INVESTIGATION (1): Goodluck Jonathan District: Exclusive preserve of the super rich

President Goodluck Jonathan

Rich Nigerians rush to acquire plots near the proposed official quarters of the four presiding officers of the National Assembly.

In November last year, while hosting the Good Governance Team, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Bala Mohammed, was asked by a journalist if low income earners would be considered in the allocation of plots and siting of projects in the Goodluck Jonathan District, formerly known as Maitama Extension District, which will host the official residences of the four presiding officers of the National Assembly.

Mr. Mohammed responded wryly. According to him, though the lands had been allocated by the preceding FCT administration, there were plots for all categories of Nigerians who might wish to live in the district he named after the sitting president.

“We have three categories of plots in this district for the high, middle and low income earners. However, all the plots have been allocated before we assumed office. We are only developing it for the allottees to come and develop the district,” he said.

The minister also disclosed to his guests, led by his counterpart in the Information Ministry, Labaran Maku, that the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, had already awarded a contract to a Nigerian firm to develop infrastructure in the district and three others at a total cost ofN44 billion and that acquiring the plots there would not only be affordable but also accessible by all.

PREMIUM TIMES investigation, however, shows that contrary to what Mr Mohammed promised, the plots of land in the Goodluck Jonathan District are not within the reach of the middle and low income earners. At present plots with Certificates of Occupancy, CofO, in all parts of the district are sold for between N250 million and N400 million, depending on their size.

Indeed, the district has become the latest attraction for the high and mighty in the country and this has led to property dealers in Abuja raising costs of the plots at will.

For instance, in the 3rd – 15th June edition of Estate News Orbital, a property magazine, Toni Austine Properties Ltd with offices in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa advertised a residential land measuring 1400 square metres (sqm) for N250 million while another one which measures 2400 sqm goes for N280 million. The same firm also advertised a commercial land measuring 2270 sqm with C of O for N270 million and another one measuring 7700 sqm for N400 million.

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According to the same journal, Time Young Properties is selling a residential plot measuring N1800 with CofO for N400 million.

Adverts for property in the District are also placed online. According to some of those placed through the medium, a residential plot measuring 2885 sqm with CofO goes for N500 million while another one measuring 2300 sqm with Right of Occupancy is sold for N300 million.

Except in Main Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse 2, Wuye, Guzape, Katampe and some parts of Utako Districts, at no other district are costs of plots comparable to those in the Goodluck Jonathan District. Even so, a few plots of land in some of these high brow districts still go for as low as between N70 million and N180 million, but such are not found in the district named after the president.

For instance, Banjo Adeleke & Co, a firm of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, with offices in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt advertised a plot of land measuring 1559 sqm in Wuse 2 for N45 million and another plot of about 2,123.59 sqm in Katampe for N75 million. The firm is also selling another plot in Katampe measuring 3700 sqm at N50 million. Owoeye & Partners advertised a plot measuring 1200m2 for N45m.

Another property dealer who advertised online, put a land measuring 2300 sqm with CofO in Asokoro District for N180 million and another in Garki District measuring 1620 sqm goes for N70 million for the asking.

On the average, the asking and actual prices of plots in the other districts like Garki, Mabushi, Apo, and Jabi are relatively lower, yet with the current take-home pay of the average Nigerian worker, he can hardly afford them, let alone acquiring same in the Goodluck Jonathan District.

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Going by the most recent review of the salaries of federal civil servants, who dominate the Territory’s workforce, by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, the least paid worker earns N17,073 monthly while the highest paid takes home N453,444. The new pay structure was approved by Mr. Jonathan in July 2010.

By the approved pay, the highest earning non-corrupt civil servant, a permanent secretary in a ministry, would have to work for 46 years without spending a dime of his salary to live in the Goodluck Jonathan District.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian government is yet to provide an official land and housing policies favourable to the poor and low-income workers.

The Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development lamented on its website that more than 51 years after Nigeria’s independence and 20 years after the first National Housing Policy, the country neither had an articulate National Land Policy, nor an up-to-date National Housing Policy until September 2011 when in the attempt to redress it, the present administration reviewed and updated the Draft National Housing Policy and Draft National Urban Development Policy.

The ministry further said on the website that one of its short term objectives “is to articulate and implement policies and programmes to facilitate significant reduction in the housing deficit, currently estimated at over 17 million units, in order to achieve the Vision 20: 2020 target of adding 1.0 million new housing units annually to the existing stock, through collaborative efforts by all stakeholders.”

No officials of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, would respond to PEMIUM TIMES enquiry on the reasons for the high cost of property at the Goodluck Jonathan district, referring enquiries to Mr. Mohammed’s Chief Press Secretary, Sule Mohammed, who was not available in his office on different occasions PREMIUM TIMES visited and did not respond to calls made to his official telephone line.

Also, Jamila Tangaza, the new Director of Abuja Information Management Systems, AGIS, in a mail she sent to PREMIUM TIMES in response to this newspaper’s request for her comments, said the organisation is not involved in the Territory’s land matters.

“Regarding why Maitama Extension is expensive, your best bet is to ask Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, not AGIS. Please, remember I only look after the computer systems; my office is not involved in anything to do with land allocation or land administration as we have separate Land Administration Department that deals with all matters (that have) to do with land,” she said.

In March last year, while testifying at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on FCT on the need to formulate a comprehensive and integrated housing policy for the Territory, Olabode Afolayan, President of Real Estate Developer Association of Nigeria, REDAN, blamed the high cost of rent in Abuja on the activities of land speculators.

“Seventy per cent of the people enjoying land allocation in the FCT are land speculators,” Mr. Afolayan stressed.

Those in the property sector gave two reasons for the rush by the rich, particularly politicians, industrialists and senior civil servants to acquire plots of land in the Goodluck Jonathan District. First, they say, is because it is named after the president of the country. The other reason, they further suggested, is that it is going to host the official residences of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“You can hardly find plots there now; they are scarce,” one of the numerous land speculators who uses the car park of the FCDA to hawk land papers in Abuja, told PREMIUM TIMES.

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