By Tajudeen Suleiman
Over 200 units of luxury duplexes and 2-4-bedroom flats constructed by the Kano State government under Rabiu Kwankwaso, now a senator, may become abandoned properties unless the new administration in the state is able to find corporate buyers for them.
The houses are in three residential estates named Kwankwasiya City, Amana City and Bandirawo City located on the outskirts of Kano metropolis and were constructed between 2012 and 2014.
Investigations by icirnigeria.org indicate that former Governor Kwankwaso committed N4.1 billion from the state’s pension fund into the project, which was designed to provide decent housing and further open up the ancient city.
The houses were to be sold to civil servants and other residents interested in owning their own homes. However, the problem is the cost of the houses. The two-bedroom flats go for N15million while the four-bedroom duplexes have been put on sale for between N30 million and N35 million.
Since 2014 when the estates were completed, the state has failed to get buyers for the house and there is growing concern that the N4.1 billion pension fund committed to the projects may have been wasted.
Government officials who spoke to this news website said those who had shown interest in buying the properties complain that the prices are too high by Kano standards, and wondered why the state government would embark on such a project without considering the capacity of end users.
“In Kano, no one will put N30 million down to buy a four-bedroom flat when half of that money can build a decent four-bedroom in the city,” said Umaru Lado, a staff of the state Ministry of Education.
When the reporter visited the estates last week, there was no one living in any of the flats or duplexes and the roofs of some of the buildings were caving in. The paints were falling off on some of the walls.
Kwankwasiya City, which has not less than 20 four-bedroom duplexes, was constructed by Birsa Engineering International Limited, a Minna based construction company. The estate has underground electrification. The duplexes go for N35 million each. But all the houses are unoccupied and overgrown grasses were noticeable right from the entrance of the estate.
Isa Yunusa, an estate manager, told icirnigeria.org that it would be difficult for the state to get buyers for the properties at the prices they are being offered for sale.
He said: “You know, Kano is not like before. Business has slowed down considerably in the city due largely to the religious crisis that has plagued the state and the activities of Boko Haram insurgents. Many people, especially non-indigenes who could have been attracted to buy the houses, fled Kano because of these problems.”
He said unless the government was willing to sell the houses “at give-away prices” it may not get buyers.
Auduwa Maitangaran, chairman of Indigenous contractors in the state, disclosed that that Kwankwaso administration owed the group’s members over N200 billion for work done. He led his members on a visit to Governor Abdulahi Ganduje in October, 2015 to seek the his assistance in paying the debt.
Asked whether the government was thinking of bringing down the prices of the houses to make them affordable, Mohammed Garba, commissioner for Information, said bringing down the prices would amount to wastage as government would not be able to recoup its investments.
“As you know, the government spent N4.1 billion pension fund on these estates and if we have to pay back the pension board. If we slash the price too much, we ‘ll be losing a lot of money. That is our dilemma now. But we are seriously looking for buyers and we have been talking to organisations and individuals who may be willing to buy. It is a serious problem for us because the houses are not affordable and we need the money,” the commissioner stated.
Critics of Kwankwaso have criticised him for embarking on the construction of luxury estates when he knew that only very few could have the means to purchase them.