Setting any urban agenda without a coordinating institution means clear direction is lacking for the agenda. Hence, the necessity to have agency to coordinate development services and strengthen resiliency in Nigerian urban centres. Lack of these institutions in many states in Nigeria is evidenced in the chaotic and unplanned situations we are seeing in many urban areas.

What role will such agency play in ensuring integrated housing programme?
Such agency, if established in a state can initiate and set housing agenda for the state. The agency will set policies, and standard for housing development and where possible provides a platform for multi-stakeholder, public, private and community to come together and deliver housing system that can reflect the aspirations of each state.

There have been calls for a virile physical development management institution to ensure proper urban development. How feasible is this? 
Setting up a development management agency could be challenging when a state looks at the initial cost outlay of the system. Cost in this case will include start-up cost for accommodation, equipment and other logistics. Also, the medium to long term operational costs play major roles. However, the cost outlay brings huge returns to the state because it facilitates both local and foreign investment opportunities, improves the livability index of the residents and becomes a bridge to bring many residents into formal economic structure of the state, including taxation.

In ensuring the feasibility of having the agency, the state needs to be creative in engaging partners. especially in the private sector and restructure some elements of cost recovery mechanism in the development services. For the agency to be sustainable and perform its functions effectively, the State leadership needs to shield it from undue political interference.

Guradianng

Adamu: Govt Intervention Required to Make Housing Accessible

The Chief Executive Officer, Hared Properties Limited in Abuja, Hassan Adamu, in this interview speaks on the opportunities and challenges in the real estate sector. Jonathan Eze brings the excerpts:

One thing we noticed is that most real estate operators do not have plan for low income earners. Is there any plan on ground to satisfy them?
Yes, there is. Like anywhere in the world where government is a major player in that kind of sector. For example, everyone wants to live close to where he or she is working. If you want to build in Abuja as a driver, secretary or civil servant working in the Central Area and live in Maitama without proper transportation or proximity, it is going to be an issue for you. That is why you see people struggling to get a piece of land around the town. And for the real estate developers who want to build low income houses around the town must firstly consider the cost of land, you have to buy the land.

Then, cost of construction, and the overheads which will equally add up to the cost of the unit. At the end of the day, you will see that it is not going to be as low income you want it to be. But if you go to the outskirts where the land is cheap, it may still be far from the buyers to get to their place of work. At the end of the day, even if he or she owns private mobility, by the time you calculate what he spends on transport, both service or others, it will also close to the total sum of a unit in the town. At the same time, if you have many units in the piece of land, the price can reduce as much as possible.

READ ALSO: MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT AFRICA REAL ESTATE

houses

By the time you have a 10 -20 storey building without lift, maybe in the morning when you are going to work, you have the energy to come down, but by the time you come back from work around 6 or 8pm in the evening, you are tired and you have to climb the next ten storey building. No doubt, our environment does not support such buildings.

That is what is affecting lower income projects. Where you see that happening, there you see work being done shabbily because you just have to cut cost to do it. People are now wise. Before, they buy houses just like that, but now, if you tell them you have some square metres of house somewhere, you will see them coming with a tape to measure it and ensure that the house is complete. Now, people are now going for houses that have value. As it is, there will be natural segmentation. If you don’t do what is right, you will just find your place within the segment.

We have so many estate developers around Abuja here, what makes your company stand out?
We want to be known for quality. What we are doing most especially is that we are not building as if we are in Europe with a tiny room, where if you put a bed, you don’t have a space again. Our houses are big and very spacious. We build homes not just houses. A home where you will want to run to and relax. Within the areas we have our facility presently, we have places of relaxation, exercise and very good serenity, such that when you are home, you will relax and have the necessary space. We also work with people to finish their houses when it gets to finishing stages. By the time we hand over your keys to you, you will be sure that this is what you want.

Building collapse is becoming a trend now, especially in Lagos and other parts of the country. What do you think is responsible for this?

Building collapse is not only peculiar to Lagos alone. Abuja had its own share sometimes ago. I believe that what usually causes it are in tripod. One, the developers, materials and the authorities. Now, there are so many materials you find in town . Assuming you go to the market to buy iron rod and they give you 16mm, test the gauge, you will see that it is eight 14 or 14.5. The buildings are calculated with the strength of the iron rod. That will show you that the strength of the building is not commensurate with what is being used. Two, we don’t have good pricing mechanism. Anybody just wake up in the morning, increase or decrease what pleases him. For example, there was a project we started and when we started, a bag of cement was N1,000.

houses

When we finished the project, a bag of cement was N1,850. We had already pegged the price of that house to a particular amount. If for whatever reasons, maybe the time frame of that project becomes elongated, if you don’t have good conscience, you may have to find ways to cut corners. Also, quarries will just wake up in one day and tell you that we have increased our product. The same with cement and other materials. We are at the receiving ends. You want to give people their houses, if you are not careful and have a good conscience, you will just do what you want to do and give people their houses, make your money and leave people at the mercy of death.

What role do you think the authority can play to forestall future occurrences of building collapses?
They are supposed to inspect these buildings at every stage. They are supposed to check your reinforcements whether you are using the right quantity, whether you are using the right workmanship and in the first place from the design, whether the design will hold. It is not only the aesthetics that matters, but really, whether the design can stand on its own. I have seen engineers complaining. They usually abuse the Architects that they will sit at the comfort of their offices and design very beautiful house without thinking whether it can be built or not.

What do you expect from the clients?
I think clients should know that Nigeria of yesterday is not the one of today. Money is hard to come by. It is not only about what you see around alone. They need to dig deep and see what they are buying. The value they are buying, the functionality. Because, buying a home is one of the emotional and hardest decisions one makes in life. There are many people that have bought houses especially here in Abuja during the real estate boom. They are now seeing the house as liability. It is their own house, but it is as if they in there paying rent because they are constantly repairing the house, constantly paying some certain charges. At the end of the day, you calculate how much you are spending; it will look as if you are still paying rent to another person.

For us, we are looking at those avenues. We are looking at modern day living and we are giving choices. We don’t just come and give package and corner you that you must pay for this. Our houses have internet server, DSTV and other packages. Although, we are not forcing people to own a smart home, but we are giving you the basic and whatever you need, we will upgrade you to the level you can afford.

houses

What roles do you think government can play to help the sector?
In term of costing, although I don’t know how the government is going to do it, but they should find a way of getting genuine real estate developers and partner with them so that the developers can get lands almost free, so that it will also affect the cost of the houses. Because in doing that, they have eliminated a major cost in the process of building houses for the people. They can even work with the developers to determine certain design and the cost of the houses. That will also help the clients themselves.

At our present location now at Katampe, we have to construct a road. We are now working hard to bring electricity and water to the area. So, if you add all these cost to the cost of the building, you will see that it will jack up the price of the houses. Government should help in the area of infrastructure. If the authorities consider that, it will bring down the cost of houses so that people can have options. The cost of building houses in Maraba or Kuje may be the same, but the cost of lands will be different. That is what makes the difference where this one will be higher than another. So government needs to regulate land pricing and even intervene to make housing accessible.

Thisdayng

Lagos Island Is Long Overdue For Total Regeneration – Jeje

Honourable Bosun Jeje is a lawyer and a former Commissioner for Housing in Lagos State. In this interview with Seyi Taiwo-Oguntuase he speaks on the recent building collapse and what can be done to avert future occurrences, among other issues. Excerpt:

What is your take on the recent building collapse in Lagos?

The recent building collapse is a sad thing; more so when people lost their lives in it. The state government has always been very concerned about the structures and government has always been on top of anything like that.

After the collapse in Itafaji, I really appreciate the role of the state government for being pro-active in the step taken. Many of those houses need to be removed. When you look at the structures in Lagos Island, having worked there in my banking days, I could remember that many of the buildings have packed up. The place is also overcrowded and if you want to remove a house, you must also provide alternatives.

When I listened to the state government asking them to move to a resettlement at Imota and Badagry, I could see that the government is really prepared to take the bull by the horns. The houses are there and the structures are very defective, they have to be moved and government is really prepared to take a political will to do it.

More Details to follow…

Source: Independentng

Nigeria: Why Buildings Keep Collapsing in Lagos and What Can Be Done About It

There’s been a spate of building collapses in Lagos, Nigeria. In some cases, people have died. In one instance a building had been marked for demolition at least three times. There are also concerns about hundreds of other buildings in the city. The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Ndubisi Onwuanyi about this.

How common is this in Lagos? What causes these collapses?

Building collapses in Lagos have become common in recent years. Numbers are hard to come by but a Lagos state of inquiry found that there were at least 135 cases between 2007 and 2013. In my research I found that at least 50 of those happened during the construction phase.

Buildings collapse for various reasons; they can’t all be attributed to the same cause.

Some collapse after they’ve been completed and are in use; some collapse during the construction stage. Collapses during the construction phase are common because of the high rate of urban expansion, new construction and a lack of monitoring.

Most of the buildings that collapse are multi-storey, which suggests problems of soil structure – some buildings may have been built close to a swamp and so the soil is wet – and weak foundations.

Other reasons include the quality of building supervision by builders and officials, design of foundation and structure and poor materials. Developers will sometimes cut corners on the materials they use, refuse to follow due processes and use inadequately skilled and qualified personnel.

While these are all factors, I think the most critical issue is a lack of enforcement by officials. Effective enforcement would detect poor material and faulty designs.

Who is responsible for regulating construction and are they doing a decent job?

The Lagos State Building Control Agency, set up in 2010, is responsible for building regulation. Until 2010, the Development Control Department of the Ministry of Physical Planning was in charge of building regulation.

While failures are preventable, they cannot be entirely eliminated. But the persistence and frequency of collapses in Lagos means that not enough is being done.

In the recent building collapse, where the school was involved, officials say the building was one of many that had been marked as unsafe years before. But no action had been taken.

Among the causes of this delayed action were lawsuits by the building’s owners to prevent its demolition. But this shouldn’t distract from the fact that officials failed to carry out their duty. They are responsible for the identification and removal of distressed buildings to prevent collapse. Officials also failed to enforce building control regulations during the construction phase.

What else can be done?

Lagos has all the appropriate laws. But it needs to adopt the right procedures and see them through.

There’s also a serious governance issue that must be addressed. Building control should be a local government responsibility – but in Nigeria it falls under the state government.

Nigeria currently runs a three-tier federal system made up of federal, state and local governments. As a result of constitutional reforms made between the 1970s and 1990s some of these tiers’ responsibilities were arbitrarily altered. The building control function was transferred from local to state governments.

But state officials are handicapped in enforcing building regulations. They’re located far away, in Ikeja which lies to the north of the state. This means they’re not familiar with residents and local officials or the situation on the ground. And even though there is a representative in each of the various local government councils, they don’t have enough personnel to effectively cover the whole state.

For example in 2015 I found that the agency had fewer than 300 staff to cater to a population of 21 million. In 2017, 200 more were employed, but this is still not enough. Proper monitoring and enforcement becomes an impossible task, particularly when there’s rapid urbanisation.

Building control must be returned to the local governments and they must ensure that they have enough qualified, quality personnel.

In addition to this, regulators must strictly monitor changes in the use of buildings. It’s common to find buildings in Lagos being used for other purposes than that which they were built. This may increase stress on the foundation of buildings. In this recent collapse, the building was not designed as a school.

Lastly, officials must conduct themselves in an ethical and professional way and ensure there’s no political interference in building regulation. Corruption is a major reason for the agency’s ineffectiveness, because officials may be reluctant to arrest or persecute violators or people responsible for collapses.

Ndubisi Onwuanyi, Lecturer, University of Benin

Source: Allafrica

‘We need to institutionalise effective housing delivery system’ – Expert

Prof. Mustapha Zubairu is a renowned architect and town planner. He is the project manager, Niger State Urban Support Programme. In this interview he offered solutions to Nigeria’s lingering housing challenges, among other issues.

Providing housing for the low-income has remained a big task for governments. Do you think, we need a policy for such housing scheme? 
Federal Government has already made an elaborate plan to provide housing for the poor and low-income Nigerians. Specifically, chapter eight of the National Housing Policy (NHP) 2012, deals with the provision of social housing for Nigerians with low or no income.

Sadly, what has remained consistent about Nigeria is the seeming inability and will to implement the social housing component of the policy, among others. Nigeria is yet to develop requisite synergy and cooperation among the three tiers of government, to ensure that the states and local governments get the support, and capacity development they require to implement a credible programme of mass, affordable and sustainable social housing for Nigerians.

Federal Government agencies such as Federal Housing Authority, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) that should have been able to provide the state technical advice and concessional finance have neither been effective nor compelled to do so by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing supervising them. FMBN seems to be facing a large trust deficit from the workers who have contributed to the National Housing Fund (NHF), since its inception in 1986, due to their inability to access loans from the NHF or even offered any explanation as why most of them are left carrying only Passbooks of their contributions without any hope of ever securing loans from the FMBN.

Nigeria does not need a new policy, what we instead require is the creation of a robust institutional framework/arrangement where Federal Government through its ministry in charge of housing development, becomes an enabler to the state, local governments and the private sector (real estate developers); to build their capacity, knowledge, skills; make it possible for them to access concessional finance and technology; break the entrenched silo mentality between the federal agencies; and pave way for the provision of mass affordable housing for the poor and low-income families all over the country, in line with the provisions of the NHP, 2012.

What strategies do we need to improve effective demand for projects for low-income families in the urban areas of Nigeria?
Effective demand for housing by the low-income families translates into the provision of housing that they are willing and able to pay for. This can be achieved, if prudence and innovation are deployed in the planning and implementation of such projects.

A few examples of development options to ensure effective demand by the target population are: site and services to allow the family to develop their houses at their own pace. The infrastructure for such project may range from one water tap to one WC; site and services with a core house of between one room and one or two-bedroom bungalow or flat. The beneficiary will add more bedrooms and associated facilities at his/her own pace.

Others are deployment of concepts like sweat-equity with focus on the workers (unskilled to artisans); use of local building materials and renewable energy system and components to reduce their carbon footprint and enhance affordability; using biogas systems for individual houses or neighbourhood to generate methane gas to be used for cooking.

Similarly, it includes recycling of liquid waste from kitchens and showers to be used for watering flowers; architectural design of such houses should be based on zero/passive energy concepts and bioclimatic architecture. This will significantly reduce the cost of services such as electricity and enhance affordability; and above all, to design the houses in clusters or estates that are compact, connected, socially inclusive and resilient.

If the professionals in the built environment apply themselves correctly, the effective demand of the houses will be greatly enhanced by the target population. Similarly, if concepts such as subsidy and cross-subsidy are effectively applied in the implementation of such projects, they will not only greatly enhance affordability but will ensure effective participation of the communities in which the projects are located, thereby helping to build proprietary pride by the beneficiaries in the communities, state and country.
The federal and state governments seem to have abandoned sites and services housing development, do you think the scheme is necessary?

What should be done to revive it?
Acquiring large track of land and subdividing it into plots; and providing required infrastructure before allocation to target population is both time consuming and capital intensive. The demand for land tends to outstrip the ability of the governments to cope.

At state level, people find it easier to acquire land through other means, mostly of doubtful legality, to build their houses. This is why slums have taken over most of our cities, despite the fact that such areas lack basic infrastructure such as water supply and access roads. Land in the slums tends to be cheaper to acquire.

Another challenge of the site and services is that where the plots are available in government projects, they tend be much bigger than those sold in the slums. For example, in government site and services, minimum plot size tends to be 450 square metres (m2). In the slums, it is not uncommon to find plots of sizes ranging from 200m2 to 225 m2.

Sites and services is still a much better option to provide serviced plots for low- income families in particular. Our governments, especially at state and local government levels must acquire the capacity to work in through a bottom-up and stakeholder-driven approach. This way, more affordable plot sizes can be provided in compact and socially inclusive housing neighbourhoods that the target population will have a sense of ownership of and proprietary pride in.

An emerging trend is to constructively engage the private sector in the provision of sites and services and construction of the houses through a four P model –Public-Private-People-Partnership. A pilot project is currently being developed by Niger State Government with financial assistance from the German development agency- GIZ.

What will you consider as the major impediments to housing delivery in Nigeria?
Sadly, Nigeria is yet to develop a credible housing delivery system across the three tiers of government. All of them are in the field trying to build houses; leaving no body in charge of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the implementation of the NHP; assessing the Impact of the policy at the three tier of government; and developing synergy that is vital to harnessing the symbiotic relationship between housing and urban development.

There are numerous challenges within each of the five components of housing-land, finance, infrastructure, building materials; and labour. Federal Government, through its line Ministry, has to assist the states; councils and private sector to address these challenges to enable them embark on the development of affordable housing.

We have to rid the housing delivery system of the entrenched silo mentality among the agencies of Federal Government; and rebuild the trust of Nigerians in them, especially FMBN.

Examining various housing programmes of government, are we in the right part to bridge the housing gap? What should be the best approach?
No, we, as a nation, are not on the right path. The few housing projects initiated by both federal and state governments, across the country, do not appear to be based on the NHP. We need to develop and institutionalize an effective and sustainable housing delivery system in Nigeria.

What role do you think government should play in ensuring mass housing?
First and foremost, Federal government has to assume full responsibility of an enabler to provide the assistance required by the states, LGAs and private sector to eliminate the following challenges: Taking the Land Use Act out of the 1999 Constitution, to allow for redressing its shackling consent provision, among others. Ultimately, Nigeria must embark on a journey that will lead to the full commoditization of land for housing and related development;

• FGN has to enable the states, LGAs and private sector to have access to concessional finance for housing and associated infrastructure development. Here lie the potentials of the National Mortgage Refinancing Company (NMRC) to refinance mortgages of the states, LGAs and private sector to facilitate the construction of more houses. Insurance companies including national Social Insurance Trust Fund; and international Development Finance Institutions like the World Bank, African Development Bank can provide long-term finance for mass affordable housing across the country;

• Urban infrastructure is characterized by, among others, high capital-output ratio. Concessional sources of finance has to secured to enable the states provide required infrastructure for their housing projects;

• Emphasis must be placed on the extensive use of building materials with low carbon footprint; and selection of suitable technology to be used in their production. We must take advantage of the growing smart city technology such as Advanced Meter Infrastructure, Smart Street Lights, Smart Buildings with suitable IOTs and Open Data in the design of our buildings and management of the houses and estates; and

• FGN should facilitate the training and certification of artisans in the use of conventional building materials; and training of a new generation of workers in the use of smart systems and components.

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The cities have been weakened by urbanization and lack of clear policy to make them livable? How do we manage cities and ensure better urban administration? 
The population of Nigeria was estimated by the United Nations as 195,190,643 as of May, 2018; with urbanization rate of about 50 per cent; and projection that the population will double within the next 30 years. An essential attribute of the demographic change is the equally high rate of slum formation, where up to 69per cent of the country’s urban dwellers live.
There is the necessity for the FGN to facilitate and fast track the reform of the cities and towns in the states to enable them to rearrange their financing, management and governance so as to be able to provide themselves modern infrastructure facilities and services on a self-sustaining basis.

As the former Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority, are you satisfied with the performance of the agency? What are the challenges and what steps should be taken to reposition it?
I really cannot say what is happening in FHA now. However, my experience when I served briefly as its MD/CEO was that the then Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development was charged with the responsibility of supervising the activities of FHA. In reality, the Ministry turned out to be the biggest competitor to FHA, as it was involved in the direct construction of houses in, virtually the same sites as FHA and targeting the same market. I am still convinced that the viability of FHA is hinged on its ability to partner with the states, LGAs and private sector in each of the six geopolitical zones. The broadly peculiar culture, geography and socio-economic characteristics of each of the zones, will allow FHA to spearhead the provision of large scale affordable housing projects that are socially inclusive and acceptable to the target population in each of the zones.

Source: Chinedum Uwaegbulam
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