For too long, there have been speculations and even conclusions on the size and depth of Nigeria’s housing deficit. Some people estimate the deficit at 17 million units, citing World Bank and/or United Nations report.
An unconfirmed report on ‘The State of the Housing Market in Nigeria’ estimates the deficit at 20 million, stressing that the deficit is both quantitative and qualitative. This, the report explains, means the available housing stock is not enough, and some of the houses are below acceptable standard.
But the federal government reasons differently. It says the figures being bandied about are figments of people’s imagination because, according to the minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, these figures are “unclarified, unverified and unproven.”
Fashola who was guest at a Channels TV programme, Politics Today, on Friday, June 5, was of the view that what people had been talking about as housing deficit was largely an urban problem resulting from people migrating to the cities from the rural and semi-urban centres.
“The last time Nigeria held its census was 2006. Since then we have not held another. Then, where did we get this figure? Where did you get the 17 million housing deficit? Some people say it is from the World Bank. I have asked the World Bank and they have disowned that figure as coming from them,” the minister stated.
Continuing, he explained, “my understanding of housing deficit is largely an urban problem—people migrating to the cities. If you go to the rural areas, you will see houses owned by people living in the cities. These houses are locked up. We cannot be talking about housing shortage when we have many houses that are empty.”
The minister pointed out that in every city in Nigeria, there is one empty house or another, asking if the figure everybody is running after includes all the empty houses. “The deficit is not accurate if it does not factor in what we have that is not used,” he insisted.
He hopes however that when next the country conducts another census, it will be able to dimension how large its housing deficit is, arguing that if a proper diagnosis is not done, the treatment will also be wrong in terms of wrong prescription and wrong dose.
Reviewing the activities of his ministry in the last five years, Fashola noted that it is difficult to get the full picture of housing prosperity in the country if attention is focused only what the federal government has done or is doing as the state governments and the private sector are also doing their bit.
Be that as it may, the minister said government was approaching housing in Nigeria from a broad spectrum of developments. According to him, they are building houses directly through the ministry in 34 states. The first phase of the development has finished and they have started the second phase, employing hundreds of people.
“Apart from that, the federal mortgage bank of Nigeria (FMBN) is also intervening in housing development by funding estate developments. I can tell you that the bank is funding over 5000 housing units across the country. It has granted over 5,301 mortgages worth over N38 billion. It has also granted home refurbishment loans to over 42,000 people valued at N34 billion.
“The FHA is also building across the country. In addition to that, there is also what we call site and serviced scheme because not everybody likes to buy fully built government property. But they want government land they to build their own. That is going on in states like Edo, Abia and Imo where we are giving land and providing infrastructure,” he said
In the last two years, the minister disclosed that he has personally signed 3,450 certificates of occupancy (CofO) and more are coming in, believing that a house is not worth its value unless it has CofO.
“We are also intervening in granting consent to land transaction because acquisition is not complete if you don’t have consent. We have done almost 2000 of this. This is also happening in the 36 states and the FCT. This sums up our housing journey and it is important we give that perspective,” he said.