Abandoned federal government’s properties in Lagos have continued to rot away as housing deficit in the country gets worse by the day. Amongst them is the federal secretariat complex Ikoyi.
Other government’s properties in this class include the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) building on Marina Street, the Defence House (formerly Independence Building) and the former Navy Headquarters building also on Marina Street.
Despite the contestation by the federal government that there is no housing deficit in the country, the deficit has now hit 22 million units, according to Bismarck Rewane who spoke in the June Breakfast Meeting at Lagos Business School (LBS) recently.
Babatunde Fashola, minister for Works and Housing, insists that the deficit is an urban problem, saying “my understanding of housing deficit is that it is largely an urban problem—people migrating to the cities.
If you go to the rural areas, you will see houses owned by people living in the cities. These houses are locked up. We cannot be talking about housing shortage when we have many houses that are empty.”
The 12-storey Federal Secretariat Complex in Ikoyi was part of the government properties offloaded into the property market between 2003 and 2006 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The complex, built in 1976, accommodated the entire Federal Civil Service but was abandoned in 1991 following the relocation of the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja.
The complex, which has been overgrown by weeds, along with the other properties, is a testimony of poor asset management in a country in dire need of any available space to house its largely ‘homeless’ citizens.
Besides residential housing opportunities, these properties could have been potential sources of revenue to the government if they were put to proper use. By remaining empty and out of use, they are now depreciating and losing value.
It was revealed that the value of the federal secretariat, including the land and the physical structure, is about N40 billion and it could have been more if the asset had been in constant use.
“That asset is standing on prime land; don’t forget that it is in Ikoyi which is one of the most expensive locations in Nigeria”, an estate surveyor and valuer, who pleaded anonymity, told newsmen in an interview on the value of the asset.
There has been an attempt, however, to convert the complex into a residential building after it was sold in 2005 for N7 billion to Resort International Limited (RIL) which had the intention of redeveloping the complex into apartments that would accommodate 480 families.
Taking an average of five persons per family, comprising father, mother, two children and one domestic servant, the complex would have provided homes for about 2,400 persons. But the project was stalled.
Mikail Mumuni, Group Corporate Affairs Manager at RIL, explained in a recent media publication that shortly after they paid for the complex, the Lagos State Government jumped in, arguing that the complex ought to have been sold to it, not anyone else, whereas it did not participate in the bid process.
“The state government did not stop at that. It sent thugs to chase away workers of RIL when they moved to site to commence construction. In a clear demonstration of bad faith, state government also made other ridiculous demands, including that RIL must obtain a fresh Certificate of Ownership (CofO) from it, irrespective of the documents issued by the federal government on the property,” he disclosed.
The government, he added, equally asked RIL to apply for the consent of the Lagos governor on the property and apply for a change of use and also asked RIL to apply for a development permit from the state government.
RIL considered these demands inconsistent with the Development Lease Agreement (DLA) which it entered into with the Federal Government in 2006 which granted it 99 years’ lease to redevelop the secretariat complex into luxury apartments.
It, therefore, took the Federal Government to an Arbitration Tribunal where it claimed that it had suffered damages totaling N88 billion as a result of the breach of a clause of the DLA by the government.
Though the Tribunal, chaired by Fred Adeniyi Coker, an architect, supported by a legal practitioner, Yusuf Alli, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and former Attorney General of the Federation, Abdullahi Ibrahim, ordered FG to pay N54 billion in damages to the company, it is still hazy whether this ruling has been complied with.