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Published On: Mon, Jul 7th, 2014

Housing deficit: Does Nigeria really need a Centenary city?

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Abuja Centenary CityBy Jessica Fidelis

Nigeria’s centenary city is expected among other things to achieve the following for the country: About 1500 houses to help boost the housing problems of Nigeria. The city is also expected, according to the Secretary General of the Federation, Senator Ayim Pious Ayim. To create 50, 000 construction jobs, as well as 50, 000 permanent jobs for Nigeria’s teaming underemployed. Although the village has other prospective achievements like. The zero waste management plans, as well as the central park. The focus of this write up is to analyse the housing solutions likely to come up from the centenary village project.

A cross section of Nigerians speak on the planned provision of housing through the centenary city and the possible effect on the masses.

Charles Ezekude is an Economist. He spoke about the economic effect of the housing plan.

“I think the government has a good motive, which is to portray Nigeria in good light. To tell the world that many good things can and indeed are coming out of this country, despite current security challenges.

But what effect will this various expenses have on the poor masses? You say that a city is expected to bring a about a solution to the problems of housing, but the proposed city is going to be located in a place where housing is already known to be for the rich. The cost of owning an apartment in Abuja is already on the high side. Many people prefer to stay with relatives, and manage than to stay alone. You have a predominantly high cost already attached to the ownership of houses and yet you talk about a house located in a Green city. It is practically impossible that a house like the types constructed in such a place will be for the low income, or even average income earners. The chunk of those who will benefit from such a housing scheme will be the rich and that is the problem of construction of projects in Nigeria”.

On his part, an anonymous speaker who works with the Ministry of Works;  has this to say about the nature of housing problems and the actual way to solve the problems. “The problem of housing can be traced to its history in Nigeria. Government intervention in housing started as

far back as during colonialism. During that time, the plan of the leaders of this country was to provide for the housing of our colonial masters, because it was regarded that they were giving us a political identity. A kind of a political favour, so it was the duty of the political head therefore to protect them; the houses served as Government Reservation Areas, (GRA).

Now after the time of colonialism, we saw an extension of these houses. The GRA’ were extended to exclude local population, so that it would reflect a Garden city, which was what these houses were meant to look like.

Then in 1962 the National Development Plan was introduced to replace the Fiscal and sectorial plan. That NDP was aimed at creating 24, 000 housing units for Nigeria, but unfortunately, it was only able to create a total of 500 housing units before the outbreak of the war in 1967. The next housing policy, which targeted 1970 to 1974, was a bit better. Under that scheme, houses were erected for government staff.

Military officers got houses at affordable prices, while Civilians ofthe senior cadre were also provided with accommodation. Although the fact that the houses for the civilians were mostly for the senior staff, was not stated in the plan; the implementation proved that it was planned that way by government.

Then there was also the issue of housing loans which mostly favoured the rich who had access to bank loans at that time. That policy tried to ensure that housing materials became more rampant in production, leading to decrease in general price.

The policy actually targeted the construction of 54, 000 housing units. That policy seemed more beneficial to the poor, despite its own challenges.

Then with the advent of the Military regime in 1976, during the time of Yakubu Gowon, a total of N1.8 billion was allocated for housing during that period, which many attributed to the rise in the effect of oil in the economy.

This scheme sought to bring about the construction of 202, 000 housing Units per year. That scheme was interrupted by political events. That was the handing over to the civilian in 1979. And the story continues. If you trace the history of housing developments in Nigeria, you will realise that the problem of housing is not about the fact that good housing policies have not been made. It all bothers on management.

He said government should do something about the fact that policies come and go in Nigeria; and always those at the giving end will be the poor, whose minute resources, either in bulk or in bits are gathered and used to further enrich the privileged few in the society.

The Centenary village may indeed attract investors to Nigeria, but that will first of all depend on the security situation of Nigeria”, another speaker said.

Sharing the opinions of the two previous speakers a woman who says she is Mrs Nene said she does not understand or even know much about the centenary city, according to her, the city

is like the capital itself; a place for the privileged ones. “As for me I do not know so much about the city. In fact I can tell you that I just learnt about it when I was passing the other day and there was this serous holdup. The holdup was so bad that we had to ask what was happening. That was when I was told that it was caused by the President and some ministers who were having a function for a special City inside Abuja city. Abuja is fine enough as it is. In my opinion

all we need is peace and a little more beautiful touch and Abuja will be a town for tourist sites. Yes! This town is that fine, and I am not saying that just because I am poor and may not have heard so much about beautiful places. The problem we have in Nigeria is not one that requires the construction of a town of beauty and aesthetics, what we need is a town that answers the call of the people”.

This woman who sells provision at the Wuse Market has this to say. “My own be say I no go say the house or town no good. But wetin be the meaning of all this expenses?. Right from the time of the discovery of oil in Nigeria, we don dey waste the money even when we no see am

plenty like that. We know say dis tins dey necessary to attract people come Nigeria, but make we dey manage the expenses, so that our future generation go get something. Make Nigeria no scater”.

Malam Alhassam Mohammed who spoke in Hausa language said.“The city is a good development, its good as you explained to me now. Because the killings have given Nigeria too much bad image, so the city is good at this time, but they need to come out and explain in clear terms how the poor will benefit. That’s what is missing. And unfortunately, that is always the problem with Nigerian projects”.

One thing is certain; that Nigerians are grateful for the efforts of government towards creating structures and policies of goodwill for the nation, yet if the voice of the people is anything to go by; the need to ensure that the poor benefit from meaningful projects is a major criterion for the measures of development.

NAN

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