Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lagos’ rising cases of abandoned property and challenges before govt

Reports compiled by experts in the housing sector reveal that there are many abandoned properties in
Lagos State; a development experts have said is not healthy for the development of the economy of not only Lagos, but Nigeria as a whole.

A recent report has it that the value of some of the abandoned properties, especially those in Victoria Island, currently stands at above five billion naira, while private individuals, the Federal Government as well as various state governments have been found to be guilty of this development.

For example, according to a recent survey carried out by the Nigerian Tribune, apart from many abandoned residential properties, there are many abandoned buildings which once served as liaison offices for many states over two decades ago.

Some of such buildings can be found at the Ahmadu Bello section of Victoria Island adjoining the Bar Beach. This includes the Oduduwa House jointly owned by the South western states, including Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti.

However, recently, during the tour of Eko Atlantic City, the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development in Lagos, Mr Olusegun Oniru, described the abandoned government liaison houses as a threat to the environment, while also revealing that the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had been urged to bring the matter into the attention of his colleagues at the Governor’s Forum with a view to finding a lasting solution to the abandoned properties.

When declaring what qualifies a property to be categorised as ‘abandoned’, a property consultant, Mr Desmond Elechi, hinted that “a property cannot be considered abandoned if at least one tenant exits and it takes over a year to get another reliable tenant. And the property owner keeps the property in top shape all through the time it stays vacant.

“A property cannot also be considered to be abandoned if the property owner lives overseas, but occupies the property for a short period once every two years or so, when he comes visiting.

“But why would anyone in his right senses abandon something as valuable as a property that is worth millions of Naira and that has the potential to generate huge income each year?”, Mr Elechi queried, while also disclosing that it was time all parties involved started considering the possible circumstances that might lead to a building or plot of land becoming an abandoned real estate.

According to the Nigeria Tribune survey, many of the abandoned buildings, which doubtless must have caused the owners millions of naira to construct, are in a state of total disrepair as visibly evident in their damaged roofs, windows and doors, while in many instances, they also have paints that have faded.

In a recent chat with the Nigerian Tribune an ex-president, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Mr. Tunji Bolu, had described the neglect of the buildings by the various state governments as well as individuals as sheer waste of public funds.

According to the former NIA boss, “when a piece of property is abandoned, often it means that amount of money is tied down doing nothing and wasting away. It is only in a country like Nigeria that such buildings, apart from their strategic locations, their quality and purposes of construction, can be abandoned without the government being overly bothered.”

When proffering the way forward, Mr Bolu submitted that “the owners of such buildings should find a way of letting/renting them out to interested members of the public or institutions,” while also insisting that the Lagos State government should be decisive in taking over such buildings so as to prevent possible calamity.

Another Lagos-based estate surveyor and valuer, Mr. Asoquo Essien, lamented the high number of abandoned property in the state, while describing the development as unfortunate. He also insisted that they were assets wasting away.

In the meantime, the state government has not shied away from the prospect of taking over such properties, as recent indications have suggested.

It will be recalled that recently, the state government had given a clear warning that it could take over all abandoned properties within the landmass of Lagos, because they had the possibility of becoming a lair of criminals and miscreants, among other problems.

The step, according to officials in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Developemnt, is to forestall security threats in and around the Lagos metropolis.

The Commissioner of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, urged residents to be more security-conscious and report promptly to constituted authority, any abandoned and uncompleted building in their neighbourhood.

Similarly, recent reports have it that the Lagos State Government had decried the abandonment of 87 housing units in some of its estates, saying they constituted environmental and security challenges.

According to information gathered, the Commissioner for Housing, Mr Bosun Jeje, recently, expressed the displeasure of the government at the development, while urging owners of the houses to immediately take physical possession of them.

Failure to do so, according to the commissioner, would leave the government with no other option but to implement the terms of the agreement entered into by the concerned parties to the letter.
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