Many abandoned buildings should be put to productive use

It is unfortunate that several buildings belonging to the federal government continue to lay waste even when they could be converted to profitable economic assets. Last week, the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Ikoyi, Lagos, expressed concerns about the deteriorating state of some national monuments and federal government’s property within the area, arguing that the lack of occupancy and regular maintenance are contributing to their rapid dilapidation. The guild cited the abandoned multi-storey Federal Secretariat Complex, Ikoyi, and the Ikoyi Towers, as public investments that are wasting. Aside from the economic implications, the security risks posed by criminals who use the neglected buildings as havens for nefarious activities, the high-brow area has also experienced serial incidents of building collapse.

What is particularly baffling is that it would appear people in authorities seem not to consider many of these edifices, built over several decades but which are currently in disuse across the country, as part of what should make up our national wealth. Apart from the potential positive social impact being lost, we also believe that these facilities, if put to productive use, can help provide jobs for a considerable number of our young people. Unfortunately, considering the manner these assets are left to rot away by successive governments, we are compelled to believe that their existence does not matter to the country’s policymakers and managers.

There are several abandoned offices and houses all over Lagos resulting particularly from the movement of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja. Some of the buildings include the old National Assembly Complex at Tafawa Balewa Square, Independent Building, which housed the Defence Ministry and former Federal Ministry of Commerce at Tinubu Square, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Ministry of Education Building and the NITEL Building. Others are former Supreme Court Building, former Navy Headquarters on the Marina, the NNPC Complex in Ikoyi, and the NITEL offices at Falomo and Iponri. There is also the uncompleted 18-storey National Provident Fund Building (Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund) off the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, which reportedly has become a haven for kidnappers, ritualists and armed robbers. Many of these buildings, which are very much suitable for conversion into other uses, are lying fallow, and have become more or less ‘dead capital’.

Unfortunately, the issue of abandoned properties is widespread, even if it is more pronounced in Lagos. Across the country, many properties belonging to individuals, states and the federal government have either been abandonment, or underutilised, and constituting danger to lives and property. But it speaks to failure in leadership that these prime national assets that should ordinarily add up to what a country flaunts as its economic strengths are left to waste away. Simply because the relevant authorities have refused to turn them into the economic goods which they should be. At best, some of these assets are often put out for no better use than social activities all of which often come at heavy costs to them and the country.

If we may ask, why is it a huge challenge to the federal government to consider and enact a policy that would guide the use and management of Nigeria’s national assets? What would it take from the government to consider and implement management models for these assets? And if the federal government cannot manage these edifices, why not hand them over to the government of the states where they are domiciled or sell them to private investors so they could be put to some productive use?

 Last month, the House of Representatives urged the federal government to convert its abandoned buildings and forfeited lands locally and abroad for public use. “Some agencies of government operating in states across the country are experiencing challenges in finding office accommodation due to difficulties in paying rent,” said Iyawe Esosa, who moved the motion that was unanimously adopted by his colleagues. “Reports have revealed that over 50 assets confiscated from politically exposed persons, civil servants, and other individuals are currently unoccupied and rotting away.”

  To be concluded tomorrow

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