That Nigeria is faced with a huge housing problem cannot be over-emphasied owing to the fact that about a large percentage of her total population are either underemployed or unemployed. Statistics has shown that the rate of unemployment has rose from 5.3 per cent in 2006 to 23.9 per cent in 2012.Due to the high rate of unemployment and underemployment, many Nigerians find it difficult to provide their basic need, shelter being one of them.
The government is charged with the responsibility of providing affordable housing for its citizens that are either of low income or no income. However the government in Nigeria has not been so sincere in its bid to provide affordable housing even though it has formed so many policies like the national housing fund, Nigeria mortgage refinancing company, national roadmap on housing to mention a few that is suppose to boost social housing.
At different times the common Nigeria worker has expressed difficulty in accessing funds from the federal mortgage bank even though they are contributors to the fund. The commercial banks are not left out. Their interest rate is too high for the average Nigeria not to talk of the whole cumbersome process of accessing the loan.
In Abuja for instance there are so many fully furnished houses that are empty because of the high cost of rent and even procurement for the average Nigeria who actually form the estimated 17 million housing deficit that is currently plaguing the country.
Even though the federal government set up the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) with one of the aim of providing social housing but due to government interference the agency has not being able to do much in that regard. Apart from that, the FHA for about 15 years has being starved of any kind of fund from the federal government.
Speaking on the issue the president general Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporation (SSACTAC) comrade Mohammed Yunusa noted that it is because of political interference that is why the FHA is no longer delivering houses. He insisted that the government is trying to abrogate its responsible because the government is the owner of land and the cost of land constitute about 60 per cent of the cost of building a house. If the government now privatise FHA it means it will now give land to private people to build houses. The cost of those houses will not be affordable by the average Nigerian.
While reiterating that the union was in support of full commercialisation and not privatization maintained that instead of selling the FHA to a few individuals the government should instead make fund available to the authority and give it target and see if it will not deliver on its social housing responsibility.
He said, “The government should provide seed money for the Federal Housing Authority. For the past 16years the organisation has not received any fund from the government. The same government will go to the streets and say that FHA has failed give it to private people to run it. Our own position is this, there is an enabling act that set up FHA. Give them money and give them targets. In the past when they were given money you know the several houses they have here in Abuja.”
Also speaking comrade Aminu Sa’ad Usman SSACTAC national treasurer explained that the law establishing the federal housing authority gave it a dual role of implementing government programmes on housing and advising government on housing as well as provide houses for Nigerians on commercial rate. Coming to the national housing policy of 2012, it also gave the federal housing authority the same dual role and charged it with the responsibility of providing social housing that will be funded by government. Imagine if it is privatsed who will do that responsibility? It is the same private owners that the government will give funds to provide houses on behalf of government and that will operate it without a profit margin, he queried.
Meanwhile comrade peace Obiajulu former president general of TUC stated that FHA doesn’t need privatization or commercialisation. She lamented that though the FHA’s duty includes building houses for workers and the FMBN possess money donated by workers yet the authority is not funded instead the funds are given to private developers who built houses that are above the reach of the workers.
On his part, the managing director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) prof Mohammed Al-Almin speaking during the 2015 pre worker’s day lecture organised by Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporation (SSACTAC) FHA branch noted that the building of social housing is the sole responsibility of the authority and not the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) or ministry of lands, housing and authority.
While maintained that what the federal government is proposing is full commercialisation of the authority and not privatization added that social housing is the right of every citizen and thus it is the duty of the authority to ensure that there is a roof is on top of every Nigerian.
In his lecture implementing a viable social housing programme in Nigeria: proposed role of FHA, Prof. Mustapha Zabairu a former FHA managing director noted that for social housing to meet the targeted people specific guidelines such as level of income, age, previous ownership of house must be put in place.