Rivers State, one of Nigeria’s most important states, is faced with a burgeoning housing deficit with its attendant socioeconomic consequences. The peculiarity of our state as host to the big private businesses and public institutions comes with its challenges because such enterprises provide employment to numerous upwardly mobile people who call our state home. Aside from those persons, millions of others also reside in and contribute to Rivers State and can reasonably expect us to cater for their housing needs.
To benefit everyone who calls our state home, housing security must be mainstreamed just like food and job security. When this is done, it will serve as a panacea for many social issues. Significantly, the immediate past administration of His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, GSSRS, laid a solid foundation for addressing the housing challenge in Rivers State, under the New Rivers Vision Agenda.
In line with the Continuation and Consolidation Agenda of the current governor, His Excellency, Sir Siminilayi Fubara, GSSRS, it is now time to build on this and ensure that housing, which is a fundamental right, is receiving the kind of attention it merits from the government and critical other stakeholders.
The strategy to truly achieve this involves the intentional pursuit, development and implementation of ambitious housing policies and strategies that will make quality, affordable, eco-friendly housing and smart neighbourhoods available for the people. The government cannot do this alone. We have already commenced with a public-private partnership for the construction of a 20,000 low-cost housing scheme, with a plan to push it to 100,000 over time. Private initiatives such as the new Banana Island and the Alesa Highlands are also in the pipeline and the prospects of their realization will be enhanced by our targeted improvements in the ease of doing business (EODB), ease of documentation, ease of layout, ease of allocation, and other incentives.
The Governor Siminalayi Fubara administration believes that housing is a key driver of the economy and will work to initiate a mortgage system and other flexible funding options, in addition to government investment and FDIs that will enable all our people to have shelter over their heads.
This administration will also ensure the up-skilling, certification and licensing of artisans and craftsmen in the built environment. To this end, we shall be partnering with the National Training Institute as well as credible private and public craft and vocational development centres.
Additionally, critical attention shall be paid to land reforms to promote housing security and help our people get access to land with minimal or no challenges.
One area which we propose to enhance is the regulation of real estate businesses after a critical appraisal. We will standardise the sector in line with global best practices and consequently upturn the notion that ‘anything goes’ in this area in Rivers State. Our people deserve the best, so we shall emphasize the building code and compliance management generally as well as insist on building materials standardisation.
Building collapse should have no room in modern society because technology has so advanced that defects can be detected at the press of a button in a properly regulated and monitored construction context.
Maintenance culture is one area which we must enhance and we will be strict about building maintenance and environmental management. We cannot afford to neglect our environment because, without it, there will be nowhere for us to call home.
In everything we do, and in line with best global practices, stakeholders shall be at the heart of our initiatives via regular stakeholder engagements and information management. We propose robust engagement with academia, professionals, artisans, traders, students, financial institutions and so on.
The Fubara administration is alive to its responsibilities and forswears mediocrity. We will therefore strengthen the Housing Authority and key institutions to effectively deliver on their mandates.
We anticipate some overlap of responsibilities to emerge as we roll out these policies. We assure comprehensive inter-ministerial collaboration as the gospel and shall apply it religiously as no ministry is an Island.
Considering that the entire administration, under the leadership of His Excellency, Governor Siminalyi Fubara, GSSRS, is solely motivated by the opportunity to serve the needs and improve the lives of Rivers people, we are buoyed by the new thinking that if there is the will, there will always be a way and what gets measured gets managed better.
So we invite all well-meaning Rivers people and residents, who we regard as important stakeholders, to join us on this voyage of discovery and re-imagining of our dear Rivers State. Together we can get the job done.
Worlu, Rivers State Commissioner for Housing, writes from Port Harcourt.