Dearth of funds may hinder full implementation of various on-going housing projects in 33 states of the federation under the National Housing
Except the necessary machinery is put in place, attempts by the Federal Government to build affordable housing units in all the states of the federation under its National Housing Programme (NHP) may become another white elephant project.
Despite the readiness of real estate developers, who are government contractors for the project, the latest threat to the initiative is fund, which is not coming as at and when due to accelerate the completion of the housing construction process.
The contractors, who spoke at different times in their various locations, called on the Federal Government to hasten the processes of fund disbursement to enable them complete the works at their various sites as scheduled. New Telegraph’s findings revealed that stages of work in most of the sites were very impressive. In some locations, developers have achieved between 70 and 80 per cent completion of the project, while in almost all the sites, excuses from the contractors have been lack of funds.
The contractors, Mathias Orove and Jude Opute, at Calabar and Uyo project sites respectively during a media tour of the project, told this newspaper that untimely disbursement of funds was hindering the progress of the project.
They appealed to government to release more funds in order to accelerate construction work of the housing units. The team leader of the project in Enugu State, Veronica Enesi, also stated that the project in the state had lifted many of the people of the state from poverty level.
She explained that the site had some set back from the beginning, but having overcome the challenges, the project was gaining considerable speed and would be completed soon. Both the team leaders and the contractors called on the Federal government to hasten the process of funds disbursements, so that the projects could be completed as scheduled.
Initiated in 2016, and projected to cost about N35.4 billion, NHP was conceived to address the housing needs of workers, and provide economic empowerment for local communities where the projects are located.
One commendable step taken by the government in prosecuting the national housing programme is not just the fact that it has mustered the political will to partly address the housing deficit in the country, but the emphasis placed on the promotion or local contents to empower the people who live around the host communities.
As a matter of policy, government made it mandatory that all the building materials and every other needs of the projects must be 100 per cent indigenous.
That is to say that the local community hosting the project must be given priority attention. This newspaper observed that in six locations of the project visited: Enugu, Ebonyi, Calabar, Uyo, Benin, and Asaba, local content policies of the government were been complied with.
The contractors, building materials, the suppliers, both skilled and unskilled labourers are indigenous people who have attested to the economic empowerment capability of the project. The building designs are the same in all these locations. The project, which consists of two-bedroom semi-detached bungalows, three-bedroom semi detached bungalows, three-storey condominium blocks of 24 mixed units are at various stages of completion.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said that the Federal Government was considering an upward review of contractors’ mobilisation fees to 50 per cent from its current status of 15 per cent. Fashola told some members of the Association of Indigenous Construction Contractors of Nigeria (AICCON), who paid him a courtesy visit recently, that there was already an executive bill at the National Assembly to address the mobilisation issue.
“There is a bill from the executive before the National Assembly to review the 15 per cent mobilisation fee payable to contractors requesting the NASS for an upward review to 50 per cent,” he said.
The Federal Controller of Housing in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Mrs Ikuo Uzodinma, noted that the project was gaining more speed. She said the project, which started effectively in the state, had empowered a lot of artisans and other people in the community. The Federal Controller of Housing in the ministry, Olusola Idowu, who represented the ministry at one of the project sites in Ezzamgbo, Ebonyi State, said that NHP was one of the initiatives of government designed to accommodate and empower Nigerians.
According to him, NHP was initiated by government, not just to provide the populace with accommodation, but to boost economic activities of people, who live around the community. He explained that the project in Ebonyi State, which comprised 72 units of affordable houses, would soon be completed as soon as funds were made available by government. He said: “Over 95 per cent of our workforce at this site are indigenes of this community.
Supplying of building materials is also predominantly carried out by indigenous traders, and other beneficiaries of the site include artisans and food vendors.
“The project is ongoing and as you can see, most of the contractors are already completing their work while others are waiting for the release of fund to speed up the work.”
One of the attempts made by successive governments in Nigeria to meet the housing needs of the populace is the ongoing housing programme. It is the prototype of what Shehu Shagari’s regime introduced in the Second Republic of Nigeria’s democratic journey.
After Shagari’s attempt, there were many other efforts at providing the missing links in the housing industry, through more of private sector interventions. Ironically, virtually in all parts of the country, there are massive housing development by private sector investors, yet accommodation gap continues to widen, putting pressure on the health of the nation’s economy. The reason for this is simply that the affordability margin is too far for the reach of the masses.
Some experts in the sector noted that the desire to bridge the gap and remedy the deficit had never been lacking, saying that what has ever remained the scarce commodity was the political will to take the bull by the horn.
The relevant authorities should hasten the processes of funds disbursement to the contractors in ensuring that the housing programme is sustained.
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