The escalating issue of homelessness in Nigeria demands close attention.

The escalating issue of homelessness in Nigeria demands close attention. With an estimated homeless population of around 24 million, Nigeria currently holds the top position in Africa, trailing behind only Egypt with 12 million and the DR Congo.

According to Africa Business Insider,Africa Business Insider, the surge in homelessness across these nations results from a combination of social and economic challenges. Key contributing factors include rural-urban migration, unemployment, deprivation, poverty, population growth, and other significant elements. For Nigeria, this latest estimate is not entirely surprising and serves as a stark reminder of the enormity of the problem. In 2021, the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) estimated that more than 28 million Nigerians lacked access to adequate and affordable housing.

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Several major factors continue to fuel the rise in homelessness in Nigeria. These factors include rapid population growth, leading to increased rural-urban migration, poverty, which results in declining household incomes, and inflation, which erodes purchasing power.

Nigeria’s population growth, averaging 2.6 percent, is among the fastest-growing globally, with projections indicating further growth over the next 25 years. The poverty issue is staggering, with over 133 million Nigerians, approximately 60 percent of the population, estimated to be experiencing multidimensional poverty. This undoubtedly has a significant impact on urban poverty and household incomes.

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In August 2023, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics reported that the country’s headline inflation had reached a record high of 25.8 percent. This followed months of steady increases in inflation figures, implying that the costs of essential services such as food, housing, transportation, and other necessities will continue to rise.

The primary observation to emphasize is that the current challenges are intricately tied to the overall economic well-being. In essence, if the economy is stable and there is a fair distribution of prosperity, we could potentially resolve half of the homelessness issue. The other aspect of this challenge pertains to specific sectoral reforms, such as those in the mortgage and land use sectors.

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The solution, therefore, must commence with government action. For instance, addressing poverty necessitates the use of both fiscal and monetary tools to consistently uplift people from poverty and equip them with the skills needed to be productive and afford essential requirements like housing. Similarly, tackling inflation, primarily a monetary issue and a core mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria, requires a fiscal component that encompasses aspects such as import, export, and balance of payments.

Regarding mortgage and credit reforms, statistics from 2019 indicate that only 10% of Nigerians who aspire to own a home can afford it, a stark contrast to the United States (72%) and the United Kingdom (78%). This estimation is significantly inadequate considering the size of Nigeria’s economy. To establish an efficient mortgage system, all key stakeholders from the fiscal, monetary, and banking sectors need to collaborate to offer Nigerians affordable, longer-term loans that can fulfill their housing needs without sacrificing immediate requirements. Many advanced economies thrive on efficient credit systems, and this would incentivize Nigerians looking to invest in the sector.

Another policy solution involves the government providing temporary accommodation for those unable to afford rental homes, aligning with practices observed in other parts of the world. Governments ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have shelter over their heads.

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In the realm of key sectoral reform, active private sector participation is essential to drive the necessary investments in the housing sector. At this crucial juncture, national and sub-national governments must collaborate and facilitate private sector engagement in the housing sector more than ever before.

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The homelessness situation is a challenge that must not be allowed to continue for too long. It is time for all key players to come together, to say never again! Never again should any citizen be left to their own fate. We must urgently work to end homelessness and ensure everyone has a cover over their head, this would be the minimum standard acceptable.

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