Despite stiff opposition by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator, Chimaroke Nnamani, a bill seeking to make the advanced payment of rent illegal in the Federal Capital Territory has scaled second reading in the Upper Legislative Chamber.
Tagged: “A Bill for the Regulation of Advanced Rent on Residential Apartments, Office Space” it was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi, representing Kogi West.
The lawmaker, in his lead debate on the general principles, said the bill seeks to regulate the mode of payment of rent on residential apartments, office space, rooms and accommodation in the FCT.
A press statement signed by the Special Assistant to President of the Senate (Press), Dr. Ezrel Tabiowo quoted Adeyemi as saying that the move by the chamber to regulate the payment of rents in the FCT stemmed from the obligation of its constitutional responsibilities, aimed at impacting the lives of residents.
“If passed, this Bill will improve the well- being and standard of living of residents and minimize corruption and immorality emanating from the oppressive tenancy system in the Federal Capital Territory.
“This Bill will make life less stressful and less painful for majority of the down-trodden and low income earners in the Federal Territory”, Adeyemi said.
He explained further that due to global economic recession, life has become very challenging and almost unbearable for the low income earners despite the huge palliative measures by the Federal Government through the N-POWER traders money.
The Kogi Senator noted that in the FCT, Landlords demand between one to three years advanced rent, a situation which he said, “automatically adds a huge burden on the masses, subsequently giving rise to desperation and corruption.”
He lamented that the “tenancy system has continuously impoverished Nigerians who are salaried employees that can only pay rent after haven received their first remuneration.”
“This tenancy system is unafrican, unislamic and indeed unbiblical”, the lawmaker added.
Adeyemi expressed concern that many residents of the FCT are finding it difficult to cope with huge rent payment, adding that, “many houses built within the city center for such purposes are empty.”
He said that yearly tenancy has continued to breed corruption, moral decadence and huge inequality as low income earners who cannot afford to continually pay their rent.
Some tenants Adeyemi alleged now engage in corrupt practices, immorality, and even criminal acts to meet the pressing need of shelter.
He underscored the need for Legislation aimed towards justice, fairness, equity and improved standard of living.
He noted that in the FCT, a single one room apartment ranges from one million (N1,000,000) Naira to two million (N2,000,000) Naira within the city.
He added that in the satellite towns such as Kubwa, Nyanya, Kuje, Lugbe, rents are still not affordable for the common man as it ranges from Three hundred and fifty thousand naira (N350,000.00) to Five Hundred thousand naira (N500,000.00).
He related that the bill, therefore, seeks to reduce advance payment for new tenants to three months and, thereafter, proceed with the monthly payment scheme.
“It also seeks to protect low income earners from any form of oppression by homeowners.
“The bill also seeks to provide a window for legal action for any form of oppression.
“Importantly, it will also serve as a safety net for Landlords against erring tenants”, he added.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, while supporting the bill, described the piece of legislation as “people-centered.”
He said, “The truth is out there, many residents in the FCT are groaning under this very difficult system where people are expected to pay house rent in advance.
“With the policy where government has withdrawn participation in providing official quarters with demonetization, we are all aware, young Nigerians who are gaining employment within the precinct of the FCT for example, majority of them are actually in the outskirts.
“This is because it is extremely difficult for most of these young Nigerians to get the quantum of money that represent two years rent.
“(And) so, Mr. President, I think we are doing the right thing if we look at the intendment of this bill.
“If there is a good system as this, where on a monthly basis as the man receives his salary, he is making payment for what he has consumed, I think it will be a very good and welfare oriented system, one that is friendly to those that do not have.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over the plenary, described the bill as “popular” owing to the number of Nigerians who have shown interest in it.
However, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East), a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Senator and the only lawmaker in the chamber who spoke against the bill, argued that the issue of rent payment should be driven by market forces.
“The issue of rental payment, either in advance or installments is purely economical and should be driven by market forces.
“Such market forces as availability of land, cost of building materials and income.
“If government wants to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses, government can go into housing schemes, mortgage schemes, housing credit facilities, and not control the business of private individuals in an emerging African democracy.
“I, therefore, oppose, and oppose vigorously this bill”, he said.
Senators, however, voted overwhelmingly in support of the bill when the Deputy Senate President put the question for it to be read a second time.
The bill was subsequently referred by Omo-Agege to the Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development for further inputs.
The Committee was given four weeks to report back to the Senate in plenary.
Meanwhile, three other bills also scaled second reading during plenary Tuesday.
They are a bill seeking to establish the Federal University of Environmental Technology Saakperwa Tai Ogoni, Rivers State; a Bill to Establish the Solid Minerals Development Bank; and a Bill to amend the National Health Act 2014.
The bills were sponsored by Senators Mpigi Barinada (Rivers South East), Yakubu Useni (Kogi Central) and Ibrahim Oloriegbe (Kwara Central), respectively.
Similarly, the bill to establish the Federal University of Environmental Technology was referred by the Deputy Senate President after consideration to the Committees on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to report back in two weeks.
The other two bills to Establish the Solid Minerals Development Bank; and to amend the National Health Act 2014, were referred to the Committees on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy; and Health (Secondary and Tertiary) for further work.
The two Committees were given four weeks to report back to the chamber in plenary.