By Ekemini Simon
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . housing.”—Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25.
ON the outskirts of the Akwa Ibom State Capital, Uyo, 41-year-old Uduakobong lives with her three boys, ranging from 6 to 11 years of age. To make a living, she works as a Civil Servant in one of the Ministries operational in the State. Her labour earns her a little less than N80,000 per month. Each month she pulls out N15,000 for savings towards owing a House of her own. In that city, the remaining amount is hardly enough to feed her family, pay for their schooling and pick her bills.
At the end of the day, she returns to what she is forced to call home. Its walls are made of blocks already cracking. Loose, rusty iron sheets, serve as a roof. Pieces of rock, wood, and old metal plates are stacked on top to keep the roof in place during strong winds. Her “door” and “window” are torn woods already dealt with by termites, which offer no real resistance to bad weather—let alone would-be intruders.
Even this modest home, though, does not truly belong to her. Uduakobong and her children live in constant fear of eviction. The land on which their inadequate home stands is to be used for the expansion of a nearby road. Sad to say, similar situations exist in many lands throughout Nigeria.
Uduakobong is not alone in this pathetic situation, neither is Uyo the only City with the challenge. The number of people living in slums in Nigeria is estimated to be more than 50 Million. Experts in urbanization fear that the ever-growing slums, in the country will soon “become larger and more populous than the cities in which they were first established.” There are Nigerian cities where more than 80 percent of the population live in slums and squatter settlements. Taking a worldwide perspective, Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2003 said, “If no serious action is taken, the number of slum dwellers worldwide is projected to rise over the next 30 years to about 2 billion.” Just as the figure rise worldwide, so is the situation in Nigeria rising as the clock ticks.
Cold statistics like these, however, do not even begin to communicate the devastating personal toll that substandard living conditions exact on many. According to the United Nations, more than half the people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, a third do not have access to clean water, a quarter lack adequate housing, and a fifth do not have access to modern health services. Most people in developed lands would not even let their pets live in conditions like that.
Looking on from a distance, it might be easy to conclude that many could remedy their situation if they showed more initiative. Nevertheless, merely telling people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is not the answer. Admittedly, there are powerful factors involved in the housing crisis that are beyond any individual’s control. Researchers point to population growth, rapid urbanization, natural disasters, political upheaval, and persistent poverty as the main culprits. Like the five fingers of a clenched fist, these forces are squeezing the life out of many.
For Uduakobong quoted earlier, her meticulousness in saving towards a decent Housing for the past years has earned her N2 Million naira in her account. But her problem is far from being solved. How will she own a decent, secure and favourably located home with that amount when getting a land at the heart of the town for ease to her workplace will at least consume 75 percent of that money? Are there opportunities available for people like her to grab?
What Is Being Done?
It is heartwarming to take cognizance of the fact that substantial efforts are already being made by the Federal Government to address the concern. They have provided for a Social/Affordable Housing project in the country.
This project which is located at the heart of Uyo Metropolis is almost directly opposite the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital on Abak road. It is the only Social Affordable Housing in the Country.
The contract for the project was re-awarded by Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola , the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing recently to Precision Investment Limited, and Novone Consult Limited.
For Novone Consult, which had began work in earnest with Arc Nya-Etok as the Principal Partner, will provide for an estate which comprises 100 units of 3 bedroom semidetached bungalows to accommodate 200 home owners. Currently, over 30 units are at various levels of construction between German Floor and Lintel Levels.
According to the Housing developer who developed the Housing Estate at Idu Uruan coupled with being the Architectural designer for the popular Shelter Afrique estate in Uyo, the Social Housing Estate will have full on site infrastructure with gated, security camera, hospital, a police post among other state-of-the-art facilities.
Interestingly, provisions has been made for the project in the 2017 budget and Nya-Etok who is funding the development of the estate assures that by March 2018, the first phase of the Housing will be ready for use.
He adds ” I am going to build what is sustainable. Houses that you are going to see here will be quality houses. Don’t forget, I also have a name to protect. So, I’m giving all my best here.”
The Housing Developer who says the project will be elitist in taste offered insight to the fact that Social Housing is expensive housing and not cheap housing as some may have thought. He explains that what makes it affordable is because it is usually subsidized. He adds ” It must not be fanciful, but it will be durable. Why do you want to give the poor a house which facilities will not last? Social Housing is targeted at specific people.”
Who Can Grab?
With the state of the art infrastructure expected, you probably are desirous to know if you can be among those privileged to own at least a flat.
Think no more for the requirement is attainable. While noting that the Estate will be managed by Novone Consult, the Housing Expert explained that three sets of people will be beneficiaries. The first set he said includes those who won the right through the balloting process 10 years ago before the project was stalled on technical grounds. He stated that the cost for those ones to acquire a flat is perked at N7million. The second set includes public servants at the cost of N7.5million, while the third set includes the general public at the cost of N8.5m.
You may wonder, for people like Uduakobong quoted earlier, the aforementioned amount in the public servants category she falls must be a huge sum to get before acquiring the flat. Worry no more, because respite has been given. How?
“We are uploading every single potential buyer to a mortgage company and once their terms and condition are met regarding the repayment plan, a buyer can get the keys to the property with just 25% payment.” Nya-etok states.
How stirring it is to note then that with only N1,875,000 from her savings, she can own the flat. Stressing that he is very interested in people like Uduakobong not to lose out of the opportunity, he says ” We will ensure that as much as 40-50 percent of the units have Civil Servants as beneficiaries where they will enjoy certain concessions, and also be availed of the National Housing Fund Mortgage facility.”
Giving elaborate details on his plans towards making the project affordable to those with little means he said
” We are having in mind that some where along the line, we are going to approach the government, maybe State Government and ask: please can you pick 20 units and target Civil servants from level 10 or below or perhaps level 15 and below. For these 20 houses, find the most transparent way of balloting and whosoever picks do not pay more than 30 percent of his salary or income.”
Giving a new vista into how those who grab the opportunity of owning the house can utilize it as empowerment for themselves, Nya-Etok noted that people can actually be owners of the house but not occupants.
Elucidating on it, he says “The rental value of the estate is going to be the highest. Imagine someone collecting a rent of N1.5Million per annum. It becomes an empowerment initiative for them. And on the basis of that empowerment, they can now live in an enhanced environment. Because a man who is collecting N1.5Million per annum can afford to pay N500,000 somewhere and you still have N1Million left. And you can start an initiative of becoming an entrepreneur.”
Besides this empowerment opportunity, the Estate Developer also hinted that the Housing has been thrown open for marketing by private individuals, especially the young people who have also been promised five percent (5%) commission in each sales.
Despite these encouraging provisions, there is still a little to be done. This task was echoed by a Former United Nations Secretary General whose country of Origin- Ghana faces also a similar Housing crisis like Nigeria. He said ” the
world has the resources, know-how and power” to improve significantly the lives of slum dwellers. What needs to be done then? “It is my hope,” Mr. Koffi Annan concludes, “that . . . all actors involved [can] overcome the apathy and lack of political will that have been a barrier to progress.”
As posited by Annan, it would be expected that this stellar project driven by the Federal Government be complimented by the Akwa Ibom State government or by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by constructing the access road to the Housing, the Ring Road which compensation had long been paid by the Victor Attah led administration.
Many are also of the opinion that it will be a wise course for the Akwa Ibom State Government to grab the 40-50 percent slot for Public Servants in the Housing project and provide Housing loans especially for the lowly ranked Civil servants.
Certainly, if you find yourself needing a centrally located, decent, secure and affordable housing, then Social Housing Project is your best shot.