By Richard Mammah
Early in May 2016, the Roland Igbinoba Real Foundation for Housing and Urban Development, RIRFHUD, arguably a representative of Nigeria’s slowly-growing not-for-profits sector presented its second industry-watch report.
Entitled The State of the Lagos Housing Market Report, Volume 2, the publication is a statistical compendium of facts and figures on what the representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the event called Nigeria’s most important housing market.
A 204-page tome, the book is laden with a lot of facts and data that clearly belie the fact that a lot of field work, data gathering and research outcomes analysis were involved in its preparation. And evidently therefore also, that it must have cost not a few pennies.
Take this for example:
‘The extent of housing shortage is enormous. In 2 years, government efforts have yielded not more than 10,000 affordable housing units which is a short fall from the projection of 224,000 housing units needed annually.’
Indeed the task and process of finding the money to do the required research properly is one reason why the Volume 2 report came some seven years after its predecessor as against the earlier assigned three year timetable. And if the next report – with a three to four year delivery time – is going to be prepared and released on time, it would also be dependent, to a large extent, on this factor.
When Mr Igbinoba, himself a notable player in the Lagos and Nigerian Housing Markets, commenced the journey of producing this series of statistical guides for the industry about 2006, he knew that he was going to be running essentially up-hill. As he put it recently, the big question that arose from the beginning was how to find the money and no traditional business model could fit for this.
‘We are talking here about research. Not only is research expensive to do, we are also in an environment where not a lot of premium is usually paid to such activities.’
This writer can identify with him. Between 1998 and 2003, along with the lawyer-writer, Chuma Nwokolo and a handful of other collaborators, he was engaged in promoting the reading culture across Nigeria as well as hosting an annual bookfair – Lagos 2000. And like Igbinoba, the only functional model that could help soften the cost-blows was the not-for-profit one.
Across the country presently, individuals and organisations desirous of making a difference in one or more of the areas of Nigerian national life – many which ordinarily should be the natural call for government – are turning to using or establishing not-for-profits as vehicles for getting the job done.
And the variety and range of organisations in this regard is growing. They include Channels Television which runs the annual Channels Kids Cup Football Competition, a church like the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries which has set up a football team to engage youths but whose outcome is now a star-performing clubside in the Nigerian Premier League.
Another set of interventions in this regard involve large corporates and multinationals. Some of these are the Dangote Foundation, the MTN Foundation, the T.Y Danjuma Foundation, the UBA Foundation and the James Hope College Foundation,
Some of these institutions have also begun to take a decidedly pan-African impact with their tentacles, reach, spread and impact getting beyond the shores of the nation on to embracing and encompassing the continent and globe. One notable example in this regard is the Tony Elumelu Foundation which has commenced the annual Tony Elumelu Enterpreneurship Programme, TEEP that draws participants from across the length and breadth of the continent. On the strength of this and related endeavours, its founder, Tony Elumelu, has now grown to be a leading voice and advocate for African growth and development even in circles as far as the American White House.
Equally in the burgeoning Nigerian not-for-profits space, yet another set of non-profits is also being established by already established not-for-profits. One good example in this regard is the Nigeria Book Fair Trust, a not-for-profit that has been facilitated by the consortium of the Nigerian Publishers Association, the Nigeria Booksellers Association, the Association of Nigerian Authors and the Association of Nigerian Printers.
But then there are also questions. What do the lawyers say is the reason for this increase of not-for-profits on the national scene? Is it merely a reflection of what is going on in the western world? What about their legal obligations to Nigeria and are they being met? Are there any dangers that could arise from this proliferation so that control measures can be put in place even now? What about tax matters? Is the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS very happy with this trend given that the average not-for-profit is only required to return a statement of affairs and not exactly pay taxes?
But wherever you stand in the matter, the truth is that if these not-for-profits all close shop today, great and yawning gaps would suddenly emerge in the social fabric of the nation. And so we see more not-for-profits being established now and in the future.