With Nigerian cities becoming new homes to rural migrants every day, many of who are without a roof over their heads, experts have questioned the 17 million estimated housing deficit in the country.
The figure which has been in circulation since 2012 is attributed to the World Bank and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Nigeria is expected to overtake the United States to become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, according to a United Nations report. Currently the seventh most populous country in the world, Nigeria is projected to surpass the 300 million people mark by 2050, according to the World Population Prospects 2017.
The report predicted that the world population will hit a staggering 9.8 billion by 2050, and that over half of the expected growth between 2017 and 2050 is likely to occur in Africa.
Despite these predictions, the Federal Government has not made efforts to either provide houses for the population or plan for the future as the deficit figures have remained constant five years after. There has been policy inconsistency, poor financing, weak institutional structures and lack of political will.
The revised National Housing Policy shows that the cumulative effect of the inability to meet the targets set for the housing provision over the years is the gross housing deficit in the country.
According to the President of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Mrs. Mercy Torkwase Iyortyer, although there is no reliable data for the correct figure, the main challenge is not to talk about the deficit always but to do something even if it is little to address the situation.
For the National President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Luka Bunus Achi, a lack of clear statistics on the deficits in the housing sector makes things difficult to investors as there is nothing to guide them towards providing adequate housing for the people.
He said the 17-million figure came from independent bodies that claim to have conducted survey in that regard.
He expressed regrets that the Federal Government and professional bodies within the industry have not been able to produce a standardised figure that could also be reviewed overtime.
“It is easy for people to give a figure because it is constantly being mentioned and convenient for them, but every year, we add up to the population of Nigeria and every individual that adds up, will need somewhere to stay.
“More marriages are being conducted while minimum homes are being constructed and people are migrating from one place to another.
“When you look at those who don’t have houses, it is not possible that it is out of their desire not to stay where they could have their own houses because some have left their homes in the villages and they are staying under the bridge elsewhere with the expectation to get green pasture,” he stated.
According to him, “a question that can be asked is whether it is possible to say there is deficit until we have the figures properly done. I would say it is a challenge to the institute and our noble colleagues in the built environment to sponsor studies and produce correct figure either through state by state or region by region of what is on ground and the population that needs to be fixed. We need a figure that people could quote properly.
“Take Abuja for instance, there are a number of estates and you can count between five and ten of them that are just 50 per cent occupied, but that doesn’t mean the houses are not there. When you are talking about deficits, deficit will occur if there is no house to give out. We have houses that are not giveable or obtainable. There are people with two or three homes. Some have them in their home town and in the city, and so if we talk about the Nigeria figure, it is difficult to bring it up”.
According to Achi, in terms of the figure, the deficit implies someone having a room, where he could lay his head. This has to do with an option of a shared apartment amongst friends, a flat, bungalow, a group of self-contained units in a compound.
“If you talk about housing with good and all-encompassing facilities, then we could say housing is really a problem in Nigeria because the majority of the houses that we have do not have good water, electricity, sewage, drainage, recreational facilities and poor ventilation. We cannot qualify them as being a clear definition of what a house may be but if we are to talk about a shelter where people could just lay their head, then, it is not a challenge. Affordability too is a challenge depending on the economic strength of the individual,” he said.
Achi noted that people in Abuja are massively moving from areas where they could not afford the huge house rent to remote areas where rent is less expensive despite the bad road, poor water and electricity but they feel, because of the financial crisis, that is what their own pocket could afford and so when you add that factor to it, it further worsens the problems of housing in Nigeria.
The Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and member of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Prof. Timothy Nubi faulted the figure, saying that most houses without basic facilities and are in rural areas were not included in the housing deficit. “With the understanding of the fact, it is a wrong figure, we can develop a road map towards housing delivery using integrated approach,” he said.
Nubi urged the government to concentrate on urban regeneration in the next two decades. “It is cheaper and faster. The amount of fund needed to regenerate, for instance, Shomolu in Lagos with thousands of houses, is like 20 per cent of the cost of new built.”
Iyortyer said both government and the private sector have a role to play.
“We must walk the talk. If we keep talking and not taking action, we will keep talking years after years. Everybody must play his part, those in government should go after their employers, and target the low income people, while the private sector should also come on board,” she noted.
Iyortyer also advised that the focus should be more on the low income sector as there seems to be enough houses for high income earners, especially in FCT.
“We should do something especially for low income earners by designing housing types like one-bedroom studio, two-bedroom for the masses. The high-income earners have a lot of housing available that are vacant. These range of houses have a lot of issues which are mainly about affordability. If they are affordable, some people would have rented them long ago. It shows that there is a problem with these houses, either with the design, affordability or location.”
On how to tackle the challenge, she stated that governments do not build houses ever since the exit of the Shehu Shagari’s administration, emphasizing that it should be a combination of the private and public sector in terms of giving land out.
Achi said in Niger State, the government gives out land to private developers to produce houses so that the public can have affordable rates as government may not have the money to build houses.
“We need to generate the accurate grade statistics that we could work with through the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for us to get the correct indices in alliance with the state governments. From there, we need to hold a stakeholders’ meeting to digest and fashion out how best to address the challenges we currently have and to take care of the future generations as the population increases. Also, government must design its housing policies in-line with the private investors so that they would not serve as sabotage to the implementation of such policies”, he stated.
President of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Kenneth Nnabuife Nduka said a lot of figures are being peddled in the sector because the nation’s statistics are not properly verified so the majority of the figures in circulation are there to satisfy political or commercial profit intentions.
He said the solution “is walking the talk and channeling funds to addressing the issue of mass housing. When you come to Abuja, you will discover that almost every street is being built up. However, the challenge is what type of housing: is it for the rich, middle income or low-income earner?
“Most of the houses in Asokoro central district are not designed for houseboys and house girls as well as drivers because the design of the houses there does not accommodate them. So they have to live in Mararaba, Yanyan, Kubwa among other places. We need a mix of houses that will make any housing policy fit and functional and take care of everybody,” Nduka said.
The NIOB boss said the validity of the housing deficits figure in circulation depends on who conducted it and the criteria used for the survey.