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Ambassadors for Peace

Chief Shonekan Addresses Habitat Conference in Abjua

Abuja, Nigeria -UPF Global Peace Council member Ernest Shonekan addressed a conference in Abuja  on "Shelter and Urban Renewal," in commemoration of World Habitat Day, October 3. World Habitat Day is a day set aside for commemoration by the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), to ensure that everyone in the world lives in decent houses and environment.

Chairman, Governing Board, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission

2011 World Habitat Day
Hilton Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria, October 4, 2011

May I on behalf of the Governing Board and Management of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Media Trust Limited, and their co conference organizers, Legend Leaders welcome you all to this conference on “Shelter and Urban Renewal” to commemorate the 2011 World Habitat Day.

The theme for this year’s conference is: Mass Housing and Urban Renewal:—Imperative of Public-Private sector Partnership.

As you are aware, the World Habitat Day is observed every year on the first Monday of October throughout the world. It is a day officially designated by the United Nations for reflection on the state of our cities and towns and the extent to which they meet the basic human right to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind the entire world of our collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations. It was first celebrated in 1986.

In line with the Habitat Day’s objective, it is pertinent for us to remember that our National Housing Policy document of 2006 defines housing delivery as the process of providing functional shelter in a proper setting in a neighborhood supported by sustainable maintenance of the built environment for the day-to-day living and activities of individuals and families within the community.

In view of all the above, this specific conference on this day for habitat reflection and its particular focus on shelter and urban renewal is so appropriate; coming at a time when our country - Nigeria - is grappling with the twin challenges of affordable housing provision and urban renewal. Shelter has been universally accepted as the second most important essential human need, after food.

The challenges of housing in Nigeria have been with us for a long time. Our shelter/housing problems are most pronounced in our urban areas where it takes significant qualitative and quantitative dimensions. Rapid urbanization and explosive population growth are twin problems, which in combination result in the serious housing deficit we are experiencing in Nigeria.

These problems have indeed led to the emergence of squatter camps in and around our cities, under bridges, etc., with grave implications for disease outbreaks and high crime rates. It must then blight our common conscience when we see shacks in our urban cities and fellow Nigerians living is squalor and unhygienic conditions with inappropriate housing, no water and sanitation.

Furthermore, this lack of decent affordable public housing and livable environments in our big cities has consigned hundreds of thousands of aspiring middle-class families to deplorable living conditions and crippling rents around our major population centers. This results in long travel times to work, congestion on our roads, family dysfunction, and loss of precious productive man-hours.

This unfortunate tendency to totally neglect low-income shelter provision is really not equitable and is certainly undesirable because of the possible long-term social and security consequences. It’s not rocket science to predict that trouble makers and terrorist groups will prey on the sufferings and emotions of vulnerable youths being raised in these insecure and hostile housing environments.

Nigeria’s housing deficit has been estimated by the Federal Housing Authority as 16 million homes annually. Thus, there must be an urgent focus by all towards the massive construction of homes to accommodate our growing population.

The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria currently estimates that we need about Naira 56 trillion to meet our Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for the housing sector. This is a huge opportunity for the public/private sector especially via public/private partnerships. However, many challenges connected with mass housing provision which include land acquisition, titling, property development approval processing, and lack of long tenor finance and in some cases non-existence of critical primary/secondary infrastructure exist.

Unblocking of these issues by the relevant agencies of government will form a big stimulus package that would incentivize the private sector to participate actively in housing provision. Other critical challenges in providing mass housing/shelter in Nigeria include the inadequate capital and resource base of our primary mortgage institutions and the continuing large importation of building materials, which affect housing delivery and affordability.

Let me at this junction remark that in most countries of the world, the bulk of housing provision including public good social housing is mainly delivered via public/private partnership with the public sector providing appropriate framework and guarantees to incentivize private sector investment towards providing affordable shelter. The challenge for us, therefore, is how we make the private sector in Nigeria respond to the housing needs of Nigerians in an affordable and sustainable manner, given our economic situation and with our population growing at about 2.5% per annum and urbanization, which is currently at circa 48% growing at about 3.8% per annum.

Furthermore, our present macro- and micro-economic conditions mean that disposable incomes are low for a majority of our population; this is compounded by our current low income country GDP per capita of less than US$2,000. All these are serious shelter provision showstoppers that must be addressed. For Nigeria as in most developing countries, the housing crisis is most critical in urban areas like Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt, etc., where a continuous population surge due to rural-urban migration has given rise to various slums and squatter settlements.

Following the policy failures of the past, we must now re-focus our national housing delivery efforts to be dominantly private sector driven. In this mode, the government will create win/win alliances with private developers to develop affordable housing estates through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and associated infrastructure. A current good example is the recently signed PPP contract between the FCT and Deanshanger Projects for primary and secondary infrastructure development in the Katampe District of Abuja.

It is my prayer that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)/Federal Housing Authority (FHA) will work further with the ICRC to develop public/private partnerships for the urgent provision of affordable mass housing in Katampe and other districts of the FCT. The ICRC is willing and able to play a catalyzing role in facilitating this mass housing provision thrust. It must be said again that mass housing provision as noted earlier can become an important contribution to national economic development (job creation, skills development, industrialization, etc.) and give rise to new asset classes and prosperity for all Nigerians.

As I have said on several occasions, and I will repeat it here, I truly believe that PPPs can play a key role in transforming Nigeria’s infrastructure, and we must begin to look at innovative ways of meeting the challenges we face in our national housing sector.

We, in the ICRC, have been working hard at the federal level to develop world-class policies that will ensure that we properly prepare infrastructure projects for PPP procurement. We are also setting-up a Viability Gap Fund (VGF) to provide additional upfront public funding for projects that require on-going support from the federal budget especially if these projects such as shelter provision have a high social rate of return. The VGF funding will make these projects bankable and attractive to the private sector. We are also working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on a number of initiatives, to ensure that our local financial markets have the depth and liquidity to finance a growing portfolio of PPP projects including the setting-up of additional mechanisms for financing PPP infrastructure and housing projects. Mass housing could and would benefit from these schemes.

Rural Housing - Provision of rural housing is of course more challenging and is in fact the most neglected form of housing. This is due to the fact that it is predominantly informal, largely unregulated, and unable to attract formal financing. In order to address this, we urgently recommend that the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, State Governments/LGAs, Federal Housing Authority/Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, NAPEP, and other relevant agencies of government jointly initiate an Accelerated National Rural Housing and Infrastructure Development Program as a public/private partnership to deliver decent shelter as a social good to millions of Nigerians living in the rural areas. The ICRC would be pleased to partner with these agencies to structure this initiative in full compliance with the national PPP policy. Furthermore, an initiative like the rural housing delivery project will lead to massive job creation; as you are aware, over 22 skills (masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, iron mongers, glass cutters, tillers, excavation personnel, painters, etc.) are needed to construct a single house; as such, several million young Nigerians will provide their labor and skills towards providing shelter for millions of Nigerians in our rural and urban areas. Creating a conducive housing environment in our rural areas will play a strong role in reversing rural-to-urban migration in our country, which is rapidly creating an underclass of slum dwellers with massive potential negative social implications.

Delivery and development of sustainable mass housing and urban renewal projects will help alleviate poverty; I therefore challenge all of us present here today to assist the government to create the necessary enabling environment for public/private partnerships in mass housing in Nigeria and propose innovative ways through which these objectives could be achieved.

At this juncture, I enjoin all present today to use the opportunity of the high levels of discourse that would naturally occur at a forum of this nature to properly diagnose, identify, and situate the opportunities and challenges inherent in addressing Nigeria’s shelter and urban-renewal challenges. As Franz Fanon said years ago – every generation must out of relative obscurity discover her mission; fulfill or betray it.

My generation focused on the fight for independence and making the nation of Nigeria a reality. I believe the challenge of this generation is to provide adequate infrastructure stock including affordable housing that will provide a decent life for present and future generations of Nigeria.

Our national pledge demands and we promise to “To serve Nigeria with all our strength, to defend her unity and uphold her honor and glory.” Shall we all agree to uphold the honor and dignity of all Nigerians via the provision of affordable housing? I am sure we can and mm sure we will.

I hereby declare this conference open and unequivocally raise my voice and advocate for positive transformational change to help those in our country of Nigeria and around the world who do not have a decent place to live.

God bless Nigeria and you all.

Note: This year, World Habitat Day falls during the month when demographers predict our planet’s seven billionth inhabitant will be born," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on World Habitat Day. "The future that this child and its generation will inherit depends to a great degree on how we handle the competing pressures of growing population growth, urbanization and climate change."

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