abuja pixNigeria is one of the West African countries colonized by the British in the late 19th and early 20th century, officially known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a Federal Capital Territory Abuja… It gains its independence on the 1st of October, 1960. Nigeria has a land area of about 930,000 square kilometers and shares boundary with Republic of Benin in the West, Chad and Cameroun in the East and Niger Republic in the North, and a population of about 150 million . With more than 50% living in urban centers   according to UN Habitat, 2008

Before the advent of the colonial rule at the dawn of the 20th Century, a communal system of housing delivery was practice in most Nigerian communities. Houses are built through communal efforts by peer groups, members of age group would turn out en masse on appointed day to assist the builder in whatever task of the project. In return, the builder would provide sumptuous meals while the project lasted and vice versa.

This system continued up to 1928, and still lingers in some communities to date despite the disruption of the people’s communitarian values by the westernization.  Government starts to intervene in the housing sector in 1928, during the Bubonic Plague of 1928 – 1929 (NHP, 1991), by the then government of the defunct Lagos Colony, wading into the housing sector brought into existence by law the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) which was charged with the responsibility of planning and Development of the capital city of Lagos. But that housing scheme had only civil servants as its beneficiaries. It was only possible to sell the units of houses in that estate to civil servants through payroll deduction system.

During preparation for independence, the slum clearance resulted into the construction of additional houses in Surulere which was the first attempt in urban renewal in Nigeria. Nigerian Building Society (NBS): Established after the World War II, by colonial government with the aim of extending housing opportunities to more Nigerians including those in the private sector. This was a carryover from the British system where mortgage bankers are called building societies. The effect of the NBS was felt almost exclusively within the Lagos enclave. Only an insignificant number of people outside Lagos benefited from the programme. But the NBS could not stand the test of time because it was dependent on government for funding.

By 1975, however, the housing problem of the country as manifested in the increasing housing shortage, rising house rents, increased overcrowding resulting in slum and unhygienic conditions, etc. can no longer continue unnoticed. The government felt compelled to act. Consequently, the plan contained the first explicit statements, programmes and targets specifically aimed at alleviating housing problems. Amongst these were significant and commendable steps taken to make housing loans available to an increasing number of Nigerians through the manipulation of monetary instruments and the reconstitution of the Nigerian Building Society into the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to serve as the apex lending institution for house loans in Nigeria. In addition, a number of administrative steps were taken to increase the source generally. Some of these were the encouragement of the state and local governments and also private employers in the provision of houses or the granting of house loans to their employees. It was within this framework that the Employees Housing Schemes (Special Provision) Decree Number 54 of 1979 came into being. The decree made it obligatory on any employer having a specified number of employees (fifty) to establish, execute and maintain a housing scheme for these employees. The various governments were to help in the provision of land and other materials. The federal government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, directed that commercial banks, especially, should devote about 5 – 6 percent of their total deposit (and the insurance companies up to 25 percent of their life deposits) in real estates.

In 1979, the Shehu Shagari Administration initiated a Policy on Affordable Housing. The policy, though laudable and very bold in its effort, was unable to meet the nation’s housing needs because it was based on the unsustainable tenet that houses will be provided by government, and this remains an anomaly that we must resolve

Despite all the aforementioned steps taken by the federal and most state governments, it was discovered that the housing delivery situation in Nigeria was getting worse.

The Nigerian National Housing Policy was formulated in 1991 with the goal of ensuring adequate access to decent and affordable housing by all Nigerians. The housing situation in Nigeria since its formulation has shown quite glaringly that the implementation of the policy and the operational strategies adopted for it have been deficient. The policy was revised in 2004 to take care of the problems encountered in the implementation. A Presidential Technical Committee on Housing and Urban Development was set up by government to address the new housing reforms. It recommended amongst other things the restructuring of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and the creation of Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), and Building Materials Producers Association of Nigeria (BUMPAN).

The new housing reforms created financial mechanisms and institutions that will make available to the private sector (developers) funds for the production of mass houses, and allow purchasers (mortgagors) to have easy access to borrowed money through the Primary Mortgage Institutions . It also acknowledged, finance as constituting the centre piece, among other major pillars, of housing delivery.

The poor state of housing finance in Nigeria is reflected in the UN Habitat  2005 report on Financing Urban Shelter which shows that while mortgage constitute more than 70% of GDP in advance economies, it is less than 0.8% in Nigeria.

In 1992, the Federal government enacts a policy which made it mandatory for every Nigerian earning up to N3, 000 monthly to contribute 2.5 per cent of his monthly salary to a National Housing Fund (NHF)  This fund was to be managed by the FMBN, from which it could lend to the PMIs. ensure that estate developers can build to target prices.

In 2003, the federal government also established the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, and Proposed a Housing Reform, in view of the fact that there were not many affordable houses in Nigeria. There was an illusion that houses were available.

The period 2003 – 2004 witness a Housing policy that recognized the private sector on the driving seat of housing delivery in the country, the key features of this policy include the placement of the private sector in a pivotal position, for the delivery of affordable houses, on a sustainable basis; assignment to government of the responsibility for the development of primary infrastructure for new estate development; and review and amendment of the Land Use Act to ensure better access to land and speedier registration and assignment of title to developers.

All governments in Nigeria since independence have highlighted housing as a major priority.

Unfortunately, for 55 years of its independence, The housing needs of the people keep widening. In many cases  buildings are left uncompleted or individuals have to deplete their entire life savings in order to build a home.

Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development,  a new ministry created out of  erstwhile Ministry of Works and Housing  and  tasked  with the provision of housing  across the country  since its inception, has been putting up efforts to see that housing, especially  affordable ones are provided for the teeming Nigerian population.

However, in spite of the laudable strides of the Lands and Housing  Ministry  in seeing to the reduction of  wide housing gaps among the citizens of Nigeria, especially among the middle and low class, the gap still yawns wider.

An Affordable Housing that was initiated in 1979 by the Shehu Shagari Administration. The policy though laudable was unable to meet the nation’s housing needs because it was based on the unsustainable tenet that houses will be provided by government (this remains the anomaly that we must resolve). The implementation of the 2002 housing policy reforms was a promising beginning, but a lot remains to be done.

Others are the Land Use Act of 1978 which vests all land in the government which makes it an obstacle to making land available for housing development.

As Nigeria celebrates 55 years of culture, innovations and diverse leadership, the country has proven to be the giant of Africa. Nigeria is a nation with well over 176 million citizens and counting and it is simple common sense that this high population must be taken care of. The first way to take care of this vast population is through the avenue of housing, housing is a crucial basic need of every human being just as food and clothing. It is necessary towards the welfare, survival and health of mankind.

By : Flora Anne  HousingTVOnline.

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