- Post 23 January 2010
- Last Updated on 23 January 2010
- By Joe Igbokwe
How Some Lagos Landlords Ruin the Economy of Lagos
I have just read a report in the newspapers that a bill that will check the excesses of landlords in Lagos is on the floor of the hallowed chambers of the Lagos State House of Assembly for consideration and when passed into law it is going to be a landmark achievement that will stand the test of time in Nigeria . I hear that when the bill becomes a law, it will be an offence punishable by law to collect more than three months rent or for a would-be tenant to pay more than three months rent. I hear also that 3 years imprisonment awaits such offenders.
This is a revolution, which if religiously implemented, and to all intents and purposes, will add serious values to Lagos State . I have lived somewhere in Surulere since 1992 and for those 18 years I have seen how Lagos landlords have exploited poor Lagosians, killed their businesses and sent them to their villages. On my way to work and back I have seen shops rented for 2 years at N5000 per month depending on the size and pay for two or three years with agreement and agent fees duly paid. Goods worth more than N100, 000 may not be inside the shops. These shop owners stay for two or three years and when the rent expires they may not continue because there will not be enough money to pay for even one year rent. The landlords take over the shops and look for another customer, on jerked up rent. After two years the same thing happens and another person packs in. that way, the vicious circle continues and the landlord continues to smile to the bank.
The cycle of stupidity and fraud continues and our economy continues to nose-dive. For 18 years I have watched this dangerous trend and criminality along Adelabu-Agbonyin, Enitan-Pako and Agbebi Streets, all in Surulere. In a particular shop, I have keenly observed five shop owners coming and going within a span of 10 years. This is the same story all over Lagos and indeed the entire country.
Dubious and lazy landlords in Lagos have no conscience. They rely on houses they built 30-40 years ago to pay school fees for their children and children of their concubines in Nigeria and abroad, they rely on the money to feed, cloth and do naming ceremonies. They rely on the money to buy cars and do other sundry things. Routine maintenance of the building is not in their lexicon. Their children are busy learning the trade, and sometimes these children force their parents to die in order to take over the property and it becomes business as usual. In our area I have seen young men take over their father’s property and with that they are comfortable. They do no other jobs except to collect rents. You know them when they gather once in a month at the Street gate to collect security and other levies.
I packed into a three bedroom flat in Ijeshatedo, Surulere in1992 for N18,000 per annum. From N18,000 it was moved to N25,000, N30,000, N50,000, N80,000, N100,000, N120,000, and N150,000, and for 18 years nothing has been added to that block of 12 flats in terms of anything by the landlord. We did all the repairs, changed kitchens, toilet, and bathrooms, repainted the flats, serviced the drains, and repaired the two gates leading to the compound. Today twelve of us are in possession of quit notices. What is his target?
A flat is now going from N300,000-N500,000 in Ijeshatedo depending on the type of building. If 12 of us leave, he will change few things in the two blocks of flats and probably paint the whole blocks he has not painted for 19 years now. The next thing is to ask for 500k per annum and two years rent. This is his target.
I have made the points at several fora in Lagos that rents in Lagos these days are not justifiable. It is completely running at variance with the real prevailing economic situation in Lagos. It is counterproductive, it is criminal, and it is absurd. Investment funds end in the pocket of landlords and they use it to marry more wives and breed more children. The trend is that whenever a landlords collects his rent, the repair and upgrading of his building falls on the tenants and the system is so favorable to the landlords that the tenant has nowhere to run to or else when he is not clamped down on, he is given quit notice. Which system runs like that? A system where a landlord wants to collect the cost of his building in one fell swoop is devilish and is not practiced anywhere else in the world.
Matters were not helped by the phenomenal growth of banks in Lagos whether real or fake. Cheap funds collected from sales of dubious shares and deposits of common people were converted to personal wealth by fraudulent bank CEOs, and where do they put the money? Properties. Cheap funds from banks workers raised the stakes very high in the property industry in Lagos especially living houses. A rent of N500,000 per annum is no money to them. Banks buy up property in any busy Street in Lagos at a mouth watering fee and there is a big scramble to sell houses to banks, and this has helped in no uncertain terms to render poor people homeless in Lagos.
The woes of tenants in Lagos are endless and unbelievable. They are hopeless, helpless, hapless and totally humiliated. We need courage and political will to enforce this law. This law is long over due, it is imperative, it is a must law. It will help to release the investment funds going into the pockets of landlords, it will help the poor, it will reduce crimes, it will create jobs, and it will help the economy of Lagos. The move is a political master stroke, it is creative thinking in action, and it is creative governance in action and Lagos is getting it right. Lagos State House of Assembly, please pass this law immediately and follow it up with affirmative action. A follow up is to set up a rent tribunal that will handle cases from this envisaged law and many other tenant-landlord related issues that have made the lives of tenants a living hell in Lagos and indeed Nigeria.