We are all witnesses to the negative impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. For Nigeria, the pandemic ushered in perhaps the worst economic downturn in the history of our dear country.
The sudden arrival of a health disaster into an existing inflammatory pressured economy that is characterised by a high debt ratio, weak infrastructural base, as well as unsatisfactory human capital development indices left many Nigerians in misery particularly those in the informal sector.
Nigeria’s over reliance on crude oil as a primary source of foreign exchange further compounded the dark experiences that COVID-19 brought upon the livelihoods of Nigerians. Presently, as jobs are being lost daily across all sectors, the prices of imported goods and services also continue to increase uncontrollably due to the cutback of foreign currencies and instability in exchange rate.
The combination of COVID-19 and a dwindling economy with 40% of her population being already classified as poor because they earn less than N137,000 per annum can only best be imagined if left unchecked. The revival and protection of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises is inevitable if the nation must overcome the immediate economic calamity and improve the living standards of the citizens.
In response to the current economic doom affecting the nation, the Federal Government came up with a one-year Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) that focuses on achieving mass employment and mass domestic production, which are not dependent on importation or foreign exchange expenditure.
The ESP recommended that 300,000 low-income mass housing units be constructed across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The ultimate idea of proposing this initiative is to create 1.8 million jobs across the construction value chain, lift low-income earners from their slums to decent settlements, and reduce the huge housing deficit bedeviling the country.
About OWNAHOME Campaign
This campaign is initiated by MKT Media to support government’s plan to provide jobs and reduce the housing deficit in the country. The aim is to create a hub and bring all stakeholders together to brainstorm on how best this exercise can be successfully implemented.
In a country where it is on record that over 20 million of her citizens are currently either homeless or living without decent shelter, it is needless to talk about the benefit of building 300,000 affordable mass housing to low-income Nigerians if achieved.
To bridge this huge gap in the sector, it is estimated that Nigeria needs to build a minimum of 700,000 to 1,000,000, 00 housing units every year for probably a decade. Yet, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria presently builds an average of only a staggering 100,000 housing units per year which only a few working-class Nigerians can afford to buy one.
The uncontrollable inflation rate in the country is another worrisome issue to note. The prices of building materials keep rising daily and this situation affects building cost. Cement for instance was sold for N2,400 and N2,500 when the federal government approved this project. Today, the market prices for a bag of 50kg cement ranges between N3,500 and N4,000. And this disturbing situation is applicable to other building materials like stone dust, iron rod and even wood.
This twist led to a meeting where we saw the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), appealing to major cement manufacturers in the country for price reduction to enable the federal government to deliver the promised 300,000 housing scheme.
Conscious planning is the heart of every successful housing project. Little has been said about this initiative after it was unveiled last year. The latest we heard was when the VP visited one of the project sides at Dei-Dei to inspect the housing prototypes, and the other was during a Zoom meeting where he reassured that it was possible for the government to build the anticipated houses within one year.
On the part of Family Homes Funds (FHF), the implementing body of the project, they told us that they have received the sum of N200 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence work. We are also aware of land donations by various state governments for the purpose of this scheme, and how the FHFs would work with cooperatives to deliver this venture.
As housing advocates, we are aware of the numerous challenges bedeviling the implementation of social housing activities in Nigeria. For an initiative of this magnitude, there is need for mass public education on the implementation plan of this project.
As a campaign that is designed to foster awareness on how the public can gain from this noble initiative, we have created five pillars as our strategic approach to engage stakeholders and ensure the successful implementation of this project.
Furthermore, we are working in partnership with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), civil society groups, transparency, and financial audit organisations to monitor, evaluate and report progress of this project to the public.
Although, looking at the bigger picture, 300,000 is insignificant when compared to the 1,000,000-annual projection. However, we are convinced that sincere jobs can be created, and the status of social housing improved in Nigeria if this exercise is achieved and momentum maintained over time.
By Etta Michael Bisong, Project Convener