· “We are determined to see what is available and what we can use to solve our problems, that is what we call capacity building”, Minister
· Says report of investigations are being awaited on the collapsed four-storey building in Gwarimpa
· “It’s work in progress but I am convinced that we can turn things round”, he says
The Federal Government is determined to make use of locally manufactured building materials, collaborate with the Private Sector and enhance local industrial capacity in the National Housing Programme, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, has said.
Fashola, who expressed government’s commitment, Tuesday, in Abuja when he undertook a visit to the site of the collapsed building in Gwarimpa and a working tour of some affordable housing development sites and related companies in the Federal Capital Territory, said government was going to explore all the options available across the country and see what is possible with a view to utilizing them to meet the nation’s housing need.
The Minister told newsmen after the tour, “We welcome our partners from abroad; but we are determined to see what is available and what we can use to solve our problems. That is what we call capacity building. Where there is no opportunity, there is no capacity”.
He was particularly emphatic about seeking local solution to the accommodation problems facing the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northern part of the country saying government was looking at what strategic partnership it could develop in order to attend to them.
“We will develop our own capacities to attend to emergencies locally”, he said, asking, “What of if those foreigners were not there. So we are not going to run back and surrender, we just have to task our minds, task ourselves and find our own solutions here”.
Expressing confidence that there are available local options that could answer to the needs of the IDPs, Fashola, who called attention to one of the buildings in one of the estates visited which was built in five days, asked, “Why can’t we find a design that works for those people?”
“We saw the red brick buildings, bungalows that were built in, I think, four months. We saw the Shelter at Larfarge, the bungalow was built, I think, in four months, so we have some local capacities here”, the Minister said, adding that government would continue to perfect its designs in order to meet its goal of sustainable National Housing Programme.
Reiterating that the Programme was aimed at galvanizing and reenergizing the economy, the Minister told the newsmen, “From end to end, it is instructive, you saw people at work and this is economy; sand, water, iron rods, gravel, cement and so on. They signify a waking up of the economy”.
The Minister, who also drew their attention to some of the building models visited, such as the Brick City in the Urban Shelter done by one of the private developers and what they have done in terms of bungalows, duplexes as well as the small bungalow at Lafarge, pointed out that the materials being used by them are found in large quantities locally.
Noting particularly one of the estates where the developers are building with Polysterene, the Minister, who pointed out that the material is a by-product of a material found in large quantity in the country, oil, said some of the components now being imported would be sourced locally in the next two years when the Petrochemical plant being built by Dangote Group would come on stream.
Also to be sourced locally when the petrochemical plant comes on stream, the Minister said, include plastic components which should have been sourced from the Eleme Petrochemicals as well as galvanized steel that should come from Ajaokuta Steel Complex but is currently being imported.
“And so we are on our way. Clearly, the bolts and nuts are there; what we need is to couple them together”, he said adding that the on-going economic activities provide opportunity for employment, with people mixing cement, the artisans working and food vendors. “That is how the economy gathers and ticks along with the most vulnerable people to go to the place and say I went to work and that is important for the development of our country”, he said.
Speaking on the progress made in the programme, Fashola told the newsmen, “If you have been following our programmes and activities in the Housing Sector in the Housing Ministry, you would have heard us talking about designs, about standards, about industrial buildings, mass building.
“You must have heard us talking about partnerships with the private sector, you would also have heard us talking about using made in Nigeria technology to fulfil the President’s and the government’s desire to diversify the economy, generate employment and so on”, he said adding that the current tour was a fulfilment of the commitment he made at the Shelter Afrique Summit held in Abuja where, according to him, “I committed that I would visit some of these our partners who have shown capacity”.
He said the purpose of the tour was to go to their factories and sites to see what they have been doing and to also see whether what they were doing on site corresponds with what they told him adding that the tour unfortunately coincided with the accident in Gwarimpa Housing Estate.
Expressing dismay at the accident which he attributed to “something wrong”, Fashola, who, said investigations are on as to what caused the collapse, added, “Clearly, something went wrong somewhere, whether it was quality control, whether it was professionalism or human error, we are waiting for the result of the investigation”.
The Minister, who noted that collapse of a building could occur if cement was not properly mixed, advised those who are mixing cement on sites without technical support “to think of industrializing the processes not only for safety but also to take benefit of the massive opportunities that lie ahead in construction”.
“Those people will not last over time. The whole world has moved away from that kind of practice. Cement is now ordered as a business that is strong; those who make cement are not necessarily those who use them. It is a profession on its own. So those who are doing those crude things must begin to think ahead because that business will not last. And also it is important that they learn a little about the process of rating cement, how quickly it must be used and all of that”, he said.
Expressing happiness at what he observed at the estates, Fashola, however, said there were a lot of adaptations that needed to be put together adding, “We need them to adapt their moulds to fit our own designs because we want to control our own designs, we don’t want multiple designs except those we have agreed on because that is the basis for industrialization if your designs are uniform”.
“So if you have a four-inch door production plan, I have a four-inch door production plan, he has a four-inch door production plan, if I have mass orders to cope with you can help me fill my orders because we are doing the same thing. When there are no standards, there is no continuity and growth and expansion and that is what we need to have. So it is work in progress but I am convinced that we can turn things round”, the Minister said.
On the housing deficit of the country, Fashola said what was more important was for the plan to work so that sustainability could be established adding, “When your plans work, deficit will become history; but if your plan doesn’t work, deficit will just compound it”.
He declared, “If you get to the top ten, you are better than the person who is not ranked. But you still have a problem because you want to be number one. So your deficit in that place is that you first get yourself on the ranking. How do you get to the top? So let us design a plan that works”.
“Whether President Buhari is there today or not, we will measure the success of that design by its sustainability, it will happen again next year, it will happen again in 50 years’ time, continuously, that is what I want us to think about and not deficit. Deficits don’t bother me, they have been there and we can talk about it and talk about it and it won’t go away. But if we work the way we do, design a plan that once you open the plan, you know what to do so that we don’t build houses once in 20 years; we build houses every day and every year”, the Minister said.
Fashola, who was accompanied on the tour by the Minister of State in the Ministry, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri and other top officials in the Housing Sector of the Ministry, visited among others, Lafarge Affordable Housing Solution, in Idu District, Polysterene Industries Limited also in Idu District and Urban Shelter Limited in Kubwa .