By Rogers Edor Ochela
Apparently aware of the degeneracy in the housing sub-sector of the economy, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 constituted a 15-man committee on Urban Development and Housing headed by the then Governor Peter Odili of Rivers state. Amongst its terms of reference was the articulation of a new housing policy that would address both the urban and rural needs of the people; recommend appropriate organizational framework for housing development, which should include the invigoration of the National Housing Fund for effectiveness.
Unfortunately, in spite of this laudable objective, the policy of direct housing construction appears to have suffered hiccups and almost became comatose, a development that is largely responsible for unprecedented housing deficit currently bedeviling the nation.
In Abuja for instance, because of the huge influx of Nigerians into it and the unaffordable cost of accommodation, many workers now live in neighbouring states like Nasarawa and Niger, notwithstanding the long distance and the associated nightmarish traffic gridlock they go through every day to their offices.
As the population continues to balloon out of control, existing infrastructures become overstretched, thereby requiring more infrastructures, especially to address the rising housing deficit.
But be that as it may, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) under the leadership of Senator Bala Mohammed has been up and doing in its efforts to correct this anomaly, especially in addressing workers’ housing challenges. That effort was given a shot in the arm recently when the Minister laid foundation for the development of a whopping 40,000 housing units for them at an impressive ceremony in Abuja.
The multi-billion-naira housing project, which is being executed in partnership with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and some private developers, is aimed at alleviating the housing problems of workers in the FCT. The private developers are Good Homes Development Company Limited and the Chicason Group.
Conceptualized as an integral part of President Jonathans’ transformation agenda, the project aims at reducing housing deficit in Nigeria, particularly for the Nigerian workers; ensure affordability of decent shelter by Nigerian workers through the provision of infrastructure fee and other waivers by the FCT Administration and to create jobs and employment opportunities.
As it stands, the FCT Administration is to ensure successful implementation of the programme through the provision of effective and efficient technical supervision as contained in the Lease Agreement, just as the government is also expected to provide certain primary infrastructure, namely electricity and water supply to the workers’ districts. The developers of the districts are in turn required to provide the rest infrastructure.
Giving an insight into what informed the initiation of the project, the FCT Minister said that President Goodluck Jonathan personally gave the FCT Administration a marching order to initiate a viable housing scheme that would cater for the needs of the Nigerian workers who are the engine of the country’s economy, stressing that it would contribute significantly to the reduction of housing deficit in Nigeria, particularly in the FCT.
The project, he said, has been designed in a manner that would ensure affordability by the workers through the provision of waivers on premium for the plots by the FCT Administration, adding that the gigantic sites would also provide avenue for over 7,000 skilled and unskilled job opportunities to Nigerians, which will go a long way to reducing unemployment.
To fast-track the implementation of this laudable project, the Minister has instructed the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to immediately commence arrangements to provide basic infrastructure, namely water and electricity to the site in line with the directive of Mr. President.
It has been revealed that the financing of the infrastructure aspect of the projects, which are located on 329.93 hectares of land in parts of Lugbe District and 298.59 hectares in Apo Tafyi District of the Federal Capital City, is to be driven under the SURE-P Progaramme of the Federal Government.
Giving the project a thumbs-up, the NLC President, Comrade Abdul-Waheed Omar expressed appreciation to both President Jonathan and the Minister for their foresight and commitment to the workers welfare, describing the project as historic, saying that no government has ever initiated a viable and sustainable housing project such as this for the Nigerian workers, just as he urged workers in the country to take advantage of the scheme to own a house.
The workers housing scheme in the FCT is being developed by two consortia, namely Good Homes Development Company Limited and the Chicason Group–two companies that are special purpose vehicles (SPVs) to undertake the financing and construction of housing units One, Two and Three Bedroom bungalow types as well as detached and semi detached blocks of flat.
The Chairman of Good Homes Development Company Limited, Hon. Nicholas Ukachukwu said the project is driven by the passion of President Goodluck Jonathan for decent and affordable housing for teeming members of the Nigerian workforce.
Commendable as this project is, experts are of the opinion that as critical stakeholders continues to beam their searchlight on critical issues affecting the quest for affordable housing delivery; it would not be out of place for the FCTA to ensure it reinvests a sizeable percentage of the projected revenue from the land swap policy into developing the housing sector. This will further boost the efforts at mitigating the plight of not only workers, but the entire residents of the territory in the area of affordable housing.
Already, it has been established that a successful implementation of the land swap policy will generate over N3.2trillion, a hefty sum, which if properly managed and invested, could go a long way in turning Abuja into an Eldorado.
The point must be made here that the FCTA cannot address this challenge of addressing workers’ housing needs alone. So, the Federal Government can also come in by way of facilitating private sector led delivery of appreciable number of affordable houses through collaboration with the Ministry of Finance.
It can also help through promotion of local production of high quality building materials as well as collaborating with NMRC to promote group mortgage as a strategy to ease access to housing for households not currently qualified for individual mortgages.
Meanwhile, an agreement has been signed between the FCT Administration and Good Homes Development Company Limited at the occasion for development of the houses.
The occasion was attended by the FCT Minister of State, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, the Senator representing FCT, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda, other members of National Assembly, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Engr. John Obinna Chukwu, traditional rulers and top management staff of the FCT Administration.
Ochela can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org