Self-isolation, COVID-19 and the unresolved housing issue in Northern Nigeria

It is not my intention in this article to continue on the path of misery that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon humanity in recent months.

However, while the world has put a raft of measures in place, and especially as containment through social distancing and handwashing in a bid to flattening the curve is concerned, it is on the subject of self-isolation that I speak to in this piece.

On this matter of self-isolation, it is advisable that everyone heeds the call. However, how possible if this where and when people struggle to have a roof over their heads? This is particularly worrying in developing world contexts such as the impoverished communities of Northern Nigeria.

In the light of the above, I refer to my 2016 article, “Property development and the unresolved housing issue in northern Nigeria,” which explored and reported on trends in that part of the country taking some guidance from an earlier study which was based on the experiences of three other northern states – Niger, Nassarawa and Plateau states.

As a point of departure, and to situate these Northern States in the context of the ongoing pandemic, Nigeria currently has over 47 cases with one fatality at the upper echelons of power. Other notable figures have also tested positive and are in self-isolation. For example, His Excellency Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi State, was recently confirmed positive for COVID-19. A similar positive test has just been confirmed in the case of the Kaduna State governor HE Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai.

Let me provide some context on the Northern States we covered. First, the Bauchi state is located in the north-eastern part of the country. The state shares borders with Plateau state to the west, Kano state to the north, Yobe and Gombe states to the north-east. Second, Gombe state, also known as the Jewel in the Savannah, was carved out of the old Bauchi state in October 1996. Third, and finally, Kaduna state is located in central northern Nigeria. It is located in the Northwest of Nigeria, and its capital city, Kaduna, was the former capital city of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria region after Zungeru and Lokoja. Kaduna is bordered by several states, which includes the states of Zamfara, Katsina, and Kano to the north; while Bauchi and Plateau to the east; and Nassawara to the south; and Niger to the west.also, Abuja Federal Capital Territory also borders Kaduna state to the southwest.

Coincidentally, and perhaps due to the prominence of Kaduna, we recounted a previous study on the private rental housing market in its metropolis, which recommended that Estate Surveyors and Valuers should start supervising residential rental housing projects for their clients in order to meet the expectations of prospective tenants in terms of features and needed facilities in such properties. 

We also reviewed another study drawing upon “Real estate developer’s perception on conventional borrowing in financing residential development” in Bauchi state, which concluded that developers take exception, and keep away from conventional borrowing. This led us into a discussion of two economic responses related to proper asset management – securitisation, unitization and real-estate investment trust (REITs).

In broad terms, our article sought to highlight the experiences of three states in north-eastern Nigeria (notably Bauchi, Gombe and Kaduna) with a view to evaluating, and contemplating the reported incidents of violations, and non-adherence to the property development process, which has negatively impacted upon the much-needed professionalism in the sector. We argued that what has become apparent in the sector has been the unwillingness of professionals to be innovative. It is commonplace to blame the government for poor property development and management matters even when innovation is glaringly begging to be exploited by all professionals in the property sector.

Indeed, our study was based upon the conclusion of the 46th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) on “City Growth: Issues and Challenges of Urban Sustainability in Nigeria,” 12-16 April 2016, when we sought to explore some of the key housing and property development challenges based on rapid urbanisation that is taking place in Nigeria.  

Our study posed four questions:

1. How much information exists on housing statistics (needs, bidding processes and employment opportunities)?

2. What role do professional bodies play in alleviating the housing problem?

3. What amount of research into the situation has been undertaken by education institutions and how are these being shared with policymakers?

4. What incentives exist for property developers and credit institutions?

In response to the first of these questions, we echoed the need for inter-agency coordination of the activities of the various bodies involved in the physical planning process and for these bodies to have a forum for periodic meetings to review strategies adopted in the planning process.

On the second question, we highlighted the lack of presence of members of the construction industry in the act of policymaking in Nigeria today both at the state and federal levels. Their voice is not loud enough and they also have a very limited contribution on policies made concerning the industry. Property developers cannot leave the solution to government alone as professional bodies such as NIESV can inform policy. In this regard, the body should lobby access into the legislature such as the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and/or even the Senate where policy decisions are made.

In terms of the third question, higher education has a role to play here, as there is an immediate need for the overhauling of the curricula of studies on Estate Management in polytechnics and universities to incorporate contemporary studies on environmental sustainability and preservation whilst providing manageable infrastructural facilities. This should be followed with continuous professional development training for all property professionals keeping them up-to-date with contemporary practice.

For the fourth and final question, we reflected upon particular experiences of residents of Gombe state highlighting how low-income earners like civil servants were grappling and contending with lack of both office and residential accommodation.

While many civil servants were so insolvent that they could not pay their rents and were taken to rent tribunal, others had suffered unfounded embarrassment from shylock landlords and ladies who hiked their rents with impunity.

The state governor at the time of writing, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, seems to have proved himself a leader worthy of emulation has taken steps towards fulfilling his campaign promises. We cited the first phase of the government Tunfure Housing Estate development programme consisting of 240 houses providing decent and affordable housing to Gombe citizens particularly civil servants as a case in point. Another 500-housing unit project along Dukku road in Gombe was also being built by the Gombe state project and property development at the time of our 2016 study.

Looking back at our recommendations four years ago where we opined that strict adherence to the property development process, particularly with site identification and investigation will determine the success or, otherwise of the let/ manage /sale of the process was much needed. It seems even more pertinent in this time of crisis. 

Going forward, the question still lingering is “how do the populace self-isolate in situations where residential property, owned or rented, is not affordable?” 

This article was excerpted from:

Madichie, N., and Madichie, O.A. (2016) Property development and the unresolved housing issue in northern Nigeria. African Journal of Economic and Management Studies, 7(4), 568-591.

About the Author:

Dr Nnamdi Madichie is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the School of Business, Law and Social Sciences, Abertay University, Dundee. His research interests span broad areas of Marketing (arts, media & entertainment), and Entrepreneurship (diaspora, ethnic minority & gender). He is also Professor (visiting) at the Unizik Business School, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria and Research Fellow at the Bloomsbury Institute in London. Dr. Madichie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM), and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SfHEA). Dr Madichie was the previous editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Business & Economic Research a flagship journal of the Adonis-Abbey Publishers portfolio.



Share this post