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

Actress Mercy Johnson heavily pregnant with baby number 3 (photos)

Nollywood actress Mercy Johnson Okojie who recently turned a year older has shared photos from her birthday celebration on her Instagram page which revealed she's expecting baby number 3.   The beautiful mother of 2 who got married to her husband, Prince Okojie, in 2011 has since kept a low profile.   Below are photos from her birthday celebrated with her family...

Amaechi denies criticizing Buhari over appointments, arrives Port Harcourt

Former governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Amaechi has debunked rumours that he flew to London on Friday in anger because he was not offered an appointment in any key position recently announced by President Buhari.   The former Governor Amaechi who arrived Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital on Saturday to attend the opening of St. Vincent Due Paul Catholic Church, Elechi beach Port Harcourt, was received at the airport by Dakuku Peterside, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) and...

Ogunsanya Tosin: Welcome Into The Nigerian School Of Public Governance

A welcome speech by the institute head… Listen up everybody, we welcome you all to NSPG, a place where we transform individuals to leaders primarily in the public sector. You are left with only one option and that option is to learn. More specifically, NSPG covers all aspects of governance in domestic and global organizations, from risk assessment to policy analysis, disregarding societal status to whoever jettison the rule of law, design and evaluation.

#DeltaTribunal: Lack of Proper Certification of Election Results by INEC Threatens to Render Evidence Inadmissible

?The Delta State election tribunal proceeded with a hearing on Friday, 28th August. The counsel to the petitioner (Emerhor/APC), Chief Okpoko (SAN), drew the attention of the tribunal to the failure of INEC to properly certify results from polling units in 24 LGAs. He noted that certification is to be done by an authorized scripted signature rather than an unscripted signature, and further stated that INEC, being an electoral body, should be an unbiased umpire instead of...

Kylie Jenner Allegedly Paid Tyga’s Rent

Tyga made headlines last month when he allegedly had his girlfriend Kylie Jenner lend him cash and by cash we mean $50,000 to pay off rent on his Calabasas, Calif. mansion. The 25-year-old was pictured on Thursday leaving a bank, openly holding a stiff looking stack of dolla billz! We can clearly see a Ben Franklin at the top of the stack, an can only assume there is more where that came from! Read...

OPC Opens Up On Buhari’s Appointments

Reacting to Buhari's appointments on Thursday, founder, Oodua Peoples Congress,OPC, Dr Fredrick Fasehun has implored Ni­gerians not only to be vigilant but also get prepared for a long battle ahead. According to him, Buhari through the appointments has shown himself to be insensitive to the feelings of oth­er ethnic groups across the country. ‘’What Buhari has done is evil. Through his actions since his inau­guration, he has been pandering to­wards the interests of a particular...

Senate Begins Probe Of Power Sector

The stage appeared set for a comprehensive probe of the nation’s power sector as the Senate declared on Friday that officials of the Federal Ministry of Power, its departments and agencies and other key players within the sector would soon appear before it. The Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Power, Senator Abubakar Kyari, stated this when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, inaugurated the 14-member fact-finding panel at the National Assembly Complex. Kyari said stakeholders in...

Seven Die As Nigerian Air Force Aircraft Crashes

Seven people have been killed after an aircraft belonging to the Nigerian Air Force crashed at the old site of the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna , Northwest Nigeria. The casualties include all four crew members and three passengers. The victims were travelling from the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kaduna en route Abuja. Emergency officials say the helicopter crashed less than ten minutes after taking off. Read More: channelstv

Appointments Will Be Balanced By September, Buhari Defends Appointments

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday defended the appointment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal and five others. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, yesterday assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari’s political appointments will balance out soon. Adesina spoke on a radio programme, Political Platform, on RayPower 100.5FM. Adesina said the President was aware of federal character and expressed the belief that...

BUSTED! Boko Haram Planned To Bomb Nnamdi Azikiwe Int’l Airport

A plot by Boko Haram terrorists to bomb the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was uncovered last Monday by the Department of State Service, DSS. The DSS made this known on Saturday in a statement by an official, Tony Opuiyo in which he said a fourteen year old boy,  Sulaiymon Abdulraman (a.k.a Sunday AJAYI), of Kogi State was apprehended inside the airport. On interrogation, Abdulraman allegedly disclosed that he infiltrated the airport with the assistance of...

Buhari’s Appointments “Totally Unacceptable To Ndigbo”- Igbo Youths

The Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC), on Friday, condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s latest appointment for the positions of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff to the President and others. Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the president of the group, said in a statement he jointly signed with the OYC’s spokesperson, Obinna Adibe, said the appointments were “totally unacceptable to Ndigbo”, arguing that they violated the principle of federal character as enshrined in the Nigerian...

Jonathan’s Bodyguards Posted Out Of Villa

Department of State Services personnel who served as bodyguards to President Goodluck Jonathan have been posted out of the Villa to various state commands. Competent sources at the Presidential Villa said that the signal for the posting of the over 150 bodyguards who had remained redundant following the directive by the ADC to President Buhari that they should leave the presidential villa came yesterday. “Almost all of our personnel who were bodyguards in the villa...

Lagos-Based Journalist Arrested In Cameroon, Accused Of Spying For Boko Haram

A Lagos-based Cameroonian journalist, Simon Ateba, has been arrested by Cameroonian authorities as he investigated the conditions of Nigerian refugees camped in the country’s far north. The journalist, who managed to leave a messages on his Facebook page before he was locked up Friday, said he was arrested for venturing, without permission, into a refugee camp with 50,000 Nigerians. He later told a colleague that the authorities were threatening to charge him for espionage –...

Buhari Orders CBN To Pay Amnesty Beneficiaries

President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria  (CBN), Godwin Emefiele to ensure the outstanding tuition, stipends and allowances of all amnesty beneficiaries were paid without further delay. This is as the European Union (EU) has strengthened its partnership with the  Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, under which the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) is domiciled, to seek ways of ensuring that the programmes meets up with...

Garba Shehu: Understanding Buhari in 100 Days

The enormously popular talk show, ‘Berekete’ on Wazobia FM, Abuja, told the incredible-yet-true story of a hard-working and respected school teacher somewhere in Plateau State who hanged himself. He hadn’t been paid salary for seven straight months. He came home to find that no-one had eaten and two of the children had medical prescriptions for which there was no money. He sneaked out without talking to anyone. After a long while, news came home that he had...

Obasanjo, a liar, economic illiterate – Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has described former president Olusegun Obasanjo as a pathological liar, adding that he has lost total respect for him. Soyinka said this on Friday night when he was responding to questions during a programme tagged: ‘An evening with Wole Soyinka’, organised by Globacom.

Praiz, 9ice, Pasuma And Others Set For Battle At The Celebrity Fans Challenge Tomorrow !

The biggest and most exciting celebrity football party is back  !Kiibati Bankole presents another exciting edition of her novel celebrity football contest- Celebrity Fans Challenge; and this time around, it is bigger than ever, as some of Nigeria's biggest names in entertainment go head to head for bragging rights and the title of Nigeria's biggest celebrity SUPERFAN!The celebrities include 9ice, fuji ace- Pasuma, Reminisce, Praiz, Gbenga Adeyinka(GCON), Illbliss, Nollywood stars Segun Arinze and Fred Amata; and representing the ladies- Simi (Jamb...

Troops Kill Boko Haram Members Dressed In Nigerian Military Uniform

Boko Haram members dressed in Nigerian military uniform were killed during a raid of the sect members camp in the North East. See the photos after the cut...be warned it's graphic!

#Pausibility: Gehazi, Vuvuzela-General And The Lesson For The New Generation By Adebayo Coker.

The diverse reactions that were triggered by the recent appointments of the President are funnily incredulous. Very soon we will hear Dauralization or Patriarchization. We voted PMB to deliver to us chenji then we complain when he selected his team. PMB has chosen the people he wants to work with; I hope when playtime comes he will consider some of us. September is a month to look forward to. My...

Chad Sentences 10 Boko Haram Members To Death

Chad has sentenced 10 members of Nigeria-based Islamist militant group Boko Haram to death on terrorism charges, judicial sources said on Friday. "They are all sentenced to death," said one of the sources. Chad's capital N'Djamena, less than 100 kilometres from the Nigerian border, was hit by a series of suicide bombings in June and July that killed more than 40 people. Source: Trust.org

Fayose Appoints 72-yr Old Carpenter As Council Boss

Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State Friday appointed a 72-year old Carpenter and illiterate, Mr Olatunde Afolayan as the caretaker chairman of Moba Local Government. Fayose, also sworn in members of the State Independent Electoral Commission, headed by a retired Chief Judge of the State, Justice Kayode Bamisile , to be able to conduct local government elections before the end of the year. After administering the oaths on the appointees, Fayose told President Muhammadu Buhari to remove Mrs Amina...