Shelter or housing is one of the most basic of human needs. In most developed countries of the world, the governments spend a very large proportion of their budget on provision of housing to their people, either directly or through public-private financing. In most Third World countries, the responsibility for housing is supposed to lie with the various governments, due to the very nature of the mode of governance, socio-economic considerations and in part, the tradition of the people themselves.
In most African societies, long before colonialism, the provision of housing or shelter was an individual responsibility, and this trend obtains to the present day. Post-colonial days, it has always been assumed that since we are now practicing a foreign system of government and administration, the governments should now be responsible for providing all basic needs for their people.
Unfortunately, this has not been so for various reasons. One reason is the fact that most African governments tend to abandon their responsibilities to their people in so many ways. Lack of capital investment is another problem, and we should not even talk of corruption, insincerity, lack of concern, etc.
In a report published by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in the early days of the Obasanjo Administration, the Government of Nigeria was accused of being consistently one of the worst violators of housing rights in the world, with over two million people forcibly evicted from their homes in different parts of the country since 2000. The then Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was implicated, especially for the forced evictions in Abuja. But such violations have been going on for decades in Nigeria. Maroko, a slum near Lagos, is a special case under the military regime in the early 1980s. More recently, Lagos State Government rendered over 3000 people homeless in the slum community of Makoko in 2005, without prior notice given or compensation or offer of suitable alternative. The Rivers State Government demolished homes in the Agip Waterside Community in February 2005 leaving 5 to 10,000 people homeless and without compensation. The State Government also moved in the bulldozers on 1.2 million people living in the Rainbow Town area of Port Harcourt since the 1960s, in 2000.
In these cases, the Land Use Act of 1978 was used to evict them. Considering the 140 million population of the country, a vast housing market exist in Nigeria given the massive home deficit estimated at about 14 million by the Federal Mortgage Bank, according to report in 2005. However, many factors contribute to the abysmal under-performance of the housing sector in Nigeria, such as absence of long term financing, legal restrictions, a “dinosauric” land registration system, and a lack of a social housing system couple with haphazard housing policy on the part of the governments. Along with this, we can also mention the lack of continuity from various successive governments.
While virtually all governments in Nigeria since independence have highlighted housing as a major priority, Nigeria is yet to develop a vibrant housing and mortgage market, social and affordable housing policies, and housing continues to be provided through tortuous traditional methods of buying land and building over some years, which could be an individual’s entire lifetime (Akeju, 2007)
In 1979, the Shehu Shagari Administration initiated a Policy on Affordable Housing. The policy, though laudable and very bold in its effort, was unable to meet the nation’s housing needs because it was based on the unsustainable tenet that houses will be provided by government, and this remains an anomaly that we must resolve (Akeju, 2007).
In a news report on the Nigerian Housing Sector aired on African Independent Television (AIT) in 2007, it was stated that between 1973 and 2006, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) built only 30,000 housing units nationwide, and then, there was a deficit of 12 million homes. I will not bother with statistics now, but to those who are professionals in the housing industry in and out of Nigeria, one could see that there are tremendous opportunities in the Nigerian housing sector waiting to be tapped, and it should be noted that the Governments alone cannot fill this gap.
However, what the various government, Federal, State and Local should be seeing to be actively and sincerely doing is to provide such resources as encouraging foreign investment, (as Akeju 2007, posited, Government has no business building houses), and focus on providing a favourable investment climate, infrastructure and mortgage insurance to first-time buyers and low-to-middle income families.
Currently, and fortuitously, Housing seems to be a priority for the Federal Government of Nigeria, and this is captured in President Yar’Adua’s 2020 Agenda, where the president attaches the highest priority to affordable housing for the masses.
The purpose of this article, however, is to look at another factor which should be considered in facilitating a vibrant housing sector in Nigeria – Social Housing and to call attention to the human resources side of this sector. Social or Public housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by not-for-profit organizations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of providing affordable housing. Although the common goal of public housing is to provide affordable housing, the details, terminology, definitions of poverty and other criteria for allocation vary.
In the United Kingdom public housing is often referred to by the British public as “council housing” and “council estate”, based on the historical role of district and borough councils in running public housing. Local semi-independent non-profit housing associations have begun to operate some of the older council housing estates in the United Kingdom. Despite being non-profit based, they charge generally higher rents than council properties. More recently the government refers to both as ‘Social Housing’, and Housing Associations are now referred to as ‘Registered Social Landlords’ (RSLs). Additionally local planning departments may require private-sector developers to offer “affordable housing” as a condition of planning permission. This accounts for another £700m of Government funding each year for tenants in parts of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom has a long tradition of promoting affordable social rented housing. This may be owned by local councils or housing associations. There are also a range of affordable home ownership options, including shared ownership (where a tenant rents part share in the property from a social landlord, and owns the remainder). The government has also attempted to promote the supply of owner occupied affordable stock for purchase, principally by using the land-use planning system to require that housing developers provide a proportion of lower cost housing within new developments. This approach is commonly known as inclusionary zoning.
The social housing sector in the United Kingdom is regulated by The Housing Corporation and the Audit Commission who carry out regular inspections to ensure compliance with the government regulations, good practice and value for money, amongst other criteria. The Housing Corporation is the government agency that funds new affordable homes and regulates housing associations in England, while the Audit Commission is an independent watchdog, driving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services to deliver better outcomes for everyone, including local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue to promote value for money for taxpayers.
Furthermore, the education and training of housing professionals in the UK is overseen by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). The CIH is a professional body for people working in housing and communities, helped develop the Construction and the Built Environment Diploma and ensure that housing practitioners are appropriately trained in order to ensure effective performance in their roles. The point here is that there is a resource implication by utilising the CIH’s world famous professional housing management training, as the President seems to be keen for highly qualified Nigerians to return home to help the country and housing provision and management are crucial elements for success.
Recently, there have been moves made by the Nigerian Government, through the Minister for Housing to elicit the help of the CIH in establishing a professional housing body in Nigeria, to serve in the Nigerian housing sector. This will not only lead to recognised and accredited housing courses and training being established in Nigeria, but it points the way to a housing revolution in the country, since such a body will be at par with other professional institutes such as Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN); Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA); Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and the likes.
The fact is for such Institute for housing practitioners to be successfully established in Nigeria, there must be a Housing management training programme which will be accredited and authorised by a well known and recognised foreign body such as the CIH. This should not be new or objectionable to us, as basically, all of our professional bodies had their roots from such foreign bodies and even after 48 years of independence, are still very much aligned or affiliated with such bodies.
However, the main concern is with the training of such personnel and housing practitioners to run the housing sector in Nigeria. To take this forward, it is proposed that:
• A conference of Federal and State Governments, Universities and other stakeholders needs to be held at Abuja to introduce Professional Housing Management to Nigeria. It should be co-hosted by the Federal Housing Ministry and the CIH. The British Government’s Department for International Development and the British Council should be invited.
• The Federal Housing Minister and the Federal Housing Authority should hold a press conference well before the event and fully brief the public about the need for a professional body such as the CIH to play a major part in Housing Management in Nigeria.
• Plans are required to get the housing profession recognised through legislation so that it would be at par with ICAN, the NSE, the Nigerian Institute of Architects etc. The ICAN Act of 1965 would be a useful guide. Furthermore, the gap created by the absence of the CIH in Nigeria is being usurped by other professions who pretend to be “experts” in housing development and management. The UK as the best model where there are clear professional demarcations in the duties of architects, estate managers, chartered and quantity surveyors, builders etc. The CIH has a Royal Charter and its functions cannot be performed by other groups. This is what is needed in Nigeria whereby a Nigerian Chartered Institute of Housing Act should be enacted as soon as possible. UK’s CIH has over 21,000 members with branches in many countries. South Africa and Botswana are currently the only African countries that have signed MOUs with the CIH, but given the enormity of Nigeria’s housing problems, there is a need to move quickly.
• A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) needs to be drawn up and signed as soon as possible and the possibility of encouraging the CIH to open an office in Nigeria as they have done in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Financial and logistical support should be given by the Federal and State Governments. The British Council could be asked to play a role in this arrangement. The British Dept for International Development (DFID) is keen to improve professional expertise in Africa and they could also make a contribution.
• Hundreds of Nigerian graduates and senior housing managers are anxious to qualify through the CIH. There are definitely a large number of routes for qualifying for membership. For example, a fast track system has just been set up between CIH China and CIH UK for university-based and distance learning protocols. 2 or 3 Nigerian universities could be selected for post-graduate programmes leading to CIH qualifications in Housing Management and they could network with some of the dozens of universities and colleges in the UK that provide undergraduate and post-graduate course in Housing. The CIH UK remains a highly respected body, with world-wide affiliations and can only be of benefit to Nigeria.
• The CIH has excellent distance learning facilities so, students can remain in their jobs in Nigeria during their training for membership. Supervisors can make short trips from the UK for higher level students who are aiming for Corporate Membership (MCIH). Alternatively, such students could come to the UK for short-term attachments to approved housing organisations (6-12 weeks).
• At present, the Housing Sector in the UK has a very significant presence of Nigerians, currently working to provide housing and Housing management training to the United Kingdom population. This has been going on since the early 1970s. I do not see any reason, why this abilities, skills and experience could not be tapped for the benefit of Nigeria as a whole.
Akeju, A.A., “Challenges to Providing Affordable Housing in Nigeria”, Paper presented at the 2nd Emerging Urban Africa International Conference on Housing Finance in Nigeria, Abuja, Oct. 17-19, 2007
Shehu, M., “Nigeria: FCTA to build 10,000 houses” in THIS DAY Newspapers, 26 September 2008.
Yusuf, M. H. “Funding, handicap to Nigeria’s housing policy” DAILY TRUST Newspapers, 01 September 2008