Abuja — Anew bill meant to forestall excessive rent collection in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been initiated on the floor of the Senate.
This is as the upper chamber criticised the Federal Government's perceived preference for the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to that of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
However, the new bill tagged: "A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Recovery of Premises Act Cap 553 LFN, 1990 and to Re-enact the Recovery of Premises Act (Abuja) 2013 to Regulate the Relationship Between Landlords and Tenants, Rent Control, Recovery of Premises and for other Matters Connected Therewith", was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West).
The bill, which among others, seeks to end advance collection of two-years' rents from tenants especially low income earners who constitute majority of FCT residents, also aims at protecting tenants' interests.
While opening debate on the bill yesterday, Adeyemi, who is Senate Committee Chairman on FCT, said: "It is very evident that the Nigerian real estate sector is somewhat grossly overpriced. The growing demand for properties within the major cities of Nigeria, which include Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Calabar, just to mention a few, are driven by trade, politics, governance, commerce (oil and non-oil related businesses), tourism and the rapidly urbanising Nigerian population."
Speaking further, he said: "However, the growth of the demand for real properties in Nigeria's major cities has brought with it, its own attendant problems. This budge has encouraged some public servants to engage in corruption to enable them afford rents within the city."
Most senators, who supported the bill urged the Federal Government to commence mass housing scheme as the antidote to excessive rent collection in FCT.
In his remarks, Senate President, David Mark, advocated protection of the rights of both landlords and tenants in the bill and not one at the expense of the other.
"The fact is that whatever bill we pass must be balanced. Both parties must be fully protected. We don't want to stop investment in real estate development. I hope that when this goes for public debate, many people will come to air their views on the issue.
"However, having listened to so many like me who actually know that the struggle is in the blood, not just expressing it outwardly, we will make sure that the downtrodden are looked after, " Mark said.
Meanwhile, the Senate in criticising the perceived preference, resolved to amend the constitution to enhance the office of auditors-general at both state and federal levels.
The decision to amend the constitution was backed by the initiation of a "Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Place the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation on the First Line Charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund."
The bill which was sponsored by Senator Ahmed Lawan (ANPP Yobe North), sought to empower both the Auditor-General of the Federation as well as Auditors-General of the states to audit the accounts of statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, and agencies in Nigeria.
The bill scaled through the second reading and was referred to the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment for further legislation.
Lawan, in his lead debate, said: "Nigeria cannot win the war against corruption without a proper audit system. Today, numerous reported cases of monumental corruption involving billons and trillions of Naira and many high profile looting of public treasury by some government officials had become a recurring decimal in our national life."
attributed poor funding of the OAGF to a myriad of factors militating against it including acute shortage of accommodation, inadequate and poorly trained personnel.
He drew the attention of the Senate to Sections 85 (3) and 125 (3) of the constitution which he said had prevented the AGF and his counterparts in the states from auditing accounts of government parastatals in contrast with the move to ensure accountability, transparency as well as probity in the conduct of government businesses.
"All these would have been easily detected and nipped in the bud through audit, if the OAGF is adequately funded and has power for direct audit," he said.