Homelessness is a global challenge that affects many countries, regardless of their level of development. However, Africa bears the brunt of this problem, as it hosts about 73% of the world’s homeless population. At the top of the list is Nigeria. According to World Population Review, Nigeria has the most homeless people in 2023, with 24.4 million people without a place to call home, living on the streets, in informal settlements, or overcrowded slums. 

World Population Review doesn’t use a single metric to comprehensively measure homelessness in Nigeria. They analyze diverse data points, including the proportion of households in overcrowded dwellings, the number of internally displaced persons, and the availability of safe drinking water and sanitation in informal settlements. The UN defines homelessness as the condition of people without a regular dwelling, who live on the streets, in shelters, or in inadequate housing conditions. This makes homelessness in Nigeria a complex issue that has been debated for years. In 1991, the Nigerian government estimated that there were about 5 million homeless people in the country, based on the census data and the housing stock. In 2014, a report from NOI Polls revealed that only 31% of Nigerians said they lived in homes they built, purchased, or inherited. The remaining 51% of Nigerians currently live in rented accommodation. As of 2022, it is estimated that only 25 percent of Nigeria’s population own homes.

In Nigeria, the root cause of homelessness is multifaceted. And the degree of homelessness varies from one region to another. In some states, homelessness is driven by armed conflicts and internal displacement, as people are forced to flee their homes due to violence or socio-political persecution. According to the UN, there are over 2 million internally displaced persons in Nigeria.

For other regions, rapid urbanization is the main cause of homelessness. Nigeria is experiencing rapid urbanization, as more people migrate from rural areas to cities in search of better opportunities. However, the urban housing supply is inadequate to meet the growing demand, resulting in high rents, overcrowding, and informal settlements. For example, Lagos, one of the largest cities in Nigeria, has a population of about 22 million. According to the state’s commissioner for housing, Akinderu Fatai-Moruf, over 80 percent of the state’s estimated 22 million population live in rented accommodations.

Also, about 133 million Nigerians lack more than one essential survival need. This means many Nigerians don’t have access to basic survival needs including proper living conditions. Owning a home or living in a good house is seen as a luxury or the exclusive right of a particular class. Capitalism also has a part to play as it can exacerbate income inequality, leading to a situation where a small number of people own most of the wealth and a large number of people struggle to afford necessities, including housing. An Analysis of the average land price in Lagos State indicates that there was an increase between 22 percent and 63 percent in the last three years. Moreover, Nigeria currently has a housing deficit. According to available data, Nigeria’s housing deficit requires 700,000 housing units to be produced annually for the next 20 years to bridge. Yet, the average annual supply by both public and private developers is put at 50,000 units. 

Homeownership is a human right, as stated in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Section 43 of the Nigerian Constitution. The National Housing Policy (2016) also recognizes the importance of home ownership as a driver of economic growth and social stability. Last year, the federal government announced plans to build 34,500 houses for low-income and high-income earners to close the nation’s housing deficit. The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing also proposed a National Housing Bond to help housing developers access financing across all geopolitical zones in the country as well as other developments to set the agenda for this year. In Nigeria, a home is more than just bricks and mortar; it’s a haven from the elements, a sanctuary for family, and a foundation for building a life. While it would be ideal for home ownership to be a right for all Nigerians, the current economic and social conditions make it more of a luxury. 

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