By Sadare Macaulay
HOUSING crisis is a huge issue for the poor and the working people in Abuja with more than half of the population living in precarious houses. We have 1.7 million housing deficit. Given the fact that it is both fundamental and constitutional requirement, the Nigerian government had formulated a National Housing Policy in 1991 to ease the provision of adequate, accessible and low-cost housing for the poor and the working people.
Yet, millions are homeless, while others live in homes that have been precariously built in terrible places that have life threatening environment in the Federal Capital Territory, no thanks to the capitalist government.
The FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello had announced at the 12th Abuja Housing Show in Abuja on July 16, 2018 that the National Housing Policy which made provisions for adequate, accessible and affordable housing have been amended in 2004. He claimed that a more market-oriented approach had been adopted which limit the role of public sector and allow more private sector to participate in direct housing provision.
What that implies is the fact that getting decent and affordable housing by the poor and the working people has been shattered. Thus, the poor and the working people have continued to expend more than 60 percent of their disposable income on house rent as a direct consequence of a huge housing deficit in Abuja. Equally, most people live on the streets, in the slum area(s), and in far away communities where they can get cheap and but precarious houses.
About 88 per cent of those working in the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, do not live within the major towns in AMAC, and the reason for this is unaffordability of the rent and associated high cost of living. In a place like Wuse2, two bedroom flat ranges from N2million to N2.5million and more, while in Maitama it could go as high as N10million to N11million as compared to similar two bedrooms flat in Jikwoyi which is around N180 thousand to N200 thousand and in Karu N250thousand to N400 thousand, etc.
Today, what is visible is rising rent, vacant houses and homeless people in every part of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Many of the houses in communities and streets are owned by top-ranking elements among the ruling class and most of these houses are not occupied.
The government unleashed attacks on them through the so-called Environmental Sweeps which chase after homeless people every day and night. We also have cases where poor people have been literally thrown out because they can not pay the high-rising rent. Meanwhile, many houses lack even basic facilities such as water, sewage, electricity, while other are substandard, tiny and overcrowded.
According to the current AMAC Chairman, Mr. Abdulahi Candido, in a budget report which was reported by Premium Times on January 11, 2018, the amount budgeted to the works and housing department was N1.8 billion. Despite being the highest, this in the real sense does not reflect in the supervision or provision of any critical infrastructure which can make life easy for the working people and the poor.
For instance, aside major roads in Abuja, there are no other motorable roads. This does not only cause fatal accident to the populace in most villages and communities in Abuja, but also have negative effects on the movement of agricultural or farm produce to the city. This is due to lack of accessible roads which create economic losses for the farmers, and continues to impoverish such farmers.
Ironically, this is happening in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja where N6.92 billion was budgeted for 2018 fiscal year.
As a socialist, I believe this is not accidental, it is due to long term and continuous implementation of neo-liberal policies by the Nigeria governments which have grossly underfunded the housing sectors as well as promote private interest at the expense of the housing needs of all. The Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, will if is elected, therefore, massively invest in housing and regulation of house rents in the heart of Abuja. The party will create jobs for people that have technical skills.
SPN members are contesting on the salaries of workers. It is the belief of the party that if privileges enjoyed by political class are reduced, along with cancellation of security votes, and end to fraudulent contract system, these will be invested massively on affordable housing. The party also plans to implement free and quality education, free and quality health services at all levels, and also employ Nigerians with at least N30,000 as minimum wage without retrenchment.