Abuja’s New Economic Reality by Olawale Rasheed
Abuja is the home of opulence and luxury living. From the best house design to the latest ultra modern car model, the Nigerian capital is a showcase, the city with probably the largest concentration of millionaires and billionaires in the country.
In Abuja, schools charge from N300,000 for nursery education and even more for primary education. In many cases, secondary education is in the range of N500,000 per term and above.
In FCT, some elite pride themsleves for paying millions of naira per term for their wards’ education. They compete to spend huge sums on equally elitist schools that dotted the city.
Abuja municipal has four main sections namely Garki, Wuse, Asokoro and Maitama. The super rich are in Maitama and Asokoro. There, many schools fees are paid in dollars with schools charging so outrageously that you wonder if those parents are Nigerians.
In Wuse and Garki, the super rich are mixed with pseudo elites who clearly are desperate for any deals to catch up with their fake lifestyles. But wait. There is nothing wrong in living a good life. The problem here is that Abuja luxury life is not based on productive ventures and earnings.
Abuja is one city in the world where with a stroke of pen a poor man can become an overnight millionaire. It is a capital where money making is based on corrupt deals in government and private sectors.
It is a place where millions and even billions of naira are made at night clubs through high profile deals of illegal nature. From the public service bureacracy to the brief case business leaders, many top residents rely on slush fund made through illegal means.
A man driving a jeep of almost N200 million naira cannot explain the source of his acquisition. People stay in multi billion naira mansions without any identifiable means of livelihood.
A man paying almost four million per term for school fees cannot justify such lifestyle based on his paycheck. It is all about a consumption culture built on corrupt dealings across the establishment.
Wait a minute! Abuja is a place with the best shopping malls in the country. A shopping mall reporting over a week revealed many shocking things. Abuja elites can blow as much as N200,000 to N300,000 at a single shopping.
The irrationality of such spending raises question of the sources of wealth and finance. And interestingly, flying abroad to shop for what is not available in Abuja is not uncommon.
In the last four years, this lifestyle was disrupted. The flow of illicit fund to the public service and then to the Abuja elite was cut off. Rude shock and consternation were the consequence as many beneficiaries of the system cannot stomach such unbelievable change.
Many cannot understand why the flow of easy money stops so suddenly. It was so bad that when you move round Maitama and Asokoro, the change is visible.
Many luxurious cars are put up for sale without any buyers. Many mansions are empty without tenants. Across the city, auto centres are full of different brands of vehicles waiting for buyers.
The pampered elites are flinging their assets for any amounts. The real estate sector is feeling the crisis as buyers are no where to be found.
And in an era of BVN and TSA, fund movement from reserves abroad was also a problem. For the first time, many super rich were cash strapped.
As a result, many shopping malls are feeling the punch and pinch. Payment of usually outrageous school fees is becoming a challenge. The schools are reviewing staff strengths as the parents are seriously joking about need for review of school fees. The centre indeed is not holding.
Now that President Muhammad Buhari is re-elected, there is definitely not going to be a respite for the Abuja elite. Forget that Abuja voted against the President. They did that for self-preservation. The sticky point now is that the man is back.
Confronting all elite in the capital is what is the appropriate response to Buharinomics. This is critical because a false material lifestyle based on corrupt dealing is in the long run unsustainable. The culture is bound to crash anyway irrespective of who wins the Presidency.
The hard truth to face by high flyers and big boys and girls of Abuja is that it is time to face reality. Engagement in truly productive venture rather than under-hand corrupt business deals is the antidote.
Now is time to review your children school programme and financing. If you are earning N400,000 monthly, does it make sense to be sending your wards to a million naira per term schools?
Does it make sense to be paying rent of almost three million naira per annum when you can use that to build a small outlet in the satellite towns?
Does it sound rationale to blow a million naira at a club in one night waiting afterwards for the next deals? Now that there is no buyers for the flashy cars, is it not reasonable to review your cost of living vis a vis your earnings?
A lot of radical changes will happen in the next few months here in Abuja. The private schools may face tough time surviving unless they realise early enough that the game is up, that the party has come to an end.
Outrageous school fees can no longer be paid by once opulent parents. Real estate sector leaders must know that Abuja houses are over-prized. The glut has set in and the prices must come down. The alternative is more security men letting out luxury homes for cheap unofficial pay!!!
For the public service, the party is not just coming to an end but repercussions may actually follow. Inability to account for sources of wealth is likely to send many to jail or out of service. Time is now to agitate for better pay than to continue the path of corruption. Abuja is changing and very fast too.
Are all these because of Buharinomics? Many elite in Abuja blame the President. In Abuja, the sing song is “there is no money in town” The President’s results from Abuja could have been worse. But the Daura man is not our problem in Abuja; it is our fake, false lifestyle.
Whether it is Buhari or not, it is time to get real. Let stop the unproductive lifestyle;let our living mode be within our means.
To fellow Abujalites, welcome to the new bitter reality.
•Olawale Rasheed, Director, ACCI Policy Centre, writes from Abuja