ANALYSIS OF NATIONAL POLICY ON HOUSING AND ITS IMPACT ON GENDER IN NIGERIA
Nigeria’s National Housing Policy was introduced in February 1991 with the goal of
ensuring that every Nigerian owned or had access to decent housing accommodation at affordable cost by 2000.
By the time that the civilian administration came into office on May 29th 1999, it had become clear that this target would not be achieved as the supply of housing stock had failed to keep up with demand. In addition, given the structure of the Nigerian capital market, access to long-term housing finance had continued to be limited. It was against this background that a Presidential Committee was appointed and charged with drawing up a new National Housing Policy.
In 2002, the White Paper on the report of the Presidential Committee was released. The expectation is that the white paper will form the basis of the new National Housing Policy.
Its major recommendations are in connection with new institutional frameworks such as the creation of a Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, expansion of
housing stock through greater private sector participation and the restructuring of
the housing finance institutions so as to facilitate access to housing credit.
However, as with the National Housing Policy of 1991, the White Paper fell short of adopting a rights-based approach to housing. This limited scope of housing rights in Nigeria is further amplified in the 1999 Constitution. Admittedly, the Constitution does not employ the expression “adequate housing.” But it provides in s. 16(1) (d), under the Chapter dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, that the State shall ensure that “suitable and adequate shelter” is provided for all citizens.
By virtue of s. 13 of the Constitution, “it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles.” However, s. 6(6) (c) diminishes the impact of s.13 by expressly stipulating that it does not establish enforceable rights. This contrasts with the constitutional provisions on Fundamental Rights, which though enforceable do not include access to adequate housing or shelter.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has the force of
Law in Nigeria by virtue of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
(Ratification and Enforcement) Act,iv does not include provisions on the right to
adequate shelter or housing.
Impact of the Policy Gender
What is also evident is that both the National Housing Policy of 1991 and the
White Paper does not include any gender perspectives. Similarly, the principal legal
Instruments on housing are devoid of gender references but juxtaposed against
this is the fact that the Federal Government has undertaken obligations on housing
and gender rights through its ratification of international treaties such as the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)vii and
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW).viii On account of s. 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution, these international
obligations have no domestic effect until enabling legislation for that purpose has
been introduced. The result is that at present, advancing a gender perspective in
relation to housing must necessarily take into account existing legal protections on
Gender equality rather than specific housing rights provisions.
Furthermore, in the groundbreaking case of Mofekwu v Mofekwu, the Court of
Appeal declared as unconstitutional and repugnant to natural justice and equity, a
practice under Oli-Ekpe custom, which permits the son of the brother of a
deceased person to inherit the property of the deceased to the exclusion of the
deceased’s female children.
It would have been expected that such case would have catalyzed action, including litigation, to establish equality of access to adequate housing in Nigeria but this has not happened for a number of reasons.
• First, there appears to be a general perception or belief that access to adequate
housing should not be approached from a rights perspective. Indeed, this is borne
out by the treatment of housing in the 1999 Constitution and housing policies and
• Gender mainstreaming has not really been practiced in the development and implementation of relevant policies, laws, budgets and programmes such as the National and States’ Housing Programmes.
• In the operations of the National Housing Fund and in land administration in
connection with the granting of rights of occupancy and the issue of certificates of
Occupancy under the Land Use Act (LUA) also, implicated are entrenched
Religious beliefs and traditional practices and customs, which perpetuate the
unequal treatment of women with regards to the ownership, management and
control of immovable property.
The Way Forward
Despite the onset of democratic governance in 1999, very little has been achieved
in terms of gender mainstreaming in the housing sector in Nigeria because political
commitment is weak.
As a first step, the Federal Government should fully implement obligations on housing and gender rights in international treaties by introducing enabling legislation. In addition, access rights, for example, access to information and public participation in decision-making need to be recognized and protected.