The federal government is trying to bridge the stifling housing deficit with the private sector on the driving seat. Regrettably, the Federal Capital Territory has, instead of building, set the nation’s plan back by demolishing an estate of 500 housing units due for habitation next month because senators want the land, as the victims allege. Bennett Oghifo writes
The first wave of demolition of structures in Abuja was designed to correct distortions of the Federal Capital City’s master-plan but last week’s knocking down of almost completed buildings at the Minanuel Estate, Goza, Lugbe is certainly inexplicable, particularly when there is acute shortage of accommodation.
The development of Minanuel Estate began in 2005 after all land documentation and building plan approval by the FCDA and other agencies of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry. Construction of houses started unhindered as prospective home owners paid in installment for their house types. They were hoping to begin handover of keys next month before FCDA’s demolition squad moved in last week.
Expressing shock at the magnitude of the demolition, an estate developer, Mathew Njoku said “it is sheer evil to pull down a home and worse to knock down a whole estate. Do you know how much financial loss that action will cause the developer and subscribers and their families? What about cost of fund borrowed? This is irresponsible.”
Senate president’s appeal…
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, is yet to come to grips with the allegation that the mindless act was done because, as the affected subscribers to the housing estate alleged, the land was designated as home to National Assembly members.
Senator Mark’s embarrassment was conveyed by an equally embarrassed Senator Abu Ibrahim, a former director in the FCDA, who said he had the mandate of the Senate President to address protesting subscribers and other civil rights groups. “Your petition will be attended to by the leadership of the Senate.”
Estate surveyors react…
The FCDA’s action also caught the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers on the wrong side and they have expressed their displeasure in strong terms about the recent demolition of 500 housing units at Goza, Airport Road, Lugbe, Abuja. “The government action is not only deplorable but equally condemnable when viewed within the context of housing challenges being faced by the residents of the FCT.”
The foremost real estate professional body in the country said it wondered why the state should deploy its energy in demolishing houses which by all reasonable calculations are grossly inadequate. The body wondered whose interest the government was defending by the action which it said had succeeded in worsening housing needs of the FCT residents.
“The government has not made conscious efforts in improving the lot of Nigerians in the area of housing in the last ten years, a development that has made the city of Abuja one of the most expensive in the continent if not in the world, and if private organisations are intervening to bridge the gap, we wonder why the state, which primarily should encourage and support such initiative would turn around and sabotage the same through reckless demolition without considering the import of the action on the low income earners.”
The Institution said what was more puzzling was that the low income earners that pull resources together to build the estate went through necessary government agency- National Housing Fund, under the supervision of another federal government agency- Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN). “Some among these hapless Nigerians had invested all their savings on these, and why government waited this long beats the imagination of the Institution.”
The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers said they had canvassed the need by the government to ensure the existence of an enabling environment where professionals in the real estate sector could come in and do the assist it, but that the government had now literally turned against its own people by demolishing their houses.
“The Institution wishes to express that in the Maslow hierarchy of needs, only food and clothing ranks higher than housing and in other climes, government’s disposition to housing and real estate generally goes a long way in determining the premiums such government places on her people. We posit that the Goza demolition is unwarranted, anti-people and also insensitive.”
NIESV said they have always advocated that government should make land available and put in place necessary infrastructure like roads, electricity and water, among others so that the private sector could come in and complete the rest, adding that “this in our view is the minimum the people expect from the government, this we have not seen rather what we see on daily basis is demolition and fear of demolition, and infact that is why the theme of our next Annual Conference slated for Benin in March, 2013 is Infrastructure Development & Economic Empowerment.”
They said today the government appeared to be fighting corruption with all the state apparatus but that “it is ironic that the same government that prides itself as having zero tolerance for corruption could surreptitiously be promoting corruption by its action and inaction. The Goza jeopardy unfortunately demonstrates this and under our nose the state has used its coercive apparatus to further entrench poverty in the land and make Goza housing estate depositors poorer.”
NIESV compensation appeal…
The Institution appealed to government for restitution. “We appeal to the authorities of the FCDA to take urgent steps in compensating these Nigerians most of whom have invested their life savings in the Goza housing estate so as not to encourage crime and further increase in insecurity. We suggest that housing units commensurate to the depositors’ funds in Goza should be provided within the precinct of the FCT to assuage the pains of these hapless Nigerians.”
The subscribers’ position…
On Saturday September 29, this year, the Development Control unit of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) sent its squad to demolish 500 housing units at Minanuel Estate, Goza, Lugbe Extension 1, Abuja.
According to them, their ordeal began the previous day when a Senator, on a radio programme, allegedly said the Goza District where the Minanuel Estate is located “is designation Kyami District and allocated to national lawmakers.
They said on getting wind of this, “we contacted the developer, Minanuel investment Limited, which immediately moved into action. A meeting was subsequently held between the Senate, FCDA and Minanuel Investment Limited.”
Participants at the meeting, they said agreed that officials of Minanuel Investment Limited should return on October 12, 2012 for another meeting during which they would present the title and other relevant documents of the Estate to prove ownership.
“Regrettably, that meeting was never to be as officials of the FCDA rolled out their bulldozers on Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 2012 respectively, indeed on a weekend, and wantonly demolished all the 500 houses in the Estate. What a shame to be victims of jungle justice in a democratic Nigeria! The FCDA, has by that act of impunity, shattered our dream to have befitting homes for ourselves and our families.”
As they bemoan their fate, the subscribers stated that “our stake, individually and collectively, in the estate development represents all we had been toiling for, for several years, as almost all of us have fully subscribed to the houses which were due to be handed over to us by the end of October, 2012.”
The group said they were particularly saddened that “without warming or notice to the developer, the houses built with our hard-earned money, savings and bank loans, could be demolished in one swoop in a country with over 18 million housing deficit. Where lies due process and fair hearing!”
They added that the housing scheme was subscribed to by honest and hard-working Nigerians who took their time to verify the authenticity of the project including the land documentation papers. “The developer, Minanuel Investment Limited, was running a transparent scheme and had the necessary approvals from the FCDA authorizes. They acquired the land from Messrs N.C.R &Associates in 2004. We verily believe them because we inspected the papers and other documents to support the development before we subscribed. They are valid; free from all encumbrances before and after the company took possession of the land.”
“Our hope of these subscribers to own a home has been lost with the unilateral and criminal demolition of the estate by the FCT minister. Myself and my wife have been contributing part of our meager salary to the house and the house has reached almost 90 % completed and we had hoped to take possession of the house this month, only for it to be demolished for no good reason or due process” that was the agony of one of the subscribers (John Madu).
Condemning the demolition, President of Association of Property Agents of Nigeria, (APAN), K.M. Chile said it was inhuman. “There were other options if there was any conflict in the ownership of the land. There is a tribunal set up for that purpose, the courts are also there and all these options were not exhausted before the callous destruction of an indigenous investment valued at over N3 billion.”
According to a press statement signed by the spokesman of the Estate, Mr. N. J. Kalu, the demolished Minanuel Estate is valued at over N3bn. “One wonders how a sensible and responsible government will go on and demolish completed houses without recourse to Nigerian workers who have paid for the houses. The callous demolition of Minanuel Estate amounts to a repudiation of the recently approved federal government policy on Housing encouraging private investment in the real estate sector.” Developers of Minanuel Estate unequivocally stated that the estate was not built on the road, neither did it receive any notice from Abuja Metropolitan Council stopping the development of the estate and has threatened court action to seek redress, while assuring its teeming and loyal customers to be calm as all efforts must be made to ameliorate the situation and timely too.