By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
For residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, especially the underprivileged majority, it has been a case of water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Also, many have likened the scarcity of affordable accommodation in these housing estates in the city to a case of someone living in right at the river bank but washes his or her hands with saliva.
How else can anybody explain why majority of people working or doing businesses in the Seat of the Federal Government are facing acute accommodation problems.
Almost all the civil servants, private sector workers and businessmen and women in Abuja are not living in FCT. Majority of the people working or doing businesses in the city have been condemned to live outside the metropolis.
Prompt News can authoritatively confirm that only a handful of civil servants especially those in the upper cadre of Assistant Directors, Deputy Directors, Directors and Permanent Secretaries in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) can afford to rent houses in Abuja metropolis.
Aside these categories of civil servants, others from Grade Levels 04 to 08 come to work from the outskirts of Abuja such as Dei Dei, Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Mararaba, Nyanya, Orozo, Abaji, Kwali, Jikwoyi and other far places.
Yet, many civil servants and businessmen and women live outside FCT, with many coming to town daily from neighbouring states like Nasarawa, Niger and Kaduna before the bandits took over the Abuja-based Kaduna route.
Those who cannot operate from the outskirts of Abuja are residing in the suburbs like Lugbe, Lokogoma, One Man Village, Karshi, Kabusa, Kurudu, Dutse Alhaji, Katampe and other undeveloped areas of the city, although they still pay high house rents in these areas.
As the low-income earners and unskilled workers who provide essential duties in government and private sector offices are suffering from accommodation problems, FCT is littered with thousands and even millions of unoccupied houses built in the heart of city.
Prompt News reports that FCT is littered with several unoccupied mansions and housing estates with their owners ready to let the houses waste away as they are not willing to rent them out at cheaper rates.
Further investigations revealed that the owners of these mansions and sprawling housing estates in highbrow areas like Maitama, Asokoro, Apo, Gudu, Jabi, Utako Wuse and Garki areas of FCT are money bags and corrupt civil and public servants who used ill-gotten wealth to acquire the choice properties.
From Asokoro to Maitama and Apo, District of FCT, the cheapest rent for 2-Bedroom Flat goes for N3.5 million while 2-Bedroom flat at Housing Estates in these areas is N2 million per year. Also, 4-Bedroom Detached Bungalow at Asokoro costs a whopping N25 million per annum.
Semi-detached 4-Bedroom Bungalows in the same Asokoro is between N10 to N18 million while the owners of 4-Bedroom Bungalow at terrace is from N8 million.
It is the same amount for 4-Bedroom Bungalows in Apo, and Maitama areas just as rents for flats are out of the reach of the low-income earners in the above-mentioned highbrow areas of Abuja.
Meanwhile, those who think that house rents will be cheaper in areas where there are mass housing estates in Abuja are hugely disappointed as accommodation in places like Gwarimpa, Games Village, Lugbe, Apo Resettlement, Galadimawa, Dei Dei, Lokogoma and Garki areas are not affordable too.
Expectedly, house rents have suddenly jumped up also at FCT suburbs like Lugbe, Kabusa, Kurudu and Galadimawa as well as Apo Resettlement areas near Apo Mechanics Village.
Before 2015, accommodation seekers were not interested in renting houses at Kabusa, Galadimawa and Lokogoma areas because of bad access roads but with the reconstruction of the damaged roads, house rents have gone up too.
Curiously, both the Federal Government and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Revenue Agencies have turned blind eyes on the massive revenues they would have been making from Tenement Rates by not allowing hundreds of thousands of unoccupied mansions and housing estates to dot FCT landscape.
It is believed that the two agencies would have been raking in billions of naira every month from Tenement Rates if they deem it fit to tax each unoccupied house in FCT especially the mansions and housing estates in the metropolis.
Prompt News contacted Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) officials to confirm if they are collecting Tenement Rates on the unoccupied mansions and housing estates within the FCT but there was no response to the enquiries.
Visits to some of the housing estates in the metropolis showed that many of the flats are actually being inhabited by reptiles and mentally unstable persons as tenants are yet to occupy them.
For example, several blocks of flat are not occupied at Efab Estates in Lokogoma and Dei Dei; Kubusa Garden Estate; Sunnyvale Estate; City Gate Homes; Jado Estate and The Flower Gate Estate at Apo Dutse.
Yet, there are several unoccupied flats at Prince and Princess; Trade More Estate, CBN Estate in Wumba, Brain and Harmmers; Metro City Estate; Villa Nova Estate; Covenant Estate; No.1 Luxury Estate and Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL) Estate behind Apo Shoprite, FCT.
Indeed, the number of housing estates in FCT are uncountable even as it could be argued that the number of unoccupied flats is more than the number of people looking for accommodation in the city.
However, the Facility Manager of one of the sprawling housing estates in the city who pleaded anonymity told Prompt News that he has not seen either federal government or FCDA Revenue Agencies come to collect Tenement Rates from them.
Chief Charles Emeka Azubuike who has some properties in FCT argued that house rents should not have skyrocketed in FCT if the landlords are ready to give out the flats at reasonable rates.
He therefore called on the federal government and FCTA to consider imposing high taxes on any unoccupied houses especially those flats that could be rented to tenants to discourage house owners from keeping them longer than necessary.
Otunba Olugbenga Ogunbiyi insisted that the owners of the unoccupied mansions and housing estates littering the Abuja landscape are not good citizens, saying that if they care for mankind, they will rent the houses at affordable rates.
He also opined that they could not have made the monies used to build the mansions and housing estates in genuine ways hence they just leave the buildings to rot away instead of renting them out at affordable rates.