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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Nigeria and challenges of Housing and Urban Development Policy implementation

The significant difference between successful and unsuccessful policy implementation is that the former seeks problems to solve, whereas the latter attempts to avoid them – Dr Santali Karshi, pioneer Chairman, Federal Housing Policy Council

Ahmed Dangiwa
Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister for Housing and Urban Development

The Punch edition of Monday, September 25, 2023, on page 38, reported that the “FG plans new national urban development policy.” The news report made it known to the reading public that the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development (FMHUD), under President Bola Tinubu’s administration, Ahmed Dangiwa, released (?) a revised National Urban Development Policy. The Minister gave this information on September 21, 2023, when he received a delegation from the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) led by the Institute’s current President, Nathaniel Atebije, at the FMHUD’s headquarters at Mabushi, Abuja.

In another breadth, the Report further said that the Ministry was working on the National Urban Development Policy document, and it would be presented for stakeholders’ input during the forthcoming National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development slated for October 2023.

The information contained in paragraph one above seems to contradict the message in paragraph two. Why? The Minister was said to have “released” a revised National Urban Development Policy whose preparation is still work-in-progress and not yet ready for consideration by the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development until October this year. What was inconclusive cannot be classified as released. In the future, the Ministry’s information officer should avoid this inadvertent error of contradiction/ambiguity in disseminating information from the Ministry to the public.

Be that as it may, we focus on the theme of this article. In a span of 25 years (1997-2022), it is on record that the Ministry, under different nomenclatures, had formulated three National Housing and Urban Development Policies. From 1997 to 2005, it was operated for eight years. From 2006 to 2011, another policy was implemented for five years. A new policy was in situ for 10 years, from 2012-2022, and is being reviewed in 2023 by the current administration.

However, the three different policies suffered considerable drawbacks due to poor implementation arising from a lack of a framework and weak operational institutions, inadequate funding, and lack of political will on the part of the three tiers of government: Federal, State, and Local, and the usual aversion against continuity.

The problem of effective policy implementation by the actors and sundry stakeholders rather than policy formulation has been the bane of the two sectors (housing and urban development), which invariably led to policy abysmal failure and non-realisation of several laudable goals as variously enunciated in the two policy documents. As Mahatma Gandhi admonished, “All good thoughts and ideas mean nothing without action.”

This review will limit our focus to the last National Housing and Urban Development Policies from 2012 to 2022.

Albeit the policy for this period was well-articulated, the Ministry failed to effectively implement most of the provisions and recommendations contained in the two policy documents. After launching the policies in 2012, with fanfare, the FMHUD completely fell asleep. If at all, marginal efforts were made at implementation and coordination, monitoring, and strategies as the policies explicitly recommended.

The areas of policy implementation failure are too numerous to cover in this article because of space constraints. Still, it suffices to state that we shall identify the critical areas of policy implementation failure for the benefit of the public and for the notification of the Ministry’s departmental heads who have the remit to initiate/midwife and implement specific policy recommendations applicable to their departments but are inactive and non-proactive for inexplicable reasons. Call it a dereliction of duty; one would not be off target.

Lack of adequate policy monitoring mechanism

The FMHUD took its eyes off the ball as the overall actor and policy monitor. While it recognised the importance of policy implementation and performance evaluation of the provisions of the policy documents, the crucial aspect of the strategies to achieve the policy objectives was inadvertently overlooked. The Ministry forgot past mistakes and learned no lesson.

For example, our search revealed that the Ministry did not set up an independent Committee on Coordination and Monitoring for 10 years to periodically monitor and evaluate progress and challenges in achieving the policy goals and objectives. There was no periodic publication of the State of Nigerian Cities Report and Good Urban Governance Assessment of Nigerian Cities for advocacy and performance. There was also no record showing that the policy was reviewed five years after its launch, which makes it challenging to determine its impact on the housing and urban development sectors.

Concerning the National Housing Policy, the Ministry did not bother to reconstitute the Housing Policy Council (HPC) – a product of the 1991 National Housing Policy. The Housing Policy Council served as an omnibus institution to monitor the implementation of the operative National Housing Policy, the significant task the Council effectively did from 1991-2000 under the watch of this writer, who served as the pioneer Secretary of the Council.

The HPC introduced the first publication of Building Materials Pricewatch as a comparative price analysis for the period under review. The document was a biannual publication. The crown jewel of HPC’s achievements was the Annual Report to the National Council on Housing. The Report was a sought-after document by conference participants from all over the federation because of its detailed analysis and lucid evaluation of the policy implementation on a state-by-state basis.

The reportage and documentation on policy implementation (as resource/reference materials) are essential. The FMHUD should sustain them, hence the wisdom in reconstituting the Housing Policy Council as recommended in the  National Housing Policy (2012). Any policy is judged by its successes and deliverables. Sometimes, it is not enough that we do our best; it is incumbent on us to do what is required.

Institutional Framework is a sine qua non to the successful implementation of any policy.

Both the extant National Housing and Urban Development Policies recognised this fact and copiously recommended specific institutional arrangements (regulatory or administrative), agencies, councils, and monitors to oversee each component area of housing and urban development, such as land, finance, building materials, statistics, information management, and methodology for housing delivery.

We list below critical Commissions/Councils/Systems not established and the non-review of the Land Use Act, all of which are required for the effective implementation of the extant National Housing and Urban Development Policies under review:

  • National Land Commission to carry out specific land-related management functions with designated legal powers.
  • National Housing and Urban Development Regulatory Commission and its subsidiary, the National Urban and Regional Planning Commission, as prescribed by the Planning Act of 1992.
  • Climate Change Commission as legislated by the National Assembly.
  • Housing Policy Council.
  • Non-review of the Land Use Act 1978 and deletion from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • National Urban Management Information System.

The proposed review of the two subsisting National Policies on Housing and Urban Development by the current administration is a welcome development. Both documents are overdue for review. However, the FMHUD must exercise caution that the mistakes of the past are not repeated by failing to provide the necessary institutional framework and wherewithals to facilitate hitch-free implementation.

No matter how a policy is diligently formulated, if mechanisms for its implementation are not established and operational, little or no success can be achieved, as noted in this instance. We want to point out that failure is not necessarily the result of what the Ministry did wrong but the reward of things it never did to succeed.

“There are no secrets to success. It results from preparation, hard work, doggedness and learning from failure,” says Colin Powell, former United States Secretary of State (2001-2005).

Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun, pioneer Secretary of the Housing Policy Council, writes from New York, USA

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