As housing inadequacy continues to worsen due to population growth, rural-urban migration and weak governance, experts are worried that there is no reliable data that could aid planning, bridge deficit and assist investment decisions.
Nigeria has unreliable figures peddled in the sector, which are not properly verified and cannot be substantiated as the government has failed to collect data in the real estate from the players. The Federal Ministy of Works and Housing and its counterpart in charge of Planning and Statistics have also not worried on calls for reliable data.
Despite that the Federal Government produces statistics for its own activities like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation rates, central data for housing information is lacking. While the 17 million estimated housing deficit figure in circulation since 2012, keeps increasing. Some experts now adopt 22 or 23 million housing estimate without data to justify it.
Data on Nigeria’s housing industry is absent despite its increasing economic importance for investment opportunities to foreign investors and the industry’s contribution to the nations’ GDP. The real estate sector of the economy showed resilience, posting 2.26 per cent growth in the last quarter of 2021 as contribution to the GDP.
The real estate sector has been crippled by policy inconsistency, poor financing, weak institutional structures and lack of political will to move the industry forward.
Private firms and professional bodies like the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) had in the past made efforts to solve the challenge, but internal issues, lack of consistency and finance have posed a clog to progress.
The ever-widening gap in data has therefore created a challenging situation for property valuers and opportunity for investors.
A lecturer at the Department of Estate Management, University of Lagos, Prof. Austin Otegbulu, said it’s obvious that policy makers in the housing sector are ignorant of the dynamics and happenings in the housing market. This, he said, speaks volume of the reason for not prioritising the development of a central data bank for the industry.
“The issue of housing deficit should be viewed in sectorial terms both spatially and in the housing type. We have urban and rural deficits. We can also view the housing deficit in terms of quality and quantity. The government seems ignorant of what to do or wrongly believes the problem could be addressed by just pumping money into the sector without data. Quality data will help the government to make informed decisions,” he said.
Otegbulu said the government should involve professional bodies like NIESV and experts in the housing industry to develop data for the country. “Whatever data deficit should be categorised in sectors. This will provide information on the deficit or gap in high, medium and low-income housing. There should also be a rural and urban deficit,” he said.
The immediate past chairman, NIESV Lagos branch of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Adedotun Bamigbola, said the critical challenge about data generally, which is not just about real estate data, is the penchant for avoiding transparency and accountability, in favour of secrecy or confidentiality when it comes to business dealings and issues that affect the society, like population census. He said the society would rather prefer reliance on estimations.
Bamigbola said: “A factor for absence of data may be the cultural norm. Added to this is our lack of supporting infrastructure for collating and managing data. Such infrastructure as cadastral mapping, accurate property numbering and street naming, as well as storage facility, which is the technology behind it and others, are lacking.
“The appropriate institutional and operational framework by the private or public sector for a reliable central real estate data system at state levels are also not available. Most land registries across Nigeria are not digitalised except very few states like Lagos, Ondo and Abuja. Even those ones don’t have total coverage of what they have as landmass.”
According to him, the private sector has tried, particularly in Lagos, with a few firms of Estate Surveyors and Valuers coming up yearly with real estate market report, however, it may not wholly address the data issues being raised.
He observed that big data is big business, which the government can collaborate with the professionals in the field to obtain and it should not just be about Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to go after property owners but should be for development planning, ease of doing business, economic growth assessment, title registration for conversion of assets to liquid cash for business facility, promoting tourism and investment advisory and others.
A lecturer in the Department of Estate Management and Valuation, Federal University Of Technology, Minna, Nigeria, Prof. Olurotimi Adebowale, said: “Data are usually collected during census, which includes some housing data. However, such housing data collected during the census are always inadequate and usually collected by inexperienced field workers.”
Adebowale lamented that less than 14 per cent of properties in Nigeria are titled, while over 85 per cent of properties are not registered. “There is no comprehensive personal information system. Unlike in the advanced world that has a platform for generating and updating personal data, Nigeria has no such facility. In fact, there are many children whose birth are not captured.
“The present National Identification Number (NIN) registration is not sufficient to capture the much needed housing data. The present data gathering platforms in Nigeria including NIN are not sufficient and lack an auto-update mechanism. Any data gathering system that lacks auto-updating provision is bound to be inadequate at every point in time.
He said there was the need to quickly capture all Nigerians with their attributes such as housing, employment and others. The capturing, according to him, should provide an auto-mechanism platform that regularly regulates itself, adding that it will ensure we have not just data but up-to-date data.
Adebowale, who was the past chairman, NIESV, Niger state branch said: “All landed properties, including building, ongoing projects and land should be made to undergo simple registration/capturing with appropriate tagging/code/ number. Provision should be made to capture any new property development or acquisition and update the housing database every hour.
“The registration should be free to encourage a hitch free exercise. This can also aid property tax revenue, to facilitate community development. The housing database can be synchronised with the general personal information database,” he said.
The Senior Partner, Paul Osaji and Company, Kevin Ofili, emphasised that leaders and the society must appreciate the need, reason and value of reliable data.
He stated that it is only when professional association/regulatory bodies impose sanctions on members for doing valuation with wrong data that people will appreciate the crucial role it plays in decision-making.
He said: “That has not started to happen. Some people take the business of valuation for granted because there is no serious punishment for not using good data to support their report. These are the foundations that need to be dealt with. If you build a house on a solid foundation, it will stand but if the foundation is not sound, it will collapse. The idea of developing countries not appreciating the need for data and why they should keep it is the first challenge.
“We need to enlighten people to appreciate good data collection and data keeping processes before usage.”
Ofili, who was on the team that carried out the Lagos Consensus Property Market Report H1 2020, said to have good real estate investment growth, there must be data.
According to him, data supports investment and its availability in the industry will go a long way in determining the type of housing the people need, the vacancy rate, where the building will be sited, the types of buildings they can afford and enable the investors to make good return on their investment.