The ghost mansions of Abuja

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They are everywhere within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The mansions are well-built, tastefully finished, high fences with stern looking guards. It is a common scene in highbrow areas. From Maitama to Asokoro, Garki to Wuse, and even in uptown districts like Jabi, Gwarinpa, Wuye and Jahi, these mansions sprawl the undulating Abuja landscape.

Most of these mansions have high fences while the few with low fences are encircled with electric fence or barbed wire stopping intruders. Though the buildings vary in sizes and shapes, and even taste they all have one thing in common they are mostly uninhabited. The for sale, or to let inscription at the gates of some of the mansions have been pasted for months or even years, giving the opulent, sometimes gaudy mansions, an eerie atmosphere.

In many of the ghost mansions, only security guards are seen within the premises, obviously, to tidy the compound and fend off intruders. And they stay mostly at the security posts. Some of the guards keeping watch over some of the mansions were mostly foreigners and could hardly speak English.

Some residents that spoke to Aso Chronicle in Asokoro said most of the buildings have remained unoccupied for years and are beginning to fade. A guard in one of the buildings, off Justice Sowemimo Street, who craved for anonymity said the owner of the house barely visits except during festive seasons in which he could stay for just few days.

I think that all his family members are not in the country,” the guard muttered in English language.

John Ike resides in Maitama extension and he said abandoned houses are common in the area. “What can we do than to always admire the buildings,” he said.

He added that most of the people that own the houses rarely stay in them,

Sometimes, I wonder if they have done money rituals and are warned not to stay inside the houses. He raised security concerns that one cannot understand what is happening in any of the buildings at night.

Don’t be surprised that some of the guards could be harbouring hoodlums since they are the only ones occupying the buildings,” he said.

Though he could not say if there have been instances of criminal activities in the buildings, he affirmed that it could not be farfetched.

An estate developer, Engr. Dele Oso, while speaking on the dangers of leaving such houses unoccupied, said they could be dampened thereby absorbing moisture and dust. He explained that a well-built standard mansion could span a period of 40 years, though he said a building not inhabited could be dilapidated.

What most people do not know is that, human activities help houses a great deal. The windows would be opened, dirt removed and movements made. But when a building is locked over a long period, it could be dilapidated,” Oso said.

While commenting on the spate of abandoned houses within the city centre, Oso said it is discouraging and attributed it to over possessiveness by Nigerians. He said unknown to the house owners, some guards employed to maintain the buildings do rent them out to residents.

When the house owner is billed to return from overseas where most of them go to, then the tenants would be ejected by the guards,” he said.

A former Senior Special Assistant to the Abia state governor on Public Communications, Sam Hart argued that the abandoned mansions could not be inhabited because, according to him, the purpose for building the houses was not for accommodation but a way of hiding syphoned funds.

The easiest means of offloading excess cash in Abuja is via property acquisition. In Abuja, houses are sold for a minimum of N500 million within the city centre. Some even go for between N800 million and N1.3 billion. When these people are in government, they buy up these houses not because they need them but because they are seeking avenues of diverting loose cash,” he noted in one of his columns in a national newspaper.

A four bedroom duplex with four baths in Maitama, Asokoro, Garki or Wuse District costs more than N500 million. Why would I own such a house and abandon it asked Joseph Hussein, a Lokogoma resident.

Joseph said it is high time government started looking into these properties because they have been affecting other Nigerians who have no roof over their heads.
Nigeria is faced with a housing deficit of about 17 million units. This among other reasons, has made many to squat while some find accommodation in unsafe places like motor parks, major bus stops and street corners.

In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the case is no different from major cities in Nigeria. While the slum is heavily populated, the city centre is reserved for the wealthy. While some people abandon their houses, scores of others struggle to find shelter. Many squat in uncompleted buildings, paying stipends to guards to sleep every night.

On the fringe of Maitama is Mpape, an urban slum with a high population of people due to its proximity to the city.

In Asokoro, there are slums as well, and a visit to some of the uncompleted buildings at night reveals indecency.

Several people in these uncompleted buildings struggle for shelter before another day’s hustling. The situation shows the wide gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. While some hustle for shelter, others with well-furnished mansions live it for ghosts to occupy.

DAILY TRUST

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