Home Feature I’ll revolutionize Nigeria’s housing sector – Presidential candidate

I’ll revolutionize Nigeria’s housing sector – Presidential candidate


Mr Tope Kolade Fasua, a topnotch economist and presidential candidate of the revolutionary Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) is highly dissatisfied with the state of Nigeria’s housing sector. Speaking with Viewpoint Housing News in Abuja, Fasua lamented that government has for long neglected housing provision as the efforts made only serve the high-end. Charging Nigerians to rise up quickly and effect a change, he maintains that housing should move from the realm of business to the realm of social security and humanity. For him, the picture of 80 percent of Nigerians crawling out of slums in the 21st century is horrifying. The presidential candidate says Nigeria’s housing developments are only perfunctory. Investment in housing must take deliberate and honest efforts, he insists.

Viewpoint: In your manifesto, you emphasise working on Nigerian environment and infrastructure. Not much is said about housing. But we know that shortage of standard housing is another big problem in Nigeria.

Fasua: Environment and housing go together. I would prefer to see the housing sector as a sub-sector of the environment. If you imagine the kind of environment that normal human beings should be living in, that will inform you the kind of houses they should be living in.

Like I noted in my campaign…manifesto between 70 and 80 percent of Nigerians crawl out of slums every day. Many people live in what they call “batcha”. These are houses built with discarded sacks, a vast majority live in mud houses in villages and the rural areas where you’ll realize that Nigeria has never had a plan for rural housing since our independence.

A substandard house containing a whole family

The closest that we’ve had in terms of mass housing is the Jakande scheme which is two-bedroom, three-bedroom houses. And of course, it’s for workers. The best is to have just one or two perfunctory development for housing sector for urban dwellers who work in the civil service.

That means that since the inception of this country, we’ve never had any plan. Investment in housing takes deliberate and honest efforts. Of late we made this huge mistake whereby investments in that sector happen to be in the upper end of the industry.

So within Abuja, to my estimation, we have about 400,000 luxury houses that are vacant – not talking about the old Maitama, old Asokoro – new developments.

On airport road alone, in that stretch, we have about 100,000 houses that are vacant – estates that are in different phases of completion — some completed but no one to buy. If you go down [south-eastern side of Abuja], after Sun City, all of that area – Lokogoma axis, there are other ones. On Kubwa road, there are other ones.

If you go to Lagos, along the Lekki stretch you find them as well. What we’ve done by way of housing in recent times is to say, “Oh its luxury apartment, come and live a life of luxury”. No! We can’t be focusing on that when our problem is actually basic housing.

As I’m talking to you, a governor in Edo [State] said he’s building a housing estate that’s gonna be for golfers – a golfing estate! And I’m wondering that from the poverty that I’ve seen in Benin and environs, I’m not sure what they need now is a golfing estate.

That’s why we should begin to rewire our thinking. Look, the wealth of this country is locked with the people that we’ve locked down. We’re keeping the majority of this country down – living in slums, ghettos, despicable surroundings, mud houses. Those are people that by every means, a certain investment must be done by the state to resettle them.

I’ve done tremendous research in this area – from South Africa to China. The state must invest. It’s an investment. They don’t have to buy it. In China, they’re relocating a lot of these people who live in very terrible areas into better housing as part of poverty eradication. It’s about getting in touch with the humanity of our people.

We like to go abroad and show off how much money we have and all of that. We understand modernity, we can drink champagne and caviar and all of that stuff. But we’re been judged and we’re rightly been judged by how we’re keeping these vulnerable [people] amongst us.

I believe that we need to make an investment in our people’s housing. The fundamental investment – it’s part of fundamental human right. We need prototype of houses – one-bedroom, studio self-contained for the youth of this country that are coming up. Plan it around the rural areas so people can live in the rural areas and work in the city.

Viewpoint: The ruling All Progressives Congress promised a million housing units every year during electioneering.

Fasua: Those guys don’t intend to fulfill any of their promises. They denied…

Viewpoint: Is it possible to do a million housing units in Nigeria?

Fasua: It’s possible! It depends on the kind of units you’re talking about. If you focus on one-bedroom flat or studio apartment, even a kind of “face me I face you” that’s better spacious and organized for our people with more convenience – that’s the kind of thing we should be talking about now. If you talk about that you’ll do 1 million units of housing in a year.

They’ve not done even one and of course they denied that they made any promises to anybody. But even the PDP that was there didn’t build one of this kind of houses I’m talking about.

In every state capital – I’ve been to Kano, they’ve built houses that are abandoned. Once you’re getting into Kano you’ll see them – massive estates. They’re luxury estates. Nigeria needs to get down to the basics right now. We can’t be talking about luxury – tapping into people’s greed and people will go and buy a thing they can’t afford.

In order to get this done, you need to talk to the locals and know which kind of houses they want to live in. There’re parts of Nigeria they don’t want high-rise – they want bungalows. You just have to tell them we don’t have enough landmass to be building bungalows all over the place. These are massive social issues that we need to deal with.

I don’t think the issue of housing should remain in the realm of business. Housing is now in the realm of social security, in the realm of humanity. Government should do the right thing.

Viewpoint: You live in Abuja where there’re many unoccupied houses. If you are president what can you do about this?

Fasua: Absolutely. In a place like the UAE, they’ve always overtraded in real estate. They’ve built a lot more than can be absorbed. But the sheiks, the powerful guys and the people who have the money always come together and ask what they can do.

With the number of vacant houses in this town, if it happened in the US, by now you’d be hearing reviews on CNN about the bubble and burst of the real estate sector.

The loans are sitting in banks. And of course, a lot of that is out of what’s called corruption. For example, the Federal Government of Nigeria does its budget and from time to time they want to buy one new big building for so so agency. A lot of these places can be used especially the ones they’ve seized from people. You have to move fast and use them. In other instances, you may need to remodel them into smaller units of houses so that people can begin to look at them.

Look, our per capita income is too low compared to the cost of our houses. Our per capita income is about $2,300 which N600,000, N700,000. A two-bedroom flat on the average is N15 million to buy, Meaning that you’d have to work probably 20 years before you can get that money – that’s if you’re not spending money on any other thing. People can’t afford.

Number two, even the concept of mortgage is still alien to us. In order for us to breakdown the concept of mortgage, there’s a lot of communication that needs to be done to let people know that this is how it’s done abroad.

And there’re also social factors. In some part of Nigeria, if somebody doesn’t have a house, he’s seen as his, he’s not a man yet. In places like Germany they’ve taken basic issues for granted. In Germany, it’s a very queer thing. People don’t believe that they need to have a house. People rent until they die and they live happily. In a place like the Netherlands, people don’t build houses at all. They buy from the government. We have no model here.

People buy plots, build mansions in the village, they don’t live in. At the end of the day you die, your children can’t take care of them. Those are what in economics we call dead capital – tying down that money for nothing.

The first thing to do is to bring attention to the fact that we have a problem. Bring stakeholders together…say how do we solve this problem. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves.

I wrote an article recently entitled Federal Republic of Inequality and Oppression. The reason we haven’t broken is because they’re breaching the poor – the poor always take the brunt.

The big houses that they say are vacant – a lot of them were built with loans which are sitting in banks. A lot of these loans have been swept from the banks and are sitting in AMCON right now. And taxpayers’ money has been used to bail out the banks. And a lot of people who built those estates are doing big men [elegance] up and down.

And the banks are sitting on fresh set of loans. A lot of those also go into the real estate sector. Some people are pushing for AMCON number two that those loans should be swept again…taxpayers’ money used to pay.

The money that should have been used to build those small units of houses for our people to get them begin to live life like proper human beings—that’s going to take time.

Many high-end properties in Abuja hardly get buyers

Perhaps there are like 2 million units of housing that are vacant in this country because they’re basically luxury houses. We’ve locked the economy of the rural areas because there’re no provisions for them at all. If somebody grows up in the rural area now, will go and look for mud and start building a house. No building code? No provision for ventilation – just build something crude in 2018. No input from government in the kind of houses that they build in villages.

If we’re thinking people, the same mud could have been improved. We have clay industry – four of them in this country. If we have a prototype, we can actually build a very cheap house that will not cost more than N1 million or less – a small house.

There’s something interesting going on in India right now. When Narendra Modi came about four years ago, he wanted to eradicate environmental degradation in India by focusing on open defecation. They set about building 75 million toilets in the rural areas. He didn’t collect loan to do that but convinced the villagers to sell their trinkets, sell their gold and build a toilet around houses to reduce open defecation. They’ve built about 70 million such that have even caught the attention of Bill Gates. He was there about two weeks ago. He wrote an article on his blog about four months ago entitled India is winning its War on Waste.

India is the fastest growing major economy in the world and it’s projected to grow at 8.5 percent in 2022 when Nigeria is projected to grow at 2 percent – we’re growing at 1.5 percent now. You can see that we’ve written our own testimonial.

We’re so elitist. And it’s as if inferiority complex is worrying us especially our elite class. When you’ve not achieved the basic you’re thinking of elitist…golf estate, luxury estate, swimming pools. If you go out now you’ll see those houses – a lot of them with swimming pools are green with spirogyra. They can’t maintain them.

Viewpoint: As a likely president of Nigeria, give us your last word.   

Fasua: Nigerians should open their eyes and vote for people who have vision for them. This country has suffered too much and we’ve become so innerved, so impervious to suffering and existing in sub-human conditions.

This is bad enough. This isn’t acceptable. And the turning point is now. I would urge Nigerians to wake up, to look at the world around us, see what’s going on around the world and choose rightly because 2019 must be a turning point for this country.


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