(August 26,2016) The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Thursday in Ilorin, Kwara State, flagged off the 5th National Council on Land, Housing and Urban Development calling on Nigerians to increase their patronage of locally made goods as the most viable means to address the country’s economic challenges.
Mr. Fashola, who spoke against the backdrop of the theme of this year’s Council meeting, “Building Adequate Capacity of Professionals, Artisans and Tradesmen in the Built Environment”, said looking inwards for satisfaction of their needs was the only way Nigerians could help to reflate and stimulate the economy back to growth.
According to the Minister, the preference for local goods as opposed to the current import dependence among the citizenry would provide opportunity for inclusion, whereby the resultant economic growth would translate to employment and “provide incomes for ordinary and hard-working people who are then able to put food on their tables and participate in the building of Nigeria”.
Recalling that the present administration allocated 30 percent of its N6.06Trillion 2016 Budget to Capital Expenditure as a radical departure from the past administrations, Fashola, who said the new practice was a means to an end which, according to him, is to get the economy back to growth, however, added that this would not happen unless Nigerians abandon their penchant for foreign made goods.
The Minister, who reiterated the need to reflate the economy, cautioned that all the benefits envisaged from the huge budget of the year such as inclusion and employment, would not happen, if the people for whom the budget was made, abdicated the responsibility for building, to foreigners, or prefer foreign goods to locally made ones.
He declared, “The Federal Government has committed to spend more in spite of earning less, in order to provide inclusion, and create jobs. This is change for some of those who ask what has changed.
In the event of continued preference for foreign made goods, Fashola again declared, “What will happen is that the budget will work, the money will be spent, and the benefit will be transferred to foreign countries and factories where the professionals reside or where their imported goods are made”.
He told the Council, “So one objective of this council meeting and its theme is to emphasize to all members of the built environment that it is only those who are willing to act, who are willing to work, and who are willing to get their hands dirty, by blasting rocks, moving sand, cement, iron rods, making doors, molding blocks, pouring concrete and so on that will readily find inclusion in this economic process”.
According to the Minister, “This is the same process that built Europe's infrastructure, that of China and many parts of the Middle East.It is the process by which we will rebuild our economy. This is part of what diversification means. This is part of what the President means when he talks about diversifying the economy through agriculture and mining”.
Emphasizing the nation’s Housing Policy as critical to drive the economy in the envisaged direction, Fashola also noted, “It is from agriculture that we will get wood and timber to build, and from mining we will get sand, rocks, cement and tiles to furnish our houses”.
On the Roadmap for Housing, Fashola, who said progress had been made, and the steps were being taken to complete the remaining processes pointed out that government was being meticulous in its planning to ensure that the National Housing Programme meets national acceptability in terms of diversity of design in response to cultural and climatic diversities.
The Minister reiterated the decision of the Ministry to ban the importation of ten building materials in preference for locally made ones, listing the materials to include doors, Windows, tiles, ceilings, plumbing accessories, cables, paint and Iron – mongery.
On capacity building, in the Power and Works sections of his Ministry, Fashola, said the attitude was the same, added, “Not only are we aggressively pursuing our roadmap of incremental to stable and ultimately uninterrupted power, the Ministry has encouraged the use of locally made meters, wires and galvanized sheets for Transmission equipment and we are seeing some positive if not yet sufficient responses”, pointing out that this was the way to keep jobs at home and build capacity for inclusion.
According to the Minister, road construction was also based on achieving the same economic objectives of growth through critical sectors in the short term pointing out that with limited resources, the administration “has chosen roads that connect states, roads that evacuate goods from Sea and Airports, roads that transport agricultural produce and roads that bear very heavy traffic”.
Noting that it could not cover all the roads across the country, Fashola listed the roads that fall into the above category to include Sokoto-Kotangora-Makera Highway, Kano-Maiduguri, Jebba-Ilorin – Bode-Sadu, Ogbomoso- Oyo; Lagos – Ibadan;Loko- Oweto, 2nd Niger Bridge and Enugu - Port Harcourt Roads.
The Minister, who acknowledged that governments in the country were building roads, schools and bridges, however, asked, “But how many housing estate construction is going on in all the 36 States, and with what intensity, and regularity; even at the time we earned more petro dollars”.
“Now that the petro dollar has reduced, I argue that this is the time to make the scarce resources do more, include more people and deliver more value. One way to do this is for states to spend more on housing construction”, he said adding, “This is the change that the Buhari government brings and this is the importance of this year's theme, of “Building the capacity of professionals, artisans and tradesmen in the built environment. Let us build houses for ourselves, by ourselves, in order to build our own prosperity.”
Earlier, in his welcome address the state Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, expressed joy that the event was being hosted in his state which he described as playing a critical role midway between the North and the South.
The Governor, who noted that Power, Works and Housing were the most critical Ministries that defined the nation’s economic development, commended the Minister for the efficient manner he is pursuing the objectives of the sectors adding that for the first time in the last 26 years, Kwara State was feeling the impact of the Federal Government.