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EDITORIAL

Menace Of Abandoned Buildings

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Abandoned uncompleted buildings are becoming a familiar sight round the country with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) becoming notorious for this spectre of shame. A recent report claims that there are over 665 of such buildings in Abuja, most of which are meant to be commercial and residential housing projects. It is also not uncommon to see an entire estate of uncompleted buildings, especially in the FCT.

Apart from being an eyesore, these uncompleted buildings also pose a security threat to people in the neighbourhood where they are situated, in that they become, inadvertently, hideouts for criminals and other undesirable elements who would need such random and secluded places as base for their nefarious activities.

Abandoned buildings are either results of planlessness on the part of the owner or are part of a deliberate ploy by the nouveau riche and those who acquired illicit wealth to launder such money they could not put in banks or keep at home. Whichever is the case, it defeats the purpose for which the government creates estates, which is to provide houses to meet both the residential and commercial needs of the people. These houses can be found in several estates in capital cities and other not so classy environments.

Dilapidated as some of these buildings have become, the destitute and those who do not have enough resources to rent homes of their own take advantage of the fact that nobody is laying claim to the buildings and therefore make them their dwelling places. In some cases, these buildings collapse, resulting in the death of countless innocent citizens.

Some of these abandoned buildings result from the government revoking and re-allocating plots on the one hand. On the other, prolonged litigations and the resultant undecided cases involving some of these buildings in different courts can stall their development.

It is sad to note, in our view, that a sizeable number of these buildings are also owned by government. Due to corruption in the system, the cost of the buildings keep going up, a situation that is made worse by policy inconsistency as a succeeding administration may place less priority on the project.  Whether owned by the government or operators in the private sector, it is the opinion of this newspaper that the authorities must come up with a policy on what to do with such properties that are defacing the city landscape. Such policies must include disposing of them to real estate managers who are likely to be in a better position to complete and put them to good use.

We believe that the government owes itself a duty to preserve the aesthetics of the city by putting measures in place to remove the unsightly presence of these uncompleted structures. A visit to some of the cities in some African countries shows that the presence of uncompleted buildings is rare, few and far between. In those climes, buildings are taxed in the form of property taxes and owners are compelled to pay, whether or not the buildings are in use. Should such laws be made to apply in the country, it is our conjecture that people and even the government itself will do whatever it takes to finish the buildings and put them to use since it is easier to pay for what is being used to generate revenue than what is idle and a liability.

Curiously, it is becoming a trend for whole estates, well-built up and ostensibly ready for occupation to be left empty by their owners. One is tempted to wonder why anyone would waste resources in such a flagrant manner. On assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari had threatened to acquire such properties forcefully and allocate them to the security agencies to be used as barracks or to civil servants as official quarters. That would have been one pragmatic way of resolving the issue. But that threat was not acted upon possibly because most of the owners of the properties that would have been affected are politically connected individuals who know the buttons to press to weaken the resolve of any determined policy maker.

However, it is our belief that government must do the needful to ensure that the number of uncompleted buildings everywhere in the country, which deface the environment, create security challenges and cause deaths when they collapse, is reduced to manageable limits.

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