REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS AT THE PRESIDENTIAL TOWN HALL MEETING ON THE STATE OF NIGERIA’S HOUSING SECTOR, 12TH JANUARY 2019 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS.
The Presidential Town Hall Meeting, themed ‘State of Nigeria’s Housing Market’ was a meeting between Presidential Candidates and stakeholders in Nigeria’s housing and built environment sector. It was organized as collaboration between the University of Lagos Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, the Roland Igbinoba Real Foundation for Urban Development and FESADEB Group.
Goal: The goal of the meeting was bring the Presidential Candidates closer to the people, to provide an avenue for them to understand the housing issues that matter to Nigerians as the electioneering processes commence and to ensure that through this, the successful Candidate and the incoming administration would develop and implement policies that would address these issues.
Rationale: Following the African concept of a village square, a town hall is a place to find solutions to common problems. Rather than a debate, a town hall meeting was preferred as a bottom-up and citizen led approach in the campaign process. It was desired that candidates address the core issues raised by stakeholders in an environment devoid of tensions, thereby learning from other candidates, while also reaching a consensus on the issues in the value-chain that has constrained optimization of social and economic potentials of Nigeria’s Housing sector. This would provide solid directions for housing policies for the in-coming administration, and therefore actualize the importance of housing as a social and economic development tool.
Stakeholder Engagement: Requests for participation were sent to organizations in the land acquisition sector, infrastructure sector, finance sector and regulatory sector. To promote inclusiveness, gender based organizations and advocacy organizations working with informal communities as well as the informal community associations were invited. In addition, calls for participation were made open on the Centre’s social media platforms to promote a rich diversity and inclusiveness. Over one thousand people attended the Meeting.
Thematic Issues: Twenty-six questions were received from the 12 organizations that responded to the call for participation and close to a hundred from social media sources as at the time of compilation and during the Meeting. Several common issues were raised by stakeholders. These questions were grouped into six themes and thirteen questions. The Themes were: land, informal settlements/slums, housing finance, right to adequate housing, housing construction and government linkages. These reflect issues that cut across the value chain of housing supply, while also addressing social and economic issues at the base of the housing market.
Opening: The Town Hall Meeting commenced with short welcome and opening speeches by Professor Nubi, Founding Director of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe represented by the Deputy Vice Chancello (Academics and Research), Professor Wole Familoni. It was moderated by Dr Taibat Lawanson, Co-Director, Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development and Mr Roland Igbinoba, Founder Roland Igbinoba Real Foundation for Housing and Urban Development.
Candidates: Presidential Candidates of five political parties were present as follows:
Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, Young Progressive Party (YPP), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Allied Congress party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye, Alliance for New Nigeria Party (ANNP), Omoyele Sowore African Action Congress (AAC) and Isaac Ositelu of the Accord Party.
Land: Stakeholders were concerned with the need for the review of the Land Use Act to enable access to land for housing and other developmental purposes. All candidates agreed that the Land Use Act should be repealed, as it has posed significant constraints in the Nation’s housing sector. However, they differed on strategies to achieve this. Strategies highlighted included immediate repeal of the Act and its replacement with an Executive Bill for land titling, evidence-based participatory approach to move for its repeal, deliberations towards a New Constitution for the Country, development of a land policy based on land ownership that precludes existing customary tenures and declaration of a State of Emergency on Housing to achieve this.
Housing Finance: Access to Mortgage finance remained a key issue raised by stakeholders, with particular requests for a mortgage system that captures the local realities and exigencies of Nigerians. Strategies presented include a proposition of a New Development Bank of Nigeria, growth of the refinancing institutions and creation of market incentives that will target lower rates mortgages for low and middle income citizens. Others are market efficient subsidies to support and encourage uptake by interest groups, increasing income levels to enable access to a provisional annual mortgage loan, addressing issues relating to mortgage collaterals, encouragement of alternative housing finance alternatives through co-operative societies and corporate social responsibility funds. There were also proposals for special funds to achieve this purpose.
Right to Adequate Housing: Questions were raised on the Candidates’ policies for protecting the right of all Nigerians to adequate housing, especially for women, those living in informal communities and Internally Displaced Persons. The development of a Social Policy on Housing resonated across candidates’ plans, and other strategies such as direct investment in housing construction, New Town Development and Regeneration, slum improvement and not forceful evictions, private sector participation in addressing issues related to slums and the promotion of housing as a Collective Social Responsibility were enunciated.
Government Linkages: Stakeholders requested the candidates’ policies for synergizing activities of the various tiers and agencies of government as a tool for mainstreaming of International agreements such as the SDGs and Paris agreement. The Candidates agreed that bureaucratic processes impeded operations in the housing market. Propositions to address this varied from ensuring a transparent National Land Registry System and the institutionalization of a stand-alone Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and reducing the housing development processes through innovative technologies as a means to reducing bureaucracies associated with registration and titling were notable strategies for achieving this. Another issue of concern is the presence of several abandoned Federal Government properties in Lagos State and stakeholders wanted to know the potential plans of Candidates for the release, re-use, remodelling and redevelopment of these. There was diversity in responses and proposals were presented for the conversion of the properties into privately held properties, the use of the economic concept of highest and best use for decision-making in respect of this, conversion into buildings for social services such as hospitals, schools and homes. Proposals were also made for the upgrade of the properties for Student accommodation.
The Presidential Town Hall meeting was aired by several TV stations and viewed on-line by thousands. Reports have appeared in National Newspapers. There was an appreciation of the need for a redirection of focus towards the housing sector as a means to foster social and economic development. There were broad commitments made by the candidates to actualize this, if elected. There were broad consensus of the need for the repeal and revision of the Land Use Act of 1978, the need to protect the housing rights of people in informal communities, the institutionalization of a social housing policy, participatory approaches to addressing housing issues and creating special funds for actualizing housing agenda.
POLICY OUTCOME: The town hall meeting is one in the series of research and civic engagements by the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development and partners, with an objective for strategic policy and practice interventions in the Nigerian housing and urban development sector.