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page 31 Housing deficit: As FCTA proposes 400 housing units annually By Mustapha Suleiman The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was conceptualized and created by the…

page 31

Housing deficit: As FCTA proposes 400 housing units annually

By Mustapha Suleiman

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was conceptualized and created by the federal government in the mid-1970s to be a “functional, model city” and a replacement for Lagos, the nation’s former capital, which was suffering decay, congestion and excessive pressure on infrastructure.

While the city of Abuja is one of affluence with dreams of becoming the “jewel of Africa,” it has witnessed a tremendous increase in people who come in droves mainly in search of greener pastures and white collar jobs being the seat of government.

The FCT, burdened with increasing population and pressure on available resources, especially lands, affordable houses have become a major problem to residents with those at the low income level grappling with exorbitant house rents to cope with yearly.

Immediate Past FCT minister Bala Mohammed in August 2014, said that the FCT accounts for 10% of 17m housing deficit in the country.

According to him: “From statistics, the housing deficit in Nigeria is about 17 million and 10 per cent of it is in the FCT. This, of course, is due to the peculiar demographic nature of the territory, resulting from the mass influx into the capital city.”

To bridge this gap, the past administration embarked on a number of policies such as the Land Swap initiatives, affordable housing and mass housing schemes and awarded contracts for the provision of infrastructure in 10 new districts, Jahi, Kagini, maitama extension, wuye, Mbora, Guzape 1 and 2, Wasa and Katampe .

But despite all these efforts, affordable houses, in the real sense of it, have continue to be elusive to most residents who are mostly public servants that mainly constitute the city`s workforce.

However, hope of mass availability of houses in the FCT was rekindled on Tuesday when the present FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello disclosed that the FCTA would build 400 housing units annually to close the housing deficit and provide affordable accommodation for its workforce.

He made this disclosure while receiving the Head of Service of the Federation, Ms. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, in Abuja.

The Minister said that substantial amount of money has already been provided in the FCT 2016 statutory budget to immediately commence this project, which he reiterated is dear to his heart to improve the welfare of the workers.

Bello, who admitted that he assumed office with the erroneous impression that all workers of the FCTAdministration were landlords, saying he was shocked to realize that most of the staff, especially those at the middle and junior level had no houses of their own.

He said, “Some of them have worked here for so many years, processing land applications, processing files, giving approvals, providing services, but they have been tenants in this city. Some of them never had the opportunity of occupying the houses that were sold some years back.”

While responding to a request by the Head of Service to provide suitable land for mass housing projects for all civil servants in the Territory under Federal Integrated Staff Housing Scheme (FISH), which the FCTA was equally a partner, the minister assured that his Administration was ready to partner with the service to achieve this objective, even if it means retrieving lands that it had previously allocated to other government institutions.

“With respect to this particular programme, I assure you we will try to identify and locate land in areas where you will build and deliver the houses at the rate you have mentioned, so that the houses can be occupied immediately.”

The Minister added, “even if it means we have to look at existing allocations that have not been utilized, especially if they were allocations made to government agencies, then I think we will have to recover them and bring them all under your office under this new project so that we will be able to have them successfully executed the way they were meant to be from the very beginning”.

The minister while lamenting that pockets of houses were built in the past without proper linkage with the city centre in terms of access road, power lines, water lines and sewage, said the FCTA has concluded plans to revamp its mass housing programme to make it more inclusive and responsive to the requirements of Nigerians, especially the civil servants.

The Minister who noted that some of these mass housing have not been occupied despite having gulped so much investments, said the new system of mass housing that is being designed will be done in such a way that all these developments go hand in hand to provide the needed facilities.

The Head of Service of the Federation, Ms. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita said the issue of housing and accommodation for civil servants has become a very big challenge, recalling that since the year 2001 when the monetization policy was implemented, only the first few crop of civil servants who were occupiers of official quarters at that time had the good fortune of being able to take over their houses with some assistance from the banks.

Since then, she said, no other group of civil servants has had this good fortune, except those who were able to have an arrangement with private developers, adding that the rest have been left to operate through landlords with all the attendant stress that goes with it.

She called on the Minister to allocate good piece of land that would be used to develop housing estates as well as to provide site and services and other infrastructural needs that are very paramount to the successful development of these housing estates for civil servants under the FISH programme.

“The whole purpose of the FISH programme is to bring the expertise and the mandate of different Ministries and government agencies to provide affordable houses for Civil Servants. We plan to also work with private developers.”

Oyo-Ita said, “Every year, we should be able to set up some units of houses which our civil servants can acquire.”

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