House rents, transport fares and the meaning of despair By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Published:26 Oct, 2012

Just when you think President Goodluck Jonathan should have finished settling his political debts to enable him focus on easing the hardships that most Nigerians face simply to remain alive, the man decides that the welfare of Nigerians and job creation are not his priorities. How else can one explain his plan to spend a staggering N2.4 trillion to run government in 2013? Actually, the question should be: Which government?
Broadly speaking, the major functions of government include protecting the state from external aggression, provision of stable legal and social frameworks, delivery of public goods and services, redistributing incomes where needed and stabilizing the economy. Going by that definition, one can safely conclude that Nigeria has no government, despite planning to spend an outrageous N2.4 trillion – the equivalent of some $15bn on itself next year. This is against the backdrop that this year’s budget has barely achieved 30% implementation. In essence, Nigeria is spending 70% of its income on about one million government officials that can only achieve 30% of annually-set budgetary targets.
The absence of social infrastructure is particularly glaring, since this is an aspect that can help create part of the three million new jobs that Nigeria needs annually just to clear the backlog of the rising unemployment. And nowhere is the absence of government more manifest than in the provision of public goods and services, especially in housing and transportation. Thus, even with the new minimum wage, house rents and transportation costs consume about 80 per cent or more of average household incomes in Nigeria.
Across Nigeria, the massive shortage of housing and transport infrastructure mean that in addition to rising food costs (which our government has denied), many Nigerian families spend most of their income on accommodation and transportation. What would be left for other essentials of life? What about healthcare, education, clothing and other basic essentials? It is no wonder that Nigeria remains in the list of top 15 places with the highest incidence of poverty, with over 112 million out of our 162 million people living below the absolute poverty threshold in 2011. It is sad that one of the top crude oil and gas exporters is now ranked the 25th poorest country in the world.
Incidentally, there is nothing new about these figures. What is painfully obvious is that government does not have the right statistics of housing deficits in Nigeria, nor a workable transport sector development strategy under implementation. For example, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, recently said the Federal Government would require more than N56 trillion to provide 16 million housing units to bridge the housing deficit in the country. However, assuming that each household has an average of 6 residents, it means that 96 million Nigerians are homeless. That does not sound intuitively accurate.
Another related agency, the Federal Housing Authority of Nigeria (FHA) which has the statutory responsibility of providing housing for Nigerians has only built about 40, 000 houses nationwide since its inception in 1973. This, according to the FHA, has resulted in a deficit of about 25 million houses in the national housing scheme, suggesting that about 150 million Nigerians out of about 162 million in 2011, are homeless – even more far-fetched!. Which figures do we work with, 16 or 25 million? The figures do not add up!
In order to facilitate the sales of federal government houses in Abuja, we initiated a pilot mortgage which enabled many public servants and other citizens to buy houses. Unfortunately, the plan to mainstream the system nationally was truncated by our successors-in-office. This is why today, the only hope honest Nigerians have of owning homes is through the traditional and tortuous method – self-purchase and direct labour from life savings which is herculean since only a few people can own houses through legitimate sources. Now that this year’s flooding has destroyed thousands of homes across Nigeria, more Nigerians have been made homeless.
Apart from the massive housing deficits and the exorbitant rents Nigerians are forced to pay, rising costs of transportation occasioned by abysmal infrastructure in the sector is also consuming significant portion of household and personal incomes in the country.
Transportation is critical for economic growth in every country, but due to our poor transportation infrastructure, logistic costs for our goods and services are now typically more than 20 per cent of sales from the global average of 2 per cent. In Nigeria, transport costs alone can be as high as 15 per cent of the costs of goods or services.
Statistics indicate that for many growing economies, the value added by transportation to the economy accounts for 3 to 8 per cent of GDP while employment in transport sector ranges between 2.5 and 11.5 per cent of total paid employment. But in this year’s budget, government earmarked only 6 per cent to the Works, Transport and Aviation ministries combined, without any clear policy to get the private sector incentivized to invest more in the sector. For a struggling economy like Nigeria, intensified investment in transport will not only increase disposable incomes for millions of Nigerians, but also create millions of jobs and stimulate critical sectors of the economy.
In addition, an effective transportation system can have direct and significant effect on the daily lives of our people. Properly targeted and managed investments in transport facilities will mean efficient travel that could save time, fuel and reduce pollution. Lives will be saved and there will be fewer delays and hassles for the average Nigerian.
Efficient highways, rail systems, airlines, airports, harbours, and waterways will not only provide the backbone to grow our economy by moving people and goods around seamlessly, cheaply and safely, it can also employ millions of workers to generate substantial share of economic output in the country. If well exploited, transportation can actually contribute in excess of 10 per cent of our total domestic product annually.
Most Nigerians travel by road because we do not have a functional railway system and air travel is beyond the reach of most (though the fear of our skies has also driven more people back to our death traps on the ground). This has further compounded an already appalling situation. The state of our roads is distressing because of the level of deterioration, volume of traffic and the countless number of fatalities every day. At the moment, only about 15% of our roads are paved and of this, only about 28% can be easily used by motorists.
The excessive number of federal roads which have overstretched available resources and project management capacity of the government are largely responsible for their long construction periods and poor maintenance of existing roads. Yet every Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council awards more roads contracts that cannot be completed, while the legislature introduces more and more federal roads as ‘constituency projects’.
There is certainly the compelling need to rehabilitate our road networks and invest in road widening schemes to increase capacity through increased total lane length. Compared to the Republic of South Africa which has a population density of about 40 persons per square kilometre, with a total road network of about 754,000 kilometres that are well maintained, Nigeria with a population density of about 150 per square kilometre has only 108,000 kilometres of poorly maintained roads, most of which are unpaved. This year’s flooding has washed away important roads, including major arteries, leaving tens of thousands of travellers stranded and communities disconnected.
Why is it that despite having about 8,600km of waterways, Nigeria has been unable to put them to meaningful use? It is worth stating that effective inland water transportation has the potential to make commerce more competitive and our economy more vibrant.

Well structured, the aviation sector can be a key growth engine for our economy. An efficient and modernized aviation sector, with regulations and incentives for the private sector to thrive can make air travel an essential form of transportation, create jobs and economic growth. Nigeria needs to leverage on transport infrastructure development urgently to eliminate the avoidable logistic costs that are up to 50 per cent higher than what is normal for operations in all spheres of our economy. Such a programme would create millions of jobs and open up the entire country to rapid economic and social development.

Government must live up to its responsibility of developing and implementing policies that would strengthen primary mortgage institutions while simultaneously embarking on social housing projects across the length and breadth of Nigeria. It must also invest heavily in public transportation systems like roads, railways, aviation and inland waterways systems. That way, apart from providing urgently needed social infrastructure, the processes involved would create millions of jobs in Nigeria, promote house ownership for families and facilitate the emergence of a middle class which would in turn form the basis of economic development, security and political stability.

Why is government yet to find creative solutions to develop this vital economic artery? Why can’t we find ways to innovatively leverage the three trillion naira pension funds sitting quietly in banks, the sovereign wealth fund and whatever is left of the depleted excess crude account to address these critical infrastructure deficits?.

For now, it remains a tale of despair for majority of Nigerians who go to bed thinking of landlords, estate agents and house rents, with the voice of rickety bus conductors still ringing in their ears, “no change!” Paradoxically, what most Nigerians want and deserve is just that: Change.

  • Hassan

    Nice write up sir how I wish Nigeria is a country where things work out the way they should bcos our so called leaders are not having the love of this country at heart they are ready to milk it dry but with people like you I still have a litle hope that one day it will be a great country…

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Turkey, Scotland Allows Policewomen To Wear Hijabs

Turkey has for the first time allowed policewomen to wear headscarves while on duty as part of their uniform.   Women serving in the police force “will be able to cover their heads” under their caps or berets so long as the headscarf is “the same colour as the uniform and without pattern”, said the ruling published in the government’s Official Gazette on Saturday.   It came into force immediately.   The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has long pressed for the removal of...

Dilemma of the Nigerian Youth, By Gimba Kakanda

These past weeks, I've had reason to reflect more on the place of the Nigerian youth in politics and public service. The inspiration for this was the hypocrisy I witnessed all the times our gerontocratic political establishment opened its door for the young join to them. The strangest dilemma is this: the youth advocate inclusion in governance and participation in politics yet any time a young person...

Security: Governor Bello Advises Citizens To Be Vigilant.

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has called on the people of the state to be vigilant and security conscious by checking movement of strange persons in their neighbourhood  and report suspicious individuals to security agents. The Governor stated this today in Lokoja at the Jumat Mosque Prayers  to mark the 25th Anniversary of the creation of the state. Bello disclosed that some people have recruited some miscreants and imported...

Governor Ganduje Reaffirms Commitment To Completion Of Ongoing Projects.

Kano State government has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure successful completion of the ongoing road projects within the period stipulated.   The State Commissioner Ministry of Land and Physical Planning Dr. Farouk Bibi Farouk gave the assurance while inspecting the ongoing road construction works at Lamido and Kingsgarden - Kwanar Tudun Wada road in Nassarawa Local Government Area.   Dr. Farouk disclosed that the administration of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje awarded the construction of 11...

Write Your Will Before Travelling For Hajj – Abuja Islamic Cleric Tells Pilgrims

An Abuja-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Yahya Al-Yolawi, has advised intending pilgrims to settle their debts and leave their wills behind before travelling to Saudi Arabia. Al-yolawi, who is the Chief Imam of Area 10 Mosque, made the call while delivering Jumma’at sermon title:“ Essential tips for Hajj Preparations“ on Friday in Abuja. “An intending pilgrim should settle his debts and leave behind him a clear record as well as writing all his wills or what...

My Life Flashed Before My Eyes – Virgin Airline Owner, Richard Branson Almost Killed in Crash Horror

Multi-billionaire business tycoon and owner of Virgin Airline, Richard Branson, has narrated his near-death experience on a training cycle run with his two grown up children when disaster struck which nearly took his life. Read below; A couple of nights ago I went cycling on Virgin Gorda with Holly and Sam as part of my training for the Virgin Strive Challenge. I was heading down a hill...

50 Cent Talks “Power”, Sex Scene, The Game and More On Big Boy Tv

50 Cent is currently on a media campaign in support of his hit show Power, and recently stopped by Big Boy TV to catch up with his fans. Curtis spoke on the development of his character on the show, his recent sex scene, settling differences with The Game, Starz Vs. Netflix, only flying coach once in his life, and more. Watch below and expect DJ Whoo Kid and G-Unit’s Lost...

Watch Jidenna Perform “Little Bit More” On Jimmy Kimmel Live

Jidenna continues to work on his Long Live The Chief album, and after blessing fans with a video for his single “Little Bit More” last month, he stopped by to perform the song on last night’s airing of Jimmy Kimmel Live! Watch Jidenna light up the stage below and check out his  “Chief Don’t Run”visuals if you haven’t already.

Japan Warns On Measles After Infected Fan Joins Bieber Concert

Japanese authorities have warned of a possible measles outbreak after a fan who went to a Justin Bieber concert near Tokyo was diagnosed with the contagious disease, officials said Friday. A 19-year-old man had a fever of more than 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) and a rash over his body after returning from Indonesia earlier this month, the Disease Control and Prevention Center (DCC) and local media have said. Despite the condition, the man,...

Nigeria’s D’Tigers Now 16th In Latest FIBA World Ranking

Nigeria's men basketball team, D'Tigers have moved 9 places to rank 16th (with 106.2 points) in the 2016 FIBA World Ranking released on Thursday. The African champions outshone their arch rivals, Angola to lift the Nations Cup for the first time last year which earned the country an automatic qualification to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The performance of teams at the just concluded Games also led to drastic changes...

Buhari Lacks Political Will To Rescue Chibokgirls – BBOG

The #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) movement, yesterday, took a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari for lacking the political will to rescue 218 Chibok girls. BBOG said as opposed to the President’s excuse that he lacked “credible intelligence” to rescue the girls, what he actually required was the political will to take decisive action in the present circumstance. The group stated this in an address jointly signed by its leaders, Oby Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufu, which was read...

EFCC Doesn’t Torture Suspects- Magu

 the first time in 13 years, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday opened the doors of its interrogation rooms and its cells to reporters to inspect. Chairman of the anti-graft agency Ibrahim Magu said the Commission does not torture suspects because it is investigating non-violence crimes. He added that the anti-graft agency had always put the interest of the country above any other consideration. Magu, who personally conducted reporters round the EFCC cells...

Artist Buries Dress Inside the Dead Sea for 3 Months… See Amazing Transformation That Happened

An artist buried a dress right inside the red sea for as many as three months and brought it out again only to see a totally different thing. In 2014, Israeli artist Sigalit Landau submerged a 19th century-style gown into the lifeless waters of the Dead Sea, for a unique photo project. The dress was retrieved after three months, and as you can see in the photos below, the transformation is quite significant.

NLC Wants Ghost Workers’ Perpetrators Prosecuted

The Akwa Ibom chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the prosecution of all perpetrators of ghost workers syndrome in the nation’s public service. Chairman of the council in the state, Mr Etim Ukpong, made the call in Uyo on Friday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Ukpong decried that over the years, different tiers of government had complained of ghost workers but that no perpetrator of the act had been identified or...

#Rio2016: Senate Probes Dalung, Others

Less than one week after the end of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, where Nigeria won only a Bronze Medal in male soccer game, the Senate has revealed plans to probe the roles of the of Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung and the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), over the poor performance of the country’s contingent to the global event. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Joe Obinna Ogba made the disclosure during an interview with...

Lagos To Wait For Crude Export To Get 13% Derivation

In spite of the commencement of production from its newly discovered oil wells, Lagos State may have to wait until crude oil export commences before it joins the league of states benefitting from the 13 per cent derivation principle. This clarification was made yesterday at Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting. This emerged just as allocation available for sharing by three tiers of government for the month of July dipped by N115.369 billion to N443.663 billion as against June’s allocation of...

EFCC Arrests Man Over $145,000 Love Scam

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, said it arrested Iwuchukwu Uche for obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of USD145, 000. Mr. Uche, who said he was a military officer working for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, in Kabul, Afghanistan, allegedly collected the money from his victim, H. Uyen, a Vietnamese woman, after promising to marry her. The suspect, who also claimed to be a property agent operating in...

Minister Beaten To Death By Miners

Bolivian miners on Thursday during a clash with the police in the town of Panduro hacked the Deputy Interior Minister to death. Interior Minister, Carlos Romero, confirmed on Friday that reports by witnesses indicated that the 55-year-old was beaten to death following clashes between police and miners in the town of Panduro, 165 kilometres south-east of La Paz. Romero said Illanes had been kidnapped by miners after attempting to initiate talks with them at a roadblock....

20 Shipping Firms Leave Nigeria Over Low Business

Groaning under intense hardship imposed by poor government policies and global economic crunch, over 20 shipping firms have exited the nation’s shores. This is coming as Dockworkers Union of Nigeria (DUN) lamented that over 3,000 workers have already been laid off by various shipping companies, terminal operators and logistic companies, owing to lack of financing and poor import policies of the Federal Government. The workers also blamed the massive retrenchment on the inability of the...

Again, Herdsmen Invade Enugu Community, Kill Catholic Seminarian

Suspected Fulani herdsmen in the early hours of on Thursday invaded the sleepy Ndiagu Attakwu Akegbe-Ugwu community in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State, killing a Catholic seminarian, Lazarus Okafor, and injuring four others, including a pregnant woman. The suspected herders were said to have invaded the Ogbodo Nwarum family compound in the community at about 2 a.m. and wreaked havoc on the entire household. While the seminarian had severe machete cuts which led...

Majek Fashek, The Rainmaker, Returns With New Single

Reggae star, Majek Fashek, is in the news again. This time, the musician’s numerous fans, especially in Nigeria, are excited that he has finally released the product of his much-publicised collabo with equally gifted singer, Tuface Idibia. The single, which is available on the Internet, is a remix of Majek’s wave-making song titled, No more sorrow from his 1991 album, Spirit of love. Many music fans of the older generation are, no doubt, familiar with the...