A civil servant, Mr Isa Abdul, leaves his home in Suleja, Niger, 5a.m. daily to catch the staff bus that conveys him and other workers to Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Although the distance is mor
e than 40 kilometres to the central area of Abuja where most public offices are located, the journey takes more than an hour.
Abdul says that missing the staff means he has to pay transport fare to office if he can afford it, apart from getting to work late.
According him, he has to leave Suleja that early to do daily routine of cleaning up offices, getting the dailies and also doing other assigned tasks solely under his responsibility.
“If not for the high cost of rent in Abuja, why will I be suffering to travel from Niger every day, enduring the terrible traffic to and fro work and loosing active hours on the road’’, he says.
Abdul’s case is one out of many low income earners in Abuja who cannot afford to live within the FCT.
Residents of Abuja observe that due to cost of accommodation, many low income earners are living unwillingly in neighbouring Nasarawa and Kaduna, where they travel daily to work amid road traffic.
In that regard, concerned Nigerians note that low and average income earners, seem to struggle to make ends meet, considering the high standard of living in Abuja.
A critical cost factor in their expense is decent accommodation; hence, they are forced to shuttle from neighbouring states in view of their salary.
According to Abdul, the situation can be reversed if the government provides accommodation for junior staff like him in the FCT.
“If the government provides housing units for junior staff to be paid with low interest and deducted from our salary over a period of time, this will go a long way to alleviate stress and boost workers’ morale and productivity.
“This will also help to reduce the number of the poor across the country by increasing their economic power’’, he said.
Similarly, Mr Ezekiel Sabo, a civil servant, expressed concern about the number of years he had put in public service “with nothing to show for it.
“I have been working for more than 30 years and I would soon retire from service without even a room and parlour to fall back on after my retirement because the government does not care about us; the junior staff’’.
Sabo appealed to the government to be more conscientious and forthright in implementing policies on housing in a way that would alleviate suffering of low income earners, especially those working in the FCT, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and other cosmopolitan cities with high living index.
“It is not just the senior staff that should be considered for accommodation, government should also focus on low income earners and help reduce their suffering’’, he pleaded.
Another public worker, Malam Ahmed Ahmed, decried the poor condition of houses, exorbitant rent charges by property owners, cost of transportation, as well as poor implementation of government housing policies.
He expressed disappointment in the housing policies for what he perceived as poor attention to the predicament of low income earners.
Other civil servants attributed preference for living in other neighboring states from the FCT to the high cost of rent in the nation’s capital.
Also, some tenants in the suburbs of Abuja appealed to the government to caution property owners about their plans to increase rent.
The tenants also called on the government to enforce laws that would regulate house rents to check exploitation by property owners.
Mr Abraham Timothy, a civil servant in Karu, near Abuja, called for the enforcement of laws that would prohibit property owners from quitting tenants without adequate time.
“My landlord just served us a quit notice some days back that he wants to renovate the house, so we should find an alternative accommodation before our rent expires on Dec. 31, 2018’’, he said.
Also, Isaac Adeyemi, a resident in Kpaduma village, Abuja, said that his landlord had just served him a quit notice of increase in rent.
“The landlord wanted to increase the rent from N150, 000 to N200, 000 for a room and parlour’’, he alleged.
Adeyemi appealed to governments in all levels to come to the aid of the low income earners by initiating schemes that would provide them affordable housing.
“This is because inadequate accommodation to cater for the civil servants in the FCT and urban areas has always been a thing of concern for residents, especially the just employed staff and officers deployed from other parts of the nation’’, he advised.
Perceptive observers, however, note that although private housing estates have been springing up in the city capital, the houses remain empty because of the cost.
In the light of this, the Federal Government apparently introduced several schemes such as the Federal Integrated Housing programme, rent-to-own housing scheme, and a host of others to cushion the hardship caused by accommodation on civil servants.
This initiative notwithstanding, observers insist that houses are inadequate to cater for the needs of the multitude workers seeking accommodation.
They note that with consistent good housing policy, low income workers will have the hope of owing houses before retirement.
By Justina Auta