This, he said, is to meet up with the election campaign promise of providing one million houses for Nigerians yearly.
He spoke at the opening session of the two-day National Economic Council (NEC) Retreat on the economy at the old Banquet Hall, Abuja.
He also charged foreign investors and local construction companies to take part in the new effort to cover Nigeria’s housing deficit.
He said: “Some estimates put Nigeria’s housing deficit at about sixteen million units. In our successful campaign to win the general elections last year our party, the APC, promised to build a million housing units a year. This will turn out to be a very tall order unless:
“The Federal Government builds two hundred and fifty thousand units. The 22 APC States together manage another two hundred and fifty thousand units.
“We invite foreign investors together with local domiciled big construction companies to enter into commercial housing building to pick up the rest,” he added
Buhari listed the challenges in the housing sector to include severe shortage of housing, high rents, unaffordable prices for prospective buyers especially middle and low-income earners.
“In addition, red tape, corruption and plain public service inefficiency lead to long delays in obtaining ownership of title documents.
“Again, there are no long term funding sources for mortgage purposes.
“These hurdles are by no means easy to scale, but we must find solutions to the housing deficit. This Retreat might start by looking at the laws.” He added
On the poor power situation in the country, the President said that he observed that it has become the subject of jokes among Nigerians.
He gave a target of 10,000 megawatts to be achieved in the remaining three years of his administration.
He said: “Nigerians’ favourite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a laughing matter.
“We must and by the grace of God we will put things right. In the three years left for this administration we have given ourselves the target of ten thousand megawatts distributable power. In 2016 alone, we intend to add two thousand megawatts to the national grid.” He stated
The President pointed out that despite the privatization of the power sector, not much has been achieved in terms of performance as the old problems have remained.
He said: “This sector has been privatized but has yet to show any improvement in the quality of service. Common public complaints are constant power cuts destroying economic activity and affecting quality of life, high electricity bills despite power cuts, low supply of gas to power plants due to vandalization by terrorists, obsolete power distribution equipment such as transformers, power fluctuations, which damage manufacturing equipment and household appliances, low voltage which cannot run industrial machinery.
“These are some of the problems, which defied successive governments. In our determination to change we must and will, insha Allah, put a stop to power shortages.” He promised
The President charged the retreat to consider the privatization exercise, adding: “We are facing the classic dilemma of privatization: Public interest Vs Profit Motive. Having started, we must complete the process.
“But National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the regulatory authority, has a vital job to ensure consumers get value for money and over-all public interest is safe-guarded.
“Government to fast-track completion of pipelines from Gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines.
“Power companies should be encouraged to replace obsolete equipment and improve the quality of service and technicians.” He said
Speaking on agricultural sector; he said that as at today both the peasant and the mechanized farmers agree with the general public that food production and self-sufficiency require urgent government action.
According to him, government’s policies on agriculture have been half-hearted for too long due to inconsistencies and discontinuity.
The worries of the public, he said, included rising food prices, such as maize, corn, rice and garri; lack of visible impact of government presence on agriculture, lack of agricultural inputs at affordable prices.
He also said that the cost of fertilizers, pesticide and labour compounded the problems of farming while extension services are virtually absent in several states, among others factors.
On manufacturing, he regretted that lack of foreign exchange had hampered import of industrial raw materials and spare parts but gave assurance that the situation is temporary.
He said: “It grieves me that so many manufacturing industries in the country today are groaning and frustrated because of lack of foreign exchange to import raw materials and spare parts.
“Painful though this is, I believe it is a temporary phase which we shall try to overcome but there are deeper, more structural problems bedeviling local industries which this Retreat should identify short and long-term answers to.” He said
He listed the problems to include “Inadequate infrastructure: Power, Roads, Security leading to increase in costs of making Made-in Nigeria goods pricier than imports, high Cost of Borrowing Money.
Buhari said: “Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has been hammering on the fact that high lending rates make manufacturing unviable and unprofitable.
“Lack of Long Term Funding, the Nigerian Capital Market has not completely recovered from the 2008 worldwide crisis. Banks’ funding sources are short-term in nature due to sources of the liabilities.
“Under-developed Science and Technology Research: As with Agriculture, Nigeria’s industries are in the main outmoded and industrial practices far behind those in advanced countries.” He added
The president recommended that a fresh campaign to patronize Made-in-Nigeria goods should be launched saying: “Example: all uniforms in government-sponsored institutions should be sourced from local factories.”
On Labour, he said: “We need to protect our workers from exploitation, but unions must cooperate with entrepreneurs to substantially improve productivity and quality of products if we are to move forward.”
As for smuggling, he stated: “Smuggling: Need I say more?”
The two-day retreat is to generate immediate, medium and long-term viable policy solutions to the economic challenges facing us at both the Federal and State levels.
In his welcome address, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is the chairman of NEC, said that the retreat is organized to address the problems created by over-reliance on oil.
At the retreat were state governors, ministers and other stakeholders.