Keynote Address By The Honourable Minister Of Power, Works And Housing, At The 7th National Council On Lands, Housing, And Urban Development, Held At Gombe State
Ladies and Gentlemen, I once again have the honor and pleasure to address this Council. This year, I do so around the theme of our meeting, which is ‘The Provision of Affordable Housing: A Catalyst for Development and Sustainable Economic Growth’.
Permit me to first express our profound gratitude on behalf of the Federal Government to the Government and good people of Gombe State for accepting to host this annual Council Meeting of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
The event would not have been possible without the exceptional commitment of His Excellency, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, the Executive Governor of Gombe State and members of his cabinet, especially the Hon. Commissioner for Metropolitan and Urban Planning Development, Mrs. Fatima Abubakar, on whom the responsibility for the organization of this event fell. Permit me, therefore, to wholeheartedly appreciate His Excellency for his resilient leadership qualities.
I wish to start by saying that at all levels of our Government, there is something that can be done about Housing and we should commit to doing so across partisan lines.
Very often, when the discussion about the lack of Housing begins, it either revolves around the size of the Deficit or the Cost of the houses or the pointing of fingers as to who should do what and has not done so.
Very rarely do those discussions bring up solutions or action points. Problems clearly cannot be solved by simply talking about them.
No matter what we say, unless we begin to act, it changes nothing. Strangely, we have had this conversation daily, and across election cycles of 4 years, each that I shudder to ask whether we take time to reflect.
I have stopped talking many years ago and have started acting, and whether it is at State or National level, I can point to my contribution and that of my Staff and say, “We did something.” Can you?
But before I continue, permit me to indulge those who spend their time on the debate about the size of the deficit and ask how educated and informed that debate is. Who conducted the census that produced the figures in the Deficit?
Who verified the figures that now seem to trap many of our people in a vortex of difficulty?
Does the deficit take into account the empty and unoccupied houses in every State of Nigeria?
Are these housing deficits in sub-urban, rural areas or in the urban centers?
Why is there urbanization, and why is housing shortage a problem of urbanization?
It seems to me that as Policy Makers, before we even start to build houses, the first thing we can do is to address urbanization by policy.
One of the policies is to consciously redistribute wealth and opportunities by strong commitments to programs like Agriculture and Mining.
These are rural-centric economic decisions that take wealth and opportunities to the rural areas, and slow down migration to the urban centers in search of opportunities.
From my trips across the States, I can tell you categorically that President Buhari’s commitment to infrastructure, which is driving mining and the Agricultural focus is already impacting on our urbanization challenge in a positive way.
Work at quarries and on cash crop farms, which are situated in the rural areas, is now getting to the people; instead of them coming to look for it in the urban centres.
All of us, as critical shareholders, can deepen these to the recesses of our States where President Buhari cannot reach.
As we slow down the migration, we must now provide homes to the people, starting in the urban centres where the need is greatest.
This is what President Buhari has done with the National Housing Project Pilot in the 34 States that gave us land.
Once again, the President has asked me to thank all those Governors who gave us land. Because of them, we are able to employ, averagely, a thousand people at each of those sites, and this is only for the pilot stage.
And this is the heart of the matter. The reason for our theme, ‘Why Housing Can and Should be the Catalyst for Development and Sustainable Economic Growth.’
If you have been involved as I have been, you will know that the people employed at housing sites are Builders, Welders, Carpenters, Electricians, Bricklayers, Water and Food Vendors, and other suppliers along with Labourers.
They are the people who are largely paid on a daily basis or on weekly, or at best monthly basis.
These are some of the most vulnerable people in our economy as they are in other economies. Whenever Government can reach these people and provide work for them, you know that such an economy is working.
President Buhari has reached these people. I have met them and we need to do more by multiplying the Housing commitment.
But beyond building houses, there is the problem of affordability and definition.
It seems to me that whether it is to buy or to rent, affordability will always be an issue. But we must start by making clear to our people that not everyone can afford to buy or own a house, but it is ideal to at least seek to shelter everybody who has a job, by rental which is affordable.
The question therefore is that after we have provided work for these vulnerable people, which pays them weekly or monthly in arrears, is it affordable for them when they seek to rent houses, and we ask them to pay one or two years rent in advance.
This is not Government, this is us, the landlords, and we can change this by accepting monthly rent in arrears secured with their employer’s guarantee.
If this happens, we will see how housing will catalyse our economy. When my rent is matched to my income, you and I will be witnesses to a release and relief of millions of people who seek help to pay their rent even though they have a job.
As for those who wish to buy houses, mortgages are the solution and we must issue more.
The Federal Mortgage Bank is mandated to do so, not only by re-capitalisation but also by granting the following exemptions:
A) 0% equity for loans not exceeding N5million
B) Reduction of equity from 20% to 10% for loans up to N6 – 15million.
This is in addition to a planned re-capitalisation and the opening of the National Housing Fund (NHF) to non-Government employees.
Between May 2015 and July 10, 2018 the FMBN has issued 3,862 mortgages to Nigerians to acquire their own homes.
But this is not all that is happening or can happen in the Economy with an appropriate commitment to Housing.
The Oil and Gas sector can also benefit enormously from Housing if we all commit to implementing the Gas master plan.
At the moment we are under utilizing our Gas resources especially in the area of domestic use for cooking and heating.
In order to take the benefit of this gift of Nature, our Ministry is working with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to develop standards for pipes and installations that will facilitate domestic use of Gas for cooking and heating.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are some of the ways that housing provision can catalyze development and economic growth.
The Federal Government can, and has taken leadership by showing the way.
Large scale nationwide impact now depends on what we do at the State, Local Government and private sector levels.
Therefore I will close by urging you to do something – build a house.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing
COMPLETED SECTION DUALIZATION OF KANO MAIDUGURI ROAD SECTION III
Completed Section Dualization of Kano Maiduguri Road Section III
FASHOLA KACHIKWU ONNOGHEN AT THE 3RDIIPELPNJI ANNUAL JUDGES WORKSHOP ON PETROLEUM GAS AND POWER SECTORS
Hon Minister of Power Works Housing Mr Babatunde Fashola SANmiddle representative of the Ag President and Hon Minister of State Petroleum Resources Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu left and representative of the Attorney General of the Federation Mr Pius Otehmiddle during the Opening Ceremony of the 3rdIIPEPNJI Annual Judges Workshop on Petroleum Gas and Power Sectors at the Aloysius Katsina Alu Seminar Block National Judicial Institute Abuja on Monday 19th June 2017