Naomi Gabriel —
Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership, Professor Patrick Utomi has described the housing sector as key driver of economic growth, adding that policymakers must come up with plans to ensure anyone who could vote should afford to own a house. He made this known at the inaugural annual memorial lecture in honour of Otunba Fatai Osikoya, organized by the Nigeria Institution of Building in Lagos last Friday.
“The bottom line is that we have a huge housing deficit. This shows that housing and building are too important to leave for builders, Utomi said.
“All of us must be involved in it. It shows how much building and the housing sector can play a transforming role for the economic fortunes of Nigeria, so we cannot take it for granted. But can we have the value it takes, can we ensure that the contributions it makes to GDP crystallise?
“Let us democratize homeownership, anybody who could vote should be able to own a house and the strategy is being able to construct houses so that at 18-21, there is a kind of housing you can afford. That trajectory is what we have not engaged in. If houses are dear and so important, we must be doing a very important job of providing them. If a 21-story building can hang up on those who are developing them, school children will find themselves by the building; they are in and buildings can add to the poor image of our country.”
Utomi added, “Nigeria is getting far fewer investment opportunities than Ghana, part of the reason is that no one is sure of the economic policies that regulators would bring, significantly because of corruption, regulatory risk. The biggest risk of doing business in Nigeria is regulatory risk, it is worse than any market risk you can think of because the mindset of a regulator is that of a bully. Anywhere people have authority in Nigeria, all they want to do is bully until we can reverse that and have an institutional arrangement, then how can we make progress?”