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Why vacant homes, yet homeless Nigerians abound

Maduka Nweke; [email protected]    08034207864, 08118879331

Abandoned properties have become part of the landscape of Nigerian cities. The increase in abandoned properties has been blamed on reckless attitudes of successive government officials who are either only interested in what gets into their pockets or initiating their own projects rather than completing their predecessors’ own. Most governments, when they come in, award contracts and take the royalties upfront. With this, if they continue with their predecessors’ projects, they will not get the royalty, which was already paid out. For this and other reasons, there are retinues of abandoned properties and other projects in every nook and cranny of our metropolis.

When the issue of abandonment is mentioned, it implies buildings or projects that are left uncompleted, unoccupied, vandalised, boarded-up or deteriorated. Property abandonment can also mean an owner ceasing to provide maintenance and operating services to a building, or the loss of an owner’s legal right to a building, or the demolition of same. An abandoned construction project can be regarded as an uncompleted project in a time frame of a contract. Hence, there is urgent need to look inward and examine critical factors militating against project completion and occupation in accordance with its conception.

Abandoned building projects may not be limited to buildings alone; roads, industrial structures, bridges, factories, dams, electricity and communication projects, among others. Some reasons for failed construction projects include incorrect estimation; lack of available skilled personnel; inadequate planning; poor risk management; misunderstanding of the work requirement; poor quality control by regulatory agencies; corruption and communication gap among the personnel.

Research has shown that Nigeria has an avalanche of uncompleted buildings for some reasons not limited to not having available resources for the property prior to its initial commencement. Some experts advice that the selection processes and consultancy should be characterised by accountability, transparency, honesty and integrity. They also decry the use of political undertones rather than economic advantages in siting of projects and therefore move that such must be discouraged. They also blame corruption at the level of government and other stakeholders in the housing sector, saying it must be curbed through due process, an impartial Economic and Financial Crimes Control (EFCC), Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (BMPIU) and other crime control agencies. They argue that there must be a National Construction Industrial Bank set up to supervise and monitor the processes.

Other critical factors militating against project completion they mentioned included but also not limited to cost, the developer and the contractors; inability of clients to engage contractors or designers capable of doing the work; failure on the part of contractors to obtain vital inputs such as materials, manpower and machines. The ripple effect of all of the aforementioned is that all activities become totally suspended and the project consequently becomes abandoned. It is also clear that most projects in Nigeria are overestimated because proper cost advice is not sought, while proper cost control and proper cost planning are not observed. The scenario is worse in public sector projects because of the absence of cash flow planning. This is because money meant for projects are not released as and when due. As a result, civil servants usually cash in on this development to defraud the nation.

Some experts have in the past, called for proper budgetary provisions and funds allocation to projects. They explained that it would eliminate the present practice of allocating huge funds for administrative purposes. A former registrar in the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN), Mr. Godson Moneke, while explaining reasons for the numerous abandoned civil and heavy engineering projects in the country, stated that the process of execution is faulty. According to him, it is only in Nigeria that there is total absence of cost planning for such projects. He noted that cost is a very critical and significant factor and that one should not embark upon any project if one cannot do proper cost analysis. He regretted that the quantity surveyors who are cost experts in that regard have been shoved aside in civil and heavy engineering projects. He explained that because quantity surveyors are shoved aside on such projects, projects’ costs are over-bloated, while cost control and cost planning are undermined with everything going haywire.

Nonetheless, a project is never considered abandoned, rather, the project must have been suspended as a result of the developer lacking funds to continue in the mean time. It can also be deduced that inconsistent government policies, lack of accountability, high level of corruption, incompetent contractors, non-availability of building materials, lack of utilities or infrastructural facilities and wrong location, among others, have been advanced as remote causes of abandonment of building projects. This is why a lot of properties meant to accommodate hundreds of the population are still lying uncompleted or, some due to legal tussles, become abandoned for rodents, crawlers and street urchins.

The above reasons invariably have led to waste of resources in the form of capital, materials, human power, promotion of illegal activities, adverse effect on community, aesthetics and so on. The menace abandoned building projects cause to the society is enormous. Construction firms need to inculcate operational, strategic, personal, technological, marketing and even environmental strategies in their system in order to cushion the effect of financial predicament associated with building projects. It is pathetic that several construction projects, which would have impacted positively on the economic and overall social development of the nation litter the corners and open spaces of the country. This significantly affects the housing area by reducing its beauty in addition to creation of social problems, spread of disease and threat to the environment as highlighted earlier.

Aside denying the population the much needed shelter, they also become hideout for men of the underworld who use the properties as transit homes. Government, as a matter of necessity, should commission enquiries into those uncompleted buildings to find out the remote and immediate causes of buildings lying fallow when they could be converted to useful government infrastructure. Government should also not bite off more than it can chew as the Ajaokuta Iron Steel has remained a riddle no successive government has been able to solve. The Ajaokuta Steel is one out of the numerous other projects lying in every state capital and other major cities in those states that are abandoned halfway.


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July 2018
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