The Chairman of the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON), Dr Samson Opaluwah, has urged the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to boost the construction sector as a means of solving the unemployment problem in Nigeria.
What are the expectations of the built industry as a new government is about to be formed in Nigeria?
We in the built environment, particularly the built industry, have high expectations about how his administration will handle the questions of housing, building control, quality of materials in the market and upgrading of artisanal skills.
He needs to address unemployment quickly and drastically, and the easiest way to do it is to boost construction, because it has multiplier effects on the economy; does it not only employ the artisan cadre, it employs other businesses that are contingent to the construction industry. It generates the building products and construction projects market, and it also ensures that the tertiary products of this sector are engaged as they come out in the industry.
What would you want the new administration to do about the increasing housing deficit in the country?
A lot has been said about this by professionals in this industry. The issues are in various stages: quality and quantity wise. What I expect it to do is to address urban slums, because it has the effect of raising the standard of living and will transform into economic upliftment of those areas.
A lot has been said about what Babatunde Fashola as governor did in Oshodi and other areas of Lagos State in clearing slums and improving the level of environmental sanitation. We believe if that is replicated in all the major slums of our city dwellings, there will be a lot of improvement not only in housing standard and housing delivery, but also in the quality of life and healthcare demands of our people in the slums.
Also, the young people of this country require to be adequately catered for in the area of housing. When we are talking about housing in our economy today, most times, people are looking for houses for families, but our population is 60 per cent youths, yet we don’t seem to focus housing on them. Some people argue that it is a trans-generational thing; they will grow. But as they grow into adults, others come into that same age bracket. That means that the bug is there and it needs to be addressed.
Not only employment wise, housing is critical and the government should now look into unbundling all the restrictions to housing development in Nigeria. The Land Use Act needs to be repealed and access to land should not be concentrated in one man’s hands in a whole state. It is a big drawback which has to be addressed. And land capital is not useful to many owners of landed property in Nigeria, which is pauperizing our nation. I believe that the new administration will unbundle the innate capital that Nigeria has always kept bonded.
How has the naira redesign and cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) impacted on the construction sector?
The impact is huge in the sense that the lower cadre of the construction industry operatives are paid with cash, and when there is no cash, it becomes very difficult to engage in trade with them. And those of them who are in the majority, who do get engaged on what is called daily pay, they are even worse off. When there is no cash they cannot be paid, and when they are not paid because their income is on a daily basis, they cannot feed their families, and even themselves.
So, it has impacted very negatively. I am also aware of the fact that the intention of the government is germane, so it should be supported. But I also believe that the policy implementation has not been the best.
But as a council, we have what is called Labour Market Information System (LMIS) on which we onboard artisans; which artisans are engaged and their payments made online into their accounts. We have already started moving ahead, tapping into the current policy thrust of the government to ensure that the industry does not suffer hiccups. We should make sure that we engage people who are qualified. That is what CORBON has done and we intend to expand it in the coming months.
Building collapse keeps occurring despite effort by stakeholders to curtail it. What needs to be done to end it?
We should enforce the laws that we have. When buildings collapse, let those responsible take immediate punitive measures against anyone that has contravened any existing law. There are laws governing what we do on the construction site. The fact is; anytime a building collapses, someone is responsible and that someone should be held accountable. If a group of people are responsible, they should be held accountable, and until there’s punishment we will not be afraid to do the wrong things.
Source: Daily Trust