The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Umara, on Thursday set up a committee to review the ownership of houses in four government housing estates within Maiduguri, the state capital.
The estates made up of about 3000 houses were built between 1999 and 2011 by governments of late Mala Kachalla and Ali Sheriff.
Mr Sheriff’s administration built three of the estates while the administration of his successor, Kashim Shettima, now a senator, did the allocation of the 1000-unit housing estate when he took over in 2011.
Though the initial intention of the government for the massive housing estates was to provide solutions to the housing needs of the civil servants in the state, the immediate past government allocated most of them to top officials, politicians and traditional rulers who in turn either sold them off or put them up for rent to the same civil servants at exorbitant rents.
It was also observed that not all of the occupants of the houses pay the official monthly rent to the Borno State Housing Corporation, a situation that gradually rendered the corporation incapable of paying its staff salary for many years.
Officially, according to the Housing Corporation, a tenant in a single bedroom bungalow pays N15,000 while those in two and three bedrooms pay between N30,000 to N45,000 per annum.
But the unofficial rents collected by the landlords from their tenants range from N150,000 to N300,000 per year.
This development seemed to have repulsed the new governor who felt civil servants are being shortchanged.
It was on that note that the governor inaugurated a committee headed by the chairman of the state Housing Corporation, Usman Ngulde, to among other things investigate the illegal sale of government houses and unauthorised transfer of ownership.
The governor said his intention is to retrieve houses from illegal occupants and sell them to the civil servants in the state on an ‘owner-occupier’ basis.
While inaugurating the committee at the council chambers of Government House, Mr Umara said: “Government deemed it necessary and fit to constitute a committee to look into the issue of housing problems of civil servants with a view to selling the houses to the civil servants.”
He added that the chairman and members of the committee were carefully selected to carry out their assignment diligently and “without fear or favour.”
The governor said it was deliberate that civil servants, leaders of the housing estates and officials of ministries of land, housing, justice, trade and labour unions were included in the committee.
He said the second reason for the probe and verification exercise was to “make Borno State Housing Corporation functional and effective by enabling it to take charge of the management” of the estates, provision of shops, roads electricity and other facilities needed in all the government housing estates.
He said the state government has the responsibility to provide facilities to the occupants of the housing estates.
The committee’s terms of reference is “to determine the actual number of the occupants at the 202, 505, 707 and 1000 housing estate.
“To stop issues of sale and conversion of houses henceforth, until the exercise of the committee is completed.
“To stop backdating of housing allocations and further allocations, and to determine whether the actual occupants are civil servants or not.
“The committee is also tasked to determine or assess the values of each of the 3000 houses accurately, to determine the modalities of payments by the beneficiaries, especially, the civil servants.
“The committee is to submit it’s report within two weeks from today Thursday 13 June 2019 and to recommend to the government any suggestion that will be useful to the government.”
Responding after their inauguration, the chairman of the committee, Mr Ngulde, thanked the governor for finding them worthy of carrying out the assignment. He promised they would justify the confidence reposed in them by discharging their duties diligently.