Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has again, called on Nigerian landlords to halt the practice of collecting payments for rents in advance of one year or more.

The minister, who spoke during the 15th Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS), convened by the President, Housing Development Advocacy Network in Nigeria, Mr. Festus Adebayo, called on state legislatures to put legislations in place to stop the development, which has worsened Nigeria’s housing crisis.

He further argued that it remains a matter of morality, stressing that it is evident that most houses available for sale or rent belong mostly to individuals and private companies compared to those owned by the states or the federal government.

Fashola explained that many of the tenants who owe rent, face eviction or who seek to rent or buy property due to the pandemic are dealing with private citizens or companies and less so with government agencies, which makes the authorities helpless at times.

Consequently, he recommended that to improve access and affordability in the Covid-19 era and beyond, private companies and individuals should give back some of what they control to citizens in the way that the federal government has given back to citizens some of what it controls.

While admitting that these should be largely voluntary actions by property owners as a matter of conscience, beyond state intervention, he, however, called on state legislatures to take up the challenge to protect the average Nigerian resident, noting that it is not a federal matter.

“This is a fertile , yet largely untapped ground for state legislators to connect with their constituents by making legislation that regulates the demand for prohibitive advance rent in areas of high density where the bulk of the people live. This is because rent is not a federal matter,” he maintained.

He argued that in cases where rent of businesses or individuals are due for renewal, the private landlords can give back by accepting monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly rent instead of one, two or three years rent in advance.

“The risk of defaults can be secured by bank guarantee insurance bonds provided by the tenant or the employer in exchange for mandate from the employee for the deduction of his rent from his salary to pay the landlord.

“When rent has fallen into arrears, it is possible to emulate what federal government did through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reschedule payment on loans by rescheduling the payment for the tenant to more affordable terms instead of adopting eviction,” he maintained.

Fashola, who was represented by the Minister of State, Works and Housing, Mr. Abubakar Aliyu, explained that as part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s developmental agenda of addressing housing needs in Nigeria, the federal government has inaugurated a pragmatic National Housing Programme (NHP) for the construction of acceptable and affordable houses nationwide.

According to him, the first phase of the programme, which commenced in the 2016 financial year, is already going on in 34 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FFCT.

Furthermore, he stated that the ministry is promoting local content in line with the Executive Orders 3 and 5, which encourage the use of available local building materials in the NHP, which according to him has stimulated the economy through the production and use of these materials.

He noted that a total of 1,021 building contractors had been engaged under Phases 1 and Il of the programme since the inception in 2016 and 13,680 and 41,040 direct and indirect jobs have been generated.

During this period, Fashola pointed out that the ministry has undertaken the construction of 4,694 housing units, out of which 2,249 units have been completed in 34 States and FCT with a total of 41 sites spread over the 34 States and FCT.

The Ghanaian Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Freda Prempeh, in her remarks, noted that the impact of COVID-19 has been more profound for the urban poor and vulnerable.

“These high risk groups mostly live in overcrowded high-density informal settlements, with inadequate social and hygiene infrastructure facilities.

“In these devastating times, the current living conditions in these informal settlements and slum areas are likely to potentially increase the risk of infection of the virus within and across these settlements, ” she said.

According to her, the pandemic has exacerbated global housing problems and shown the cracks in the current system and has further pointed out a glaring spotlight on the overarching importance of the housing sub-sector to promoting health and sustainable livelihood in the sub-region.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who was represented by Head Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, Anthony Obiora, explained that it was time to focus on making a policy response towards addressing Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is no longer news that Nigeria and its counterparts across the margin and advanced markets is dealing with issues that are tied to increase in population, rapid urbanisation, youth unemployment, terrorism and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic,” he stated.

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