Lookman Oshodi



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November 2010
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In the midst of housing crisis in Lagos, Nigeria, the Social and Economic Rights Action Center [SERAC], http://www.serac.org/, a Lagos-based non-governmental and nonpartisan organization with fifteen years of track record in the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Nigeria established Urban Spaces Innovation [USI] in 2008. USI was established as a non – governmental and nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding equitable access to land and exploring innovative approaches to the development and improvement of housing and living conditions in urban poor communities in Nigeria.

USI operates on two key thematic objectives on which other components and sub themes revolved. These objectives are to provide affordable and quality housing to the poor and low-income groups and to institutionalize a social housing policy that will enhance access to quality and affordable housing by the vulnerable groups, However, these two objectives are complimented by various implementation strategies that include research into all aspects of urban and housing policies of the federal, state and local governments, create awareness among poor, marginalized and low-income groups about important housing and urban planning and development policies that concern them, economic empowerment of the target populations, technical skills transfer, engage in the physical and structural renovation of existing houses, and undertake construction of new houses, explore and utilize modern technological advances to source, generate and provide basic material inputs for construction of durable and affordable houses for the poor and collaborate with the public and private sectors; mortgage institutions, building societies, banks, financial institutions and other stake holders in the realization of these goals.

The growing determination of slum communities to tackle their housing situation and the government’s delay and in most cases refusal to provide compensation or resettlement to victims of forced eviction such as the Maroko community [that was demolished in July 1990 without due process] propelled USI and its partner communities to engage social housing development as a possible vehicle for exploring solutions to the enormous land and housing challenges that they face.

Maroko community was adopted as a pilot target group by virtue of its relative cohesiveness, strong structures of community organization, past successes with advocacy and gender mainstreaming initiatives, and above all, a strong quest for housing and improved living conditions. In actualizing the delivery of affordable housing to this impoverished community, USI has decided to develop and allocate 552 housing units to the members of this community. The discussion below outlined the approaches towards realizing the objective;


MSHDP aims at delivering affordable and quality homes to the victims of 1990 Maroko community forced evictions. It is proposed to deliver 552 housing units to the evictees and their dependants over an estimated period of 5 years. The accommodation varies from 1 Bedroom to 3 Bedroom Apartments with sizes ranging from 35m2 to 55m2. They will be delivered in four building categories namely, The Ark, The Olive, The Dove and The Rainbow signifying safe return and covenant.

Services such as school, religion centers, recreational areas, parking spaces, community centre, library, clinic, market / shopping mall among other land uses are expected to play complimentary role to the residential use. The land requirement for the project is estimated at 88,375m2 [8.8375ha].

While USI remains the project coordinator and financier, it would, however, collaborate with the Lagos State Government that will provide the land and the Maroko community that will provide part of the labor as sweat equity, to ensure successful project delivery.

As part of processes to deliver these units at affordable price, USI, in conjunction with the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, had provided construction skill training for 70 selected youths from the Maroko community at Ilasan [the slum settlements inhabited by the evictees], Lekki, Lagos. The skill training ranges from Plumbing, Electrical, Carpentry, and Bricklaying to Iron Welding for a period of four months. The purposes of the training are to empower the youths with formal training that they can leverage to gain employment in the construction and engineering industries, and to prepare them with the skills needed for them to effectively engage in the construction phase of the MSHDP. This is expected to reduce the unit cost of the housing through reduced labor cost. Currently, some of the trainees have been attached to major construction companies in Lagos to refine their skills in preparation for the project take off.

In the project formulation and implementation, USI had recognized the linkage between poverty and formation of slums and its consequential monumental effect on physical planning, urban development and urban regeneration. Therefore, in order to prevent the Maroko Social Housing Project from slipping into slum category and to sustain its maintenance and operations, the organization conceived an empowerment program that granted micro credit facilities to the women within the community. Credit facilities ranging from N20, 000 to N80, 000 [N means Naira, the Nigerian national currency which is equal to 0.0065 US Dollar] were disbursed to 35 women in the first phase of the program. The expected benefits of this strategy are to effectively tackle the endemic poverty within the community through the provision of low interest loan facilities to support their trading and entrepreneurial activities and to afford the women’s [who constituted more than 43% of the community population] the opportunity to pay for the operations and maintenance of the allocated units and the estate in general. The platform for the participation in micro credit program is through Maroko Women Cooperative Multi Purpose Society established in 2009 to foster unity and promote entrepreneurial capacities among the women.

Aside the training program that will offer the community youth to contribute their labor as stake in the project, the major platform for community participation in the social housing project is Maroko Evictees Housing Cooperative Society [MEHCS]. The allocation of the housing units will be on the basis of membership of this cooperative society. Also, the basis of relationship between USI and the community in the administration, management, operations and maintenance of the housing estate will be the cooperative society. Therefore, on Saturday, August 14, 2010, USI, in conjunction with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives [LSMAC], inaugurated the cooperative society with elections into leadership positions and lectures for the members as the key components of the inaugural session.

USI has realized the importance of social housing policy in promoting accessibility to quality and affordable housing by the poor and low-income groups and therefore, has initiated a process to institutionalize a sustainable social housing policy in Lagos State. The intervention strategy of social housing policy institutionalization in Lagos State has tremendous potentials to resolve endemic housing and urban crisis in Nigeria. First, the successful institutionalization and implementation of the policy in Lagos is expected to reduce the deficit of 31% to less than 10% within 8 years of implementation. Secondly, since Lagos is the barometer to measure cosmopolitan development in Nigeria, successful social housing policy implementation will have reverberating effect on other parts of the country, especially, in Rivers State and Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where housing crisis are well pronounced. Consequently, there will be increase accessibility of vulnerable groups to affordable housing, reduction in the proliferation of informal settlements and downward trend of national housing deficit from estimated 16 million to less than 2 million within 10 years of operations.

In actualizing this strategy, USI on May 20, 2010 convened a social housing summit with stakeholders like government agencies, the legislature, housing and real estate sector professionals, slum communities, donors, financial institutions, building materials manufacturers and importers, academics, and media institutions in attendance. At the summit, the Lagos State Commissioner for Housing represented by the Director of Estates, Pastor Abiodun Oluwamiluyi highlighted Public and Private Partnership, and direct housing construction as some of the key strategies government is using to meet the housing demand of the state’s teeming population. The Head of Estate Management Department, University of Lagos, Dr. Olugbenga Nubi presented the adaptable features of Social Housing framework both in the United Kingdom and South Africa while Alhaji Kabir M. Yari, the President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners provided overview of policy contents in emerging economy like Nigeria. Lastly, Mr. Lookman Oshodi, the Project Manager – Social Housing with the Urban Spaces Innovation and a member of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners unveiled the concept, framework and sustainability of Maroko Social Housing Development Project to the gathering.

The summit came to an end with identification of social housing policy working group who will advance the discussion into policy hall.


USI has embarked on a steady journey to resolving hydra headed housing problem in Nigeria, with Lagos as a take off point. Over the next five years, the organization is optimistic that some of the strategies will be yielding tangible results that will change the face of urban development and regeneration in the metropolitan Lagos.



  1. abiola says:

    Thanks for this article. I am interested to know if the entire project was implemented and some report back about its effectiveness.


    • Dear Abiola,

      Thank you for your comments on the article. Some of the projects have been concluded while others are still on going. The results have been quite effective in resolving the targeted problems.

      You may provide me further clarification on your projects to enable compile some of the reports for you.

      Best regards,

      Lookman Oshodi Lagos, Nigeria +234 803 392 1710 http://www.oshlookman.wordpress.com

      The information contained within this e-mail and in any attachments is confidential and may be privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy this message, delete any copies held on your systems and notify the sender immediately. LOOKMAN OSHODI does not guarantee, warrant or represent that this email or any attachments will be error free, virus free, nor that the transmission will not be delayed, intercepted or interfered.



  2. USI is truly a unique channel to explore social policy development and to stimulate debate to foster links in a positive way between local and international stakeholders.

    Keep the good work going!

    Adekunle Babayemi

    Nigerian UK Housing Society


  3. Anny says:

    nice work keep it up.


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