Last week, we reviewed the covenant read by  President Muhammadu Buhari to Nigerians on the night of his victory in the polls, in which he outlined his plans in 12 key sectors of national life. This 12-point agenda (as I called it), broadly spanning the 3 areas of National Security, Economic Development, Food, Health& Social Security proved inconclusive we said, since the issue of housing – so critical to all 3 areas – was not pointedly mentioned, despite the very serious needs that exist in that sector, as well as the vital role that housing plays in all 3 areas. Whilst it is true that the APC government has announced plans to deliver a million homes every year while in office, this fact has not always received the prominence that it should.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to lay out the basis for a draft housing plan for the government in the hope that ordinary Nigerians this time around, will benefit directly and get a better deal in this very strategic area.This week, I shall focus on the crucial role that housing plays in ensuring Social Security.

But first, what exactly is ‘Social Security’? According to the web-based Wikipedia,

“Social security is a concept enshrined in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

In simple terms, the signatories agree that society in which a person lives should help them to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to them in the country.

Social security may also refer to the action programs of government intended to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and to promote health and well-being for the population at large and potentially vulnerable segments such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed….”

Shelter is one of the 5 most basic needs of man. Without shelter, a man is unable to function properly to his full capacity. Shelter not only protects him from the harshness of the natural elements such as the sun, the rain, the cold and so forth, but a home largely defines him. A man is defined not just by the locality he emanates from but also by the home in which he was raised.

The home gives a human being his sense of ‘place’ in the society. It provides security and a harbour to which he can run and hide when the storms of life become overbearing. There is a direct link between a man’s sense of confidence and the home from which he came. Societal misfits have often been found to come from dysfunctional homes or no home at all!

A home brings self-worth, happiness and fulfilled dreams to the family. Neighbourhoods in which the residents do not have adequate housing usually experience far higher crime rates than those that do have adequate housing.

A home also strengthens the family, reduces overcrowding and often eases the financial stress that is the foremost cause of family disagreements. The home thus, becomes a place of peace and stability in which the family can grow together and in which the children canto do their homework.

As families are strengthened, so are their communities. Home ownership means the people will care more about their environment, since they are there to stay.

Healthy families are the building blocks of a healthy community.With leaking roofs and dirt floors behind them, their inhabitants can now say “hello”to improved sanitation and indoor air quality.This is true preventive healthcare!

Academic research confirms that clean, warm housing is an essential input for prevention and care of diseases of poverty like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, and malaria. A 2004 Emory University research study on low-income houses built by Habitat for Humanity in Malawi found Habitat housing improved the health of young children as much as water and sanitation programmes. The study found that children under 5 years of age living in those basic, but decent houses had 44% less malaria, respiratory, or gastrointestinal diseases compared to children living in traditional houses.

Healthier children focus better in school and are therefore able to aim high to obtain university degrees their parents could only dream of!

As Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity said, “A house is the foundation upon which human development occurs.” No wonder many western governments will place the responsibility for social housing not in a ‘bricks-and –mortar’ ministry of housing but rather, will domicile it in a much softer ministry of ‘social development’. Basic, safe & decent housing whether provided under a Government subsidy scheme or otherwise, promotes social security in no small way and increases the quality of life of the entire populace.


BY: Sam Odia – National Director of The Fuller Center for Housing.


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