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Abuja Housing Challenge And Winning Clause Estate Example

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By Law Mefor
Only very few cities in the world can match the cost of living in Abuja, the Federal Capital City of Nigeria. Of all Abuja mounting needs, as in all new cities, housing remains the most acute. It is so bad that one room self-contained goes for up to half a million Naira in the city center, and only slightly less in the adjourning districts.

For strategic reason, addressing the housing need in Abuja has always been necessarily in the front burner of most FCT administrations. While many FCT ministers attempted to build houses, Mallam Nasiru El Rufai when he was the minister of the FCT, took a different approach by introducing an urban mass housing scheme, using public private partnership (PPP) model.

What El Rufai did was to provide swats of land for estate mass building, which led to the phenomenal springing up of many estates mainly in the Lokogoma and Guzape Districts where dozens of Estates are being developed and housing thousands in the last decade.

Winning Clause Estate is one of these new estates. What stands Winning Clause Estate developers out however is the firm peculiar triumphs, which are enduring and offer a shining example to others who may wish to venture into estate development, especially in the FCT.

To place the triumphs and travails of the Winning Clause in perspective, it is important to note that the rush for Abuja land is more like gold rush of the yore. This has led to land business becoming the most lucrative and create in euphoria that Abuja is a sort of Eldorado. And like in all moving businesses, scammers have since crammed the Abuja land business and have made it very difficult to know which land in the market is truly genuine, as the title deeds may be sold and resold to different people, who are often left to sort out themselves.

The experience of Winning Clause, foremost estate developers, has nothing to do with purchasing a title deed. Theirs was a direct allocation from the Federal Capital Administration. But on mobilizing to site, they discovered that a certain Saraha Ltd was on ground and laying claim to the same land. What was more, Saraha had allocated the plots to interested buyers to build and work had commenced and reached various stages. As Winning Clause was sure it had right standing with the allocation, the firm ran a check on the papers relied upon by Saraha, only to discover that the papers, to say the least, most irregular. For example, the so-called allocation paper given to Saraha was dated earlier than the acknowledgement letter of his application for allocation of land from the same FCTA.

From the Winning Clause tangle with Saraha, the collusion of some fraudulent staffers of FCTA land administration is so obvious. What is not clear is what the Government is doing to root out such officials and their outside collaborators, which has made land acquisition even for mass housing development so foggy.

When initially the efforts of Winning Clause to resolve the matter with Saraha failed, they headed to court and won, and have since taken over. Those who were deceived into buying plots in the land and building would have been in a fix were it not for the kindheartedness of the proprietor, who graciously inherited such liabilities, while developing the Estate as a model in the Federal Capita Territory.

While the Winning Clause and Saraha twist lasted, the former came under quite some public odium and made to look like the aggressor. Even Development Control of the FCTA, came under opprobrium as well, as they too were accused of taking sides. But the court processes proved beyond all doubts that both Winning Clause and Development Control of the FCTA were victims of land scam and propaganda respectively.

From the travails of Winning Clause, which is similar to what many other estate developers are going through in the FCT, it has become so obvious that the entire land for estate development will have to be reviewed, to weed out land scammers and lighten the burden imposed by the cumbersome process on developers, who in actual fact are only helping Government to deliver on one of the cardinal responsibilities of Government, which is housing for citizens. Granted that estate development is a business venture alright, but its intrinsic value to Government responsibility is so fundamental that those who are involved in it need special attention and protection, in the manner Government grants waivers in certain interest areas.

Indeed, if Government grants waivers to certain important sectors and tax holidays to Foreign investors, estate land allocation, especially in the FCT ought to receive similar governmental concessions: even if the lands are not made available gratis, it ought to be seriously subsidized, so that the developers can concentrate on the provision of infrastructure within the estates and erecting of structures.

What obtains at the moment leaves so much to be desired and were it not for the resilience of developers like WINNING Clause, mass estate development initiative in the FCT would have run into major crisis or worse still, remain in doldrums like the licenses granted to private refineries in Nigeria for over a decade without any springing up.

The dozens of estates developed through the said initiative in the last one decade in the FCT have no doubt, ameliorated the housing crisis in the FCT but a lot more needs to be done. The incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari has to pay special attention to housing and help developers to help the Government in dealing with the mounting housing challenges.

The three essential areas where Government can help are: liberalizing access to land for estate development, plugging the loopholes being exploited by land scammers, which include seeing that the colluders both within and outside Government pay for their crimes (even dismissing such people from service is not enough; criminal issues such as land scam can only be properly resolved through jail terms) and making considerable concessions to enable developers have enough reliefs to do more.

The big idea for these robust recommendations is to develop a full-bodied housing subsector which will attract only those genuinely interested in the sector for its intrinsic values, not just the pecuniary gains in the immediate present. Housing requires long term investments, which only the Government can inspire and guarantee, so that many more quality mass housing developers can be attracted and serious ones already in it, such as the Winning Clause Estate, can stay happily.

• Law Mefor, Forensic Psychologist and Journalist, is National Coordinator, Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) Abuja; email: [email protected]

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