The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Monday, refuted reports that more than 17 million Nigerians are homeless.
Although he admitted the data used for the report was extracted from the preface of the 2012 National Housing Policy report, Fashola maintained that the data was “baseless and unverifiable.”
The minister, who likened the data source to “a house without an address”, lamented the fixation and binge on a supposed 17 million housing deficit by stakeholders who have no proof.
According to a statement issued by the minister’s special adviser on communication, Hakeem Bello, the former Lagos governor made the remark at a roundtable session of African ministers at the just concluded 42nd Annual General Meeting of Shelter Afrique, a pan-African bank, tagged, “The data question – which are the real numbers? harmonisation of housing market data in Sub-Saharan Africa”.
He said the figure which sparked uproar among Nigerians was erroneously derived from a housing policy written by the ministry without a verifiable source of data adding the minister at the time could not provide a source for the data.
He explained that the minister who admitted to the preface said it was prepared by aides and the pressure of work did not allow sufficient vetting.
The statement partly read, “Everyone in Nigeria knows there is a 17m housing deficit in Nigeria. This data has no credible source, but we are ready to assert it. Happily, I eventually found where it came from. It was in the preface to the 2012 National Housing Policy signed by the Minister then in charge of the Ministry of Housing, three years before I took office.
“I put a telephone call through to the Minister, who admitted to the preface but said it was prepared by aides and the pressure of work did not allow sufficient vetting. Needless to say, the Minister confirmed that the Data has no verifiable basis.”
Although the former Lagos governor admitted that Nigeria is a country with a significant number of empty houses, particularly in the urban areas, he noted that it is impossible to hold such a figure in spite of numerous housing projects embarked upon by the current administration.
The minister further appealed to the general public to disregard the figures, noting that the planned national census will disclose the number of homeless persons soon.
“Is there a housing deficit? certainly, there is. I acknowledge that but how should we approach it? My view is to use first what is proven and one of the things that has been proven is that the world has come to accept that rural-urban migration is fast-growing, a phenomenon called rapid urbanisation.”
“To the right-thinking and well-meaning people, I urge you to disown this baseless data and I invite you all to let us work together like rational people using what we know while we await the result of the national housing population for 2023,” he added.
Reacting, the Chief Executive Officer, Eximia Realty, Hakeem Ogunniran, queried the move by the minister to debunk the figures days to the end of the current administration, noting that, “It is absolutely uncharitable for any member of this government to disparage a figure (albeit extrapolated) which has been quoted and relied upon by such credible institutions as the World Bank, IFC, Center for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa and several leading experts in this field.
The expert who spoke via a Whatsapp platform for housing experts wrote, “If this government has an issue with this data, it had eight long years to conduct its own survey and give the “correct and credible” figures. Rather than “attack” the credibility of the housing deficit data at the twilight of its tenure, this government should admit the total failure of its National Housing Program which has delivered a meagre 2,800 units of houses in 8 long years. In reality, government officials should alight from their high horses, learn from those who know and get help in this all-important area.”
Another expert, Femi Oyedele, said, “The government must wake up, agree with the existing figures and start working with it or take responsibility to conduct a new housing census.”