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Friday, 14 October 2011


Yesterday, one of the nation’s respected national dailies commenced a workshop on housing not necessarily because it was looking for exciting academic enterprise to embark upon.

Like most observers in Nigeria, yours truly accepts the fact that Daily Trust embarked on this epochal talk shop on the housing challenge confronting Nigerians because of the irrefutable fact that successive Federal and State administrations in this country have failed to professionally implement policies and measures that will empower the Nigerian people to become house owners.

In the early 1980’s, the truncated civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari commenced a revolutionary mass housing project across the country to deliver thousands of low cost and affordable houses to the Nigerian people in all segments of the society.

But the military intervention by coupists of 1982(December 31st) aborted this noble mass housing project and from then till now, successive administrations have only paid lip service to the critical issue of housing rights so much so that most Nigerians are now homeless in their own country.

Over the last ten years since Nigeria returned to civil rule, the issues of housing rights have not received good and sincere attention from all segments of the governance structures beginning from the federal to the local government level that has virtually collapsed.

The neglect by government of the housing rights of Nigerians is in gross breach of section 16(1) (d) of the Constitution as amended which stipulates that “the state shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this constitution ensure that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wages, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disable are provided for all citizens”.

It is a notorious fact so well known by even the key operators in the nation’s housing sector that all the institutions set up to cater for the housing rights of Nigerians have all but failed to carry out their statutory duties.

To compound the ugly situation of homelessness afflicting a good majority of Nigerians, the federal Mortgage Bank and other financial institutions are criminally unwilling to provide the much needed credit facilities to willing Nigerians to enable them acquire their own property and free themselves from the inevitable servitude of servicing the many shylock landlords who keep increasing their rents in leaps and bounds.

Two things that happened in recent times to demonstrate and signpost the critical nature and essence of housing to Nigerians are the recent legislation passed and signed into law by the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Lagos State government which seeks to protect tenants from the arbitrariness of the Lagos landlords. The second case took place before the National Assembly whereby the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic which doubles as the State House of Assembly for Abuja, the nation’s capital, shamelessly failed to protect tenants in Abuja when they dismissed a proposed bill to regulate the rent regime in the Federal Capital Territory which to all intents and purposes, is ranked as the highest ever paid by human beings for their habitat in any part of the world.

It is this and many other manifest failures of government to provide affordable housing and liberalize the process of acquiring ownership of titles to land in Nigeria that have exposed many Nigerians to several unfriendly marketing policies of foreign investors who have invaded the housing sector in Nigeria to lure prospective buyers to acquire properties in foreign Countries including Dubai.

An Abuja-based business executive Mr. Timothy Onwughai and his wife in their genuine effort to get befitting property, entered into a contract with one of the many property marketers from abroad who are in Nigeria to maximize profit given the fact that even the federal and state administrations in Nigeria have failed to deliver affordable houses to Nigerians.

But a big legal challenge is brewing because this concerned Nigerian citizen Mr. Onwughai decided that he was no longer keen on buying the property because of alleged discrepancy between what he was told orally and the contents of the agreement he was served after some payments were made. But this foreign dominated estate marketer refused to refund some payments he already committed in the ill-fated housing deal. This concerned Nigerian decided to take two pronged approach to recover his investment which also include the possibility of testing the legal waters.

An Abuja based law firm has already written the Dubai-based estate dealers to return the investment made by this concerned Nigerian because he was no longer willing to consummate the contract which he considered unfavourable and also because he has made up his mind to look inwards towards getting a befitting house in Nigeria.

Konin Solicitors representing the aggrieved Nigerian citizen has written the FIRST GROUP in Dubai demanding refund but the foreign business establishment appear unwilling to oblige this legal request and for about the first time in the legal history of Nigeria, a foreign entity may be dragged to court for alleged failure to deliver on a housing contract.

Document obtained showed that the lawyers to this concerned Nigerian told this foreign entity thus; “Our clients seek to terminate the said Purchase Agreement on the grounds that the terms of an earlier oral agreement which they had entered into with your representatives in Nigeria were varied in the written contract which was later presented to them for signing. After a thorough scrutiny of the said Agreement and the entire process, our clients have concluded that they cannot proceed with the payment schedule anymore coupled with the fact that they believe their rights as purchasers were not adequately protected in the Purchase Agreement”.          

In a response showing that this Dubai-based estate developer was spoiling for a legal showdown with this concerned Nigerian, their lawyers Jackson, Etti and Edu legal firm replied that it was indeed the concerned Nigerian that was in breach of a subsisting agreement and that refund of his earlier payments is conditional.

The First group said the agreement stated thus: “In the event that the purchaser fails to fulfill any of the terms and conditions of this agreement within thirty (30) days of receipt of written notice by the seller of the purchaser’s default; or Fails to execute the Lease Management Agreement within the time specified in this agreement; or is adjudged bankrupt or insolvent or is the subject of a winding up or administration order, then the seller shall be entitled to the following remedies, without further notice and without prejudice to any other rights available in law: to terminate this agreement; to re-sell the unit; and upon any resale of the unit for market value the seller shall account to the purchaser for the price received by the seller, less the balance of the price and any other monies due under this agreement remaining unpaid”. 

The experiences of citizen Timothy Onwughai who committed some hard earned fund running into over three million naira, is that the federal government need not delay the transformation of the moribund housing sector, amend the legal provisions that inhibit smooth acquisition of land rights by Nigerians and liberalize the process of obtaining credit facilities from financial institutions and resuscitate the moribund federal mortgage bank and the Federal Housing Authority to make these public institutions to deliver durable and affordable houses to Nigerians and reduce the risks Nigerians go through in the hands of property speculators from foreign entities.

*          Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and writes from                

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