One of the 13 local government areas that make up Nasarawa State is Karu, which extends from the eastern boundary of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja (Old Nyanya) to Gora about 15 kilometers to Keffi. There are at least seven neighbourhoods in Karu that could be considered low brow areas growing geometrically in population; these are Mararaba, One-man Village, Ado, New Nyanya, Nyanya Gwandara, Masaka.
As a development corridor to the FCT for more than two decades, Karu has become one of the fastest growing urban areas in Nigeria, with most of the settlements earlier mentioned largely characterised by poorly built housing, inadequate water, waste, sanitation and electricity facilities cramped living conditions exposure to pollution and insecure property rights. In order words, most of the houses fall short of the basic requirements of decent accommodation and are therefore not conducive for human habitation. Just as the draft of the National Urban Development Policy had noted that Nigerian towns are growing without adequate planning, adding that urbanisation in the country is characterised by unplanned growth, deteriorating infrastructure and inadequate housing. The residents in Karu are largely low income earners.
Cosmopolitan in nature, Karu, with various ethnic groups living together in harmony, has indigenous ethnic groups which are Gbagyi, Koro, Yeskwa, Gwandara and Gade, with settlers comprising of Mada, Eggon, Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Tiv, Yoruba who migrated to take advantage of the economic potentials in the area aside the huge number of Nigerians doing business, working within the area and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). To get a living house to rent in Karu is very difficult as a result of the overwhelming population, even the ones of lowest standard. A survey conducted showed that rent for single rooms payable per annum cost between N40, 000 to N60,000 in the area, and N80,000 to N00,000 for self contained single rooms, depending on the particular area and quality. One bedroom apartment goes for around N150, 000 to N250,000, while that of two bedroom hovers around N200,000 to N350,000 and so on, depending on location and quality.
Results of the survey showed that 27.5% of the respondents occupy single rooms in a compound, 25.6% of them stay in a self contained two bed room flat, while 22% of the respondents live in a self contained one bed room flat, and only 17% of them stay in a self contained three bed room. This shows that most of the respondents live in single room in a compound because they cannot afford a more decent accommodation
Another very worrisome dimension that compounds the housing plight of the area is lack of or dysfunctional basic social amenities such as motorable roads, pipe-borne water, electricity supply.
Most of the access roads withing the area are not motorable as that are pothole, crater plagued and unpaved. And the only major link road between the area and the FCT is the Abuja-Keffi dual carriage Highway, made of three lanes on both sides, with construction works now ongoing to expand it to five lanes on each side by the federal government. Owing to the over-bloated population, commuters in the area always have to endure stand-still traffic going to-and-fro Abuja everyday.
The survey revealed that close to 60% of the respondents rely on the national grid as their source of power, while about 28% use generators and about 14% of the respondents don’t have power in their dwelling units.
Besides, it was found that most of the households constituting about 39% of them use well as their main source of water, while 38% of the respondents use tap, and about 28% of the respondents rely on water vendors; only about 1% use stream as a source of water.
Moreover, results showed that 60% of the respondents have exclusive kitchen in their homes while 30% of them have shared kitchen; and about 10% of them cook in the compound or in their rooms. This is actually unhealthy for the inhabitants of the house.
There is no gainsaying the fact that all these problems stem from the speedily growing population with its attendant economic boom-urbanisation in the area, thus proving the claim by the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, recently that the 23 million housing in Nigeria being popularized in some quarters is devoid of the truth as there are so many empty and locked up houses.
Calling on the newly inaugurated board of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to proffer solutions to urban housing deficit in the country, the Minister said, “It is not true that the country has 23 million housing deficit, rather it is a case of many empty and locked up houses across the country.
“The talk that Nigeria has 23 million housing deficit is a lie. We have no scientific or logical basis. The housing problem is an urban problem let’s be honest about it.
“Many of the people who are renting houses in the cities have big empty houses in their villages so let’s understand this. In the urban centres, whether it’s Lagos, Port harcourt, Owerri, Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan there are empty unoccupied houses.
“So one of the things you need to begin to do is to rethink and understand how to solve that problem, how do we bring those empty and locked houses to light.
“Because if there are empty houses that people are not living in, does it make sense to say there is a deficit? And there is no city in this country where you won’t see an empty house.
“So don’t be locked by the definition of the past, reappraise the situation with your own understanding, professionalism your own understanding and let us benefit from your experience,’’ he said.
The Onus now is on the federal government, since the bulk of commuters in Karu are federal civil servants, and the Nasarawa State government to play their parts in alleviating the housing plight of the people of the area.
The effort of the state government, which culminated in the commissioning of the N1.2 billion Ta’al Orange Market site and Services for mad housing scheme in September, 2019 by Governor Abdullahi Sule as part of activities marking his 100 days on office at the Mararaba Gurku area of Karu, LGA should be sustained.
Inaugurating the project, Sule said it was geared towards providing housing and transforming the slum to regenerated the cityscape.
“It is geared towards providing affordable housing opportunity for the citizens of the State and other interested developers,” Sule said, noting that the project covered an area of 18.79 hectares with 148 plots allocated to prospective developers.
He said the project marked the beginning of many such schemes across the state as part of the administration’s commitment to providing infrastructure and other social amenities for the people.
“In our commitment to attract foreign investors to the State, there is a need to create a conducive environment.
“Accordingly, this administration is committed to the provision of affordable housing, development of cottage/modular industries and establishment of educational institutions, among others.
“It is our conviction that these gestures will open opportunities for economic activities in the State,” Sule said.
The governor, however, appealed to the Federal Government to support the state in the provision of infrastructural facilities, especially in the Greater Karu axis.
He noted that such intervention had become imperative in view of the fact that a sizable percentage of federal government workers reside in Nasarawa state, thereby overstretching existing facilities.