An advocacy forum organized by the Nigerian British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) in Lagos to examine the issues in the real estate sector in Nigeria and how Nigeria can bridge the housing deficit put at about 17 million has called for the review and liberalisation of land ownership in the country.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who was a Special Guest at the NBCC forum said the Federal Government is desirous to provide affordable housing to Nigerians and has written to the state Governors to provide lands with title in their states for government to commence the housing project.

Represented by his Special Adviser on Housing, Mr. Biodun Oki, Fashola who is the immediate past Governor of Lagos state, said he wants to replicate the Lagos state housing model during his tenure in Lagos state at the federal level.

He said houses could be cheaper for the ordinary Nigerian if the cost of infrastructure such as land, roads, water and electricity are provided by the government and removed from the cost of the houses.

President of NBCC, Mr. Dapo Adelegan also identified the “bureaucratic process allocation and registration of charges on land as impediment to real estate development.” He sees other challenges such as bribery and corruption, low compliance to regulatory and environment laws as the causes for high incident cases of collapsed buildings in Nigeria.

Mr. Adelegan who said he fully supports the case for social housing for the poor, urged the government and private developers to look at the issue of materials and cost in the housing sector, use of less expensive but durable materials in housing construction. He cited the example of the United States of America where 70% of the housing units are built with wood.

Mr. Hakeem Oguniran, Managing Director of UACN Properties Plc, who was the guest speaker, said limited sources of funding, lack of skilled labour, lack of adequate regulatory framework that guarantees title to land are some of the impediments to accelerated growth and development in the housing sector. He called for an urgent reform that will usher in a better business friendly environment, streamline approval and permitting process and the restructuring of the mortgage process in the country to make it functional and inclusive.

Meanwhile, Mr. Femi Akintunde, Managing Director, AM Facilities said the huge investment in real estate will be a waste if adequate maintenance is not taken into consideration. He said notable housing projects of the federal and state governments like the Jakande Housing Scheme and FESTAC TOWN in Lagos have dilapidated because of lack of adequate maintenance. He said proper maintenance ensures continued comfort and enhanced value of a property and urged Nigerians to embrace the maintenance culture. The NBCC Advocacy forum is the first in the year as the chamber plans to hold similar forum in the coming months.