Upstairs in a small room headquartering the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), 20 FEDUP members enthusiastically explain how Growth and Employment in the States 2 (GEMS 2) is enabling them and their fellow 5,000 active members in achieving affordable housing in Nigeria, a country where housing is an expensive endeavour and many of its citizens resort to precariously constructed makeshift houses.
FEDUP President James Ugah addresses the gathered members from a table at the front of the room where I and GEMS2 Intervention Manager, Michael Uzoigwe, conduct a question-and-answer session. Unknowingly, we become enveloped in the vocal monthly FEDUP meeting.
President James provides a background narrative to FEDUP’s interaction with GEMS 2: FEDUP is a non-governmental organisation working towards the development of affordable social housing in Nigeria. The majority of its members currently live in substandard slums and houses built on land to which they have no entitlement.
GEMS 2 is a World Bank and UK aid joint initiative managed by Coffey to promote growth by creating jobs in the construction sector. Prior to GEMS 2 involvement in 2011, FEDUP had been working for many years to obtain legitimacy as an organisation engaging with the government for affordable social housing.
Indeed, one member explained that they would hold peaceful demonstrations by blocking roads with vehicles in order to attract government and public attention to their problems. Yet, they were consistently dismissed as a disruptive and illegitimate organisation.
Facilitating Dialogue and Establishing Credibility
GEMS 2 collaborated with FEDUP to organise a stakeholder’s forum in 2012 hosted by the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, and attended by a range of key players in the Nigerian construction sector— from private multinational corporations to multilateral institutions. The GEMS 2 endorsement of FEDUP at the forum has afforded FEDUP greater credibility with government agencies and the construction sector. It provided participants with a platform for discussion and access to key government agencies and ministers, and facilitated the formation of strategic relationships between FEDUP and organisations like The Fuller Centre for Housing and the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
For instance, the Fuller Centre for Housing provides subsidised, affordable housing for the poor. At Luvu Village, Nasawara State, the Fuller Centre built 62 low cost houses, where each housing unit including the plot of land is sold to prospective owners for 360,000 naira (£1,500) – less than half of the actual building cost of 750,000 naira (£3,100).
GEMS 2 is working with the Fuller Centre and FEDUP to replicate this housing model in Abuja and advocate this cause more effectively. In April 2013, Minister Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide presented Mr. Samuel Odia, National Director of the Fuller Centre Nigeria, and President James with allocation documents for 4.6 hectares of land to create affordable housing units for many of FEDUP’s disadvantaged members.
With a total of 5,000 homes planned over the next three years in other sites, there is potential to provide homes to 20,000 people. Further, through this partnership, GEMS 2 has facilitated the creation of jobs as the FEDUP Artisans (FEDART), a sub-group of FEDUP, will be employed to build the new housing units. In total, Mr Odia estimates 529 jobs will be created through the construction.
In July 2011, GEMS 2 engaged with FEDUP by providing advocacy and capacity training workshops designed to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to engage with government housing and construction-related agencies effectively; ultimately, strengthening the delivery of social housing in Nigeria.
Encouraging Personal Development
Testimonials from FEDUP members and key FEDUP wins since the workshop are evidence of the clear benefits provided by the workshop not only to FEDUP as an organisation, but also to individual members. During the interview one FEDUP member stated that he had been able to incorporate the financial management elements of the workshop into his personal finance.
Through FEDUP, GEMS 2 has also empowered women who, during the session, speak of the ways some of them have been forced out of their homes and land when widowed, forced into marriages in order to have a home, and generally, marginalised from society. The advocacy workshop and their membership with FEDUP have enabled these women to advocate more effectively and aspire to attain a home. GEMS 2 has also linked FEDUP’s women with an ‘all women initiative’ designed to fund, assist, and equip women with the skills to build their own homes in Abuja called the Negucci Women in Construction.
The Present Future
As an organisation, President James said that both the advocacy workshop and stakeholder meetings have been crucial in enabling FEDUP to have access and dialogue with previously unreachable government agencies and providing credibility to the organisation. Collectively, GEMS 2 is therefore working to facilitate market-wide, systemic change through a suite of complementary interventions and partnerships between key stakeholders that will outlast the project.