GETTING SETTLED

Caution

It is always possible that services and stores that are good today are not good (or even gone!) tomorrow. Please note that there is a general Value Added Tax (VAT) of 7.5% that is already included in the purchase price of goods.

Real Estate

 

 

Types of Accommodation

There are several different types of accommodation available in Abuja.

Detached house or bungalow- a separate dwelling surrounded by a walled garden. It provides privacy, but also includes more responsibility as the tenant is responsible for all upkeep in the garden and most house repairs, the main exception being structural repairs.

Apartment or duplex-joined dwellings in which people share access to the building with other tenants. The cost of electricity, generator and water is usually included in the price of the rent. Responsibility for the maintenance of the dwelling and its surroundings falls more on the landlord.

Houses in a complex. Some houses built by companies in a complex may be available for rent to people outside of the company on a space available basis. The Shell compound off Shehu Shagari in Maitama is one example of such a complex. The construction company camps of Dantata and Sawoe (German) and Bouygues (French) are examples of some of the Life Camps that sometimes rent to outside customers. In the case of the Life Camps, they cover the cost of electricity, running water and repairs.

Most accommodations are rented unfurnished. Unfurnished in Nigeria means without generators, stoves, refrigerators, washers/dryers, cookers (ovens) or air-conditioners. Therefore, be prepared to include the purchase of those items in a housing budget. In addition, renters are normally required to pay two years minimum accommodation. It can take up to hotels and fully-serviced apartments during the search are included in the “Getting Rest” section of this.

Location

As in other parts of the world, location plays a key role in the cost of the real estate. Houses and apartments in Asokoro, Maitama (including Ministers’ Hill) are usually the most expensive followed by Wuse and Garki. A number of “bedroom” communities have developed around the outskirts of the city in communities such as Gwarinpa, Mabushi, Jabi, Kubwa, etc. to provide more affordable housing for government employees and some business persons. Due to security concerns, most foreigners live in Maitama, Asokoro or Wuse.

House Hunting Tips

Check the Construction

Unfortunately, many of the houses were put together quickly using poor quality materials. It is wise to take someone who has a basic knowledge of building construction along when looking for accommodation.

Checking for Security Upgrades

Although Abuja is a relatively safe city as compared to Lagos, it is wise to make sure the home has basic security features. Such features include:

A strong metal gate with a security peep hole.

Razor wire along the top of the wall

Security grills on doors and windows or metal doors with strong look and additional security Locks.

 

General Tips

Be sure that crime prevention measures do not prevent an easy and quick escape for your family in case of fire.

If noise is an issue, avoid houses near heavy traffic flows, but, for security   reasons, do not select a house that is too isolated

Get to know the neighbours. Select accommodation near neighbours who also have good security as they will likely keep an eye on your property, as well.

Keep in mind that Abuja is situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, so all parts of the house will receive strong sunshine t some point during the day.  Therefore, facilities for cooling (fans, air-conditioners) are important. Fans are good even if there is air conditioning as power can often be too low to run the air conditioning.

make sure the doors and windows close without a gap, otherwise rain will enter

during the rainy season and dust during the dry season

Check the wood and the lawn for termite infestation. Certain parts of Abuja have terrible problems. Take a close look at the doors and cupboards.

Test the water in each room to make sure the hot water heaters are working and the water is indeed flowing. Some houses are not connected to the city water supply and have their water delivered. Be sure to ask the landlord and the neighbours about the reliability of the supply. Even houses that supposedly have reliable city water should have an underground, ground-storage and constant water flow.

If an apartment is preferred, ask the neighbours about the condition of the apartment and the reliability of the landlord. Also, make sure there are enough rooms for any domestic help.

Make sure the previous tenant of the house did not leave any unpaid bills as you may be held responsible for phone, electricity, water, etc. Ask for the payment receipts in order to prove past payment. It is also a good idea to save on the next tenant.

Ask about the presence and the functioning of a generator.  Make sure it is clear who is responsible for the purchase, maintenance and functioning of the generator and fuel.

Check for a working telephone line. In some areas, the telephone exchanges are full and it is difficult to obtain a landline.

Occupancy Tax

In 2001, the Nigerian government established a tenement rate tax. The primary liability for the tax lies on the occupier, except in multi-tenant properties in which case the owner is liable. Therefore, renters of single dwelling homes should be prepared to receive a tenement rate demand notice at their home. The tax bill will be payable within 21 days of receipt and must be paid to:

AMAC Tenement Rate Account No. 091023912

Lion Bank of Nigeria

Dambata Close

Area 7, Garki

Real Estate Agents

Most landlords will not rent a property for less than two years. Payment is required in full (usually in cash) upon the signing of the lease. The standard commission for the real estate agent that recommends the selected house and assists in brokering a deal is 10% of the total rent. Before looking at houses with an agent ensure that the services to be provided are clear (who drives and/or pays for taxis, helps negotiate a price etc). It is not wise to use too many different real estate agents to prevent problems caused where two or more agents show the same house. If you were shown a house by a previous agent, be sure to tell the other agent right away so that he/she knows that the commission might need to be shared.

Some agents:

Water Service

City water is supplied by two dams and is assisted by several boreholes. The main dam is Usman Dam (see “staying Active” for information on how to visit the dam). Built in 1987, Usman Dam has a reservoir of 120 million cubic meters of water and capacity to treat 5, 000 cubic meters of water per hour. Jabi Dam is a smaller dam built in 1982. The FCT Water Board is the organisation that manages the water resources for the territory.

For home water service, payment and connection, contact the FCT Water Board located on Orlu St, Area 3, Garki. Water bills are sometimes delivered to homes. If they are not, customers need to go to the water office to collect and pay them.

There are different types of fees depending upon the service required. The fees change often, those noted as a guide as below

Disconnection

When buying or moving to a house, make sure that the previous owner/tenant has paid any bills owed. The Water Board may disconnect the house from the water supply when the debt becomes large, no matter who was responsible.

Supply Reliability

Good water pressure is an indication that the water supply in the area is pretty reliable. However, in general, water pressure tends to below during the night. To be prepared in case of a system failure, stock enough water for at least one day’s consumption.

No City Water

There are many houses in Abuja that are not connected to the city water supply, mostly due to low water pressure. In those cases tenants drill boreholes, or purchase water from independent suppliers or the Water Board. Prices very depending upon the quantity of water needed and the distance to be travelled, but it is customary to pay between N3,500 and N6,000 per lorry.

Electricity Hook-up and payment

The domestic supply is 220/240 V AC, 50 Hz.ost outlets use pin-flat and/or round plugs (5, 13, 15 amp) and bayonet or screw-in lamp fittings. Some older properties have two-pin sockets. Any appliances are sold with two-pin plugs attached, and so require adapters.

Contact the local area NEPA (National Electric Power Authority Office if an electrical connection is not already provided. Fees vary depending upon whether the dwelling has one phase, three phases or a commercial hook-up. A certain number of electrical outlets are put on each phase. Small houses usually have one phase; medium and large houses have three phases.

Bills are delivered to each household every month. However, for some months the meter may not be read. In that case, the amount charge will be based upon the previous month’s usage; so, be prepared for a possible increase based upon actual meter readings later

Bills in Abuja City districts may be paid at any cash payment office in Abuja City. However, it is better to pay the bill in your own area, as the payment record is hand written and it will be easier to follow-up if there are errors. Cash payments are accepted at each area office. Bring the account statement when making a payment and a receipt will be issued. Be sure to keep the receipt in case there is a dispute over payment alter

Disconnection

It is wise to pay electricity bills within a week after receipt to avoid disconnection and a consequent reconnection fee.

Supply Reliability

Power outages are common in Abuja. They may last from a few hours to several days during occasional major outages or bill dispute with AEDC. It is, wise to have a back-up supply via a generator.

Protection of Sensitive Appliances

The power supply deviates considerably from 220V and is often too weak or too powerful to sustain some appliances. In addition lightening strikes are frequent during the rainy season and can severely damage appliances. It is strongly recommended that residents put stabilisers (voltage regulators) between a wall outlet and any delicate electric appliances such as computers (desk and laptop), television/video/DVD recorders, refrigerator and conditioners, washer/dryers etc. Stabilizer (voltage regulators are available at many electric appliance shops and Wuse market, Wuse Shopping Complex, the electronics market near the post office in Zone 3, Grand Supermarket and Park n’ shop to name a few. If you are home during a thunderstorm, unplug modems from telephone jacks and refrain from talking on the telephone to provide the greatest possible protection.

Danger of Fire

In any environment, sockets and plugs should be kept clean and dust-free. Accumulated dust may catch fire, cause a short circuit and a house fire may result. During the dry season, when the wind and the dust from the harmattan is great, special care should be taken. In addition, many imported appliances require the use of an adapter. Be sure to purchase good quantity adapters that make a tight seal around the appliance plug and the wall socket to prevent dust from entering and becoming a fire hazard. Air conditioners, in particular, have been known to start fires. They should be checked every three months to prevent fire and health problems.

Generator

Although electricity reliability improves every year, if possible, it is still wise to have a generator. Tenants in houses provide their own generators; landlords of apartment buildings are responsible for providing generators. Different options, from the small generators able to run a few lights and refrigerators to those capable of servicing several houses, can be purchased and installed in Abuja. Be prepared, however as they are expensive. A drum for fuel storage, to purchase fuel will also be needed.

Be sure that the generator connection is properly installed. It must be physically placed after the AEDC line so that payment is not made to AEDC for generator-produced power.

Fuel Purchases and Delivery

Although Nigeria is a major oil producing country, there are limited refining capacities. Therefore, the majority of its petrol and diesel is imported and there are occasional shortages due to domestic and international conflicts. During those periods, it is not uncommon to wait in line for up to ten hours for petrol.

Cooking Fuel

Charcoal

Domestic charcoal can be purchased at the local market. Some of the supermarkets also carry imported varieties.

Cooking Gas

Because of frequent power outages and fluctuation in voltage, many households prefer to have gas cooking facilities. Stoves with both gas and electric burners can also be purchased.

There are many suppliers of cooking gas in town, usually quite visible with their gas tanks pilled high. Prices vary depending upon replaced or an entire cylinder is being purchased. The most common cylinder sizes are: 12.5kg, 25kg and 50 kg.

Television and Satellite TV Hook-up

Nigeria is on the PAL B German television system. Local channels are limited. Most people opt for satellite television, which affords the opportunity to take advantage of international and national television. A multi-system TV compatible video recorder will be necessary if non-PAL videos are to be viewed as well. The South Africa Digital Satellite (DSTV) provider of M-Net is by far most popular option for satellite television. There are 44 TV channels, including BBC world, CNN, Sky News, sports channels, children’s channels and 26 radio channels. Portuguese, Asia and Arabic channels are available for an additional fee. These are quite a number of businesses selling and installing the decoders and the dish. They are soon to offer interactive TV, hi-speed internet and international call services. Payments for the subscription can be made in monthly instalments.

If service is scrambled after the bill has already been paid, you can turn your DSTV box to Channel 3, call the office and give them the account number. They should be able to activate your call again. The main office where the monthly show listing and service payments are made is:

DSTV (Satellite TV)

Multicoated Nigeria, Ltd.

Plot 52B Malabo,

Off Aminu Kano Crescent

Wuse 2, Abuja.

Prepaid Calling Cards

Prepaid international calling cards from several different companies are available in a number of shops including. Amigos, Park ‘n Shop, etc. Users call their local; office/access point and put in the secret code on the card. The card is valid for a certain period of time or until the credit is all used.

Street-side Calling

There are also a number of vendors with mobile and satellite phones from which domestic and international calls can be made.

Mobile Phone Options

Handsets

Many different handsets are available in Abuja. Prices vary depending on the functions provided. Popular types cost between 15,000.

OPTIONS

The options for providers are expanding rapidly. To date, MTN, GLO and ZAIN are the most popular and have the largest capacities for customers. ETISALAT is a recent entrant on the market. Although it is improving, calls between GSM and landlines can be difficult .So many Nigerians have several different phones with different service providers. Below is a list of the prefixes for the various mobile service providers.

Refuse

Households desiring rubbish collection needed to apply at the:

FCT Environmental Protection Office

(Corner of Moshood Abiola Road and Ogun Street Area 2, Garki, Abuja)

The cost for a domestic house with 4-5 bedrooms is approximately N18, 000/ year. Someone from the office will accompany the occupant to the site to verify its size. The charge includes use of two dust bins from their store. However, the customer must arrange transportation of the dust bins from the environmental Protection’s store at the zoo/plant nursery near Aso Rock. The price and dust bins will vary for Embassies and business according to the nature and size of the business.

Refuse Collection

The refuse collectors will pick the dustbins approximately once a week. Sometimes the day of the week differs but they are fairly reliable in terms of frequency. Rubbish bins need to kept in an easily accessible place. There is no requirement for sorting out different types of rubbish at the moment. Theft of rubbish bins is not a frequent occurrence in the city, so that is a concern. However, there are a number of persons who may sift through the rubbish in search of useful items, so customers leaving their bins outside their gate may occasionally find them scattered. For this reason, it is extremely important that financial and personal documents are shredded and burned.

Fumigation (Pest Control)

In some areas of Abuja, termites are a serious problem. Ants, cockroaches, mice and rats can also be a major nuisance for residents. Snakes can also come visiting. Below are some pest control services used by our readers. Possible customers should be aware that the chemicals used by pest control services here are not regulated by the government and may not meet European or U.S standards for health and safety.

Appliances (See Stocking-up section for shops and locations)

Appliances can also be purchased from most supermarkets and in the electronics market bear the General Hospital in Wuse. A tumble dryer is recommended (if door space  to dry clothes is limited) as the rainy season makes drying clothes out of doors difficult and there is also a significant risk of Tumbu fly eggs being laid or laundry hung outdoors. Tumbu fly lava burrow under the skin and are quite uncomfortable to remove.

Furniture and Furnishings (see stocking-up for full listings)

There are several shops in town that carry furniture and interior decorations. Most of them deal in imported furniture or furniture made locally with imported materials. In general, the quality is good, but prices are expensive. Some shops specialise in custom-made furniture. Most supermarkets also have furniture floors.

Local Craftsmen

Local furniture craftsmen can be seen selling their products on the roadside. There area number of workshops along Obafemi Awolowo way, especially near the former Life Camp and along the Keffi Road Outside of Asokoro. Some specialise in cane furniture. 

Post Office

There are two General Post offices in town where stamps can be purchased, letters and parcels can be sent, and a P.O Box can be established. Customs services operate only out of the Garki Post Office.

Garki Post Office

Area 10, Garki Abuja

Eastern end of Olusegun Obasanjo Way, where it meets with Moshood Abiola Road. This was the first post office to be operated and is the city’s main post office.

Wuse Post Office

Along Maputo Street, a few hundred meters off Herbert Macaulay Way, Zone 5, Wuse Abuja.

The master plan calls for a post office for each district and postal agencies for all neighbourhoods. Other post offices are located in Abaji, Kuje and Gwagwalada towns.

Postage

Domestic post available for letters, aerogramme, post cards and parcels will cover 20g (N50) or over 1kg (N200). International letters can also be posted.

Reliability

Domestic registered mail seems fairly reliable when the receiver has a P.O. Box address. Mail sent to street addresses is not reliable due to the lack of sufficient staff to serve as delivery personnel international letters also seem to reach their destinations regularly. It is not advisable, however, to send valuables or packages through the mail due to possible theft.

Security Services

Most residents in Abuja have security personnel at their gates, whether they are guards hired by residents themselves or provided by a security company. Guard services provided their employees with basic security training and take care of providing relief guards in case of sickness and vacation. In reality, they would probably not be effective against a gang of armed robbers. Guards mostly serve as a deterrent to keep criminals from selecting your home as a target in the first place. Some security companies can provide added protection like mobile patrols and panic buttons. Ask for details on services provided, the length of the shift for the guards and the breakdown of the monthly charge (how much is going to the guards versus overhead for the company, uniform, taxes etc). Ask neighbours and friends for references to companies they use.  A few companies are listed below.

Hiring Domestic help

Most visitors employ two or three domestic staff on a full-time basis (five or six days a week). A full-time cook/cleaner, a gardener and 24 hour watchman are the most common domestic staff. Some need a separate cook from the cleaner/maid and a nanny. The quarters provided for the domestic staff-called “boys quarter” usually has two rooms. The employer decides which staff will occupy those rooms, but is customarily the cook/cleaner and the nanny (if needed). Some ideas for hiring domestic staff are included below.

Finding Staff

Check the grapevine. Let as many people know as possible that you are looking for someone and they will appear. There is always somebody’s junior brother” or “junior sister” available.

Put up sign on bulletin boards at schools and work locations to help advertise your need.

Salary

Ask around to friends and colleagues to see what a fair salary is for the services being provided. Transportation is quiet expensive in Abuja. So, if the person will need to travel to work, a transport allowance will need to be added to their salary. Be sure to clearly state the basic salary separate from the transportation-as transportation costs will likely increase more rapidly than the basic.

Employer Responsibility

Items that are the responsibility of the employer are noted below. All items and conditions should be clearly spelled out prior to employment.

Medical (you may want to make sure they are vaccinated- especially nannies; tests for TB and HIV are not uncommon

Transport

Uniform (if desired)

Food

Overtime” (Depends upon work hour agreement)

17 days leave plus public holidays.

13th month bonus

Severance is the amount of 1.5 months for each year worked (if the person is not dismissed due to illegal behaviour)

Contract

It is a good idea to draw up a contract with your domestic employees to ensure that the terms and conditions are clearly spelled out. Check with the Human Rights Commission for the latest labour laws.

Hints

Check references, if at all possible. Resumes or work certificates could be fake

Give the person a trial period of a couple of weeks or one month at a lower salary to see if the relationship is going to work out.

It may not be a good idea to hire a couple. if one of them doesn’t’t work out, two workers are lost

Don’t give sums of money to domestic employees to pay vendors working at the house in your absence (exterminators, repair men) as they may be tempted to take a “dash” for themselves and not pay the vendor the full amount.

Keep a written record of money paid to them (in salary or loans and have them sign it. That way disagreements over non-payment can be avoided.

If you do have to dismiss someone (or when you leave finally), document the reasons for unemployment, the severance pay, etc and have all parties sign it.

Loans will be requested. It is best not to give loans unless you are wiling to “forgive’ them. Some employers recommend not loaning more than one to three months salary. Some employers deduct loan payments from the monthly salary (say ¼ of the salary over a certain time period)

Nannies

The person who will take care of your children has the most important job in the house. It is important to take the time to find the rights person for your needs. Ask them about how they discipline, children whether they have first aid experience and their hygiene practices. Review emergency procedures with them in case something happened to the children while you are out of the house. Observe them with the children for a few hours to see how they handle situations (disciple, hygiene (washing hands before meals, changing diapers etc).make sure they are engaging the children in fun and/or educational activities.

Most nannies and other domestic staff seem “shy and reserve” when talking with or in the presence of their employers, this is partly due to culture. They may be different when interacting with the children. So, it is best to also try and observe their activities when they do not know you are looking.