Monday, 26 December 2016

A LOOK AT HOW THE HOUSING SECTOR HAS FARED IN 2016 UNDER BABATUNDE FASHOLA AS MINISTER

Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Minister of Power, Works & Housing
It is now over one year since the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), took over the affairs of housing sector, precisely on Wednesday, November 11 2015. Since then, he has assured Nigerians that the administration would do all within its power to bridge the deficit in housing gap across the country with a major focus on how to provide affordable and quality housing services to intending masses. 

As 2016 draws to a close, checks in the sector reveals that more needs to be done in order to give lifeline to intending beneficiaries of government housing schemes. Ironically however, the more one tries to understand, the more confusing it gets but there appears to be a glimmer of hope as the government resolves to overcome the economic trials being experienced by the country through the advocation of local materials for the sector. 

Although at the beginning, this development was in vague until recently when the minister admitted that with the situation he met on ground, only a comprehensive planning could assist in solving the multiple challenges of the sector for low income earners especially in urban centres. Before now, there were conflicting signals which may appear to a lay man as the main issue delaying the execution of housing projects across the 36 states of the federation but the submission of the minister indicated that better days were ahead. 

In his views, more planning to build houses that would meet up with all the segments of the population is the major issue the ministry was working on. This gave more insights into his early statement that kept people in the dark during his keynote address at the 35th Annual General Meeting of Shelter Afrique and Housing symposium held in Abuja. The speech indicated that land was the major challenge and not the issue of planning as he earlier stated. He said out of the 36 states and FCT, only 12 states have responded to the request for land while the ministry expects more responses. 

He told the participants while delivering his speech that his ministry was taking the next step to survey plots of land and develop layouts, preparatory to commencing development, which was in the first half of the year 2016. Recently, he embarked of inspection of some housing projects across the FCT with the hope proffering solutions to the housing deficits. 
According to him, “The road to Nigeria’s housing challenge lies in meticulous planning and original thinking which has rekindled the hope of Nigerians on government readiness to ending housing deficits.” 

Recently, at the 10th Abuja Housing Show, Fashola expressed the hope that planning would bring about an effective result. Although, he said the 35.2 billion allocations in the 2016 Budget to the ministry was just a scratch that could not go anywhere in solving the nation’s housing needs. A property consultant and private developer, Chief Ernest Okafor, decried the exercise so far, saying the budgetary allocation only existed on the pages of newspapers of which he said was difficult to understand when it will be put in use as there are only a few days to bid 2016 goodbye. 

The National Planning Minister, Senator Udo Udoma, while giving the analysis of this year budget had said the housing projects across the country would gulp 35.2 billion naira and 250 million naira will be channeled towards the construction of roads across the country. This, according to him, will be shared among the three geo-political zones of the country to provide housing for the teeming population of Nigerians. 

With the entire housing sector still caught in a battle for survival by the economic trials sweeping through the sector, its realisation is still a far cry. According to Okafor, Fashola has not come up with a blueprint on how his ministry would address the myriads of challenges before it. He suggested that more experts should be involved in planning the housing projects. 

According to him, “Almost a year now, the ministry has not let the public know where the last administration stopped in areas of building houses. Like the mortgages, they have been saying that discussions are in progress to furnish the public with how far they have gone in area of recovering its fund trapped or mismanaged by the beneficiaries, as the apex mortgage is a leading player in the move.”

But on the side of the ministry, since the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 20, 2016, available reports showed that plans are ongoing to douse the tension of promises than a policy direction. The minister, during a recent tour of an estate in Kubwa and Life Camp in the FCT, told newsmen that there is a need for foreign partners to come in, which is an indication that the ministry was reaching out to other partners to meet up with the housing needs of Nigerians. 

He said: “We will develop our own capacities to attend to emergencies locally, so, we are not going to run back and surrender; we just have to task our minds, task ourselves and find our own solutions here.” He expressed confidence that local options should be made available to help provide more houses in cities across the country. He called on other people to assist in making the agenda more realistic. (Authority)