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close this book National trends in housing-production practices
close this folder 1. Changing shelter policies in Nigeria
View the document A. Changing objectives in the shelter sector
View the document B. The current shelter policy and its links with the overall economy
View the document C. Objectives of the National Housing Policy
View the document D. Legal and regulatory framework for shelter delivery
View the document E. Mobilization and allocation of financial resources
View the document F. Shelter production and improvement
View the document G. Scope and scale of the shelter problem

A. Changing objectives in the shelter sector

A casual review of past housing policies and programmes of both the public and private sectors in Nigeria reveals that effective solutions to housing problems are yet to be found. The varied approaches made by the successive Nigerian Governments towards solving the housing problems have depended mainly upon the specific situation encountered, the resources they could command and the general attitude towards housing.

Because of the above, Governments in Nigeria have maintained that housing should be an integral part of economic development plans, while encouraging the private sector to be the main source of investment in housing. ID this way, as earlier said, housing production and delivery has been an important part of national development planning classified under the major heading "social sector" It has always been assumed that the housing situation in Nigeria would improve as general economic conditions improved, especially in the major urban centres. Yet, based on this "wait and see" attitude there have been more failures than successes. In Nigeria most individuals aspire for the day when they will own their houses. The aim of private house developers is not necessarily to live in them as owner-occupiers, but to rent them out at exorbitant prices to recoup their investments as soon as possible. Thus, house-owners in the cities are not interested in providing the needed facilities, and do not care if there is access to their houses or not.

The shelter history of Nigeria reflects four public-sector policy periods (FRN, 1985; Onibokun (ed.), 1985; I RN, 1990), which are outlined in the sections below.

1. Colonial period

During the early colonial period, the housing activities and policies of the Government in Nigeria focused on the provision of quarters for expatriate staff and for selected indigenous staff in some specialized occupations like railways, police, education etc. This period saw the establishment of Government Reservation Areas (GRAB) as well as a few African Quarters and has been aptly described as the era of "housing reservations. ~ No efforts were made by government to build houses either for sale or rent to the general public and little was done to order the growth of settlements outside the GRA. At this period, public housing development was restricted to Lagos and the regional provincial headquarters.

One housing scheme that was introduced to benefit Nigerians during this era was the African Staff Housing Scheme (which became operational in 1956). It was, however, just a token effort. Under this Scheme, qualified indigenous senior civil servants could be granted housing loans of up to five times their annual salary. The conditions or resources for funding the Scheme were not substantial and only a few officers benefited from it.

Pursuant to the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap.95), the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) was created in 1928 and charged with the effective planning and development of Lagos. The creation was as a result of the bubonic plague which ravaged Lagos in the early 1920s. After 1954, and with the approval of the Lagos Central Planning Scheme, the LEDB for the first time attempted to solve the problems of public housing in Lagos. In implementing its schemes, the LEDB encountered a number of problems, one of which was that not much was achieved in regard to satisfying the housing need and demand of the inhabitants of Lagos.

Among other strategies and measures taken by the Government during the colonial period was the establishment of the Nigerian Building Society (NBS). It was set up in 1956 to provide mortgage loans and to (partially) satisfy Nigeria's housing needs. One of the functions of this Society was to encourage Nigerians to save, particularly for housing investment. The savings scheme witnessed poor response by the public. The demand for mortgage loans was heavy while the resources of the Society were sufficient to meet only a very small proportion of the demands. The loans favoured only upperand middle-class people; low-income earners did not benefit from NBS operations.

2. Post-independence period (1960-1979)

During this era, especially the period immediately after independence, emphasis was placed on the five-yearly Development Plans as an instrument for economic growth. In the first two plans, the housing sector was virtually neglected. Further deterioration was witnessed in the housing situation during the civil war period, especially in the war-affected areas. In 1967, more housing corporations were established in the newly created states. However, their contributions were rather insignificant. In other words, the scope of their operations were severely restricted due to lack of finance and technical personnel. Hence, these institutions served the upper-income earners only, as only relatively expensive housing estates were developed and loans were rather restricted.


Table 1. Exchange rate US$ - Naira






0 80

1982-1985 (average)


1986- 1988


April 1992 after deregulation)


January 1993


April 1993 (official)


April 1993 ("parallel" marker)


1 May 1993 ("parallel" market)


Source: Achunine, 1993.

The Third National Development Plan period (1975-1980) introduced the most comprehensive and active intervention by the Government in the housing sector. The plan clearly recognized the housing problems and aimed to increase the supply of housing to a substantial level. The Federal Government decided to participate directly in the provision of housing, rather than leaving it principally to the private sector. A total of N2.6 billion (US $3 billion) was earmarked for the implementation of the various projects during the Fourth National Development Plan period. This represented about 5.6 per cent of the planned total expenditure in all sectors.

3. Second civilian (Shagari) administration period (1980-1983)

The first two periods and especially this third housing period, witnessed a steady increase in the interest and involvement of the public sector in shelter delivery, and the awareness of the importance of the shelter sector within the overall economy. Although some of the shelter strategies and activities during these periods may be seen to be in conformity with the enabling concept, the direct production of shelter by the public sector remained their common feature. This strategy, which is contrary to the enabling approach, witnessed huge failures during the Shagari administration, when the Federal Government of Nigeria allocated N 1.9 billion for housing construction, in all the 20 states of Nigeria, including Abuja. By June 1983, N600 million (37.5 per cent) had been spent to complete only 32,000 units, yielding an overall achievement level of just 20 per cent (FRN, 1990: 3).

This period coincides approximately with the Fourth National Development Plan period (see table 2). It witnessed the continued increasing deficit on urban housing as well as its continuous deterioration in the rural areas. The beneficiaries of this programme were identified as the low-income earners whose annual income did not exceed N8000. A total of 40,000 units (of which 90 per cent were to be one-bedroomed, 10 per cent three-bedroomed) were to be constructed annually throughout the country. In this way, 2000 units were to the built in each state including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. In the states, these housing units were located in their capitals and local government headquarters. This effort was implemented by the then Federal Ministry of Housing and Environment. Mid-way through the implementation, a second phase of the programme was commenced, comprising 20,000 units of two-bedroomed core houses for the low-income groups. It is pertinent to mention that this phase of the programme failed to take off in most states, and that the shelter policy, came to an abrupt end in December 1983, making way for a fresh look at the shelter sector which has culminated in the new National Housing Policy.

Table 2. Planned federal expenditure on housing programmes during the 4th national development plan (1980-1985)



Estimated total cost (million N)

Federal housing units

Providing 2000 housing units per state


Development of sites-and-services

Providing 5000 plots of serviced land per state


Staff Housing Scheme

Granting housing loans to civil servants (N 40,000 per person)


Federal Government quarters in states

Construction of suitable quarters


Industrial complex layouts

Provision of plans and infrastructure at industrial sites


Construction of housing units

Development of 143,000 housing units per state in 19 states


Mortgage operation

Expansion of mortgage services, with emphasis on medium- and low-income groups





Source: Onibokun (Ed.), 1985.

4. Second military interregnum (1984-19931

It is perhaps somewhat premature to undertake an evaluation of the policy strategy and performance of this period because the period so far has been very much a transitional one in which the Federal Government has been preoccupied with the preparation of a new and more relevant National Housing Policy. This policy was finalized and launched by the President in February 1991. The policy has since become operational as the detailed modalities for its implementation have been put in place.

Though there is not much to say by way of the experience derived from its implementation within the short span of its existence, there is no doubt that under the present administration, remarkable achievements have been made in the area of housing and the improvement of the quality of our environment.'