How Nigeria’s Housing Problem Is Affecting Nigerians

March 29, 2021

Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.

Nigeria has a housing problem. Apart from the data and research that backs up that statement, the reality of this is easy to see in our everyday lives. With overpopulation contributing to the housing palavah in states like Lagos to the general problem of affordability this is a problem we cannot deny.  Samuel C. Uzoigwe, a lawyer with expertise in housing and its related matters, explains that much of Nigeria’s housing problem can be linked to the lack of strong enforcement of housing and environmental laws on the part of state agencies. “Most of our laws regulating housing are yet to be updated to refer modern-day realities.” He says. 

To further understand Nigeria’s housing problem and how it affects Nigerians in real-time, we spoke with four Nigerians on their experiences not being able to afford good housing and having to stay in uncomfortable situations or share their space when they would rather stay alone.

Read their experiences below.

Zainab, 21

At my former apartment, I got robbed at gunpoint and some of my neighbors were raped so I had to leave. The only option I had was to rent a house but I had to share it with another person to afford rent. My experience was terrible, she had very poor hygiene. For instance, I had a white carpet I used at my former house and I put it in the room and after she stepped out, she would step on with dirt and would not bother to clean it up. Sometimes, she would soak clothes for months till they started breeding mosquitoes, and would often not wash her plates for weeks.

To top it all for me, she bed-wetted twice on my mattress and ran away from the house for like two weeks each time, leaving me to clean after her mess amongst other problems. It would have been easier to move out if there were housing schemes in Nigeria that make it easy to pay rent in installments. I’d just moved into the former apartment when they came to rob us so I spent a week there and the owner took months to refund the house rent and caution fee. If I was able to pay in installments, I would have gotten a much better apartment for myself pending the time I got my refund. I left my roommate in the house and started sleeping at a friend’s place for months before I finally got a new place.

Constance*, 21

I graduated from university and after my service, I started job hunting for customer service and receptionist roles to help me save to learn graphics design and or digital marketing because streets are hard and receptionist jobs don’t pay well. I didn’t find a job for the remaining part of 2020 and all the money I saved from Nysc was spent, leaving me broke and sad. I intentionally looked for jobs on the island because I’d much more prefer to work in an environment where I felt comfortable and I like the island even with its dirty water and stinky drainage. I lived on the mainland with my parents then. My big sister had already moved out to an apartment of her own on the island. So I figured I’d stay with her until I get a job, even though I’d have preferred to have my own space.

I did get a job last month and had to resume immediately, which I did. I had to pack my things within 24 hours and move out of my parent’s place to the island. Even if people can pay rent in installments, It’s still gonna be hard. A lot of people are underpaid. Most of the monthly salaries go to transportation, a discouragingly low amount goes to savings and the rest goes to the family and utilities A lot of people wouldn’t be able to cope regardless.

Emily*, 28

I had to share a flat with someone who was involved in cybercrime. His communication always came off as rude. It took me six months to set up my space in the kitchen as I never felt comfortable and after I did, I would cook and drop my food in my room to avoid getting poisoned.  After the 8th month, I had to move out just for that sense of safety.  Well, to think of it, if there were better housing schemes, options for installment payments, it would have been easy to move out. I know for a fact I wouldn’t have stayed that long.

Sarah*, 23

I live with my parents in Calabar. I’ve gone to school here and have lived here all my life and it seems like there’s no escape. I recently got a low-paying job but I’m just trying to make ends meet at my own end. I was able to gather enough money to get a house but my parents were against it. Talmabout, I won’t give you my blessing to leave the house. I would have relocated but I’m also a coward. I can’t think of going to a new town with almost no money to sustain myself, and I’ve been saving for forever to get the liver to get out of my parent’s house. I’ve been having this back and forth for 3 years now and I’m embarrassed of myself.

I’ve put the end of this year as a goal to get out of their house. Because my mental health is at stake. And the worse part is that we don’t even stay in the main city, we stay in the outskirts, it can pass as a proper village. We’ve not had light for 8months and for me to get network, I have to hang in the protector in my brother’s room. A fair housing scheme would make it easier to move out, paying house rent in full is so much struggle, and it’s just not rent involved in getting a place. You also have to furnish it. But on the other hand, I view anything with installments as a scam because in most cases, you end up paying even more in the name of installments.

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