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Private sector developers push Abuja property deals beyond reach

He folded the handbill neatly and hid it. After three days, he was in the office of the estate company to discuss the process of…

He folded the handbill neatly and hid it. After three days, he was in the office of the estate company to discuss the process of acquiring his own house. He has spent 15 years in Abuja, yet he lives on a rented premises.

The first thing that confounded Ade when he visited the company was its emphasis on land rather than houses as advertised on paper. The company’s spokesperson told him that houses were still under construction but he could in the alternative, pay for a land. The company gave him a variety options ranging from two-bedroom (expanded to three) semi-detached bungalows with BQ space, N10 million; three-bedroom fully detached bungalow with BQ space, N15 million; and four-bedroom fully detached duplex with BQ space, N30 million. The company said it had lands in different parts of the city: Gwarinpa, Life Camp, Mpape, Kado etc.   Application form for all this is a non refundable N10,000.

After much persuasion, Ade paid for the two-bedroom semi-detached bungalow space. He started work and built up to lintel level when it happened. Part of the structure went loose, fell and wounded one of the labourers on site.

When authorities of the Development Control Department of the FCDA got wind of this, they went there and pulled down the whole structure. Right there on site, Ade’s wife slumped and fainted.

This is just one out of numerous stories of many who out of desperation to own property they can call their own now narrate.

Example two

Another resident who paid for a house in the care of a very reputable estate company in Abuja, said it took him one year to be allotted his house. He said the company was in the game of collecting money from buyers and using the money to build. He said he knew those who paid for the company’s property and were dribbled for long before they were finally settled.

Mass housing that is anything but mass

In its move to provide affordable houses for the numerous residents of the territory, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) invited private developers to partner with it in this direction.

FCTA and the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) met with the stakeholders as well as developers to work out the feasibility of this project.

Land, covering numerous acres was allotted to developers under the mass housing scheme. These private developers entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the FCTA. The MoU spelt out what the roles of these developers are.

Specifically, the understanding was that the housing policy would be implemented through the public-private-partnership with the administration providing the land and the developers constructing the houses while the secondary and tertiary infrastructure will be for sale so the developers will recoup their investments.

Moreso, the understanding was that, “all actions taken must be in consonance with the approved guidelines of the Federal Executive Council in addition to sound technical base without compromise, because Abuja has a standard that must be maintained.”

FCTA’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning was therefore, mandated to identify suitable areas in the Federal Capital City (FCC) and the satellite towns for the preparation of comprehensive site development plans for the mass housing scheme.

But a critical look shows that those who initiated this scheme are only interested in enriching themselves under the guise of helping the average resident in Abuja. The Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Mr Terver Gemade, has at different fora, maintained that the problem is not absence of houses but high cost of houses. He said in Abuja, there are numerous houses, yet many are homeless. According to him, owners of houses usually place high premium on their property, thereby sending away buyers and tenants. Ironically, the same Gemade is now begging the FCTA for hundreds of acres of land to build the same type of houses that will be bought by the powerful people, most of whom are in top government positions and put same for rent at cut throat premium.

An Abuja-based estate agent who warned against being named here, said in Gwarinpa for example, numerous houses have remained unoccupied for over five years for the reasons given above. He said engaging estate firms whose interest is solely in profit-making, is a clear indication that there is nothing “mass” about the so-called mass housing scheme. “It makes no sense to say you are building for the average resident of this city when deep down your heart, you know that these people earn barely N10,000 a month. They can scarcely feed themselves and their families not to talk of buying their houses from shylock developers,” he explained.

He said some Nigerians now go behind foreigners to acquire vast land for estate development claiming it is all for “foreign direct investment”.

Land developers or speculators?

So far, estate firms have got land in places like Gwarinpa; Kafe, near Life Camp; Loko Goma in Apo; and Mpape, a hill-locked area on the fringes of the city of Abuja. But instead of building houses for residents to buy, they are rather selling. Our investigations showed that most of the so-called estate developers now carve up their allocations into pieces and are selling at costs ranging from N13 million to N40 million. They print handbills which states what is obtainable. Once an unsuspecting resident walks up to them for purchase of the advertised, “interest free, affordable and luxury property”, negotiations then start. One is persuaded to look into the option of buying a land rather than waiting for the completed house.  

Even those who have built the houses have failed to do all that was entered in the MoU. For instance, it was expected that all estates in Abuja will have landscaping, walkways, asphalt road network, shopping malls, covered drainages, street lights, water and electricity supply, police post, places of worship, recreational facilities and perimeter fencing.

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