By Maduka Nweke
The Nigerian Senate is reportedly working on a bill, that will seek to curtail the high house rents paid across the country. The Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Dino Melaye, has disclosed on Thursday in Abuja that the Senate is working on a bill that will seek to curtail the high house rents paid across the country.
The embattled lawmaker representing Kogi West senatorial district said the ‘Rent Edit’ bill, would protect tenants and landlords, and also promised that lawmakers would ensure the passage of the bill before the end of the 8th Senate.
The latest disclosure was contained in a statement issued by the Director of Information at the housing arm of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Eno Olotu, in Abuja, on Wednesday. According to him, “Not everybody can own a house. The Rent Edit Bill will help guide and curb excessive rents in the Federal Capital Territory and the nation at large”.
“One would have thought that, with the numbers of estates in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the problem of housing in the nation’s capital will be a thing of the past. However, the reverse is the case, as countless numbers of people are still homeless and living on the streets and under bridges, because they cannot afford to pay the rent”, Igho Oyoyo shares with journalists.
He went further to say that, “A country as developed as Nigeria, richly endowed and blessed with an estimated human population of over 180 million is still plagued by rising housing deficit, with a huge percentage of its population taking refuge in shanties in different parts of the country. With research conducted on the problem of housing in the country, some housing experts gave clear analysis of how the housing deficit recently rose from seven million housing units in 1991 to between 12 and 15 million units in 2008. It peaked between 17 and 18 million units in 2012.
One of the most surprising areas of this development is that most Nigerians living in the FCT and environs have no access to decent accommodation. Worse, a rising number of completed estates in the capital city and across the country are presently unoccupied and worse, have been taken over by miscreants. When FCT Watch visited estates in high-brow areas like Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse II, also in Lagos; Ikoyi, Maggodo, Isheri, Lekki, Amuwo- Odofin and a number of estates in other cities it was found that most of the well completed houses remained unoccupied years after their completion, due to the high cost of renting or leasing of such property.
A visit to some of the estates in parts of Abuja revealed that the unoccupied houses were owned by the society’s most influential and wealthy citizens. Some of them have been converted into safe houses for the storage of their loots and venues for laundering money, in order to keep away sniffing anti-graft agencies.
Strangely, some of these housing units are leased out by the gatemen to desperate house seekers, in order to make some money by the side and in this way, no one can blame them. So when the owners of these building have not visited the area for more than seven years the security guards will always have their fields day as the owners know very little about the state of their property.
A four-bedroom bungalow in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse and Garki goes for between N3m and N5m a year, while those who wish to occupy the same type of apartments in satellite towns like Gwarinpa, Kubwa, Lugbe and Karu, among others, must cough out between N800, 000 and N1.5m in some estates.
The under-developed areas have become some form of choice for low-income individuals. However, some residents of the FCT disclosed that the high cost of rent is the major reason why most of the houses have remained unoccupied in the FCT. They say it is as a result of greed.
A resident of Gwarinpa Estate, Gladys Chukwuemeka, hammered on the urgent need for the owners of such houses in the FCT to have a change of heart and fix rents which are affordable. Chukwuemeka also called for a system in place to checkmate the massive rise in the number of unoccupied homes in the territory.
“Usually, money launderers are the ones who built the estates that are unoccupied for years. That is why they do not care if the houses are empty, since they are built with free money and are eager to recoup their funds with high rents and can afford to have them unoccupied as no charges or property taxes were imposed on them.
“Most of these landlords didn’t take any loans to build the houses. But, if we have laws which ensure that there are taxes and levies on these houses, they would think twice about the economic sense of constructing houses and keeping them unoccupied for two to three years,” Chukwuemeka said.