By Joshua Omoloye, Politics Editor, Abuja
Senator Smart Adeyemi, representing Kogi West senatorial district said he drew the wrath of his colleagues in the Senate for initiating and pursuing a bill aiming at regulating rent payment by tenants in Abuja and environs by stopping landlords in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from demanding yearly advance rent payment.
The Bill titled, “A bill for an Act to regulate the mode of payment of rent on residential apartments, office spaces, etc in the FCT and for other matters connected therewith” scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate during plenary on Tuesday.
Adeyemi, who said the same bill has been frustrated twice in previous Assemblies vowed not to be deterred by swelling antagonism to the people oriented bill.
Stressing that he knew opposition will come for the bill, Adeyemi said he has guarded himself against such and did a lot of lobbying of his colleagues to buy into the idea of reducing the burden on civil servants, low income earners and artisans living in satellite towns in the FCT.
Adeyemi told select journalists the obstacle he faced while lobbying colleague senators to support his bill.
Aside the former governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani who stood against the bill and advanced reasons why the piece of legislation might fail, Adeyemi said some senators advised him against advancing the bill.
Nnamani, in opposing the bill said the payment of rent should be driven by market forces.
The former governor insisted that the Senate should not dictate the rent payment modalities to landlords when government was doing nothing to either regulate the cost of land and prices of building materials.
According to the chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, majority of senators that opposed the bill did so for selfish reason because they are into real estate business.
He said it is unfortunate that senators elected to protect interest of the electorates are antagonizing such laudable piece of legislation aiming at alleviating peoples’ suffering.
Sen. Adeyemi said, “You discover today that one or two people were against the bill. those who have invested in real estate will not want the bill and I can tell that before I came to the floor I had to discuss with a cross section of my colleagues and pleaded with them to support this bill.
“A good number did not want the bill too.
“The fact is that there are senators who are into properties business before they came here and some of them still have their investment in the property business.
“You can understand why they go against such bill.
“I told one of my colleagues who felt strongly about the bill that he does not fear God who had been kind enough to him to own massive property. He is unfair to God and mankind.
“Meanwhile, another Senator who supported the bill said he recently had to pay N6.5m to bail out one of his sisters whose landlord had given her a quit notice.
“Most of the girls who hang around some streets in the Abuja city centre are professionals who are being forced into prostitution just to meet their obligations to the landlords.”
He lamented that some landlords in the FCT were demanding between one to three years advanced rent, a development he said, automatically added a huge burden on the masses, subsequently giving rise to desperation and corruption.
“Our economy has not fared better in supporting the advanced payment for accommodation.
“In a depressed economy such as ours, advanced payment for rents is indeed an outrageous tenancy arrangement.
“Even in United Kingdom and the United States where we derive our laws and system of Governance, a tenant can only pay for where he has lived for one month (postpaid).
“This tenancy system has continuously impoverished Nigerians who are salaried employees that can only pay rent after haven received their first remuneration. (In the event that he is lucky to be so paid). This tenancy system is unafrican, unislamic and indeed unbiblical.
“Many residents of the FCT are finding it difficult to cope with huge rent payment, and as an aftermath to this fact, many houses built within the city center for such purposes are empty.
“Therefore, legislation must be aimed towards a better and developed society, and towards justice, fairness, equity and improved standard of living.
“Yearly tenancy has continued to breed corruption, moral decadence and huge inequality as low income earners who cannot afford to continually pay their rent will, due to the exigencies of shelter for humanity, engage in measures which are unlawful, thereby engaging in corrupt practices, immorality, and even criminal acts to meet this pressing needs,” Senator Adeyemi said.
Appealing for journalists support, he said “I came so that you can help the bill not because of Smart but because of the majority who are languishing in poverty”.
Shockingly, Senator Adeyemi further revealed that his life was being threatened by some Shylock landlords in Abuja whose business might be threatened if such bill, which seeks to replace the current annual advance rent payment with monthly payment in arrears, becomes law.
He said, “Some of the landlords have even started threatening me to do one or two things against me if I proceed with the bill and I just laughed.
“When you take up this type of job, it is between you and your God. We shouldn’t be afraid of what anybody could do to us.
“The bulk of the people who had acquired much property in Nigeria are those who had taken advantage of the system to corruptly enrich themselves. Unfortunately, they are the same set of people who believe that poor Nigerians should languish in poverty.
“Many civil servants are stealing public funds not because they wanted to but because circumstances especially payment of rent which had skyrocketed,” he stated.
During its second reading on Tuesday, the bill gained acceptance of majority of lawmakers.
In supporting, Senate Deputy Whip, Sabi Abdullahi said many residents of Abuja “are groaning in pains to pay house rents in advance.”
He said the Senate would be helping poor Nigerians working and residing in Abuja if the bill was signed into law.
He described it a as welfare oriented programme that would enjoy the support of Abuja workers and residents.
Senators Ibrahim Gobir and Bala Ibn Na’Allah also lent their voices to support the bill, claiming that it would end corruption among the workers and immorality among the young ladies who engage in desperate activities to pay their rents.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Housing for further legislative actions.