The Federal Government has revealed that it will begin charging owners of completed unoccupied houses triple ground rents instead of the usual single rate, starting three months after completion.

Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, revealed this during an interview with journalists while visiting housing projects constructed by the government and its agencies in Abuja on Friday.

The News Agency of Nigeria NAN reports that the projects are the Suleja (Dikko) Prototype, Public-Private Partnerships Cooperative, Gwagwalada National Housing Programme, and Guzape Federal Housing Authority (FHA) also under the PPP arrangement.

Mr Dangiwa affirmed that the issue of completed unoccupied properties was prevalent in the FCT and some states of the federation while many citizens were in dire need of accommodation.

“What is important now is that we want to take stock of all those houses then we will interface with the owners and find out what they want.

“If they want to keep the houses unoccupied, the government will start charging them triple ground rent instead of a single ground rent that we charge.

“That will force them to either put it on rent at whatever amount or they sell them off. Because we cannot keep saying we have a housing deficit when we have a lot of empty houses that are completed and left unoccupied.

“We have charged the department of lands, urban and regional planning in our ministry to take stock of those estates to give the names of the proprietors or the owners of those estates.

“Any estate that stays more than three months unoccupied then we will start charging them triple ground rent this is what we intend to do,” he said.

On the supervision of projects across the country, the minister said all state controllers would be empowered and given the proper tools and equipment to carry out their functions effectively.

“The second thing is the issue of supervision, we have state controllers in every state of the federation. We want to empower them by giving them the tools they need to supervise any project within their vicinity.

“Many of the state controllers we met with complained that they do not have even the vehicles to move around with some of the tools for supervision and other things.

“So, we have taken note and we are going to ensure that we provide them with all the tools they need and empower them so that they supervise our projects nationwide effectively.

“On the issue of land, we make it so that instead of going to states looking for land the federal ministry may have lands in those locations we just use those lands.

“That is why we are tasking all our state controllers of housing to ensure that they give us the catalogue of all the land that they have, their status, and what they are used for,” Mr. Dangiwa said.

On his assessment of all the sites visited, the minister said he was impressed by what he had seen adding that each of the locations had their peculiarities and issues.

“The one we visited in Gwagwalada, the contractors are ready to work but the ministry could not provide the funding for them, so that is why we now have to look at it because there are variations so we want to rescope that project.

“The one we saw in Suleja is one of the abandoned projects or dilapidated projects that we want to sell as they are, we cannot just put money on those kinds of buildings now there are many people who want to buy them, renovate, and move in.

“And in Guzape, it shows what Public Private Partnerships could do. Now these houses were built without government funding but with the partnership between the government and the private sector.

“This is what we are getting and this is what we want to leverage on. We want to emphasise it and we want to ensure that Nigerians are provided with decent and affordable houses to live.”

Commenting on the issue of BUA cement that announced a reduction in the price of its product but a survey showed that the cost had not been brought down, the minister lauded BUA Company for taking the initiative to reduce the burden on citizens.

“They have reduced the prices of their cement but most of the people who sell at higher prices they are claiming that they bought it at higher prices.

“We are now trying to reach out to BUA, let them mark the new ones they are producing now with a different brand so that we know that this brand is the one that BUA produced at a cheaper price.

“We have to commend BUA and encourage other producers to key into that and see that they have brought relief to the common man in the country.

“It shows that the profit they are getting is exorbitant if someone can even reduce that, this is what we have to do as a government to ensure that Nigerians get better prices for what they buy.”

Source: Premium Times