From Okwe Obi, Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
“It is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a young single lady to secure a decent accommodation in Abuja.”
That was how Rita Johnson, a budding entrepreneur captured her hellish house-hunting experience in Abuja.
The young seamstress and grocer successfully completed her mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps programme in Abuja a few years ago and decided to settle in the city having fallen in love with the tranquillity it offers.
But what she thought was going to be an easy procedure became nightmare that lasted several months because securing her an apartment after quitting the one provided by her employer as a youth corps member was an uphill task.
It appeared there was a general agreement by Abuja landlords not to deal with young, single women, regardless of how enterprising and level headed they are.
Johnson eventually got a senior colleague at her former employment to pose as her fiancé before she got an apartment. Her case, as it appears, is not an exception but the rule. Most single ladies allege stigmatisation by Abuja landlords as they seek for an accommodation.
Daily Sun investigations reveal that most landladies dissuade their husbands from dealing with single ladies for fear of snatching them (their husbands) from them and ultimately living in the facility rent-free. This is aside the possibility of wrecking their marriages should things get out of control.
Knowing they cannot compete with the younger, sexually endowed women, the landladies insist on renting their apartments to either married women or men. The development is robbing young ladies of sleep whenever they have to search for an accommodation.
Their horror is worsened by the growing population of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. This puts pressure on insufficient infrastructure especially housing.
For Geraldine Okon, population explosion in Abuja, fuelled by huge rural-urban migration crisis as terrorists sack many rural communities, has inadvertently turned most landlords and landladies into demi-gods.
“You practically have to kiss the feet of a landlord or caretaker to get a roof over your head. Not free but paid for. Do I also need to emphasise that it comes with rules made in hell?” She queried.
Another reason is the erroneous belief that the young women would literally and figuratively turn the apartments to brothels. The same stereotype was amplified by a landlord, Alhaji Sule Fatai. He told Daily Sun: “There is nothing like I’m engaged. No way!
“You must be married and preferably with kids. But with no kids and there is evidence of marriage, you’re welcome. I can’t allow these young fine babes turn my property into a brothel where several men visit and sleep with them. Other tenants won’t be comfortable.
“If I want to run a brothel, I know what to do. But I want people to have access to decent accommodation and young babes can’t guarantee that. Even young men too. They could be doing Internet fraud.
“I know what I’m saying. There was a case where a young girl’s male visitor insulted the landlord. He almost beat the living daylights out of him. Just for daring to ask for them to keep the noise level low.
That particular apartment was like a club. Music blares from there in deafening resonance.
“Attempts to have them reduce it were abortive until the landlord decided to confront the girl and her visitor. To avoid this sort of mess, let me deal with a man. Man-to-man works for me.”
Another landlord, Mr Charles Egbudian, said some young girls often use charm to bewitch the landlords and live rent-free for years: “Before you know it, you’re doing the girl’s bidding. We have seen all sorts and learnt our lessons.”
Another hurdle is tribal and religious stereotyping. Depending on the landlord, young women from certain tribes and religions cannot get an accommodation in their properties, regardless of how decent and financially buoyant they are.
For this reason, young ladies looking for an accommodation are fooled around for months or the rent fixed at an exorbitant rate, all in a bid to frustrate and ward them off.
Also, house agents have joined the fray as a good number of them take undue advantage of desperate girls to sexually harass and milk them dry. Even when the young girls manage to secure the apartment, they are subjected to endless scrutiny as the landlord or agent monitors their every movement
Again, they are handed down outlandish rules and regulations. For instance, they are not allowed to bring in a certain number of friends. Some are told not to allow their friends to sleep over.
Others, no male friends.
Worrisomely, some of the apartments are nothing to write home about.
They are located in slums and far-flung settlements that are starved of basic amenities like roads, electricity, drainages and potable water.
Margaret Odey, a baker, said she was rejected because of her single status: “The caretaker and I had agreed that I was going to make payment for a self-contained apartment. When I got there the next day, the landlady was around. As soon as she saw me her countenance changed.
“About three minutes into our discussion, she pulled the caretaker aside and told him not to give me the apartment because I was single.
I tried to persuade her that I was not going to default in paying my rent, but she refused defiantly.
“She claimed that the last female tenant almost wrecked her home.
According to her, her husband was taking sides with her even when she owed six months rent.”
Gift Ameh, a teacher: “I had just finished my NYSC and got a job in a private school. I needed to move from my aunt’s house to a place closer to my office.
“It took me four months of serious searching to get a studio apartment that was satisfactory and within my budget.
“I was so happy when a colleague told me about the house and after checking it out, it was just what I wanted.
“I met the landlady and she gave me the price. It was a fair bargain and I was ready to make a transfer when she asked for my marital status.
“I told her I was single. The next thing she said she was sorry that she could only rent her house to unmarried ladies.
“When I asked why, she said she did not want different men trooping into her house. I tried to convince her that nothing of such would
happen but she remained adamant. To say I was disappointed that day would be an understatement.”
Amos Jatau had a similar experience: “According to the landlord, I was not married. So, I may not participate in the sweeping of the compound and other general chores to keep the house clean. He refused to allow me rent his place.”
For Oyiza Abraham, she was turned down because of her tribe: “I am Ebira from Kogi State. Two years ago, I was looking for a place in
Mararaba. But when I found a place, the caretaker told me the landlord gave a strict order not to give his house to an Ebira person.
“According to him, people from my place are wicked and troublesome. I thought it was a joke but that was how I lost the place. ”
Another victim of such a stereotype, Mr Felix Madu said: “I was declined from getting a house I really wanted and desperately in need of an accommodation because I am Igbo. It looked like a nightmare but it was real. We’re not united in this country.”