INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO HOUSING IN FCT ABUJA
The land swap model simply means that developers will be awarded a percentage of large hectares of land for the provision of engineering infrastructure.
The essence of the land swap model is to give an investor a particular percentage of land in a district in exchange for the provision of infrastructure in the entire district.
To understand the rationale for this arrangement, we need to know the exact situation of things in Abuja. At the moment, Abuja is highly congested; it is literally exploding with population activities. If nothing is done, the Abuja master plan will be incurably distorted in such a way that, in ten years time, many people will no longer recognize the once beautiful city.
Way out: Develop new districts. But hundreds of billions of Naira which the FCT can hardly afford will be required to provide engineering infrastructure in the form of roads, drainage systems, water supply, social amenities, etc in these districts.
The problem is that if we want to wait for the traditional way of funding these projects through government budget, we may wait forever. Even with the best of budgets, it will take nothing less than 10 years to complete ongoing projects, a situation the minister finds unacceptable.
What to do? The minister Bala Mohammed and his team at the FCT had to put on their thinking caps to evolve a “paradigm shift”. The Hon Minister says “the land swap arrangement is in fact, trying to actualize the land reform policy under the transformation agenda project. It is going to catalyze real property development in the entire capital because here you are discouraging people to come and start asking for single allocations of land but you are encouraging people to get ownership of homes.”
The Result: The land for infrastructure swap model! The paradigm shift is to now place emphasis on house ownership as obtained in developed countries rather than the craze for land allocation as is in the past. His words: “the emphasis is not on allocation of land to a person but ownership of the house because what is most important is the roof over your head with the little document so that you as an individual can create capital”
Senator Bala Mohammed´s vision and the land swap initiative have received unequivocal endorsement from Nigeria´s leading property developers, some of whose firms are angling for a slice of the Abuja land pie. They explained that in an era of budgetary constraints, accelerating real estate development in Nigeria while benchmarking global best practices could only come through private investments and expertise.
Conclusion: A total of nine districts are involved in the land swap model. These are: ketti North, Sheretti, Ketti, Sherreti Chechi and Waru Kpozaika. Others are Burum, Burum West, Ketti East and Gwagwa Districts.
Senator Bala Mohammed has underlined greater transparency, public sector realignment, training and retraining of civil servants, policy consistency and continuity as paramount desiderata for the success of the program. The Minister is of the view that by exposing the middle class to ownership of houses, the land swap initiative will bring down rents and kill off land speculation.