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The implementation of public policy in developing countries : a case study of housing in Nigeria's new capital city at Abuja Morah, Erasmus Uchenna


This dissertation is concerned with the implementation process for housing in Nigeria's new capital at Abuja. It explores the inability of the Nigerian government to provide affordable housing for all income groups in the new capital as was originally planned. Based on nominal income, no resident in the city can afford to pay market rents for the housing provided, and less than 15 per cent of wage earners in the civil service (not to mention irregular wage earners in the informal sector) can afford the least expensive houses provided if they were unsubsidized. The purpose of this study is both to elucidate factors contributing to policy performances and the imperfect correspondence between policy goals and outcomes in developing countries, and to raise basic policy issues pertaining to housing provision in the new capital. The main hypothesis tested is that of Van Meter and Van Horn (1975) who maintain that the outcome of public policy is ultimately determined by the disposition of implementing officials. While recognizing that the gap in the provision of housing in the new capital can be related to a host of factors including financial constraints in the face of apparently unlimited demand, the argument is developed that the disjunction is due primarily to the disposition of policy officials in Abuja, which has been to build a high-class, western-type administrative capital. Premised on this belief, the dissertation then argues that policy officials perceive medium- and high-cost housing to be more germane to the image of the new capital than low-cost dwellings affordable by the low-income population. Consequently, tastes and preferences in housing were in favor of the sophisticated western type of house design, material and layout, which meant that housing delivery strategies in the city were not based on the nature of the local demand and available resources. To look for evidence in support of this hypothesis, the dissertation first determines the disposition of officials towards the Abuja project. The findings leave no doubt that Abuja was not to be just a western inspired alternative to the former capital of Lagos, but rather a visionary sort rescue from the latter's intractable problems. It then relates this disposition to the current housing situation in the city, through effects on the planning/implementation process. The conclusion to emerge is that the disposition of policy officials greatly influences implementation outcome regardless of planning intentions, and that the wider framework proposed by Van Meter and Van Horn (1975) is an effective way of focusing research on factors that impinge on policy performance. A related conclusion is that the essentially western model of implementation proposed by Van Meter and Van Horn applies with equal, if not more, validity to the developing world where past explanations for the problems of implementation have tended to focus on such variables as: (1) financial resources; (2) administrative and technical know-how; (3) imported theories and technologies; and (4) indigenous regime or political characteristics. However, the unique politico-administrative context of policy remains a crucial factor. In light of the fact that the key to improved affordability is not sophistication, and that the goal of providing low-cost housing in the new capital would ultimately require non-western standards and styles of delivery, the chief pragmatic implication of the study is that a dispositional change to encourage a more "Nigerian" city is a precondition for a successful housing strategy in the new capital. This means discarding the current imported development practices in the city and replacing them with a more functional orientation based on the nature of the local demand for dwellings. A more "Nigerian" city is one in which the majority of housing and related services are accessible by the average citizen, whether in the civil service or not.

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