Gatekeepers of empty mansions in Abuja turns quasi-landlords, by Abdullahi A Maiwada

Those in the middle class and lower class living in Abuja will understand the concept of ‘arrangee’. We have a lot of mansions in Abuja lying fallow worth billions of naira, and not in any way utilized by owners.

 

These owners have accumulated wealth that one have every reason to doubt the credibility of their source. If not, how on earth will one labour hard to construct/purchase houses with state-of-the-art facilities, then spend years without a facility visit, not talk of occupying or renting out the building, leaving the houses at the mercy of security guards.

 

This situation blends with a popular Hausa proverb ‘Idan baka yi sharar masallaci ba, zaka yi ta kasuwa’. The literal meaning is ‘if you refuse to clean the mosque, you will end up cleaning the market’. Apologies if you find the interpretation so clumsy.

 

Unfortunately for them, the smart doorkeepers are exploring this lacuna by renting these apartments to homeless hustlers and sometimes lower and middle cadres civil servants residing in Abuja. These fellas will pack their vehicles in the night outside the compound to sleepover and zoom out in the morning to go about the search for their daily bread.

 

Considering the high cost of rent in Abuja, this seems to be a way out for homeless folks who do not have more than a million naira as annual income, not talk of renting houses above one million per annum.

 

During a discussion with a friend who happens to be a beneficiary of ‘arrangee’, he said the guards have crafted rules and regulations of engagement within the perceived illegality. They are courageously into this business without fear of the consequences of their action. What is paramount to them is getting more funds in addition to their meagre salaries.

 

On rear occasions when owners come for a routine check and meet strange faces in their houses, the gatemen will comfortably tell the illegal occupants to calm down with an expression that nothing will happen and eventually nothing will happen.

 

Let me make it clear that my piece is not insinuating that whoever is opportuned to own these almost abandoned mansions did that through ill-gotten wealth. However, I ponder and wonder why our system will allow such empty houses to exist without the imposition of taxes and other measures to dissuade these fellows from accumulating dozens of houses under lock and key at Gusape, Asokoro, Maitama and the likes.

 

It is not wrong to be blessed with many billion worth of residential buildings, but what I perceived to be wrong is the inability to contribute towards solving the housing deficit, by renting out to those in need at affordable rates.

 

The gap between the rich and poor is getting wider to the extent of making life unaffordable for ordinary civil servants, and others with different means of livelihood. If not, why will a Nigerian with all it takes to live an average life end up ridiculing himself in such a manner?

 

This is indeed a doctrine of necessity. This is a clarion call that capitalism will further drift the enmity between the rich and the poor. One should not keep houses in strategic locations under lock and key, while average class citizen, not to talk of lower class, cannot afford a self content close to their place of work. They have to resort to ‘arrangee’ or residing in satellite towns, spending hours to and fro in traffic to meet up with their work demands. How then do we expect productivity from employees?

 

Let me end this piece with a reminder that you can buy properties of choice in Abuja and abroad, but you cannot buy one additional second to the time Allah has ordained for you to live in this world. Remember ‘sittuna au saba’una’.

 

 

 

Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada is a Public Relations Practitioner based in Abuja. He can be reached via: abdulmaiwada@yahoo.com

 

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