Increase in rent defaults by government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), have become a source of worry for many landlords in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja.
The development has also made property owners to decline offering their buildings to government establishments for office accommodation.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that corporate organisations, and government personnel are being issued with quit notices for various reasons ranging from the delay in rent payments to general non-compliance with lease terms.
For instance, The Guardian learnt that agency like, National Oil Spills Detective Regulation Agency, (NOSDRA), owed five years rent, accumulating to over N30 million. Others such as, Bureau of Public Enterprise, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, National Pension Commission, among others have also been alleged of rent defaults.
Recently, a wife of late military officer, Idarah Anthony, had narrated her ordeal to The Guardian on how she has been struggling to recover arrears of rents up to six years on her late husband’s property occupied by some government agencies in Abuja, and other cities.
“With no major source of income, she has relied on rents from the properties to sustain her children in schools. But surprisingly, the agency occupying the property has not paid rent for four years.
“It has used the building for past eight years now. All efforts made by the managing agents of the properties have amounted to nothing,” she revealed.
Speaking on the issue, an Abuja-based estate surveyor and valuer, Eugene Haruna said it has now become a norm for most of the ministries and agencies, to deliberately delay rent payment for years.
“It is an unfortunate that government was owing billions of naira as rent in Abuja alone. A situation like this calls for concern, especially, where the landlords solely rely on rent proceeds for their survival. Our firm has a policy agent renting properties to state or federal governments, because of accumulated cases of default in rent payment.”
Reacting, a legal practitioner, Chioke Ephraim, told The Guardian that scarcity of infrastructure was responsible for the situation, as government has to acquire property from individuals while payment of rent becomes so difficult for tenants.
“Some offices like financial institutions, courtrooms, parastatals, ministries, even foreign embassies and consulate, are owing landlords. However, a procedure for payment always takes long time, say, months, or years to pay landlord and house agent.”
According to Ephraim, the real issues are some rented properties are over priced and so it could be used in siphoning government money to private pockets, and government will be defaulting in the process.
Contributing, a Facility Manager, Elijah Ogunsanya, said, there are many unoccupied properties within in the suburb and few within the city centre.
A senior government official in the federal ministry of finance, Abuja, who craved anonymity, said bureaucratic bottlenecks are sometimes responsible for delays in rent payment on rented properties by government.