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How infrastructural deficits breed city slums

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PHOTO: www.un.org

Piqued by the growing number of city slums in major Nigerian cities and its impact on the social economic lives of the nation, experts have called for a strategic move to address the infrastructural challenge in the country.

A slum is a highly populated urban residential area consisting mostly of closely packed, decrepit housing units in a situation of deteriorated or incomplete infrastructure, inhabited primarily by impoverished persons.

It is a part of the city where the housing quality is bad and living conditions are poor.
Information from UN-HABITAT, retrieved from the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals database, stated that about 50.2 per cent of the nation’s urban population lives in slums.

In Lagos, one of the world’s mega-cities , two out of three residents are also said to live in a slum with no reliable access to clean drinking water, electricity, waste disposal and even roads.

Experts, who include housing developers , however, said Nigeria will continue to wallow in homelessness unless something serious is done on infrastructure, whilst houses developed in the midst of severe infrastructure deficit would often fall within the inadequate housing category or slum.

Currently, about 108 million Nigerians are estimated to be homeless, based on an average family of six people per housing unit, thereby robbing her teeming population the comfort that a good house brings.

Also, homeownership rate in the country is put of 25 per cent, lower than that of Indonesia (84 per cent), Kenya (73 per cent), and South Africa (56 per cent).

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund, Nigeria would need about N10.63tn ($67bn) to tackle her infrastructure gap.

Before now, various governments through national development plans made frantic efforts in ensuring adequate mass housing, especially in urban areas.

However, these efforts were hampered by infrastructural challenges.

For instance, the National Sites & Services (S&S) scheme created in the 80s with the intention of solving the problem of squatter settlements was hindered by infrastructural challenges.

This housing delivery strategy originally promoted by the United Nations and the World Bank was adopted and first domesticated by then Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in 1986.

The key characteristic of the concept was to increase the pace of affordable housing supply in Nigeria without compromising wholesomeness of estates and neighbourhoods as well as addressing peculiar housing needs of different categories of persons with special focus on the middle income earners.

According to a source, the first phase scored remarkable success in all parameters of evaluation including; number of land freely released and acquired from State Governments; number of plots allocated per annum; number of secured titles issued; number of housing units started and completed and level of basic services provided in each site.

For example, during its first phase, about 8,083 plots for residential, commercial and industrial developments were allotted to people in Enugu, Lagos, Anambra, Imo, Kano, Kwara, Ondo and Rivers. Out of these number, Lagos received the lions’ share of about 80 percent, as a total of 5426 plots were allotted to members of the public in the three sites located at Isheri –Olofin, Abesan and Satellite town.

At the Isheri-Olofin site, a total of 2,479 plots were disposed in three categories, involving 248 plots given out under the low income category, 1390 residential plots allotted in the medium income category and 841 plots allotted to others.

The Guardian learnt that as at 1992, about 10 States were covered with more than 9,000 beneficiaries.

According to the Head of Department, Urban & Regional Development (URD), Federal Ministry of Housing, Abuja, Mr. Chike Anikamadu, the scheme played visible role in arresting the proliferation of quasi-slum communities through strict guidance of private sector drive for housing supply.

One of the glowing stories of the sites and services programme, he said, was the successful execution of self financing highbrow estates for the rich at Banana Island, Ikoyi Foreshore, Osborne Road (Phases I & 2 in Lagos and the generation of surplus funds to treasury to cross-subsidize funding of estates for the low income earners.

According to him, the scheme continued to expand satisfactorily for several years, covering at least 25 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with the existence of multiple housing estates and sites within each benefitting State and more than 25,000 plot allocations issued in addition to issuance of Certificate of Occupancy and other registered titles.

However, recent findings by The Guardian showed that the pace of implementation of the once applauded programme has slowed down because of inadequate infrastructure.

Lamenting the challenge of infrastructure on housing delivery, an infrastructure, urban and international development expert, Lookman Oshodi said the depth of infrastructure deficit in any city would reflect on the quantity and quality of housing delivery.

“If the infrastructure gap is enormous, the cost of housing delivery will be high and that is a disincentive for mass investors in the sector because of potential reduction in profit margin.

“Housing developed in the midst of severe infrastructure deficit will fall within the inadequate housing category or in clear term, slum. This is the case in number of Nigerian cities”, he noted.

According to Oshodi, it is not unusual to find well-constructed houses in certain districts, but basic infrastructure such as access road, drainage system, water and energy are completely lacking.

“ For example, looking at many houses in Lekki axis of Lagos, the infrastructure challenges are making housing not sustainable for the residents.

“Taking all these together, the Lagos State Development Plan 2012 – 2025 concluded that about 70 per cent of the city of Lagos could be in form of slums or informal settlements. The houses are good in some cases, but supporting infrastructure are lacking.

“In development, it is difficult to isolate housing from enabling infrastructure. The moment housing is devoid of infrastructure, utility of such housing investment is lost with consequential negative impacts on health, life expectancy and economic prosperity of the residents”, he added.

Oshodi, however, said the private sector has significant role to play in attracting funding for Nigerian infrastructure needs. In any infrastructure investment market, private sector possesses ability to navigate the complex market and rapid turnaround period.

“Whether on or off the investment road show, private sector has comparable advantage in attracting infrastructure funding, especially when funding partners are gradually realizing that state led infrastructure in many cities in Sub Saharan Africa are not fully yielding the desired results.

“In Nigeria, the private sector had made huge funding commitment to infrastructure development. Majority of housing in Nigeria are the products of private capital, the fledging energy sector currently relies on funding from the private sector while infrastructure for tax model is being introduced in the road sector. All these are considerable history of private sector financing of infrastructure and pointer of interest to make further contributions.

Oshodi, who was one of the brains behind a recent training programme in Lagos on “Public Private Partnership for Affordable Housing and Housing Finance” in search for better approaches for solving housing finance challenges for the low-income earners and fundraising for housing projects, said for private sector to make effective contributions, government must play substantial enabling role and create accountability platform that will draw private sector funding.

“At this stage, Nigeria needs to be very clear on the type of economic model it wants to pursue, social, capitalism or clear hybrid system. A bit of social, welfare, capital and communal models without concrete loop end leading to the multiple miss-interpretation on the part of state actors, inconsistencies, policy somersaults, nepotism and obscured transparency in infrastructure procurement process are all inimical to private sector interests. They are doing substantial damage to the private sector contributions in bridging the infrastructure gap”, he added.

Also, Executive Director, Shelter Origins Nigeria, Mr. Ezekiel Ojo said infrastructure is key to housing delivery because housing will only be visible and cheaper if infrastructure is provided.

He stressed that there is no way a project can be completed without road, electricity and water.

“ If infrastructure can be provided, then, housing will be cheaper because people will begin to get their places of work from the villages where lands are cheaper.

“Right now, where the lands are cheaper, they are not accessible and there are no roads to come to town.

“You cannot do affordable housing, where they are selling a plot of land for N500 million. We need to understand what it takes to do affordable housing. When you are talking of affordable housing, it cannot sit in towns, but if you go to the satellite places and go inside the bush and open the road, you will see a lot of development.

To tackle city slums problems, Ojo said government should focus on infrastructure to reduce the housing deficit in the country.

“Look at Abuja, for instance, how many roads do we have? We don’t have roads there, the roads are so bad, infrastructure is key for development, and they should open up satellite towns so that people can have access to houses especially the low and middle-income earners.

“The middle and low income form the majority of the population in need of housing, if you go to town, some of the people working there are being paid N15, 000 or N20, 000, they cannot rent a house in town with that kind of money. It is not even enough for them to enter transport, but if we have infrastructure, like rail, we don’t need to be spending much money on transport because you can board a train.

Also, the Managing Director and Chief executive officer, Chattel Realty Company Limited, Mr. Ifeanyi Okafor said with right infrastructure, satellite communities will open up faster.
According to him, infrastructure is a big issue for developers and investors because it would make projects accessible to all.

“ If it’s existing, a lot of satellite communities will open up faster, when infrastructure is not available , it will impede development, not only in terms of roads but transportation, thereby creating slums in cities.

“The transportation system that make people commute from a place to another. It is easier to own home, because lack of infrastructure makes property more expensive to engage in, if there is infrastructure, it would be much easier, moving people and materials around”, he added.


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