When the federal capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja 32years ago, many government’s assets, especially office buildings, were left behind and, for so long, some of these assets have been wasting away.
This has been a source of worry for many Nigerians, especially players in the country’s real estate market who are now proposing ways and means for putting these assets into use to create residential and commercial opportunities that will yield revenue for the government.
According to the realtors, since the federal government moved to the federal capital, there has been gradual decay and degradation of not only the buildings, but also the environment where these assets are located, hence the need for government to do something.
“Just like government’s failing enterprises were privatised, these assets spread all over the nation can be concessioned, long-leased and, in some cases, sold,” Gbenga Ismail, chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Lagos State branch, advised.
Ismail, who spoke in an interview in Lagos recently, described property as “dead capital” that needed to be unleashed, insisting that federal government’s inaction could be seen as waste when resources were not converted to opportunity.
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He cited former Ikoyi Hotel, which was privatised and sold and has now become a sprawling estate, as a good example of good use of old property, adding that though it is not one of government’s abandoned assets, Eko Atlantic City is a good case of converting resources to opportunity.
The NIESV chairman, who is to be inaugurated in the next couple of days, advised further that government needed to take an inventory of its assets, seek feasibility, viability studies and propose the best use for the concession of these assets.
Udo Okonjo, CEO, Fine and Country, West Africa, shares this view. She wonders why the old federal secretariat complex in Ikoyi Lagos, for instance, has not been transformed into other uses as it is done in other countries of the world.
She pointed out that abandoned monuments were not peculiar to Nigeria, but what happens in other countries is different, citing St Pancreas Renaissance Hotel in the UK, a hotel facility that was abandoned for 69 years before it was transformed in 2011 into a 5-Star Hotel.
She also cited the Liverpool’s Grade 11 listed Gladstone Conservatory also in UK which was abandoned for over 100 years after its use as Leisure Place, but was transformed, in 2007, into a venue for wedding and football hospitality events.
“It will be an advantage to Nigerians if the custodians of the old federal secretariat look inwards and proffer creative ways the building can be transformed either for commercial or residential purposes”, Okonjo advised, adding, “it can be used for mixed use developments or work, live and play.
It can also be used as a co-work space, multi-studio apartments; alternatively, it can be used as retail space in order to reduce the 2.7 million space deficit across the nation.”
It should be noted, however, that the old federal secretariat Okonjo alluded to is a subject of a subsisting litigation. Resort International Limited which bought the asset when it was brought to the property market has been squaring up with the Lagos State government over redeveloping issues.
The company bought the facility with the intention of redeveloping it into residential properties but the redevelopment effort which would have provided homes for a good number of families was stalled by the Lagos State government which, among other things, demanded that Resort obtained a fresh Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the state government.
This demand was made irrespective of documents issued by the Federal Government on the property. The company was also required to apply for the consent of the Lagos governor on the property; apply for a change of use as well as a development permit from the state government.