There is growing concern that the absence of a well-defined policy framework from past Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administrators could erode investor confidence in the real estate sector.
Meanwhile, professional bodies are advocating for increased funding, the establishment of appropriate structures, or a reorganization of existing institutions responsible for city planning, basic infrastructure provision, and urban services.
These mounting concerns have put a damper on the momentum of real estate demand in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), leading to a decrease in both commercial and residential investments in the housing sector.
The situation was further exacerbated by a statement from the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, who issued a warning to property owners regarding plans to demolish buildings and revoke land titles for properties that remain undeveloped or have acquired titles through illegal means within the jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
Wike sternly cautioned residents, stating, “If you know you have built where you are not supposed to build, it will go down. Be it a minister anywhere, be it an ambassador… if you know you have developed where you are not supposed to, your house will go down. And those who have been given Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) and failed to develop, and they have become land speculators, the land is gone. I will revoke them.”
Before this, the Abuja housing market had enjoyed robust growth, with rising prices attributed primarily to increased costs of key building materials like iron rods, cement, and roofing sheets, which account for 5-10 percent of overall construction expenses.
In premium districts, high-end property pricing had been aggressive, and new construction was brisk, with sales of super luxury units gaining significant attention and strong investor interest in prime locations.
Currently, there is apprehension regarding the lack of a clear and consistent policy framework from previous FCT administrators, particularly in cases where land allocated for low-income housing projects remains undeveloped due to the actions of landowners who sell these lands to the highest bidders. This has resulted in low-income earners being unable to afford housing close to the city center, pushing them to settle in areas with inadequate infrastructure on the outskirts.
While many anticipate relief from the FCT authorities in response to the minister’s comments and the need to address masterplan abuses and housing allocation issues, a cloud of uncertainty still looms.
The President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Nathaniel Atebije, emphasized that the original city plan was designed to facilitate rational development but has been abused over the years. This abuse is partly due to the lack of adherence to the provisions of the masterplan and the perceived inadequacy of authorities in managing the city’s needs as it continues to grow.
Atebije highlighted several challenges stemming from these issues, including daily traffic congestion, insufficient and unaffordable transportation facilities, overcrowded infrastructure, competition between vehicles and animals on roads, poor waste management, lack of public toilets, flooding, slum development, limited access to affordable housing, illegal developments driven by impunity, improper land use changes, insecurity, and an increase in crime rates.
To address these challenges, Atebije proposed several solutions, including improved staffing, equipment, funding, and political will to manage the city effectively. He also called for effective urban management institutions, the engagement of professional staff, training and retraining, the involvement of consultants to analyze city problems and provide solutions, and increased political support and equipment provision.
The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) President, Enyi Ben-Eboh, stressed the need to address the growing infrastructure deficit, which has resulted in high housing demand in the city center and surrounding areas, straining existing infrastructure. Ben-Eboh also highlighted the absence of a functional mass transit system in Abuja, which contributes to road congestion and limits development in the city’s outskirts.
Ben-Eboh and Atebije both emphasized the importance of effective urban planning and infrastructure provision to prevent urban decay and the transformation of cities into slums. They called for advocacy and policy support for urban planning best practices and infrastructure development.
Dr. Yemi Adelakun, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NISH Affordable Housing Ltd, urged the completion of ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the metroline and public water supply. He also recommended the refurbishment and activation of existing buses, the purchase of new buses, particularly electric or gas-powered ones, and the declaration of a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) emergency to provide potable water, waste management, and public toilets.
Adelakun called for increased efforts to promote affordable housing by allocating land for mass housing projects and expediting the processing of building approvals and land titles. He suggested setting targets for institutions to develop affordable housing, allocating land to cooperatives and private developers for mass housing, and implementing strict compliance guidelines.
In conclusion, the challenges facing Abuja’s real estate sector and urban development are multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving government, professional bodies, and other stakeholders. Clear policy frameworks, effective urban planning, and infrastructure provision are critical elements in ensuring the sustainable development of the city and improving the quality of life for its residents.