This was not a good week to be in the market for a home in Abuja, Nigeria. Then again, is it ever? Citizens in Port Harcourt actually paint “this house is not for sale” on the walls of their properties, to avoid falling prey to hustlers who endeavor to “sell” houses while the owners are away.

Earlier this week in Abuja, 872 houses went up for sale from the Federal Capital Territory administration. These are the last of 30,000 homes that were built to accommodate civil servants, and they are now prime real estate. An article from the BBC observes that it has practically become impossible for the Nigerian middle class to purchase homes. For renters in Abuja, demands for as much as two-years rent in advance, can be typical in order to secure housing.

An apartment in a central area of town will cost at least 1 million Naira ($8,474) per year to rent.

The homes for sale from the FCT are particularly alluring because they are being sold far below market value. 

Throngs of people turned out hoping to purchase these houses. There was plenty of competition among buyers, and the situation escalated to the point where police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Journalists also documented the abuse of citizens:

In the queue at Abuja’s Old Parade Ground un-uniformed thugs armed with sticks whipped and beat people as uniformed police looked on.

Such chaos, desperation, and mismanagement in the housing sector is a sad state of affairs for Nigeria. 

Most Expensive Cities in Africa

Why can’t a middle class Nigerian afford a house in Abuja or Lagos? Is it really that expensive to live there? Apparently so. The Mercer Cost of Living Worldwide Survey 2007 ranks Lagos, Nigeria as the 37th most expensive city in the world. The city is sandwiched in the rankings between Glasgow and Istanbul. 

The Mercer survey is not comprehensive, but it does offer useful information:

Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

Africa placed five cities in the top fifty, in 2007:

  • Douala, Cameroon #24
  • Dakar, Senegal #33
  • Abijan, Cote d’Ivoire #35
  • Lagos, Nigeria #37
  • Algiers, Algeria #50

*Harare, Zimbabwe could not be included in the rankings because the economic crisis has rendered costs there “incomparable.”