By Ademu Usman Idakwo
When Kogi State was created on 27th August, 1991, from the then Kwara and Benue states, with the capital in Lokoja, little did the civil servants and the workers deployed from the two states to the newly created Kogi State knew that they will be confronted with a protracted crisis of accommodations.
At first, it was believed by the people that the housing problem was a challenge associated with every new state, because of the upsurge of migration of people from different areas to the new state capital, to seek greener pastures, but unknown to the public servants of the new state, they are going to contend with the reality of the ugly situation for many decades.
Kogi State was nicknamed the ‘Confluence State,’ after Rivers Niger and Benue that confluenced in Lokoja, the state capital. Kogi, a state in the North-Central geo-political zone of Nigeria, is bordered by the following states; Nasarawa from North East, Benue to the East, Enugu, Anambra, and Delta to the South, Ondo, Ekiti, and Kwara to the West, and Niger to the North.
The state is a gate way to Abuja, the nation’s capital, from the Southern states, and this has been responsible for the increase in the population of people residing in Lokoja, the state capital.
In Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, three-bedroom flat costs N800,000 per year; while a two-bedroom apartment costs N550,000 per annum in some places considered to be exclusive reserves for the privileged class.
In some locations, classified as middle class settlements; for instance, places like Peace Community, Old Poly-Quarters Community and a host of others that are populated by the elites and working class, a two-bedroom flat costs N300,000; while three-bedroom apartment could go for as much as N450,000 for a year.
Most landlords and house agents at times demand for an upward payment of two years rent, which is far beyond the reach of most residents, due to the economic situation in the country.
Every successive government in the state from the inception has not done much to confront the challenges head-long as accommodation continues to be the major challenges confronting the residents of Lokoja.
A professional in estate management, Mr. Daniel Sunday, who spoke to our correspondent in Lokoja, disclosed that the paucity of houses for accommodation in the state can be attributed to the lack of proper planning by the state government to put into consideration the welfare of inhabitants of the state.
He said that most of the housing estate projects embarked upon by previous administrations in the state were politicized, as contractors who were mobilized to work will later abandoned it, because it was seen as more or less a political patronage than a serious government project.
Speaking further, the estate expert said that the administration of the immediate past Governor Idris Wada started two housing estates, which was estimated to have 5,000 units of two-bedroom flats for middle class and workers, but the project was later abandoned, with no one returning to complete them until it was taken over by weeds and reptiles.
He, however, gave give kudos to two former governors of the state, the late Prince Abubakar Audu and Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, who built some housing estates to provide accommodation for the the state’s civil servants during their first and second term tenures.
On the way forward to solving the perennial acute short of accommodation in the state capital, Sunday advised that the government should focus more on Public-Private Partnership, PPP, on housing projects to enable corporate organizations, individuals and mortgages institutions invest in the state through partnership initiatives in order to ease accommodations problem in Lokoja.
Another estate manager, Engr. Suleiman Atabo, though agreed with the submission that the state government should put in more efforts to ensure there is affordable houses for residents of Lokoja, he, however, blamed the paucity of houses on the high cost of building materials, which has gone beyond the purchasing power of average persons.
Lamenting that prices of building materials, from nails to roofing sheets, bag of cement, have skyrocketed above the limit an average person in the state can afford, he called on the government to subsidize building materials through market regulations for the people to enable them own a house.