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Uncompleted Buildings As Menace And Booby-Traps Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

Abandoned, uncompleted buildings are becoming a familiar sight round the country, Port Harcourt becoming notorious for this spectre of shame. A recent report claims that there are over 665 of such buildings in Port Harcourt, most of which are meant to be commercial and residential housing projects. It is also not uncommon to see an entire estate of uncompleted buildings, especially in Port Harcourt.

Apart from being an eyesore, these uncompleted buildings also pose a security threat to people in the neighbourhood where they are situated, as they become inadvertently, hideouts for criminals and other undesirable elements.

Speaking with The Vortex, DSP Frank Onu, of the Nigeria Police, Olu-Obasanjo Divisional Headquarters said, “As an organisation concerned with the welfare of Port Harcourt residents, we have dealt with over 216 rape cases which were committed in uncompleted constructions within Port Harcourt. And from reports available to us, it has been discovered that about 119 out of 316 arrested suspected criminals were picked from uncompleted buildings which are usually situated within residential areas”.

“We would sensitize residents of Port Harcourt to always alert the police whenever they suspect any form of strange movement around their residence to prevent evil doers from using abandoned buildings around them to perpetrate evil”, Onu said.

Mr Ephraim Peterside, a Banker at Rumueme, Mile 4, also condemned the rate at which builder starts and abandon construction projects.

According to him, “the rate at which you see uncompleted buildings in Port Harcourt today is becoming appalling. In my Area in Mile 4, out of every 5 building apart, there would be about 2 to 3 uncompleted building. Most times, in the early hours of the night, we hear strange noises coming out of those building.

“By the time you wake up the following day to check around, you would see several pack of used condoms and blood stains on the floor of those building but no one would come out to say he saw anybody neither would anyone come out to complain of being the victim. This means that those criminals usually pick their victims from far away to mishandle them wherever an uncompleted building is available.”

A contractor in Port Harcourt who pleaded anonymity attributed the increasing rate of abandoned projects in Port Harcourt to breach of agreement between building contractors and their clients.

“Most abandoned buildings you see today are usually caused by breach of agreement which is mostly caused by our client. These clients would establish a contract with you at the beginning of the project but would not fulfil their part of the bargain at the very middle of the project. No one would expect a contractor to help his or her client to complete a building.”

Abandoned buildings are either results of planlessness on the part of the owner or are part of a deliberate ploy by the nouveau riche and those who acquired illicit wealth to launder such money they could not put in banks or keep at home. Whichever is the case, it defeats the purpose for which buildings are erected to provide accommodation to meet both the residential and commercial needs of the people.

Dilapidated as some of these buildings have become, destitutes and those who do not have enough resources to rent homes or build houses take advantage of the fact that nobody is laying claim to the buildings and therefore make them their dwelling places. In some cases, these buildings collapse, resulting in the death of countless innocent citizens.

It is sad to note, that a sizeable number of these buildings are also owned by the federal and state governments. Due to corruption in the system, the cost of the buildings keep going up, a situation that is made worse by policy inconsistency as succeeding administrations place less priority on their completion. But whether owned by the government or operators in the private sector the authorities must come up with a plan on what to do with such properties that are defacing the city landscape. Such policies should consider disposing them to real estate managers who are likely to be in a better position to complete and put them to good use.

Government owes itself a duty to preserve the aesthetics of the city by putting measures in place to remove the unsightly presence of these uncompleted structures. And it seems a Nigerian problem. A visit to some of the cities in some African countries shows that the presence of uncompleted buildings is rare, few and far between.

In those climes, property taxes are enforced and owners are compelled to pay, whether or not the buildings are in use. Should such laws be made to apply in the country, there are no doubt people and even the government will do whatever it takes to finish the buildings and put them to use since it is easier to pay for what is being used to generate revenue than what is idle and a liability.

It is becoming a trend for whole estates, well-built up and ostensibly ready for occupation to be left empty by their owners. One is tempted to wonder why anyone would waste resources in such a flagrant manner.

On assumption of office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari threatened to acquire such properties forcefully and allocate them to the security agencies to be used as barracks or to civil servants as official quarters.

That would have been one pragmatic way of resolving the issue. But that threat was not acted upon possibly because most of the owners of the properties that would have been affected are politically connected individuals who know the buttons to press to weaken the resolve of any determined policy maker.

Government should do the needful to ensure that the number of uncompleted buildings everywhere in the country, which deface the environment, create security challenges and cause deaths as a result of collapse, is reduced to manageable limits.

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