Imperatives of govt’s intervention in rising building material prices

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Maduka Nweke


The soaring prices of building materials in the country remains a source of concern to all players in the built environment.

This is so because prices of building materials are constantly changing and in the process altering budget of builders.

Aside altering budget, the low income earners who may want to develop a room, self-contained apartment may no longer meet the financial requirements to do so due to rising cost.

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But experts believe there is need to relax the bottlenecks presently stifling developmental efforts in the industry, especially the process of creating and conducting business relationship between the government and the private sector, without which it will be difficult to bring the private sector funding into the sector.

Government should put in place better investment incentives that will attract both local and foreign investments in the housing industry. Apparently, Executive Orders might not guarantee robust investments if they are not backed by appropriate legislation that are in tune with international best practices.

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There is therefore need to institutionalise strong structures and compliance checks as a measure to build confidence for investors to fully participate in developing the sector. To say the least, the fact that Nigerians go to foreign building materials manufacturing companies and request them to produce materials to their specifications is bad.

The companies produce low quality products and still sell them the price the quality ones.

But the trade booms because government has developed heavy legs in the regulatory roles. If not, why should customs officers allow these inferior materials to pass the ports, the borders only to come into town to chase goods they have already cleared as meeting the standards? Why should Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) not do their work.

They will just gather journalists, bark and bark only go behind and allow these inferior products to circulate in the country. A lot of practices in Nigeria go to show that Nigeria don’t know it’s real enemies.

The true enemies of Nigeria are those who know that these goods did not meet government recommended standards yet, they will allow them in and thereby encourage other people to follow suit.

It is obvious that exorbitant cost of building materials greatly deter every effort to provide cheap and affordable houses for the citizenry.

Also, the system has been bedevilled with fake materials and corrupt practices. The get-rich-quick syndrome is endemic. The lack of adequate funding for ‘building research institutions’ has not also allowed ‘creativity and disruptions’.

Above all, there must be change in our national psyche, attitudes and behaviours in support of government policies.

Because government has relaxed its regulatory roles that people now prefers the fake materials that are cheap to
quality ones that may cost a little higher but which lasts longer.

A lot of raw materials abound in Nigeria and government is not keen at developing them instead, they support the importation of foreign ones that are produced are the merchants specification. This spells, why building collapse will never abate in the country because everybody wants maximize a little quantity of materials to produce many goods that are inferior.

Most people have learned not to face challenges so they go to shallow level water to scoop oil for their building instead of spending to bring about quality materials.

There is a saying that behind every life challenge lies great gain. Life without challenge ends up in emptiness.

Challenges are therefore normal life experiences and lessons from there, if tapped, stand to be of greater development opportunities, which make living better.

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Actually, there are enormous challenges in the industry that have hampered the realisation of robust development and affordable cheap housing for the country, some of which include lack of functional vocational training centres and technical colleges in the country.

The curriculum of technical and engineering courses in the nation’s universities and polytechnics are faulty, with no practical aspects and mentorship emphasised. The question is, how many graduates of our universities can stand tall
to beat their chests and say they are well equipped practically and professionally to operate independently with less supervision in the industry.

Other aspects of these challenges are also traceable to lack of commitment to duties on the side of government officials. There are observed compromises and bottlenecks that have affected the growth and development of the industry.

In the face of all these challenges, there is need for collective efforts by both the government, private organisations and other stakeholders to move the sector forward.

Every year, people go to the builder’s show and see a surprising number of Chinese companies exhibiting. They are grouped together in rows of ten-foot booths under big banners that simply say, “China.” They usually don’t have any customers so the representatives just sit behind a table with nothing to do.

Occasionally people will even see someone who is so bored they are asleep in their booth. This is largely owing to no customers asking questions and keeping them busy.

When you see a company that has spent a lot of money and time to exhibit at a trade show and seemingly get no
results, one wonders if it’s really a waste of time masquerading as a business empire and setting on a trip. The idea of exhibition is to introduce different brands to the people.

These new brands should be taken back the laboratory to find out how it could be replicated locally. The government seems not understand this so exhibitors will come and go, yet no impact from the exercise.

China materials have been code-named inferior materials yet it is the same materials they send to America and other developed countries. In our own way, the government will not see that as a mark of not doing well.

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As government makes efforts at housing delivery for its citizenry, not much efforts have been geared towards exploring chances of local manufacturing of building materials, despite its provision and emphasis in National Housing Policy sheet.

Part of the section of this policy sheets states that government will consciously promote the establishment of
cottage and small scale industries producing building materials and components from local sources such as clay, brick, concrete products, timber, among others; collaborate with other developed countries in the development of
technical expertise for building materials manufacturers; encourage regional spread of building material industries in order to stabilise cost and widen distribution. This will heighten the quest for more locally produced building materials to fund the housing policy.

The housing deficits in the country is amazing and the way the government left it for the private sector to manage will not enthrone the affordable housing we are all talking about.

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