The Government of Nigeria has pledged to give priority attention to the challenge of inadequate housing and rapid slum growth in the country by taking actions to make the human settlements sector the bedrock and centre-piece of national development.
Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, speaking at the first National Housing and Slum Summit held in the capital Abuja from 21st to 23rd October, 2013 also said that in order to ensure active engagement of all key stakeholders in this critical process, the country had shifted the thrust of its housing policy in favor of more effective participation by the private sector and other stakeholder groups.
The National Housing and Slum summit, which was convened with the theme “Developing a National Strategy for Mass Housing and Slum Upgrading,” was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development with technical support from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat).
Almost half of Nigeria’s total population of about 169 million now lives in urban centres, with the rapid urbanization witnessed over the last five decades leading to a rise in the proportion of city dwellers from 10.2% in 1950 to 49% by 2010. Major features of this urban growth include the rapid spread of slums, which today account for about 69 per cent of the urban population and, a rising national housing deficit now put at 17 million units.
Vice President Sambo said the challenges of inadequate housing and slum growth in Nigeria can only be successfully tackled when addressed in concert with the wider issues associated with them.
“It is important to note that while mass housing provision and slum prevention are intertwined, the eradication of slums cannot be realized through the building of houses alone. We, therefore, need to embrace a new approach which emphasizes the development of cities in which housing provision and city improvement are conceived as mutually complementary in order to generate a new economic sector through the multiplier effects unleashed, arising from job and wealth creation, evolvement of new communities, massive infrastructural development/upgrade and the creation of other forms of economic opportunities,” he said.
According to the Vice President, the government of Nigeria would therefore continue to develop new towns and cities, including city extensions, and take urgent measures to stem unplanned development or slums through emphasis on good urban governance, regeneration of unplanned cities and proper inclusive planning of urban spaces.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Musa M. Sada, recalled that though appreciable progress had been made in line with the country’s commitment to the Global Initiative of “Making Slums History by 2020,” the approaches adopted had remained largely piece-meal, disjointed and uncoordinated.
“This National Housing and Slum Summit was, therefore, convened in order to provide a platform for key stakeholders in the housing and urban development sector to brainstorm and propose innovative and adaptable strategies for sustainable housing delivery and slum upgrading in Nigeria, informed by good models and practices across the world,” the Minister said.
The highlight of the summit was the adoption of the Abuja Declaration by the stakeholders, in which they pledged among others to increase the political will and support required to implement integrated strategies for sustainable urban development; place economic development at the centre of the urbanisation process to create jobs which particularly target the urban youth; and, build partnerships between key urban actors that would contribute to the eradication of urban poverty.
Leading a strong UN Habitat participation at the summit, the Director, Programs Office, Alioune Badiane who represented the Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos, told participants that though many countries have adopted an ambivalent or hostile attitude to urbanization, the worldwide process was inevitable but generally positive, bringing fundamental changes to the employment sector, societal values and modes of governance, the configuration and functionality of human settlements; the composition of social, cultural and ethnic groups and, the extension of democratic rights, particularly women’s empowerment.
Dr Badiane charged the summit that, with the international community already discussing the post-2015 Development Agenda, the deliberations needed to consider the role that the slum target has to play in the emerging Agenda.
Deliberations towards adoption of an inclusive and participatory housing and slum upgrading strategy were guided by presentations by the Coordinator, UN Habitat’s Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch, Mohamed El Sioufi in his presentation, ‘Developing a National Housing Strategy: A Call for a Paradigm Shift.’ He also participated at Roundtable discussions with Senior Human Settlements Officer Doudou Mbye, while the Head, Partners and Inter-Agency Coordination Branch, Mariam Lady Yunusa, urged commitment by stakeholders to the collaboration between UN Habitat and the Government of Nigeria, on the ‘Strengthening Partnership with Ministers for A New African Urban Agenda’
The resolutions adopted at the summit would feed into the National Housing and Urban Development Sector Roadmap and the National Strategy for Slum Upgrading being proposed by the Ministry as key elements of the proposed framework for sustainable transformation of the housing and urban development sector in Nigeria. The Summit is also being held as preparations for the National Preparatory Processes leading up to the Habitat III Conference in 2016 as part of inputs to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Summit was attended by a total of 354 participants, comprising government officials and representatives of professional organisations, community and civil society organisations, real estate developers, financial institutions, the National Assembly and the press.