When Samuel Yusuf bought a housing plan from Brains and Hammers, one of the leading estate development companies in the nation’s capital, Abuja, he thought he would move into his dream home within a year or two. He was wrong.
Four years after paying nearly N40 million for two buildings, Mr Yusuf has still not received the keys to either of them.
He paid separately in 2017 for a four–bedroom terrace building and another building.
“I have had a very bad experience no doubt,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
After he was introduced to Brains and Hammers by a colleague, the company told him the buildings would be ready in 12 months, or at most 24 months, after full payment had been made.
More than three years later, there was no communication from the company.
“In August last year, I was contacted to come over for inspection of my buildings, after giving me the impression that they were ready. I hopped into the next available flight from Lagos to Abuja. But on arrival, they denied that there was any such call, and said there was nothing to show. I felt so disappointed,” he said.
Mr Yusuf said he was told one of the buildings would be ready by December this year. He asked when the second one would be ready but got no clear answer.
“I have contacted my lawyer for legal advice. I will wait to see if they are able to meet up with the December date they promised to complete one of the buildings. But they should refund the money I paid for the other,” he said.
The man who introduced Mr Yusuf to the scheme also suffered a similar experience with Brains and Hammers.
After paying ₦ 15 million with only ₦ 3.6 million outstanding to complete his payment package, he is also waiting for information on his dream house.
“In January 2017, I was introduced to the Brains and Hammers project in Abuja by an old schoolmate, who at the time was a staff of B&H,” he said. “I decided in February 2017 to purchase a 4-bedroom semi-detached duplex.
“But I lost interest in the said property when I realised the time frame promised by the Brains and Hammers staff to deliver was a complete sham,” he said.
Another subscriber, who identified herself simply as “Lady on the move,” said she paid N5.3 million to B&H in 2016 for a one-bedroom apartment.
But the company is yet to deliver that property too.
“Even though the house’s cost was N5,225,000 at that time, I paid an excess of N50,000 just to motivate them in getting my work done quickly,” the subscriber said.
She said despite making an outright payment, B&H never communicated with her on the progress of work on her apartment, until she visited its office this year only to discover that work had not commenced on it.
“If I had died within these periods, none of my family members would be able to trace that I have an asset somewhere,” she said.
Brains and Hammers speaks
When PREMIUM TIMES approached the company, its corporate communication manager, Onome Okwah, said the inability of the company to deliver the housing units of some of their subscribers was due to some economic factors, including the devaluation of naira and high currency rate volatility, which he said have affected the company’s business adversely.
“But we are still trying to meet up, because some of those buildings today are worth over N30 million. But we’re still trying to deliver at the same costs we got from them and the backlog of about 202 units is currently under construction,” Mr Okwah said to this reporter.
He said construction activities were also affected by the COVID-19 lockdown of last year, as a result of which workers could not work at the construction sites of the company for over six months.
“But work is ongoing as we speak. All things being equal, most of the units will be delivered by the end of the year,” he said.
“Part of the reasons for the delay in delivering is because we were constructing a good road network in order to ensure seamless movement of materials to the construction sites, being that the whole place was bushy.”
Mr Okwah admitted there was no communication between the firm and the subscribers within this period, but promised that this would change.
When the reporter visited on March 3, he observed workers busy at the construction sites.
Over 1,500 units of houses have been completed and over 600 others under construction at the sites.
Findings by this newspaper revealed that there are many Nigerians who have also keyed into one or more housing plans with different estate developers who are yet to get what they paid for, and who do not know where to lodge their complaints.
Those who spoke with this reporter said they had to sacrifice all their hard-earned money and as well took loans from their respective places of work to offset the house plan payments, of which deductions are being made from their salaries over these periods.
As a result, they still receive incomplete salaries, while continuing to pay house rents.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) says it regulates the real estate sector in Abuja.
“We do serve as mediators between developers and clients when things don’t seem to go well, and by the grace of God we have been able to resolve many of such issues whenever they arise,” Emmanuel Oluwadamisi, the director of Mass Housing and Public Private Partnership, told PREMIUM TIMES.
He said people having issues with developers can take their complaints to his agency.
“They can always reach out to us,” he said.
Brains and Hammers is not the only developer unable to meet its customers’ expectation in a timely manner.
Earthpoint and Modern Shelter Estate Limited is another developer having a running battle with its clients.
Claudia Taylor, a civil servant, who between February— March in 2018 paid ₦ 21 million in six tranches to the firm for a four-bedroom terrace building at Life Camp (Dape district) in Abuja, is yet to get what she paid for.
In what she described as ‘breach of trust and contract’ in a letter to the firm dated January 17, she noted that she and her family have been waiting for their home and estate to be completed for three years now, and that the delay in completion has come with an ongoing psychological and financial implications.
She said the estimated financial cost of the delay as of November 2020 was over ₦7.8 million, which she requested to be compensated for.
“To honour our commitment, we request that Earthpoint and Modern Shelter Estate Ltd pay our rental expenses from the date of initial completion promised to date,” part of the letter reads.
Mrs Taylor said she was initially offered a unit in December 2019, but she rejected it on the basis that the property was not what she was promised, as it had major design and construction flaws.
“We were promised that it would be completed and ready for use before the end of 2020, the home still has not gone beyond the walls of the ground floor while the estate as a whole still has a long way to go before construction would be over and compound fully secured,” part of the letter reads.
“It is now 35 months since we paid for our home, all kinds of reasons and excuses have been given as to why our house (estate) is not ready, a more ridiculous one being that we didn’t accept the flawed property we were given. This is a morally irresponsible response to offer a client. We subscribed to not just a completed home but a habitable secure estate.”
In a response to her letter dated January 19, the developers said, “Due to your desire to own a corner-piece, you requested an exchange with a unit that was at the foundation level and we accepted to relocate you to the desired unit. We did our best meeting up with the timeline set out in our programme of work for the project but the COVID-19 pandemic and the delay from Development Control for granting approval to proceed to the next stage of construction affected the pace of work at the first and second quarter of the year 2020.This affected the delivery of the units as planned.”
However, the company said it would not pay N7.8 million as the cost of her rent as claimed, due to the fact that the pandemic constitutes part of the force majeure which has affected them.
“We share your concerns and sympathise with you for this delay, and we are willing to make a refund with an additional 100 % upon the resale of your unit, in the alternative we urge you to be patient with us as we look forward to the conclusion of this project as soon as possible,” the developers said in the letter.
Mrs Taylor expressed worry that a trillion Naira sector is left unregulated, while buyers are left entirely at the mercy of estate developers.
She lamented that hard working people entrust their hard-earned money to developers who consistently breach their agreements with zero consequences and where they decide equally unfair compensations.
In one of her reasons for rejecting the initial unit allotted to her, she noted that the developers changed the estate plans to squeeze in more properties, scraped family friendly play areas to insert a school and took away from the serene atmosphere buyers paid for without communication to buyers.
“Even more sinister is that we sent a letter to them in 2018 and they responded in 2019 and backdated it to 2018,” she said.
“Who holds estate developers accountable for their malpractices? Is it the EFCC or the ICPC? Who should buyers go to? NDIC protects bank depositors, but who protects real estate buyers? Perhaps the government should create a body for the investigation of complaints and petitions against estate developers,” she queried.
Abdulmalik Mahdi, managing director, Earthpoint and Modern Shelter Estate Ltd, did not deny that his company had defaulted. He said the firm had taken several measures to appease their client in this regard.
“We cherish each of our clients and the trust reposed in us,” he said.
In the bid to quell her grievances as one of their most cherished customers who keyed into their vision, he said they had a mutual agreement for a new unit to be delivered in December 2020.
Although he said they were surprised by the allegation since they had communicated their apologies to the client, he said the reason for failing to deliver in December as promised was due to “macro-economic factors” beyond their control.
Mr Mahdi in his response also noted that they have given a written undertaking to complete another unit allotted to the client within 90 days.
Meanwhile, he said they also had an undertaking to pay the customer some compensation in lieu of the four months delay, being prorated rent that a similar property in the estate attracts at the moment.
He affirmed that the customer had earlier been given a unit in December 2019 along with some of her colleagues whom she had convinced to subscribe together with her.
This delivery, he said, was within the agreed period as stated in the offer letter initially, but that she rejected the unit based on the aforementioned reasons by her.
However, it was gathered that the building Mrs Taylor paid N21 million for in 2018 has appreciated by over 100 per cent. It now goes for N45 million.
Both Mrs Taylor and Mr Mahdi confirmed this in their conversations with PREMIUM TIMES. Mr Mahdi feels she could opt for this if she is not comfortable with the housing unit being built, but said she demanded N50 million which they could not afford.
On her part, Mrs Taylor alleged that in one of her meetings with Mr Mahdi, he had verbally agreed to offer N50 million for her to relinquish the building. Because of this, she had immediately subscribed for another housing unit elsewhere that has been fully completed at a cost of N55 million, which they made deposit for, with the intention to balance up on receiving the money from Modern Shelter.
This claim was debunked by the developer in a letter dated January 28.
“Mr Abdulmalik reported that he met with you on site but did not at any point, offer to pay the sum of N 50, 000,000 as stated in your response,” the letter reads.
“All hands are on deck, we are working round the clock to ensure the delivery of your unit in 90 days and also accrued rental sum as stated in our letter dated 25th January 2021,” the letter concluded.
On February 25, when this reporter visited the estate at Life camp, it was observed that work was ongoing as indicated by Mr Mahdi. Over 100 workers were seen on site working.
It was observed that the phase 1 of the estate has been completed with owners already packed residing in their respective units.
This reporter also noticed that the developers are truly concerned about the deadline of 90 days agreed upon to complete Mrs Taylor’s unit, which would be due on April 25.
Also, some concerns regarding green areas omission from the initial plan appeared to be taken care of by some engineers seen on the site, who were mapping out plans to relocate the water reservoir stand, seen mounted on entrance into the estate.
“The stand would be relocated, the whole of that place would be used as green areas. That is also one of the Client concerns, we have to fix it,” Mr Mahdi said.
N/B: The names of the subscribers were changed on their requests.
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