Food, Clothing and Shelter form the BASIC NEEDS of man, and it is in the above order that these needs are usually met. In developed societies it isn’t much of a problem (though it doesn’t mean there aren’t armies of homeless on the streets), but for the employed it is easier to afford accommodation, even pursuing the process of owning homes via various mortgage schemes than it is for the person with similar characteristics (even level of income) to pursue same in Nigeria.
It is also interesting to note that while in the west owning, even inheriting a home or property is a liability, in Africa and in Nigeria particularly, it is an asset, and that is why when Africans read books like Robert Kiyosaki’s “RICH DAD, POOR DAD” we should know when to draw the line especially when it comes to what is applicable locally in contrast to what works in regions from where people in the west have experience of and from which they write. It is the lack of circumspection amongst Africa’s elite, especially those who determine the policy direction of state that is responsible for the poor economic state of most countries in Africa, as they usually promote economic policies baked in the hallways of buildings housing International Finance Corporations, IFCs without any input from locales (in Africa) which the policies require for its survival, apart from the fact that the hypothetical conditions on which many of these policies are founded and formulated are alien to the practical conditions on ground in many African countries like Nigeria.
So, the need to own one’s home in Nigeria, besides having to pay a large portion of one’s income as rent especially in cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt, cannot be overemphasized. Even when one can afford the exorbitantly prized homes in the centre of town or close to the sea, or with some nice view, with some semblance of government presence in terms of social amenities, the accommodation thus procured barely meets the standards one would expect of an ideal home. Many of the newly built houses do not reach the requisite heights as you will find with older houses (built with the occupant in mind, rather than with the lean pocket of or the profits to be made by the owner/developer in the shortest possible time), as if they were built by Lilliputians or Hobbits, even Dwarfs (no pun intended). Some privately owned estates that sell houses that meet the standards often stay around to provide utilities that government isn’t ready to provide especially on virgin lands in the fast urbanizing parts of the outskirts of town, holding the occupants of such homes to ransom in the way that the cost of utility is on the expensive side most times, though most times the wealthy homeowners usually won’t mind paying because of the constancy for instance of water and electricity (a feat that remains an impossibility with the public utility companies in the areas of town where they are found) as well as central sewage management and disposal, with clauses such as a prohibition of use of electrical gadgets with heating elements. In fact, in some of the estates that I know in Lagos, home owners aren’t even allowed to iron their clothes or use electric stoves, using uninterrupted supply of electricity from the utility companies within the estate, which they pay an arm and a leg for, leaving such homeowners in a quandary, the sort that immediately cuts the freedom they initially thought they enjoyed by buying their own homes to size.
Governments’ (at Federal and State levels) involvement in bridging the housing deficit in Nigeria (especially targeting civil servants and employees in the formal private sector) so far has amounted to nothing more than a joke, with several mortgage schemes in recent times come to nought, after billions of Naira (Nigeria’s currency) may have been deducted at source from workers’ salary, which after a few years with just a few eventual beneficiaries is engulfed in controversies and scrapped with affected individuals sometimes repaid their contributions fully or partially and at other times not repaid a dime, leading to the high level of apathy on the part of workers to enlist in subsequent attempt by government to initiate and follow-through with housing schemes.
When governments like that of Lagos appears to have gotten it right through PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERSHIP, PPP collaborations to produce mass-housing units where members of the tax-paying public can by lottery own apartments of their own and pay off the mortgage on them over time, the schemes have turned out not to be favourable to the pockets of the majority of workers, as the premiums paid especially to the mortgage banks (on the private end of the PPP) are such that one has to be complicit in corruption in the office, one way or another, or married couples must be working at very well paying jobs or have business that “churn out cash on the daily” to be able to make the monthly or annual deposits they need to make to offset their mortgages, which isn’t lessened by the fact that it runs into years, even decades to pay off because of the high interest rates, which at the end of the day sums up to more than twice the original amount of the cost of the apartment. Even at that the experience in Lagos is such that because the state government is partly involved, when there is a change in government progress may be hampered especially if the new wants to review the dealings of the old, thereby jeopardizing the plans of prospective homeowners (whose contributions are tied down) which may be distorted if the government, as is presently the case in Lagos, decides to put on hold further developments until the whole process is reviewed. If one decides to go it alone by approaching mortgage banks for loans to build or outrightly buy a house, with interest currently standing between 20% and 25% with the private mortgage establishments, it will seem in the long run “penny wise and pound foolish”, except one has a phoney source of income to pay the outrageous sums monthly or annually over a period of a decade or more. Though interests are far lower with federal mortgage establishments, the corruption in the system as well as likelihood of policy reversals and summersaults especially when a new government takes over power (as Nigeria is currently experiencing at the federal level) makes such less expensive ventures very risky.
Nigeria is a mono-product economy, regardless of what you have heard, especially from government officials. She relies heavily on crude oil exports to fund her existence, nay her fragile unity . The most economically viable of her states is Lagos, the economic and commercial nerve centre of Nigeria. Lagos has no oil (well, presently) as the states in the Niger Delta region (suffering the effects of years of oil exploration activities) but makes much more than any other state in Nigeria. Lagos’ “oil” is its LAND, and because it is small in size with what is arguably the most densely populated (many believe that despite Kano- with a larger landmass- allocated the highest number in the last census, it isn’t as populated as Lagos) of all the states in Nigeria, acquiring property (as with procuring accommodation that matches ones’ taste with ones’ pocket, for rent) is herculean, and when it comes to choice of location, may not even be a function of money, as many times than none government patronage as well as political connections with the right people in government is required to facilitate such.
This scenario has over the years birthed the increasing number and influence of LAND SPECULATORS (and “grabbers”) under the guise of being “indigenous” owners of land (aka OMO ONÍLÈ) in Lagos, making people who can’t afford the exorbitant cost of owning homes in the city centre with social amenities to head to the outskirts where land is cheaper, though not without the presence of these speculators who can make the process of owning land difficult, as in the very unfortunate of cases ones may pay for the same land several times, as different “factions” of the families could lay claim on the land, and extort from the new owner, who may lose the land if s/he doesn’t begin development while “settling” the different factions, at the end of the day making the one pay twice or thrice (or more) the amount advertised for the supposedly “cheap” land.
Now, that is beside the constant harassment of builders at the site, and payments made to head of the “Ruling House” at every milestone reached in the building project afterwards. Completing the structure is no guarantee that all is well, sometimes even with the necessary approval granted from the state’s ministry of land and housing, including possession of the Certificate of Occupancy, C-of-O (especially when the house is located in a remote area with very few other landlords braving the odds to build theirs as well), as government may “wake up” one day to decide to develop the area, and woe betides one if it comes to be that the house is sitting on a path earmarked as a road or any other amenity that the government had planned to site (as many of the lands that are on sale in the outskirts of major cities/states bear no markings or BEACONS that suggest or give one an insight into future government plans for the area (a reason why you can see a house with its backyard to the road), according to a MASTER PLAN that only a very few people, even in the “ministry” are privy to. Interestingly, the same people that may inform one of this development may yet tell one that there can be a way around it, making the unsuspecting homeowner a conduit for their enrichment periodically, till government eventually demolishes (with or without compensation) the house built from the one’s sweat, with nothing but excuses or outright denial of ever collecting anything from the unfortunate and heartbroken homeowner by the unscrupulous elements that litter the corridors of housing ministries especially in states like Lagos.
Many homeowners manage to surmount these problems and eventually begin to build their houses in the outskirts of states like Lagos, or even the adjoining state like Ogun in this case. Or in Keffi or Mararaba, outside of Nigeria’s administrative capital Abuja where they work. Some opted for this route especially when they can easily access federal roads to state roads into the major cities where they work from the outskirts of town where their house is, transiting from their homes to work daily especially when they are mobile doing on the average two hours to and two hours from their offices, when there’s light traffic, especially very early in the mornings and very late at night. Some elect to still rent a small one-room apartment (convenient for males usually, the bad side of which is that the man may then go on to have another family in town, away from the one at home in the outskirts of the city or in another state where he has set up an abode) in the city and spend week days there, before commuting to the outskirts to be with their families during the weekend, especially if the spouse has business nearer home. Another interesting thing to note or consider is that it is difficult to get a plot of land in Lagos and “major” towns in most states in Nigeria that will measure approximately 120ft by 120ft or even 100ft by 100ft, just variants of something less in length and breadth as definition for a plot, sometimes even in the remote places in the outskirts of the state. It is possible however to get the semblance to an ideal plot elsewhere in Nigeria, with the added advantage of absence of “Land Speculators”, especially in states where the Real Estate potentials remain largely untapped or in the budding stage.
Because of the remote nature of the places outside of town, it is not enough to dig trenches to demarcate ones’ piece of land. Some elect to make a fence using cheap aluminium roofing sheets, not only to ensure that the land isn’t encroached upon, but to discourage intruders from stealing materials used in building especially at night. Others simply go ahead and make the perimeter fencing with blocks since they will have to do so eventually (as is norm with homes and houses in Nigeria), simultaneously with the building of the foundation, though the fence may not be built to what should be its eventual height.
The cost of setting up a structure, after one has finally secured one’s land (with or without hassles, depending on the place in the outskirt of a major town or even within town), that will cater for the foundation for a three bedroom bungalow and include a partly
constructed perimeter fencing on a 100ft by 100ft piece of land by todays’ estimation varies from place to place, but usually differ only slightly at construction sites Nigeria-wide. Now, because most of the lands in the outskirts are located inside bushes, sometimes forests, one may need to clear the land of shrubs, weed and trees before any work starts there.
– CLEARING of the land shouldn’t cost more than =N=7,000 including the felling of TREES, of which the wood can be sold for some cash.
– DIGGING or making a TRENCH for the fence and foundation should cost about =N=28,000 in labour costs.
– As for the CONSUMABLES, the costs are as follows:
*SAND – 2 tipper loads/trips…………..=N= 56,000
*STONES – 2 tipper loads/trips……..=N=70,000
*BLOCKS : Usually, the foundation is made using 9-inch blocks while the first two layers for the fence is done using 9-inch blocks and 6-inch blocks for subsequent layers. To achieve a foundation for a three bedroom bungalow and a fence of about 3 or 4 feet off the ground over a 100ft by 100ft of a plot of land, you may have need of about 1800 blocks @ 120 each…… =N=216,000
*CEMENT – 40bags @ N2,000 each….. =N=80,000
*WATER: Usually in places in the outskirts, where there’s no means of public water supply, and no natural supply as well besides the rain, one may have to buy water from vendors via water tankers or ask help of neighbours who may have dug boreholes (or one may decide to embark on digging one, to aid water supply for the construction as well as for household use after completion of the building). However, there is need to have a tank to store the water so procured in a tank of which the bigger sizes go for about =N=35,000 for one. Other costs here depends on how the builder decides to source water therefore I will leave that blank.
– LABOUR costs for the FOUNDATION should hover around =N=30,000, while that for the perimeter FENCING should be about the same =N=30,000.
It is pertinent to note that payment for labour should be made per MILESTONE or till one runs out of building materials, and not PER DIEM or else the labourers will linger on the job for longer, costing one more in the long run.
To make the foundation and perimeter fence for a 3-Bedroom Bungalow on a 100ft by 100ft piece of land, one will need not less than =N=552,000 (very conservative estimate) besides other sundry expenses as may occasionally crop up.
When the building proper begins, one may want to make some business by the side, especially if one finds that there are other buildings being erected simultaneously. An aspect to exploit is transportation of materials, as one can procure a not-too-run-down pickup truck to haul building materials from source to the building site for about =N=600,000 and give it out at higher purchase for a period of about 70 weeks (or thereabouts), for between =N=1,200,000 or =N=1,500,000, for which the operator makes a weekly payment of between =N=18,000 and =N=20,000 (or more, depending on haggling and bargaining power). Another, involves the moulding of blocks especially with building projects that is more than a bungalow, and will take longer than a year to complete. The builder may then sell excess building blocks to neighbours far and near who are also engaged in one form of building or the other.
Many builders are exploring alternatives to the popular building materials and I would’ve loved to touch on that howbeit briefly but on a second thought it will have to be a topic for another day. For now, I will just like to end by saying that we should be encouraged to build, as just about anyone can do it. Once one has mustered the courage to start, the worst that can happen is a delay to completing it. CARPE DIEM!
N.B.- The official rate of the Naira to the Dollar as at the time of writing this is =N=200 – $1.