By Ononye VC/The Nation
CRISIS looms for Shylock Landlords in the nation’s capital Territory, Abuja as a bill to make the annual payment of rent illegal, yesterday scaled second reading in the Senate.
The Senate had penultimate week introduced the Advanced Rent( Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, etc Regulation bill that would regulate rents from one or two years first payment by tenants to three months and subsequent monthly payments.
The bill titled, Advanced Rent( Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, etc Regulation Bill, 2022( SB. 893) and sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kogi West.
In his lead debate yesterday on the general principles of the bill, Senator Adeyemi said that the bill seeks to regulate the mode of payment of rent on residential apartments, office space, rooms and accommodation in the FCT.
According to him, 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 the majority of the down-trodden and low-income earners in the Federal Territory”, Adeyemi said.
He explained further that due to the 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.
According to him, in the FCT, Landlords demand between one to three years of advanced rent, a situation which he pointed, out “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 un-African, 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 payments, adding that, “many houses built within the city centre for such purposes are empty.”
He said that yearly tenancy has continued to breed corruption, moral decadence and huge inequality as low-income earners cannot afford to continually pay their rent.
According to him, some tenants now engage in corrupt practices, immorality, and even criminal acts to meet the pressing need for 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.
Adeyemi said 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 stated 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, who supported the bill, described the piece of legislation as “people-centred.”
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 the 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 represents 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 President of the Senate, Senator 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 the issue of rent payment should be driven by market forces.
“The issue of rental payment, either in advance or instalments is purely economical and should be driven by market forces.
“Such market forces as availability of land, cost of building materials and income.
“If the government wants to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses, the government can go into housing schemes, mortgage schemes, housing credit facilities, 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 Committee on Housing and Urban Development for further inputs.
The Committee was given four weeks to report back to the Senate in plenary.