by GEORGE OKOJIE, Lagos
That Nigeria is in the grip of its worst economic crisis in decades is no longer in doubt. A combination of oil price fall international market , devaluation of the Naira and rising inflation have cast a cloud of uncertainty in the nation’s economy.
In the face of present reality, many investors and individual have adopted what has been tagged ‘watch , wait and see’ attitude to investments, especially in the housing sector.
The irony of the situation is that despite the challenges in the economy, the nation’s economy, the country’s population keeps growing, soaring the housing deficit which had long been pegged at 17 million.
Unfortunately, the price cement, a staple construction material in building of homes was recently increased by about 44 percent in Nigeria.
Stakeholders have expressed concern over the sharp increase in the retail price of cement, saying that it would compound the housing deficit in the country, if not checked.
LEADERSHIP check showed that many individuals who were building houses, suddenly suspended work as soon as the new price regime came into effect.
A major cement dealer at Ojodu Berger area of Lagos State told our correspondent that the hike would negatively affect the building industry, saying the new price would make it difficult for many Nigerians to build their own houses.
He said, “This is a very sad development. There is no one that is happy about this development. We selling the product are deeply worried over the sharp increase in the price of cement. With the price hike, our sales have dipped. Nobody ask us what we are selling, we just come here and whether we sell or not we must eat and feed our families. We the dealers are the worst-hit and if care is not taken many of many of us might soon go out of business.”
In the same vein Moulders of blocks in Nigeria piqued by the sudden hike in cement price had also raised the prices of blocks by between 11 per cent and over 30 per cent, following the recent increase in the prices of cement.
The moulders who had suspended operation to protest the latest increase in the prices of cement, granite and other construction materials had also come up with a new price regime pending when the prices of cement and other moulding materials are reversed.
According to the President, National Association of Block Moulders of Nigeria, Alhaji Rasco Adebowale with the new price regime, the 6x9x18 load-bearing blocks would sell for N220 per unit, accounting for a 37.5 per cent increase over the previous price of N160.
He said, the 9x9x18 load-bearing blocks will sell for N250 per unit, up from N220, while the 6x9x18 and 9x9x18 non-load bearing blocks will sell for N200 and N180, up from N180 and N160 per unit, respectively.
Professional are not also comfortable with the development as the former President of Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Mr. Moses Ogunleye, pointed out that the development will affect building production process in the country.
According to him, the number of housing units that can be delivered to Nigerians will be depleted despite the fact that the country already has a grossly understated housing deficit, put at 17 million, saying the current cement price hike will frustrate efforts at bridging the gap.
Ogunleye noted that the increase could be a reaction to the general increase in price of goods and services caused by the challenge of sourcing Foreign Exchange (forex), adding that the rising cost of production caused by lack of infrastructure, particularly power supply may have become too heavy a burden for cement manufacturers to bear.
He said the much expected improvement in electricity supply by the power generation and distribution companies has yet to come the way of industrialists including cement manufacturers.
Corroborating him, the Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) , Builder Kunle Awobodu, said: “This is going to create crisis in the construction sector and bad blood between clients and contractors, as developers will make claims for fluctuations.
“Invariably, it will lead to upward reviews of contract sums. New and on-going projects will be delayed until there is agreement on the contract variations. It can also expedite construction activities because of the anticipation of further increase.”
Now that the country is at the cross roads, experts are of the view that it is high time the nation adopted creative and innovative ways of building its homes.
A frontline structural engineer, Elder Rufus Bambola Akinrolabu, said the way out of the wood is to look at alternative building materials, saying “The adaptation and use of locally sourced building materials and components is not a reason good enough to bring down the cost of a house.”
He explained that factors such as good and economic building; design; efficient production systems; competitive pricing of input; site production of most components of building; good construction management; adoption of tested cost-saving technologies of building that can reduce the cost of the foundation work; walling and wall finish; flooring and floor paving works, roof cladding and roofing structure are jointly capable of drastically bringing down costs of building a house.