Ikoyi Federal secretariat … Disused monument rotting away
Over 30 years ago, the old Federal Secretariat Complex at Ikoyi, Lagos State, used to be a burgeoning facility, providing office space for government businesses, bureaucrats and others that manned the ministries, departments and agencies that were located there.The massive 15-storey edifice that constituted a landmark property on a prime location in Lagos State before the country’s federal capital was moved to Abuja, in 1991, has over the years been stripped of its beauty and splendor.
Apart from serving no useful purpose other than playing host to a legion of rodents and sundry creatures, the landmark structure, which has no rival in the state, the value of the property has consistently deteriorated as a result of neglect. But despite being “forested,” and taken over by trees and wild shrubs, aspects of the sprawling edifice are still being weeded from time to time, by paid security guards, who appear to have taken up residence there alongside their family members, in makeshift structures.
The Guardian equally observed that even though the gate of the property looked locked, some vendors and artisans that operate within the fringes of the former secretariat, still end up in the facility at the close of work. Still around the precinct of the former secretariat is a flourishing market, where car dealers, motor mechanics, food and liquor vendors struggle for space to ply their trade and provide services to those that reside around the neighbourhood, and for staff members of firms located around that flank.
Years after it became disused, the former secretariat, a major Federal Government-owned property in Lagos State was up for sale by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration between 2003 and 2006. An indigenous outfit, Resort International Limited, got it off the shelf with the intention of converting it into luxury residential apartments- 480 flats consisting four, three and two-bedroom flats.
A year later, the Lagos State government halted the project, saying it was not in compliance with the Ikoyi/Victoria Island Model City Plan. It went ahead to demand that the firm must obtain a fresh Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from it, notwithstanding documents issued to it by the Federal Government on the property.
It also mandated Resort International Limited to apply for the consent of the state governor on the property; a change of use permission in addition to a development permit.With all the demands made of it by the state government, which in its view were not only inconsistent with the Development Lease Agreement (DLA), which it had entered into with the Federal Government in 2006, as well as the 99 years lease granted it to redevelop the secretariat complex into luxury apartments, the firm took the Federal Government to an Arbitration Tribunal.
At the tribunal, it claimed that the brazen breach of a clause of the DLA by the state government caused it to suffer immense damages totalling N88b. The tribunal, which was chaired by Fred Adeniyi Coker, after hearing the case, ordered the Federal government to pay N54b as damages to the company.Dayo Dauda, one of the car dealers, who operate around the facility built in 1976, decried the way that Nigerian leaders manage the country’s human and material resources.He wondered why past governments have refused to put an end to the long period of disuse, which the massive facility worth over N60b has been subjected to.
According to him: “For the 28 years that the facility has been laid dormant, the nation has lost millions of naira. If the litigation between Resort International Limited, and the Lagos State government had also not cropped up, many families would have been comfortably housed in that facility by now.”He noted that while the state has the constitutional powers to decide what property stays in a particular location, or the nature of property that should be erected at any particular location, it should not make it cumbersome for private individuals or firms to invest in key areas of the economy in the state.
Tosin Adelere, a structural engineer said having been left to rot for years, it is very important that concerned authorities ascertain the integrity of the structure before it is put to any use in order not to contribute to the environmental challenge in the area, or pave way for any form of calamity. Yemisi Martins, an estate manager, while calling for prompt resolution of the litigation and other contending issues surrounding the facility, said converting it into a residential structure would mean changing the narrative of the history behind the building.She further appealed that whatever happens, the monument should not be allowed to depreciate and disappear from the state’s skyline the way other such structures like the Brazilian Quarters did years ago.Theophilus Anene, a structural engineer, called on the federal and state governments to close ranks and find a way out of the quagmire so that the facility would be put to good use.
According to him, making the place functional would not only create new jobs, but would also encourage small businesses, which would contribute to inflating and boosting the state’s economy. The structural engineer said the crisis engendered by the sale of the former Federal Secretariat should cause Nigerians to take another look at the country’s Constitution with the aim of addressing the issue of control of land and land use. He said: “It was this C of O issue that the Lagos State government latched on to initially stall the sale process before also coming up with the issue of Ikoyi/Victoria Island Model City Plan. If we practice true federalism, the issue of who controls the land and other elementary issues at play here would not have cropped up.”
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