The argument that the influx of foreigners and other Nigerians into Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State due to activities of oil and agro-allied industries is responsible for high estate value and increase in rents in the city has been described as logically faulty and economically deficient.
Some residents of Port Harcourt who countered this view while bemoaning the excruciating pains and sufferings in affording accommodation cost in Port Harcourt and its environs insist that the presence of oil and influx of people notwithstanding, Port Harcourt today is out of the reach of ordinary citizen unlike other oil producing states in the country.
Speaking in an exclusive random interview with The Weekend Tide in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the residents who fielded answers to our question on the issue, said their position is predicated on the fact that more than 80 per cent of people living in Port Harcourt are either civil servants, artisans, menial job workers, self-employed, unemployed as well as those working in low-profile enterprises.
Mr. William Lawson, a civil servant and also a tenant in Diobu metropolis specifically revealed that since Rivers State government ordered estate developers and landlords in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of the state to re-roof and paint their buildings, some have taken the advantage of government directives to increase estate value and rents in the state capital without implementing the exercise.
Mr. Lawson, an indigene of Rivers State and father of five, told The Weekend Tide that his landlord whom he refused to disclose his identity went underground after collecting huge amount from the tenants without effecting renovation on the building since January this year.
Mr. Mark Egba, another tenant rather wants Rivers State government to come out with a legislation on chargeable rents and the areas in Port Harcourt and its environs with a view to punishing shylock landlords who exploit unsuspecting tenants in the name of rent increase.
Mr. Egba, an artisan from Enugu State who resides at Eliparanwo axis of Port Harcourt said he coughed out his life savings to rent a two bedroom flat inorder to accommodate his family of six. He appealed to the state government to prevail on landlords to desist from exploiting the tenants, high cost of building materials notwithstanding.
Another civil servant, Mr. Paul Kamanu from Oyigbo Local Government Area, Rivers State said that Port Harcourt being the capital of oil-rich Rivers State is not enough for landlords and estate developers to exploit, harass, intimidate and ejects tenants following rent increase.
According to him, the indigenes of the state have been denied employment and other opportunities in the oil and agro-allied industries operating in the state, adding that the disparity in income calls for government’s attention on rent and other related issues in the state.
Madam Grace Akachukwu, a petty trader along Bishop Okoye Street in Mile Three axis of Port Harcourt explained that the cries of rent increase by majority of the poor against privileged few landlords in the society is the expression of oppression, suppression corruption and injustice in the country.
In his own view, Mr. Tony Okorie, a paint dear along Iloabuchi Street, Diobu observed that the current economic crunch coupled with high cost of building materials makes it imperative for landlords to increase rent as most of them depend on the rents to maintain their families.
While Deacon Eric Nduka, a Timber dealer at Ukwuator Federated Timber Market, Diobu had in a similar interview in the past blamed high cost of building materials and the attendant rent increase on existence of taskforce men who extort money from building material transporters in the state.
Sir Mark Nemieboka, an expert in the built environment and the immediate past chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Rivers State Chapter disclosed that the involvement of agents in the estate markets is responsible for high estate value and increase rents in cities like Port Harcourt.
Describing estate market as a professional business for estate surveyors and valuers, Sir Neimieboka said the institution had put in place machinery to arrest and prosecute quacks parading as professionals in the state.