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Housing deficit: FCTA proposes 400 housing units annually

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was created by the federal government in the mid-1970s to be a “functional, model city” and replacement for Lagos, the then nation’s capital, which was suffering decay, congestion and excessive pressure on infrastructure. While the city of Abuja is desirous of becoming the “jewel of Africa,” it continues to witness a tremendous increase in people who come in droves mainly in search of greener pastures and white collar jobs.
The FCT, burdened with increasing population and pressure on available resources, especially land, affordable houses have become a major problem to residents with those at the low income level grappling with exorbitant house rent.The immediate past FCT minister, Bala Mohammed, in August 2014, said that the FCT accounts for 10% of 17m housing deficit in the country.He said: “From statistics, the housing deficit in Nigeria is about 17m and 10 per cent of it is in the FCT. This, of course, is due to the peculiar demographic nature of the territory, resulting from the mass influx into the capital city.”
To bridge this gap, the past  administration  embarked on a number of policies such as the Land Swap initiatives, affordable housing and mass housing schemes and  awarded contracts for the provision of infrastructure in 10 new districts, Jahi, Kagini, Maitama Extension, Wuye, Mbora, Guzape 1 and 2, Wasa and Katampe .
But despite all these efforts, affordable houses continued to be elusive to most residents who are mostly public servants.
However,  hope  of  mass availability  of houses in the FCT was rekindled on Tuesday  when the present FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello,  disclosed  that the FCTA would   build 400 housing units, annually,  to close the housing deficit and provide affordable accommodation for its workforce. He made this disclosure while receiving the Head of Service of the Federation, Ms. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, in Abuja.
The minister said that substantial amount of money has already been provided in the FCT 2016 statutory budget to commence this project, which he reiterated is dear to his heart to improve the welfare of the workers. Bello, who admitted that he assumed office with the erroneous impression that all workers of the FCT Administration were landlords,  said that  he was shocked to realise that most of the staff, especially those at the middle and junior levels, had no houses of their own.
He said: “Some of them have worked here for so many years, processing land applications, processing files, giving approvals, providing services, but they have been tenants in this city. Some of them never had the opportunity of occupying the houses that were sold some years back.”
While responding to a request made by the head of service to provide suitable land for mass housing projects for all civil servants in the Territory under Federal Integrated Staff Housing Scheme (FISH), which the FCTA was equally a partner, the minister said that his administration was ready to partner with the service to achieve this objective, even if it means retrieving plots of land that it had previously allocated to some government institutions.
“With respect to this particular programme, I assure you we will try to identify and locate land in areas where you will build and deliver the houses at the rate you have mentioned, so that the houses can be occupied immediately.
“Even if it means we have to look at existing allocations that have not been utilised, especially if they were allocations made to government agencies. I think we will have to recover them and bring them all under your office under this new project so that we will be able to have them successfully executed the way they were meant to be from the very beginning.”
The minister, while lamenting that pockets of houses were built in the past without proper linkage with the city centre in terms of access road, power, water lines and sewage, said the FCTA has concluded plans to revamp its mass housing programme to make it more inclusive and responsive to the requirements of Nigerians, especially civil servants.
The minister, who said that some of the houses have not been occupied, despite having gulped so much resources, added that the new system of mass housing will be executed in a holistic way  to provide the needed facilities.
Ms. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita said that the issue of housing and accommodation for civil servants became a very big challenge, recalling that since the year 2001 when the monetisation policy was implemented, only few civil servants, who were occupiers of official quarters at that time, bought their houses with assistance from banks.
Since then, she said, civil servants were not lucky to own houses, except those who had arrangement with private developers. She lamented that civil servants have been left to suffer in the hands of exploitative landlords.
She called on the minister to allocate plots of land to develop housing estates for civil servants under the FISH programme.
“The whole purpose of the FISH programme is to bring the expertise and the mandate of different ministries and government agencies to provide affordable houses for civil servants,” she said.
“We plan to also work with private developers. Every year, we should be able to set up some units of houses which our civil servants can acquire.”
Originally published in Daily Trust

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