Nigeria’s Housing Quagmire

Today we celebrate World Habitat Day and this year’s theme, as declared by UN Habitat, is ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes’. This theme is in line with commitments Nigeria made under the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that everyone in the country has access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and essential services by 2030.

The reality in Nigeria, however, couldn’t be further from this goal. Currently, the country has a staggering housing deficit of 17 million, while thousands of people have been victims of forced evictions and much more live in constant fear of being made homeless overnight.

In 2007, UN Habitat dubbed Nigeria “one of the worst housing rights violators in Africa, if not the world.” Between the year 2000 and 2009, Nigeria forcibly evicted more than two million people.

Has the situation improved since? Not really. Tens of thousands more have been chased out of their homes and places of business by government bulldozers and police gunfire, without adequate notice, alternative housing or compensation. In Rivers State, authorities forcibly evicted at least 28,600 people between 2009 and 2016. In Lagos State, authorities forcibly evicted at least 50,000 people between 2013 and 2017. Some have lost their lives as a result of the forced evictions; others are still missing and no one knows what happened to them.

Inevitably, the victims in all this are the poor, who live in informal settlements, and whose land is coveted by state authorities and influential citizens for the development of the high-value real estate. According to the World Bank, 50% of Nigeria’s urban population live in informal settlements.

Forced evictions constitute a gross violation of human rights and are illegal under international law. However, all too often, Nigerians find their homes destroyed in the name of ‘security’, ‘development’ or to make way for the creation of ‘megacities’. The courts are very clear that housing is a human right. Justice Kutigi, of the Abuja High Court, in his landmark Judgment in the case of Chief Jacob Obor & ors. v Federal Capital Development Authority & ors (Suit No. CV/3998/2012), on 2 February 2017, stated: “The right to housing should not be construed narrowly to mean having a roof over one’s head but it should be viewed broadly as a right to live somewhere in relative peace, security, and dignity. There is a responsibility on governments to create housing policies to enhance these values. Our great country is under obligation to refrain from and prevent forced evictions and demolitions which cause massive and frightening dislocations to families and communities without some sort of engagement with the affected people/communities.”

While the courts are unequivocal, many state governments, in practice, do not recognize that housing is a human right. Worse, they continue to forcibly evict residents and demolish homes without adequate prior notice, provision of adequate alternative accommodation for those rendered homeless, nor compensation for the losses incurred.

In Kaduna State for example, following threats by state authorities to demolish about 1000 structures in Gbagyi Villa community, residents filed a case (Joshua J. Nyam & ors. v Governor of Kaduna State & ors. – Suit No. KDH/KAD/218/2016) at the High Court of Kaduna State on 10 March 2016. The High Court issued an injunction order on 7 April 2016 preventing the government from demolishing their houses pending the hearing of their case challenging the government’s claim to the land. However, the Governor of Kaduna State, on 21 July 2016, visited the community and said that the forced evictions would proceed regardless of the court order. He said: “These buildings will have to go… we will give everyone the opportunity to show that he or she has title to the land and approval to build. If you don’t have these to the law will apply and we will take the buildings down …this is a criminal conduct, the case in court is a civil matter…they are two separate matters”. Although the demolitions have not been carried out yet, residents continue to live in fear that the governor will make good his threat to raze their homes.

Their fear is far from baseless. Lagos State repeatedly violated court orders and forcibly evicted several communities, rendering more than 30,000 residents homeless. The governor, on 9 October 2016, issued a threat to demolish all informal settlements along the state’s waterfronts and creeks which are home to at least 300,000 people. On 7 November 2016, the State High Court, in the case of Akakpo Agemo & ors. v Attorney General of Lagos State & ors. (Suit No. LD/4232MFHR/16), issued an injunction against the demolition. However, between 9 and 11 November 2016, at least 25,000 Otodo-Gbame residents were forcibly evicted. Again, on 26 January 2017, the court which found that the forced evictions and threat thereof were unconstitutional and illegal, renewed its order restraining the state government from carrying out the demolition. But state agents once again ignored these court orders and forcibly evicted about 4,700 residents who remained in Otodo-Gbame.

World Habitat Day presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the housing situation in our cities. Forced evictions, which often make people homeless, are a major step backward in achieving affordable housing for all. If authorities in Nigeria are serious about meeting the country’s international commitments on sustainable development and in particular housing, they must first comply with court orders and put an end to forced eviction.

 

 

Source: The Guardian

Governor Ahmed Flags Off 5000-Unit Mass Housing Project, Pledges Compensation

Kwara State Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed has promised that adequate compensation will be paid for lands acquired under its 5000 mass housing projects for the less privileged.

The Governor who made this disclosure at the Ground Breaking of New Cities in Remote places for the less privileged at Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state stated that  “compensation for land acquired for the mass housing projects is currently being worked out and will be paid as soon as the modalities are completed.”

According to the governor, though, the housing project is an initiative of the African Nations Development Program (ANDP) in partnership with the Kwara State Government, “It is also worthy of note that the Africa Nations Development Programme intended to site the project at one specific location in the State. However, in the spirit of Shared Prosperity, we agreed with our partners to spread the project across the State. Consequently, seven locations were selected, including Ajase-Ipo, Ilorin, Osi, Lafiagi, Share, Ilesha-Baruba and Offa.”

Governor Ahmed explained that out of the 5000 two-bedroom bungalow of the housing units, 500 each will be constructed in Ajase-Ipo and Offa, 2000 units on 100 hectares in Ilorin, 500 on 50 hectares each in Osi, Lafiagi, Share and Ilesha-Baruba.

“The most cheering news is that the housing units, designed to provide affordable mass housing to citizens and residents of the state, will be allocated to low income earners free of charge,” the governor assured the people.

The New Cities in Remote places programme, according to the governor,  entails the provision of 5000 new homes with other infrastructures and amenities like road network with drainages, water, electricity, Ultra-modern  hospital, schools and skill acquisition center.

Earlier, the African Director-General of ANDP, Ambassador (Dr) Samson Omojuyigbe had said the ground breaking was the result of “painstaking arrangements” by the Kwara State Government and ANDP officials, saying the project is meant to alleviate the plight of the poor in the society by putting an end to the ” grinding poverty” they face daily.

“The desire to turn things around for the less privileged in our midst is the driving force behind this initiative of ANDP”, he said.

Aregbesola Commissions Another Omoluabi Mortgage Bank

As part of efforts to turn Osun to a commercial hub of the SouthWest, the Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on Thursday commissioned another branch of Omoluabi Mortgage Bank Plc. in Ilesa.This makes a total of three Omoluabi Mortgage Banks in the state.

Aregbesola at the official opening said the expansion of the bank was necessary as part of efforts to further enhance economic development and commercial activities of the state.

He said the bank with its N4.6billion capitalization and N2.5billion assets capacity had contributed significantly to the economic viability, growth and development of the state since establishment.

Governor Aregbesola who described Omoluabi Mortgage bank as one of the best among its peers said the bank has been upgraded to meet the needs of the residents of the state as regards banking system.

Governor said branches of the bank are established across the state to promote and ease socio-economic activities of the residents irrespective of distance and locations.

He said his government’s initiatives to upgrade the modus operandi of the bank in line with international best practices had aided the state towards actualizating its economic dreams.

Speaking on the economic impacts of the bank, Aregbesola said the bank has the capacity to give out housing loans with little interest of 6 percent.

He said the bank has been empowered by the Central Bank of Nigeria and other regulatory agencies to render all services peculiar to commercial banks in the country.

Aregbesola further disclosed that the bank (Omoluabi Mortgage Bank) has a cordial collaboration with First bank and Access bank with the aim to enhancing effective operations in banking industry.

According to him, “Omoluabi Mortgage Bank has the capacity to perform all the services that can be rendered in any of the commercial banks in Nigeria.

“Deposits, withdrawals and other transactions can be made easily in any of the branches of this bank just as the bank can also give out housing loans with just 6% interest”, he added.

Governor Aregbesola who promised to replicate the branches of the bank across the state before the expiration of his tenure said, efforts are on the top gear to accomplish the goal as the state was ready to commission Ife branch next year.

He there urged all and sundry to see the bank as theirs with prompt patronage.

In his welcome address, the Chairman Board of Directors, Omoluabi Mortgage Bank, Alhaji Bayo Jimoh who described the bank as one of the successful banks in the country, said Omoluabi Mortgage Bank has been empowered to compete favourably with its counterparts in the subsector all over the world.

He said the dreams of the state with the establishment of the bank has been tremendously achieved in the last few years of establishment.

Jimoh noted that the efforts of the bank (Omoluabi) in expanding its branches was to enable it reach the nooks and cranies of the state and at the same time promote economic development by empowering businesses and creating employment opportunities.

Recounting some of the efforts made by the state government at upgrading the bank from its previous nomenclature, Jimoh said the bank which was initially registered as Livingspring Building Society way back in 1993 had gone through transformational changes all in structure, form, nomenclature, management and capital funding that helped to metamorphose it to Omoluabi Mortgage Bank Plc having successfully met the listing requirements of the Nigeria Stock Exchange and Securities and Exchange Commission respectively.

He added, “There is no doubt that it has been a long journey characterised with a lot of pains of growth before arriving eventually at the present shore, where we can boast without any fear of contradiction that this bank is sufficiently empowered to compete successfully with its peers in the subsector”.

The Board Chairman disclosed that the recapitalization of the bank by Governor Aregbesola in the quest to take the people out of poverty, was aimed at not only strengthening the bank but also to reposition it to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the local market for speedy growth, profitability and empowering the good people of the State.

He revealed that, the bank has restrategized its banking operations with a complete overhaul of its former business process and embracement of an up to date technology in carrying out its business.

“This include among others the successful acquisition of banking software that enables seamless operations and ICT sufficiently adequate for Mortgage Finance and Banking Operations but at the same time addresses the core banking, treasury, consumer and corporate e-banking, mobile banking and web based cash management requirements for universal, retail and corporate banking that meet international standards”, he added.

Jimoh therefore commended Governor Aregbesola for boosting commercial activities of the state by contnuously threading the path to economic prosperity through the establishment of viable banking industry.

He said the government’s continued support has tremendously gone a long way to spur the officials of the bank on the need to continuously nurture the bank to become a pride to the state, saying “It is our hope that through patronage and cooperation of our host communities, there is the assurance of success”.

Earlier, the Managing Director, Omoluabi Mortgage Bank, Mr. Ayodele Olowookere, commended the state government for expanding the branch of the bank across the state.

Olowookere reassured the residents of the state on effective and efficient services, adding that “the necessity has been done by the state to serve the people excellently”.

He appealed to the host communities to need to be patronising the bank, saying “whatever the dividends made in any of the branches of the bank belongs to Osun government”.