By NBF News

By YINKA KOLAWOLE, with agency report
Stakeholders will tomorrow converge in Abuja to deliberate on the lingering housing crisis confronting the country since independence.

The event is a Social Housing Conference expected to draw attention to the huge housing deficit in the country, estimated at about 16 million units, and fashion way out. The theme of the conference is 'Job Creation and Stimulating the Economy through Social Housing Delivery'.

A housing expert, Mr. Ezekiel Nya-Etok, Chairman, Special Committee on National Social Housing Scheme, conveners of the conference, recalled that Article 25 (C) of the United Nations Human Rights Charter recognises housing as a basic need which every citizen must have as a right, while 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria affirms this right in Section 16.2(d).

He however noted that despite several international protocols on the provision of decent houses to the people, the problem has persisted in Nigeria mainly due to the low level of income of the average Nigerian worker.

According to him, unless government demonstrates a concerted effort in providing social housing as different from mass housing, most Nigerians would be incapable of owning their own homes or living in standard accommodation. 'For any meaningful stride to be made in the housing sector, a legal foundation must be laid. It is only an act of the parliament that can provide a long term solution to this challenge,' he said.

Nya-Etok argued that it was time government provided the initiative for social housing by taking steps to build 500 units of housing in every state of the country. 'This is a critical first step in the long hard journey to address the age old imbalance in the housing sector. There is an overarching need for the establishment of an intervention social housing delivery organ or agency as an emergency (as in NACA for HIV/AIDS, or UBE for education).

'This organ or agency will act as dedicated and credible intermediary that will harness national efforts in the social housing sector as different from the existing structures that were set up with commercial responsibilities and intents.

For any meaningful impact to be made, the establishment of this intermediary must be an act of the parliament. Key players in the private sector and external development partners who may be willing to explore possibilities of partnership with government agencies and intermediaries will be better emboldened if they know that they are dealing with properly established bodies that are in place for the long haul and not make shift, and often whimsical structures that came into existence by Presidential fiat,' he stated.