MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Musa Bello, came close to tears as he said it was a surprise for him to realise that a number of staff at the FCT administration, particularly those in the middle level and junior cadre, did not own properties in Abuja despite the fact that some of them have worked for the administration for so many years, processed land applications and files, and provided services.
He said the situation was contrary to an impression he had before becoming a minister that all staff of the FCT administration were landlords.
To that effect, he assured the Head of Service of the Federation, Ms. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, that his administration would do all it could to build 400 units of houses every year to close the housing deficit and provide affordable accommodation for its workforce.
He said that substantial amount of money had already been provided in the FCT 2016 statutory budget to immediately commence the project, which he said, was dear to his heart.
The minister hosted Oyo-Ita in his office, and while responding to her request for a suitable land for mass housing projects for all civil servants in the territory under Federal Integrated Staff Housing Scheme (FISH), he assured that his administration was ready to partner with the service to achieve the initiative even if it meant retrieving lands that it had previously allocated to other government institutions.
“With respect to this particular programme, I assure you we will try to identify and locate land in areas where you will build and deliver the houses at the rate you have mentioned so that the houses can be occupied immediately,” he told the Head of Service.
The minister went further to say: “Even if it means we have to look at existing allocations that have not been utilised, especially if they were allocations made to government agencies, then I think we will have to recover them and bring them all under your office under this new project so that we will be able to have them successfully executed the way they were meant to be from the very beginning.”
Further expressing disappointment on the situation as it affects staff of FCT administration, the minister said: “Some of them have worked here for so many years, processing land applications, processing files, giving approvals, providing services, but they have been tenants in this city. Some of them never had the opportunity of occupying the houses that were sold some years back.”
Bello lamented that pockets of houses were built in the past without proper linkage with the city centre in terms of access road, power lines, water lines and sewage, and said that the FCT administration had concluded plans to revamp its mass housing programme to make it more inclusive and responsive.
He lamented that some of the previous mass housing projects had not been occupied despite having gulped so much funds.
Responding, the Head of Service recalled that since the year 2001 when the government’s monetization policy was implemented, only the first few crop of civil servants who were occupiers of official quarters at that time had the good fortune of being able to take over their houses with some assistance through the banks.
She lamented that no other group of civil servants had had the fortune again and urged the minister to allocate good piece of land that would be used to develop housing estates as well as provide site and services and other infrastructural needs that were very paramount to the successful development of the housing estates for civil servants under the FISH programme.