The completion of the general elections in a peaceful manner contrary to various predictions is indeed a welcoming development and a sign of a better tomorrow. We therefore, use this platform to congratulate the president-elect, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (Rtd) on his victory at the polls as well as his persistence and undying attitude towards his ambition over the years which finally has yielded good fruits. We also find commendable and appreciate, the show of high level statesmanship exhibited by the president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
His attitude towards defeat is infectious and one of great esteem, which has won him the hearts of many nigerians. Congratulations to both parties and we wish Nigerians the best. As Nigerians and professionals, it is our desire to point out some of the salient issues that call for immediate and committed actions by the president-elect as soon as his administration kicks off. We believe in infrastructural development as a means to meaningful and lasting transformation. It has remained a sure way, across the world, of fostering developments of all kinds. Physical developments associated with adequate and quality infrastructure creates the environment for other developments from economic to social to thrive. Thus, we hope to see infrastructural developments in the following major areas discussed below.
On the Topmost of our classification of major areas of attention is housing. Housing shortage within the country still bites hard in many states across the federation. In Nigeria, we still record cases of people dwelling in ramshackle structures that cannot survive the mildest of storms. Studies have shown that the housing deficit in Nigeria is about 17 million and according to the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, about 2 million units are been added per annum to the existing housing stock by the government.
However, this deficit is not static but increasing just as the population of the country. We believe what we need now is more realistic policies and pragmatic approaches to provide housing with ease of access to the people. This includes increasing the housing units as well as making them affordable to low income earners, and removing administrative bottlenecks in accessing land and processing of title to it. Many of the housing provisions by the government in the past few years were priced beyond the reach of the common man. In a country where the minimum wage is put at N18,000 how many would be able to afford a 2/3-bedroom flat of N15 million? Low cost housing has to be really low in cost.
Access to housing There are cases of estate entrepreneurs who wanted to build some 100 units of low cost housing for their employees at N4 million per unit. However, the good intention was scuttled by the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with the process of getting the title to the land, development permit and the duration of securing them. All these obstacles must be removed if the deficit will be significantly reduced. A good housing policy framework would definitely solve this problem and it is time to fully involve the services of professional town planners in the process. Transportation The issue of transportation is just as salient as the issue of housing earlier discussed.
Transportation can be likened to the blood in the body system. It is a link to every part of the system. More developed and efficient transportation system affords freer flow of economic development dividends across the land. Indeed Nigeria might be rated the largest economy in the continent, but this is yet to translate to economic value for the common man. It is on record that about 40 to 80 per cent of the income of most Nigerian workers is spent on transportation, with road being the dominant mode of commuting. There is hardly any economic activity that does not rely on transportation. Now, road transport appears to be the major means for transporting goods from producers to consumers and this is not cheap. The poor condition of many roads and the long travel time due to traffic holdups hike transport cost which reflects on the cost of consumer goods.
According to a study, about 50 to 60 percent of freight cost is gulped by road transportation. Most of the roads in Nigeria have been designed without detailed consideration of the axle load of vehicles it would bear which results in early dilapidation of many roads. It is either our roads are upgraded to accommodate the axle loads of trailers and trucks or alternative routes are provided for such heavy duty vehicles.
It’s no doubt that there is need to review the transportation policy. A policy that would foster development and efficiency of other means of transportation, such as rail and water transport, is expedient at this time so as to take significant burden off the road. Only about 40 percent of the inland waterways of about 8,600 kilometres are used and the rail transport, which until recently experienced rejuvenation, is still grossly underutilized.
• Adedire is the immediate past Chairman, Association of Town Planners Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Lagos Chapter.