As Minister advocates local action in management of world population at London School of Economics Public Lecture
· Notes that Nigeria has taken leadership at the continental level in the formulation of the global urban agenda policies
· Minister predicts a better future and a better quality of Urbanization realities for the Nigerian people
The Federal Government of Nigeria’s commitment to Infrastructure and Agricultural development is meant to address rural-urban migration which has, over the years, led to the build-up of slums and satellite settlements around existing cities across the country, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, has said.
Noting that one of the critical solutions identified by the Federal Government as a response to making the experience of urbanization more pleasant was to improve the quality of life, inclusion and opportunities in the rural areas, Fashola, who spoke at the London School of Economics Public Lecture hosted by Faroz Lalji Centre for African Studies and LSE Cities, said the huge investment in the two sectors was already impacting the rural areas through the creation of jobs, economic inclusion and participation in the construction value chain.
Speaking on the theme, “Transforming Nigeria’s Urban Agenda”, the Minister said because most of the National Road Network Reconstruction now being undertaken in all the 36 States pass through or connect one or more urban or rural communities, employment opportunities are brought closer to the host communities, instead of them travelling to look for work in the cities while on completion, the roads would facilitate mobility.
He said because most of the materials employed in the construction, such as laterite, sand, gravel, limestone, are mined in rural communities, economic activities have been created in the various areas with the inhabitants engaged in the supply of these materials as well as the sale of food, water and other necessities to both the construction companies and their workers.
Fashola said the National Housing Project, which is being executed in 33 States first in a pilot phase to test for acceptability and affordability as a proof of concept, was not only responding to the shelter component of urbanization on a local level, but also to the economic inclusion component as well adding that at each of the construction sites, there were not less than 1,000 people engaged as skilled and unskilled labour, complemented by vendors and suppliers.
According to the Minister, “A revised National Building Code in 2017 also addresses efficient building methods to conserve water, energy, and provide access to services for the most vulnerable members of our urban family”, while Government policy has been put in place to ease access to funds, “for those who seek housing finance that is not in excess of N5 million ($13,700)”, by removing the requirement for a 10 per cent contribution and instead capitalizing this into the periodic repayment at 6 per cent per annum, through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.
According to the Minister, “While these actions that I have spoken of address the first strategy of managing the reality of urbanization by improving the quality of life in the rural areas, there are also interventions that seek to expand the quality of service and opportunities in the urban centres, which are in various stages of implementation”.
Such interventions, he said, include a grand and audacious commitment of the Government to connect Nigeria’s major cities by rail, a commitment, which he said is already under implementation with the commencement of work on the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano rail project and the investment in energy to increase access to electricity by citizens especially in rural communities.
In this vein, according to Fashola, Nigeria has developed its first public Energy Mix statement that seeks to achieve 30 per cent of renewable energy by 2030. He listed other major hydro-electricity projects, either being aggressively pursued towards completion or imminent commencement, to include the 700MW Zungeru, 40MW Kashimbila, 30MW Gurara, 29 MW Dadin Kowa, all approaching completion, and the 3050 MW Mambilla, whose financing is now under consideration.
Pointing out that Government policy and action were stimulating consensus and action towards other sources of cleaner energy like solar, the Minister added that Electric energy production capacity has increased from 5,000 MW to 7,000 MW and Distribution has increased from under 3,000 MW to 5,000 MW while work continues to expand the capacities with expected results in the short term.
In the area of Agriculture, Fashola, who said one of the critical solutions identified as a response to making the experience of urbanization more pleasant was to improve the quality of life, inclusion, and opportunities in the rural areas added that President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to local Agriculture development capacity had provided the anchor to ground this objective and bring it to reality.
“Today, Nigeria is producing more food than in the past, especially food crops like rice and wheat, and in under 36 months, we have a record of 6.3 million new rice farmers, mostly living and working in rural areas. Many rural dwellers who used to lease out their land to others to farm have taken to farming it themselves”, he said.
The Minister also added that through other Ministries and Departments, such as Education, Water Resources, Power, Works and Housing, Government was now intervening with provision of water supply schemes and facilities for irrigation and other uses, school feeding and other incentives to get children to school and identification and reconstruction of roads that lead to, and connect prolific agricultural strongholds in the country, to support the economic aspiration of farmers.
He declared, “Therefore I feel confident to predict a better future and to visualize better quality of Urbanization realities for the Nigerian people when the fruits of these new consciousness, commitments and action come to the season. I can only imagine how bountiful that harvest will be in terms of the improvements in quality of life”.
Advocating local, community and national action globally towards the management of global population, Fashola expressed alarm that the size of human families across the world was currently growing at a rate that was threatening human existence on the Planet adding that the first step towards addressing the issue of urbanization on a global scale was for all nations of the world to come to one consensus that the size of the human family on the planet was growing faster than the resources to sustain it.
The Minister, who pointed out the recent “reports of catastrophic consequences of attempted migrations and very chilling reports of refugee status and 21st Century enslavement of immigrants” as proof of the global over- population threat, noted that the people involved in those catastrophes were migrating to urban centres largely in pursuit of a better quality of life.
Noting that most of the things that needed to be addressed as matters of global agreement, such as more food, more water, better mobility, shelter, and access to healthcare and clean energy, imposed compelling local solutions and actions at family, local, state and national levels, he declared, “Therefore, each family, each local community, state, and nation must act locally to manage the rate of population growth”, adding that what each could do was a function of ability, quality of resource, both human and material, and the complexity of the problem.
On what Nigeria is doing on the global scale about the challenges of urbanization, Fashola, who noted that there is a new consciousness and increased participation in the formulation of the global urban agenda policies by Nigeria, said the country has stood up to be counted on the continental stage, while also taking leadership by providing the platform to hold policy discussions in Abuja.
According to the Minister, “On the global stage, Nigeria has made her voice audible in Surabaya and in Quito”, while on the local, state and national stages, “Nigeria has followed commitment with policy and action, and remains committed to doing so”. He said in terms of defining the Global Urban Agenda, Nigeria has recently been more active and involved than in the last four decades when, according to him, “the previous global urban agenda were formulated and adopted, first in Canada in 1976 and later in Turkey in 1996.”
“In February 2016, Nigeria hosted the HABITAT III UN Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, which led to the formulation of a common African position which was in Surabaya, Indonesia in July of the same year, and ultimately the accommodation of critical parts of that agenda in Quito, Ecuador in 2017”, Fashola said adding that the commitments captured in the World Urban Forum agenda at Ecuador, under the aegis of the UN Habitat, with Governmental and Non-Governmental collaboration, spoke only to global actions.
Maintaining that results would be defined by local action at family, local, state and national levels, the Minister added, “But I say very emphatically that our active participation and Continental leadership role are positive signs that move the needle of commitment and consciousness further up from what they were four decades ago”.
The Public Lecture, which was Chaired by Professor of Urban Studies and Director LSE Cities, Professor Ricky Burdett, was followed by a robust Question and Answer Session.