Housing stakeholders are mounting pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to split Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, as he begins second term tenure in office and make housing a full fledged ministry with a minister for sustainable growth. Dayo Ayeyemi reports
Apparently worried by low progress experienced in their sector in the last four years, there has been strong agitation for the unbundling of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing with the appointment of separate ministers to oversee each ministry.
Mounting pressure on the need for a separate ministry for housing with a substantive minister are concerned stakeholders, comprising developers, estate surveyors and valuers, and affordable housing advocates, decrying low attention to the sector in the last four years.
Justifying the calls, they stated that what had happened in the last four years were just ad hoc interventions, pointing out that issue of housing was beyond shortcut arrangement.
It would be recalled that the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (formerly the Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Environment) was created in 2002 with housing accorded for the first time a separate status free from the bureaucracy and financial stranglehold of the Ministry of Works.
The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development’s roles included policy formation, setting standards for the sector, establishing building standards and codes for housing delivery, and safety in collaboration with relevant professional bodies.
With just 13 years of existence before the FMLHUD was merged with Power and Works ministries, major achievements were recorded in the sector, some of which led to the creation of Real Estate Developers of Nigeria, Building Materials and Producers Associations of Nigeria (BUMPAN), Public-Private Partnerships in housing and creation of special finance window known as Estate Developers for developers by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, among others.
However, no sooner the Buhari administration came into power in 2015 than the ministries of power, works and housing were merged with Mr. Babatunde Fashola emerging as minister.
Events in the last four years have shown that the housing sector deserved more attention of government to overcome the nation’s 17 million accommodation deficit than what is currently getting.
Canvassing for an independent Ministry For Housing & Urban Development as a priority for President Buhari in the next four years, an Affordable Housing Advocate , Mr. Kunle Faleti, said this had become imperative in order to achieve measurable success as well as reducing the housing deficit plaguing the country.
Faleti said: “President Muhammadu Buhari, in his second term, must ensure that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is a stand alone ministry with a full minister in charge.
“In addition, it is highly recommended to appoint an independent planning regulator.
“The independent ministry will include functions currently spread between the ministry of power, works and housing; Ministry of Finance; Office of the Head of Civil Service and Ministry of Environment. The ministry will be funded from existing operational budgets of the units that shift to the new ministry,” he suggested.
Besides, Faleti said there was also a need for the immediate establishment of the office of the planning regulator, in light of the perennial collapse of residential and commercial buildings nationwide.
“Independence is essential to ensure “planning mistakes of the past” are not repeated in the rush to build housing. But rather, industry stakeholders must continue to focus on the right development, in the right place, with the right infrastructure, to ensure quality and long-term viability,” he said.
He urged government to create the enabling environment that would see to the emergence of communities where people would want to live and work.
Faleti enjoined state and local government to play a much bigger role in providing housing, through acquiring vacant land that was privately held and zoned for housing but not being used.
Managing Director of Fesadeb Communication, Mr. Festus Adebayo, said there was a clear indication that the merging of Power, Works and Housing ministries affected the attention that should have been given to housing, hence, not much was achieved significantly.
Adebayo noted that though, the public buildings like the federal secretariats in Zamfara, Bayelsa, Nasarawa and Ekiti and the Zik Mausoleum in Onitsha have been built, and pilot National Housing Programme (NHP) kicked off leading to housing construction in the 34 states where government had received land, there was still a lot more to be done in order to reduce Nigeria’s deficit.
He said: “Achieving this will be impossible unless the Ministry of Housing is untangled and led by its own minister who will give it the full attention it requires. This has now been set as an agenda for President Buhari as he begins a second term.”
If this is done, he said the incoming Minister of Housing would have to learn from the problems faced by the previous minister and address them immediately in order to deliver affordable mass housing for Nigerians.
Corroborating other speakers, the President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Roland Abonta, pointed out that the efforts by President Buhari’s administration in its first four years did not meet the targets in housing, attributing the low performance in the industry to the merging of Power, Works and Housing as one ministry.
According to him, what has happened in the last four years were ad hoc interventions, adding that issue of housing should be beyond ad hoc arrangement.
“It requires well planned programme that could run from year to year and from time to time. And of course, until we get it right to have a planned housing development and delivery system in place, we will continue to scratch the surface of housing challenges in Nigeria,” he said.
Abonta pointed out that most of the efforts like FISH housing for workers were concentrated in Abuja, adding that they were not targeted at those who seriously need housing.
As an operator industry, Abonta said the was aware that demand for housing was not being met due to ad hoc nature of the interventions in the sector.
Talking seriously, Abonta urged President Buhari to unbundle the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, saying that it was impossible to merge the second most important need of man with other sectors.
“In that marriage, you will realise that housing is given the least priority. Works is a major issue, and so is power. Lumping them with housing, which is also a very critical sector is counterproductive, “he said, adding that such merging could only produce failure.
“Housing must stand on its own in order to meet that important need of shelter for man,’’ he added.
While calling for a robust housing agenda for Nigeria, he said it must be an agenda that would cater for all categories of Nigerians.
He said: “Most initiatives in the sector are only ad hoc ones not based on permanent motives. The new minister should first take stock of what is needed in order to be guided accurately.”
Having a separate view, Chairman, H.O.B. Housing Estates, Olusegun Bamgbade, said that if Fashola remained the minister in charge of the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing, there was no need to split the ministry.
“You need to physically visit the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing and fact-check the activities of the ministry as presently constituted before you can appreciate the enormous works of the former minister,” he said.
According to him abandoned projects were being completed by the ministry irrespective of who initiated or who initially awarded the projects, adding that policy formulation to enhance uninterrupted electricity in the country was ongoing.
With the high rate of homelessness among Nigerians and the need to bridge 17 millions housing deficit and eradicate slums in urban centres, Mr. President should heed experts’ demand for the benefits of citizenry.
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