Property owners in Nigeria, particularly the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are still living in the past, parading high accommodation costs after the dearth of free flowing money. They have failed to recognise that liquidity has become a problem, that Nigeria’s income is about half of what it used to be be a few years ago, and above all the is a new sheriff in town that frowns at illicit monies.
And so the problem of accommodation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) remains a pain that refused to ease for residents in the city, cutting across the low and the middle class of citizens. So worrisome is the problem that any person relocating to the FCT, gets agitated because of the challenge of securing a moderate accommodation.
This is, however, despite the avalanche of houses in the FCT which cost have jump out of the reach of the common or average Nigerian. Consequently, FCT residents have always had one major problem to grapple with, even many years after settling in the city – affording a decent accommodation or owning a property to shield one from the hands of property owners.
A lot of residents have lamented over the accommodation problem, saying it makes life somewhat frustrating to be working or living in the FCT without being able to afford a decent house to live in either as a rented apartment or on ownership. As a way of sparring one’s income and surviving in the nation’s capital, more residents are compelled to live in satellite towns than in the city.
The implication is that great number of residents who work in the city live far away in some settlements like Karu, Mararaba, Masaka, all in Nasarawa State and other suburbs like Kuje, Gwagwalada, Giri, Iddo, Bassa, long distance from the city centre. This has the attendant consequence of residents embarking on long-distance transportation before getting to their workplaces.
Mr Nelson Okechukwu, a resident of Sauka, a settlement on the Airport Road, Abuja, who does business in Wuse Market, lamented while speaking to LEADERSHIP over the high cost of accommodation in the FCT and the effect it has on him as a businessman. He said he had to choose to live far from his business environment in order to cut cost.
Okechukwu decried the cost of accommodation in choice areas of the FCT such as Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse, Garki and Utako, saying such areas are not meant for the poor or average Nigerian. “When I came to Abuja, I had interest in living in the city centre but I couldn’t afford the cost of accommodation. I didn’t come into Abuja as a poor man; at least, in business, I was doing relatively well but I was shocked that I couldn’t afford to pay for a house in Asokoro or Wuse not to talk of owning a property. If I had to do that, my business would have crumbled. That was after I paid a big amount of money to buy a shop in Wuse Market. Of course, as a businessman, I should be more concerned with owning a shop first because that is my source of survival,” he said.
The situation is not different for a senior staff of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and resident of Bassa, Airport Road, Abuja who declined to have his name in print. The FAAN staff lamented that despite several years of service in FAAN, he was still unable to afford or own a decent house in the FCT. According to him, his reason for living at Bassa was not just for its proximity to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport where he works; it has to do with his inability to afford a better accommodation elsewhere.
He further stated that if he were in other states of the federation, he would have owned a choice property or lived in a decent and comfortable accommodation, stressing that accommodation challenges in the FCT could not allow him to do that. Somewhat as a self-consolation, he said that he channels his earnings to making sure that his children get sound education.
He said, “Frankly speaking, I’m not happy with the issue of accommodation in the FCT. It depicts a city plan without any consideration for the common man. If I find it difficult like this, then, what of other residents who earn less than I do? How do they survive? How do they cope in the FCT here? I think the government’s housing plan should accommodate the need and capacity of the common man. As a matter of fact, accommodation affects virtually everything we do in life. If you have accommodation problem, you can hardly perform your job effectively because your mind will be distracted. So, a lot of things centre on accommodation needs of man; if it is not settled, he is in a big problem.”
In contrast, this problem persists despite high number of estates and unoccupied houses in the FCT. The estates, some argue, are designed to exclude the average or low-income earners, rather than including them and taking care of their housing needs. Whereas a lot of estates are not occupied, perhaps, because the cost is above the reach of people who need them or because the owners are waiting for a ripe time when their property would have appreciated before renting them out, people suffer for lack of accommodation. Similarly, several uncompleted buildings that can solve nobody’s accommodation needs dot several landscapes of the FCT.
Mr Chris Mbatah, an estate agent and consultant said high cost of rents account for the major reason why several estates are unoccupied regardless of millions of Nigerians in need of accommodation in the nation’s capital. Mbatah lamented that practitioners in the estate industry were being affected because they need public patronage to be in business.
According to him, wealthy individuals with unchecked interest in investment in the property business also contribute in causing scarcity of accommodation. Mbatah alleged that most of government’s mass housing schemes are hijacked by rich businessmen who buy up the estates and resell to other buyers at a higher rate, thereby turning what was intended to be low-cost housing scheme to exclusive housing scheme.
“Despite that millions of Nigerians are in need of accommodation in the FCT, they can’t afford to pay the high cost of accommodation which property owners demand for. It affects us in the estate business because we need the people to patronise us before we can make profits or get commission. Even when government maps out plan for low-cost mass housing scheme, it is often taken over by the wealthy people who have higher buying capacity. They buy most of the houses and sell them to other buyers who pay more.
“So, it has always been at the expense of the common or average man and the advantage of the wealthy individuals but that doesn’t meet the objective of government’s plan. One of the things the government should do further is to ensure that the common or average people benefit from mass housing schemes.”
Source : Leadership