Lagos, Africa’s ‘first city’ is one the fastest growing megacity of the century, a city where the obligation to accommodate the ever-increasing population is a nightmare. Regardless of the population pressures for housing and commercial space, this mega city surprisingly is still littered with a couple of grand, abandoned and underutilised dilapidating buildings. Buildings a first-time visitor might wonder, why not utilise them when so many people are homeless.
When the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria moved from Lagos to Abuja in December 1991, so many urban challenges were being cushioned. The increasing traffic woes in then then capital city, Lagos. The relocation of FCT to Abuja nevertheless left several federal government properties abandoned and because of lack occupancy and maintenance they have been dilapidating continuously.
Most of the federal government buildings that were vibrant in the 1980s and 1990s declined due to the relocation. More than 60 federal government buildings are abandoned in Lagos. For example, the building that housed the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing was abandoned, later handed over to the National Dental Council until the council also related to Abuja. The Federal Secretariat complex, Ikoyi, the Independence Building which housed Ministry of Defence, the Glass House which housed the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Ministry of Education Building, the National Assembly Complex and the 37-storey NITEL House. Even the National Stadium, Surulere is also facing abandonment.
Most of these buildings have become hideouts of criminals or places to conduct criminal activities. Visiting the Federal Secretariat Complex, Ikoyi and the National Assembly Complex in TBS, you are welcomed with auto workshops and food hawkers as well as some abandoned vehicles and makeshift shops. These are the complexes that used to house federal agencies such as the Nigerian Broad Casting Corporation (NBC). Some of the abandoned buildings are being used by residents without accommodation and some of them pay between N100, 000 and N150, 000 to be tenants to some people who might perhaps have influence over the buildings or acquainted to the building owners.
In 2005 when the former President Obasanjo signed the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Bill into law, many of the buildings were sold to corporate organisations, some were concessioned while others were left unutilised. Many of the concessioned assets however, are in still dispute. The Lagos International Trade Fair was concessioned to Aulic Nigeria Limited for N40 billion for 30 years; development of FESTAC Phase II to Messrs New FESTAC Property Development Company Limited for N30 billion for 30 years. The concessioning of the Federal Secretariat Complex Ikoyi in 2006 by federal government to Resort International Limited (RIL) to redevelop the complex into residential apartments for N7.2 billion triggered the confrontation that followed between the State and the Federal Government.
Several millions have been lost in revenue since the refusal of the federal government to concession or sell the properties it is not using in Lagos State. During his inaugural lecture in August this year at University of Lagos, Prof Adenuga shared some of the losses incurred from the abandonment. He estimated that, N126.2 billion in revenue has been lost since 2006 as a result of abandonment of federal government properties in Lagos State alone. The cumulative loss of the abandonment of the National Stadium alone since 200 is estimated to be N52.6 billion while the Federal Secretariat could have earned more than N72 billion if the proposal to convert it into luxury apartments by Resort International since 2006 had succeeded. Buildings such as the NET building with a lettable space of 720 sq. metres is estimated to have attracted more than N1.6 billion annually in rent if it was well maintained.
Several economic benefits could have been realised through revenue generation, increasing housing supply and improve the state of city. The federal government nevertheless, has been refusing to sell or concession these properties. Other than selling the buildings, several federal agencies such as Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS), the police in Lagos could have moved to these abandoned buildings as they are currently scattered around.
The legal challenge nevertheless is the lack of law that compulsorily obliges the Federal Government to hand over the federal government assets to Lagos State Government. While the Federal Government can solve this complexity, the lack of political will over the years by the Federal Government has been a challenge. Until the assumption of office by Governor Akinu Ambode, the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government had never been governed by the same political party concurrently. Hence, there has been always friction.
The politics of the Commercial Capital
In June 2017, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, called for return of disused real estate and properties the Federal Government acquired in the state. This called followed submission of a report by the Special Committee on Federal Government Assets in Lagos State that he set up to determine the state of these disused assets seeking to end the jurisdictional disagreements over the assets.
Mr Babatunde Fashola a former governor of Lagos State and now the Minister of Works, Power and Housing is now challenged by Governor Ambode to push the federal government to resolve the jurisdictional disagreements over the assets, a cause he also fought when he was governor. The challenge comes at a time when Mr Fashola is also a representative of Lagos State in the Federal Executive Council (FEC)
The Legal Complexities
The challenge to the federal government assets, the ownership of some of the land on which they occupy is contested. The Special Committee that was appointed by Governor Ambode also identified, majority of the federal government properties are situated on land that is vested in Lagos State. Officials in the Lagos State Government argue, When Lagos became a Crown Colony, the title to the whole Lagos Island became vested in the Lagos State that also include Ikoyi, Osborne Foreshore, Banana Island, Festac Town which some of the federal government buildings occupy.
The Lagos State claims title to land such as that host the International Trade Fair Complex (now being used as a market), as Lagos State acquired the land was acquired on behalf of the federal government which promised to pay compensation which is outstanding. This entails, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) is a tenant of the Lagos State Government.