Despite efforts by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to increase the housing stock and fast-track infrastructural development, Abuja still suffers both housing and infrastructure deficits.
Demand for housing, infrastructure and utilities is constantly growing at a geometric progression, setting the growing and relatively large property market on edge. This is because the territory remains a major attraction to both Nigerians and expatriates.
People living in various flash-points of crisis in the country see the city as a safe haven such that in the event of any major crises in their places of abode, people relocate to Abuja in droves.
Bala Mohammed, the FCT minister, estimates that about 100,000 people make their way into Abuja on weekly basis, with about 30 percent of these visitors staying behind in their new found homes.
Mohammed, who spoke at the induction of new fellows of the Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB) in Abuja recently, added that Abuja was becoming home to scores of Nigerians who might be running away for safety from the volatile areas in the Northern parts of the country.
Cost of housing is very high in the FCT such that in some areas like Jikwoyi, a one-bedroom flat goes for as much as N200,000 per year, while it is around N250,000 per year in Nyanya. This, for example, is much higher than what an average civil servant can afford on yearly basis.
Amid mounting concern over lack of housing for residents of Abuja, the federal capital witnesses demolition of houses every now and again. From Lugbe, Chika, Aleita, Piakasa, Kuchugworo (all along Airport Road) to Mpape and Kubwa, Abuja residents have been tossed about from one area of accommodation to the other.
This is outside estates that have been demolished for one reason or the other. Last August, no fewer than 10,000 houses were marked for demolition, which continued until a superior order stopped the exercise.
Before the superior order, the FCTA had said there was no going back on the planned demolition, adding that it had intensified sensitisation and consultation with village chiefs and residents of the marked structures.
The minister further urged the affected persons to show understanding, stressing that the FCTA would uphold the rule of law in consonance with the transformation agenda of the Federal Government.
According to him, it was gratifying that the court had justified the mandate of the FCTA for such action then. Mohammed, who was referring to the refusal of the court to stop the planned demolition, appealed to the residents to co-operate with the government as he insisted that demolition was carried out in the interest of the people, even as he added that it was not intended to inflict hardship on the residents.
One thing the FCTA keeps saying about its demolition exercises is that it is safeguarding the Abuja master plan. Mohammed was not different, and he adds that demolitions are usually carried out for sanitary and security reasons because threats in these areas have to be nipped in the bud.
He did not stop at that, as he revealed that apart from the over 500 shanties removed from the Gwagwalada Motor Mark, the FCTA had also removed about 398 illegal structures, sealed 10 properties violating the master plan-designated land uses and removed posters under overhead bridges and other locations in and around the city between June and July 2012.
This was contrary to what the FCTA said in Lagos State earlier. In April, Mohammed described housing as key to the Nigerian economy while chairing a discussion session on ‘Housing and Urban Renewal: Developing a Model for a Sustainable City’ at the 6th Lagos Economic Summit at Eko Hotel, Lagos.
One salient thing he did was urge the speakers and discussants to dwell on some of the quick ways to unveil quick wins to all Nigerians especially the population in the middle and low income brackets of the economy while reiterating the fact that housing should be the concern of all, including those in public, as well as private sector to work hard to remedy.
It is important to note here that challenges of housing in Abuja has also increased the hold-up on the highways, causing residents to spend many hours on the road to and fro their offices and places of businesses. This is especially the case of the Keffi-Abuja expressway, the axis where nearly 60 percent of the work-force in Abuja live. Along this axis are settlements like Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Karshi, Orozo (all in AMAC), Mararaba, One Man Village, Ado, New Karu, New Nyanya, Masaka in Nasarawa State.
Mohammed has however assured that the challenges confronting Abuja would not derail the administration’s vision of making the FCT one of the top 20 capital cities in the world by 2020.
TEDDY NWANUNOBI, ABUJA