It’s no secret that Abuja is home to opulence, where homes which cost a billion naira and above are not unusual. Daily Trust went round the capital city to serve you the story.
There is hardly enough space for four moderately-sized cars to park on the premises of the house in Maitama’s Minister’s Hill area, strange for a house which has a market value of N1.1billion. The occupants have to make do with parking other cars on the narrow street, with security details further shrinking the available space. Inside, Daily Trust observed the house has three living rooms, seven bedrooms scattered on three floors, two guest toilets, two one-bedroom servants’ quarters cramped into the space and then, of course, a rooftop swimming pool. Then came the details of the fittings within, doors which cost N350,000 for the cheapest of them, fitted in places like the servants’ quarters, bathrooms and kitchen.
All over the house, there is marble flooring, Jacuzzis even for the servants, although smaller-sized ones from those in the main house. The kitchen was already fitted with a high-end gas cooker, oven, microwave, massive closet refrigerator, all silver coloured, with a central work station. The finishing is reminiscent of the opulence seen in photos of homes belonging to Hollywood stars. For the owner of this Maitama house, it is a dream abode, complete with a breath-taking view of Abuja city taken in from the rooftop.
When billion-naira mansions are mentioned to Abuja residents, the very first thought that comes to mind usually is one which imposes its presence on all who drive by Gana Street in Maitama, at the same junction with the Hilton. With its several western-styled shutters, gothic-styled sculptures and white walls with subtle-but-present security effects, it might as well be on a street in Hyde Park, London. Reported to belong to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, a building technologist himself and also chairman of AA Oil Limited, an online report credits him with having said that he acquired the plot of land in 2005 at the cost of N1 billion from a seller who hails from Zamfara State. According to the interview, he said he bankrolled the project from his personal savings, with zero bank aid. “Just for everyone to know that it is possible to replicate the type of things we see overseas in Nigeria. So, I resolved that since I had the opportunity of acquiring this land, I would put up a structure that would be equal to none in the entire city and maybe the country,” he is quoted on nairaland.com.
It is common to read adverts for landed property in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and handbills distributed for this same purpose. Going through a list of items up for sale, eyes are first drawn to the high-priced houses, with their eye-popping nine figures, located in places like Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse II and even newly-hot Utako.
Charles Ebiai, Assistant National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), told Daily Trust that prices of houses in Abuja have to do with demand and supply. “Houses could cost up to and even beyond N1 billion, depending on their locations. Government over time has concentrated on the centre, creating the first part of the development with places like Garki, Maitama and Asokoro,” he said. “Because these were the only areas at the time with infrastructure, it allowed for people to want to be in the centre. They didn‘t want to go out. With the Obasanjo monetisation policy, people can now buy government property, which takes away the cost of maintenance. It allowed for a lot of people to begin to look outside the city centre and gave room for properties in satellite areas to become expensive.”
Asokoro and Maitama have been categorized as having the most mega-priced houses, Ebiai said. “More than a couple of houses in Asokoro cost N1 billion, some higher. Everybody wants to be in Asokoro, close to the seat of government. Another hot place is Maitama Zone A5 which is close to the Villa,” he said.
On identifying houses which cost as much as a billion naira, he said: “I want you to differentiate between cost and value. It may not cost a billion but the demand could hike the price. This will continue to happen because everybody wants to stay in the city centre.”
On what kind of people purchase the properties, he said: “Nobody other than government workers have the means to buy them. They include permanent secretaries, ministers and directors. These are the people who have that kind of money.”
Former vice president, Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) Mohammed Kabir Olayiwole, told Daily Trust that many factors affect housing and estate development in the country, especially in the FCT. According to him, cost of land and location are the major determining factors responsible, as a plot of land in Asokoro would be 100 percent higher than one in Kuje, Mararaba, Dutse or other satellite towns.
Materials used and logistics, according to Olayiwole, are other factors accounting for the cost of the mega-priced houses, adding that workmanship too is also taken into consideration, because it is costlier in Abuja than any other area. “Walling and fitting materials are also responsible for the high cost because there are some houses where the walling materials are bullet-proof and fire-proof. Finishing, like ceilings, also dictate the cost, as we have ordinary ceiling, POP and others. So they all add together to increase the cost. This is why you’ll find that a house in Abuja with the same design and finishing in the city centre would cost 100 percent higher than the same building in Kaduna, Kano and other places,” he said.
Olayiwole pointed out that the billion-naira houses in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse II, and other choice areas in the city centre tend to be empty, which is not strange, given their jaw-dropping rent which runs up all the way to 30 million and above. “Majority of people can’t afford that kind of rent,” he said. “The owners – or tenants – of such houses have to be big-time business people, politicians, diplomats, oil magnates, and of course, civil servants who have stolen public funds,” he said.
Olayiwole explained that location is the main determining factor in real estate pricing, and not demand, because a house that costs N400 million elsewhere in the country can cost N1 billion in Maitama or Asokoro because of the strategic location. He added that in most cases, owners see such houses as an ego-boost, to afford an opportunity to boast ‘I have houses in Maitama, Asokoro, etc.’”
Abuja’s mega-priced houses seem poised to rank among the world’s most expensive. In London, known for pricey real estate, a typical property in Kensington Palace Gardens, central London, sells for about £20m, roughly over N5billion. And that’s the most expensive area in the whole United Kingdom.
Ebiai, who spoke earlier, also told Daily Trust that the ‘Nigerian mentality’ is one of the reasons a house would cost a billion naira, adding that an individual who has a billion naira should be able to finance a whole street in a satellite town. He said all over Abuja, new high-brow areas are being born: “In new districts like Guzape, a district close to Asokoro, property is now on the high side.” But nowhere near a billion naira. At least not yet.