Urges CSOs to compel FG to tax them heavily
By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA: The Director-General, Nigerian Building, and Road Research Institute, NBBRI, Professor Sampson Duna, has charged the Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, operating in the country to commence a process that would compel the Federal Government to place a heavy tax on empty houses scattered over the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
Prof. Duna who spoke in Abuja at a civil society roundtable discussion with the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, NBBRI, on the review and assessment of its achievement and milestones attained, said the CSOs have a role to play in addressing the acute shortage of housing accommodation confronting the country.
The roundtable with the theme, ‘Harnessing the gains of the building and road research institute as a key factor in the Next Level agenda” was organized by the Centre for Peace Transparency and Accountability.
Professor Duna lamented that the agency in the recent past made some recommendations to the government on ways to address the issue of unoccupied houses in the nation’s capital but did not receive the desired response from the authorities.
According to him, “If the government has been able to tax these people, all those houses would have been opened to people to occupy them. We made a strong recommendation to the government to enforce the tax on the owners of all unoccupied houses in the FCT but nothing has come out of it.
“We are not an enforcement agency, but we can identify a problem, we can create solutions as well, we can formulate and send to stakeholders but our mandate did not give us the power to enforce.
“But as I am talking to you, the issue of housing, there are houses, decent accommodation within Abuja. There are empty. Nobody can afford it, most people cannot afford them. And people used them in form of corruption. They used proceed of corruption to acquire those houses and then keep them empty.
“But if we can come out up with agitation that all houses in Abuja are either to be occupied or government should place a heavy tax on them, I am sure that would be the solution.”
In his remarks, the convener and the Executive Director Center for Peace Transparency and Accountability, Comrade Ogheneyero Patrick, noted that NBBRI has a central role to play in replicating President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest for a solid local economic base by significantly expanding the pool and scope of local construction manpower and technology.
According to him, “The institute has been fulfilling its mandate in an environment where there is the poor appreciation for the work it has done so far with attendant underinvestment, yet NBRRI has produced and is in the process of coming up with new technologies capable of revolutionizing how construction is thought about and delivered in Nigeria.
Comrade Patrick added that “NBRRI is championing a paradigm shift in construction and building thinking from the old model that focused on exploiting/depleting natural resources to a circular approach that eliminates waste in construction and development.
“NBRRRI is a living example of the truism that “society can develop, without nature having to bear the cost”, as the institute is setting Nigeria on the course of development that future generations can inherit and consolidate upon without having to worry about environmental damage.
“Oil and gas have never been a huge employer of labour, not even at the peak of its revenue generation and influence wielding prowess. Shell has never employed more than 4thousand Nigerians while as of 2016 Julius Berger employed about 75thousand.
“The direct employment capacity of the construction sector is massive and cuts across several other allied and service sectors of the economy in indirect employment such as lawyers, accountants, advertising, banking amongst others.
“It is no wonder that despite delivering record levels of growth in the last two decades the impact on employment has been rather minimal and the call by President Buhari for a paradigm shift in economic management is rather timely.
“Construction holds an important key to actualizing this new Nigeria and NBRRI is a key player in opening up the limitless vistas of opportunities for Nigerians through capacity development. “