Shelter is one of the basic needs of man. With a roof over their head, people cannot only chart the way forward for themselves and family but also be able to make meaningful contributions to the socioeconomic growth of their host communities.
Most metropolises, the world over, are meeting points for various tribes and races, causing them to be densely populated. Nigeria is no exception. This is due to the availability of basic infrastructures which in itself create opportunities for basic livelihood.
The population density in return attracts an increase in revenue allocation from the central government as against areas that are not heavily populated. A state like Lagos, for instance, with a landmass of 3,577km2 gets more revenue allocation than Niger which covers an area of 76,363km2 due to its large population.
In sane societies, where laws do not only exist but are respected, everyone, regardless of their ethnic orientation, is accorded equal opportunity to find a place to live in, provided they can afford to pay for it.
Nigeria is made up of over 250 ethnic groups many of whom can be found in different commercial and administrative centers in the country. Among these ethnic groups, the Igbos, according to statistics, is the second largest tribe in almost all the major cities in the country. Their presence in these cities has no doubt contributed in no small measure to the development of these cities. These come in the form of payment of dues and levies, as well as the aesthetic outlook of their host communities.
The above contributions, however, have not been compensated in the form of access to peaceful coexistence. Take, for instance, there’s been ongoing discrimination or bias on rental properties against the Igbos. In Lagos, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa, threatened to pass a bill that many have interpreted to give legislative backing to the discrimination.
If placed alongside the recent demolition of structures at Alaba International Market occupied by Igbos by the Lagos State government on the excuse of threatened structural integrity and considering that the dilapidated Arago section occupied by Hausas was spared the demolition exercise, one begins to wonder what has become of Section 43 of the Nigerian Constitution which states that every citizen of Nigeria has the right to own any immovable property regardless of location, while Section 44 states that no immovable property or any interest in any immovable property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria. Some are also beginning to ask if Igbos are still part of Nigeria.
Ironically, this discrimination or bias is not exhibited in the sale of landed property. The average land merchant in Nigeria will first romance the Igbo prospective buyer before any other tribe. However, after the sale of the property, they will set a booby trap for them at the land bureau, where they will ensure they make it very difficult for the documentation and clearance to be given.
Two landlords aired their views on why they don’t want Igbos in their properties. John Ayanbajo, a landlord around Berger, stated that Igbos were very proud and stubborn, but he could not substantiate his claims. Another unnamed landlady bluntly said she just hated them and would never allow them on her property.
However, some built environment professionals refuted the existence of stereotyping and discrimination against Igbo tenants.
Olufemi Akinola, Director of Research and former HOD, Department of Building Technology, Yaba College of Tech explained that it is not only Igbos that are being discriminated against in the property rental business, that it cuts across all tribes. Akinola said it is a random sampling thing as there are some Igbos that are very good, while some are very bad.
He stated further that the discrimination is not only about the tribe, that there are some professions that landlords would never rent their apartments to, except if they disguise when applying to rent.
“If you are a lawyer or a soldier, landlords would avoid renting their apartments to you because of the tendency of you becoming a landlord over the landlord.
“Even in Yoruba land, if an Ijesha person wants to rent a house, some landlords would not give it to them because they are said to be very strong-headed and cantankerous. They can kill because of a little misunderstanding. It is all about a bad experience. I even have clients who would not want Chinese in their houses because they overcrowd the apartments.”
Steven Jagun, former Lagos chapter chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) narrated that it is not a matter of ethnicity based bias but that of choice of tenant and personal bias. “All over the world, there’s nothing one can do about that. You cannot force any tenant on somebody that has personally invested his resources in a property. In every tribe, there are good and bad people.”
Despite the views expressed above, concerns are being raised as to the dimension the discrimination and bias towards renting apartments to Igbos are assuming, especially after the just concluded political process. Some concerned individuals believe that if not checked, it might end up being the undoing of this administration.