A constitutional amendment is in the works at the National Assembly to repeal the 1978 Land Use Act in order to remove contentious areas. It is taking this step to make land easily accessible to Nigerians, according to Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Disclosing this yesterday while opening the Abuja Housing Show, he said the Senate was awaiting a committee report on the Land Use Act, which may be ready before the end of September 2016.

Stakeholders in the building industry had in the past identified the 1979 Land Use Act as a cog in the wheel of housing development in the country.  Saraki urged stakeholders to identify extant laws that require amendments and come up with a roadmap for addressing the housing deficit in the country.

He described the Abuja housing fiesta as a good initiative that should not just be a talk show but must be followed up with actions. Also speaking, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, called for synergy between government and the private sector in order to bridge the deficit.

Fashola noted that the N35 billion earmarked in the 2016 budget for housing, when split across 36 states only amounts to less than N100 million which can build only a few houses.

He stressed the need to cultivate a mortgage culture instead of the cash- and-carry system, stressing that efforts were being made to create housing designs, putting into consideration the cultural needs of Nigerians.

The minister urged the participants to come up with a definition of what is ‘affordable home.’He said: “Time has come for us to first define what an affordable home is before talking about expansion of access. No country has achieved 100 per cent home ownership. Some people’s salary would never be enough to own a home. We need to define affordable home to be able to manage expectations. We need to find out what type of homes we should build. Across the length and breadth of this country people are building houses but most of them are empty.”

In his remarks, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) observed that contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF) hardly have access to mortgage, lamenting that the Federal Government established NHF but has never contributed its equity to the fund.

He also decried the exorbitant interest rate being charged by mortgage finance institutions. He noted that there was no way the country can solve its housing problems when double digit interest rate is being charged by mortgage institutions.

He added: “The law provides for single digit but the mortgage institutions charge double. It will take an average worker donkey years to meet the least housing. Political will to addressing the housing problems in the country is lacking as the last efforts towards closing the massive housing deficit was in the Second Republic.”

• The Guardian