The festering question over whether affordable houses for Nigerians is a reality or myth was put to rest and beyond any iota of doubt, recently in Abuja when River Park Estate launched over 3,000 structures comprising of different units of houses to bridge the housing deficit in Nigeria.
The River Park Estate project, which occupies a 501 hectares of land and grouped into five clusters, all being developed simultaneously, will be formally inaugurated by President Olusegun Obasanjo tomorrow while the Inspector General of Police, will open the state-of-the -art police station situated inside the estate.
It is officially estimated that there is a shortage of 16 million housing units in the country with over 80 per cent of the population living in informal housing, this housing deficit, River Park Estate is determined to close â having noted that one of the basic necessities of life is shelter and its provision has become a major concern to both private individuals and the respective tiers of governments across the country.
In fact, not a few housing sector analysts and players have concluded that one of the ways to know if a government has performed well is in her ability to provide housing for its population. It is estimated by experts that Nigeria currently requires at least one million housing units per annum to equate the housing demands of her population put at over 160 million. Despite the significance of housing, adequate supply has remained a mirage to all cadre of the society in Nigeria. This is because the country is still developing and the population is growing at exponential rate with rapid urbanisation which is a norm, thereby making housing need and supply to be very high.
Following in this regard, the housing project promoters formally introduced into the Abuja housing market its range of âSmart Housesâ, which are in three variants â âsecurity, convenience and money-saverâ; explained that for these group of home owners who may be away from their homes, they could randomly set lights to turn âonâ or âoffâ; which does not only help to save money, but is equally convenient.
To further underscore this fact, is the succinct submission of Section 16 (1) (d) of the 1999 Constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, wherein, states are charged with the necessity to provide suitable and adequate shelter for all its citizenry.
Armed with the fore-going therefore, and following River Park Estateâs research, which shows that majority of Nigerian citizens, who claim to live in cities and urban areas actually live in ghettos, shanties and dirty accommodation, the promoters of the Estate, nudged by a great sense of giving back to the society and contributing their quota to the growth and development of the country, especially in the housing sector, in 2007 first came up with this mass housing project which today has finally become a reality.
An elated Chairman, River Park Estate, Paul Odili, stated that âthe reality, which is today River Park Estate started through one of the first approvals received by the then minister of FCT, Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.â
Continuing, Odili noted that this singular approval âwas to signal and herald the introduction of Public Private Partnership (PPP) into the real estate sector between the Federal Capital Territory Authority and private developers.â
The River Park Estate chairman who lauded Obasanjo for encouraging the partnership, disclosed that, âFormer President Obasanjo foresaw the potential for challenges or cultural clashes between public and private elements of the partnership and decided to inaugurate Prof. Akin Mabogunje as chairman of a Presidential Committee to oversee the implementation of the âHouses for Africa Mass Housing Project Committee, under the auspices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.â
While listing what he said were major benefits of involving private developers in the development of mass housing projects to a cosmopolitan city like Abuja, Odili stressed, âApart from the speed of housing delivery, often times, the private sector contribution, forms the secondary infrastructure that would have normally been the responsibility of the FCT â thereby, easing budgetary pressures on the public sector to deliver them.â
Also speaking, Vice Chairman, The River Park Estate Project, Adrian Ogun, stated that, âfour other FCT ministers, after El-Rufai have subsequently endorsed and signed addendum to the Development Lease Agreement for the project,â even as he added that, âthe ground-breaking ceremony for the project held in 2008 and was hosted by the then Minister of FCT, Aliyu Modibbo Umar.â
Ogun, who reminisced on how the River Park Estate project almost got stalled due to paucity of funds, appreciated the present chairman, Odili for coming to their rescue and his sense of âentrepreneurship and investment.â
He disclosed that, âFCT planning approval for âCluster Oneâ of River Park was granted in 2012 (and Clusters 2-5 in 2014), building approval from FCT Development Control for Cluster One was granted in 2013 (and clusters 2-5 in 2014/15).
âToday, River Park boasts over 3000 structures, including a magnificent divisional police station, shopping mall, petrol station, hotel complex, operational nursery/primary school, International Conference Centre and a golf course,â Ogun submitted.
He lamented the poor resolve of unscrupulous individuals and organisations to appropriate FCT authority town planning and city development charts, a menace which Ogun said blocked a major government access road into the estate.