KEYNOTE SPEECH DELIVERED BY BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF POWER WORKS AND HOUSING AT THE 35TH AGM OF SHELTER AFRIQUE AND HOUSING SYMPOSIUM

KEYNOTE SPEECH DELIVERED BY BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF POWER WORKS AND HOUSING AT THE 35TH AGM OF SHELTER AFRIQUE AND HOUSING SYMPOSIUM HELD IN ABUJA ON 1ST JUNE 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When I met with the Managing Director of Shelter Afrique earlier in the year to review preparations for this Annual General meeting, one of the things I requested of him was that he should kindly furnish me with a report of the impact of Shelter Afrique’s initiative for my assessment.

I did this because I subscribe to the school of thought that what is not measured does not get done, and that what is measured can be improved upon.

My request was graciously favoured with a response and a report.

The highlight of the report are as follows:

A) Between 2005 and 2010, Shelter Afrique in Nigeria had financed 23 (Twenty-three) initiatives with a total of $52,175,000 (Approximately N10.435 BILLION @N200 = $1.00). Of these initiatives, 15 representing lending for construction of housing projects, out of which the largest was for $7 million for 376 houses of different types, and 251 serviced plots, followed by 287 mixed housing units for a cooperative society, 55 housing units and 100 Service plots and the least was for 16 maisonettes. This is the intervention on the supply side of housing to provide houses.
The remaining eight interventions were for mortgage financing to building societies, credit line for individual mortgages and related financing, on the demand side of housing, to provide finance.

B) The other parts of the report also showed a financing of $60,400,000 (Approximately N12.08 BILLION @N200 = $1.00) over the last 3 (THREE) years in 10 (TEN) interventions.

Out of these 10 (TEN), 7 (SEVEN) were for housing construction namely (i) 287 units, 90 units, 15 floor commercial complex, 59 housing units, 300 housing units, 130 apartments and 44 housing units on the supply side.

The remaining 3 (THREE) interventions were for equity investment in the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) ($3M); and credit lines for on-lending for mortgage totaling $13 Million (N2.6 BILLION).

Ladies and gentlemen, given the topic of this symposium, which is ‘HOUSING AFRICA’S URBAN LOW INCOME POPULATION,’ I have chosen to start my address from this point of assessing the impact of Shelter Afrique’s intervention because I believe that what is not measured does not get done, and what is measured can be improved upon.

I am mindful that Shelter Afrique is not the only interventionist in the market, but I think that if we use this as a case study and benchmark ourselves, we can improve our efforts by measuring our progress and trying new things.

Over the years, Nigeria has embarked on a series of housing initiatives but not one of them has been pursued with consistency or any measurable sustainability.

In the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, we are convinced that these unsustainable efforts must change, and give way to a sustainable and well thought out initiative.

We are convinced that this change must be led by Government and subsequently driven by the private sector and I will explain why; and in the process, reveal the road map of our Ministry for Housing.

The public housing initiative of the United Kingdom was started by government in 1918 and as of 2014, 64.8% of UK’s 53 million people are home owners.

The Singaporean initiative was started by government in 1960 and has provided housing for 80% of its 3 million people.

What is common to both models, is that there was a uniformity of design, a common target to house working class people, and not the elite, standardization of fittings like doors, windows, space, electrical and mechanical, and also a common concept of neighborhood.

The Shelter Afrique report which I disclosed to you does not share these characteristics.

It shows funding for diverse initiatives such as service plots, commercial complex, apartments, and mixed housing.

But I will make this point more forcefully by referring to what I have appreciated since I announced that this Government will be building houses.

We have received scores of proposals from people and something that is common to an overwhelming majority is that they all want to build 10,000 units of housing.

Now I don’t know what is so attractive about the number 10,000 but I would certainly love to see houses built in such large numbers. However, our interrogation of these proposals show that none of the people who want to build 10,000 houses can show us where they have previously built 500 houses to show their capacity.

A sizable number of them are Road construction companies, and I am aware that the logistics for road construction are quite different from that for housing construction.

Some of them want to build duplexes and I think we all agree that this is not where the demand of Africa’s urban low income lies.

One of them who had signed a contract to deliver a 1,000 housing unit estate since around 2013 has run into difficulty after building 84 units.

Many of the PPP housing initiatives entered into have either stalled as a result of funding, lack of capacity, land disputes or court cases.

This is not the road to sustainability.

Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of money has passed through the African continent from oil, Agro- produce, mining, trade and other sources, but it is yet to deliver on the promise of prosperity that lies on the horizon.

I know that there is a high expectancy out there.

But everything tells me that as desirous as speed is, for us to respond to people’s expectations, we must be careful not to build roads that go nowhere; instead, we must be meticulous, focused and dedicated to build a road to prosperity.

The first key to our roadmap in housing therefore is planning.

We must never tire to explain the necessity and importance of proper planning. It is the key to successful execution, it is the key to project completion, it is the key to cost control and reduction in variation requests and financial calculations.

I have received some communication advising us not to re-invent the wheel because of the previous work that has been done.

I acknowledge that there is, for example, a national housing policy of 2012. Some have chosen to call it a plan.

To the extent that it is a broad statement of intent about providing housing, it is a policy statement. A plan is what is needed and it is what we are currently developing, to make the housing policy a reality.

Our plan requires first a clear understanding of who we want to provide housing for.

I recognize that there are people who want land to build for themselves, there are also people who want town houses and duplexes, whether detached or semi-detached.

Are these the people in the majority? Clearly not.

The people who we must focus on are those in the majority and those who are most vulnerable.

The people who are in the bracket of those who graduated from University about five years ago and more. People who are in the income bracket of grade level 9 to 15 in the public service and their counterparts, taxi drivers, market men and women, farmers, artisans who earn the same range of income.

Our plan requires us to conduct a survey of these people to determine what they expect and what they can pay.

Our plan requires us to evolve agreeable housing types, between 2 to 4 designs that have a broad, national cultural acceptance.

Our plan requires us to standardize these designs so that we can then design moulds to accelerates the number that can be built.

Our plan requires us to standardize the size of our doors, windows, our toilet and bath fittings, our lighting fittings and other accessories so that our small and medium enterprises can respond to supply all the building materials, create diversification and jobs; and ensure that projects are completed with a steady supply of materials.

Our plan requires us to ensure that the designs reflect our behavioral patterns, such as adequate storage, and other lifestyle needs.

Our plan requires us to ensure that there is ready water supply, power supply, waste and sewage management.

Our plan requires us to pay attention to the transport needs and land density prescriptions of the communities that we build.

Our plan requires us to ensure that the process of issuing legal title is in place.

Our plan requires us to focus on post-construction maintenance to ensure that the houses remain in good condition after they have been sold to the owners.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that a lot of work has been done by our staff in the ministry towards concluding these plans. But I must acknowledge that there has been some private sector voluntary contribution to these initiatives.

I can also report that 12 (TWELVE) states have responded to the request for land and while we expect more responses, we are taking the next step to survey these plots of land and develop layouts, preparatory to commencing development.

In essence, the road to Nigeria’s housing challenge lies in meticulous planning and original thinking.

I am of the view that the solution to housing Africa’s urban low income population must proceed along the same basis by each African country.

At the recent Habitat III Summit hosted here in Abuja in February 2016, a major declaration about the need for Africans to take responsibility and be original in developing their own solutions was made in the Abuja declaration.

It is a document that I commend all of us.

I thank you all for listening.

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing

1st June 2016

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