1 December 2008

Nigeria: Boost For Lagos Megacity Project

Lagos — As the Lagos State Government prepares to go into the building of its megacity, other private investors are queuing to be part of the mega project.

One of the private investors is Bagreit Ventures Limited, which plans to transform the abandoned incinerator complex at Ebute-Metta to an ultra-modern social-commercial centre. Roland Ogbonnaya writes

Looking at the architectural drawing this Wednesday afternoon in Ikeja, Lagos, one cannot remember any social/commercial edifice in Lagos State that looks very close to it. When the massive building is completed, any structure in the state or even in the entire country that would look very close to it would be the Shopright centre on Victoria Island, Lagos.

However, the promoters of the social-commercial centre, Bagreit Ventures Limited, said though people would want to compare it with Shopright centre, the complex would be far better and bigger because it will accommodate facilities that are not available even at the Shopright or any such facility in the state.

According to the Chairman/Chief Executive of Bagreit Ventures Limited, Alhaji Sikiru Balogun, when the centre is completed, it will compliment the Tejuoso Market and is expected to boost the Lagos Megacity project planned by Governor Raji Fashola. The complex, he said will contain shops, malls, warehouses, cinema halls, restaurant, offices as well as multipurpose halls for social events. As a result, it will not only provide jobs for the youths, it will help eradicate street trading as well as the tendency by people to block streets in the name of celebration as there will be halls for such events.

Balogun explained that apart from providing facilities for both commercial and social activities, the edifice would also add to the aesthetic beauty of the area, while the state government would make more money from tenement rates and other taxes. The complex is going to be situated at one of the incinerators abandoned by the Lagos State Government at Odaliki Street, Ebute-Metta West area of the state, which was acquired from the government by Bagreit Ventures Limited.

To bring this project into reality, Balogun said that foreign partners and some local banks are queuing up to make sure that the project sees the light of the day. The foreign investors, he emphasised are coming in from Dubai and South Africa, some of their officials, he added have come to look at the space, while others are already buying spaces ahead of the construction.

At the moment, THISDAY investigations revealed that some of the officials of the foreign investing companies were in Lagos and at the site recently to do some appraisals of the space in other to add more facilities as it is done overseas. Balogun told THISDAY that the complex could have not come at a better time than now the state government is designating the area as an economic zone, explaining that the facility would enhance the proposed state's megacity project.

Though Balogun through his company acquired the abandoned incinerator from the state government some few years ago when it was put up for sale, it has been some sort of war to adequately take possession of the property as both government and illegal squatters have made every human and dubious effort to dispossess him of the land. His stories about retaining the place despite the fact that his company bought it legitimately are pathetic.

For example, in a 1996 law suit instituted at the High Court of Lagos by Bagreit Ventures Limited against the Lagos Mainland Local Government over illegal encroachment and building of a police station at the property, Justice B. Rhodes-Vivour, restrained the defendant/respondent (the local government) from further trespassing on the property. The local government was also restrained from continuing to build the police post pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice along the order of the court on the defendant/respondent immediately. The company and the council, the same year settled out of court.

Unfortunately, in a letter to the chairman of the Mainland Local Government dated April 24, 1997 and titled: "Out of Court Settlement Construction of a Police Post on the Premises of Abandoned Incinerator Complex at Odaliki Street, Ebute-Metta (West)," Bagreit Ventures Limited said "we wish to urge you to hasten action on the above subject matter. It is over a month now since the judgment of the Lagos State High Court on the trespasses on the leased property acquired for specific transformation into a multipurpose social-commercial centre. At the hearing your solicitor made an undertaking that, you will not in any way jeopardise our interest and that justice and fair play will prevail.

"It is however surprising that by March 26, a few days after the judgment, you went ahead to open the Police Post in a celebrated manner in flagrant disregard for the rule of law and without recourse to our interest. It is now clear that the action of your local government is a calculated attempt to frustrate all our efforts in achieving our goals and set objectives on the property," the letter stated.

According to the company, some of company's objectives in acquiring the property are among other things, to enhance a better environment by transforming the place into a social/commercial centre of international standard, thereby improving on the aesthetic beauty of the community; creating business and commerce thereby creating wealth and social interaction of mutual benefit to the populace as well as eradication of street trading.

Other objectives include contributing to the Vision 2010 and beyond as non-governmental organisation and private initiative as a business enterprise in line with the Federal Government aspirations and policies; providing avenues for government at all level for generating revenues for social development through payments of tenement rates, ground rents and other taxes-related business on yearly basis. The letter said these and many more objectives are vital to the reduction and total eradication of social crimes for which a police post could not totally address.

Balogun said the present UBA-marble house on Marina/Broad Street was the site of the Central Police station before it was relocated to Adeniji-Adele/Moloney suburb of the Lagos Island. "Now consider the magnificent edifice, a monumental architectural masterpiece which is a major revenue earner for the Lagos Island Local Government.

"Ours will not be the first and last of such lease. We have acquired the place from the state government purely as our initiative to compliment government efforts in its stride towards a better nation. The Lagos State Government too, in its wisdom, granted the lease. But soon after the agreement had been drawn by the Ministry of Justice and duly executed by both parties, some disgruntled elements that have been profiteering and polluting the environments through their undesirable and illegal activities in the complex under the guise of (CDA) community development association, became aggressive and jittery and threatened to thwart our noble efforts. They made several inquiries and wrote the state government over the issue. The government replied and confirmed the acquisition," Balogun said in the letter.

In an acknowledgement that the land was legitimately acquired by Bagreit Ventures Limited, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports in a letter dated April 10, 1996, confirmed same to the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. The letter was signed on behalf of the commissioner by Mrs. O.O.T Benson. The correspondence confirmed that an agreement was signed between the state government and the company in respect of the area.

The letter further stated that the company in consonance with the agreement with it has fulfilled its side of the contract, "but regrettably, this office has been inundated with letters of complaints over encroachment on the purported land by area boys and even unauthorised government agencies such as the Mainland Local Government council

"It is to be stressed that the land has been committed and any encroachment should not be allowed. In the light of the foregoing, I have been directed to request you to instruct your officers to visit the place with a view to ejecting the illegal occupants/trespassers and to demolish structures, save for those erected by the company if any at the site," the letter further instructed.

Apart from the Mainland Local Government Council, Balogun and his company had also contained with another state government parastatal, Lagos State Wastes Management Authority (LAWMA) when the body attempted to convert the place to a dumpsite. However, in another letter dated December 12, 1996 and signed on behalf of the Commissioner for Environment and Physical Planning, by Mrs. O, Afun, the general manager of LAWMA was told that the Odaliki incinerating complex was leased to Bagreit Ventures Limited by the state government in 1993 for the purpose of transforming the site to a social/commercial centre.

"The incinerating site has since been turned into a garbage dump, a hide out for area boys and other people of questionable character, thereby preventing the leases from taking physical possession of the site. The site is also located within a completely residential area, now constitute menace to the inhabitants of the area," the letter further stated, directing LAWMA to relocate the refuse depot from that location.

Last May, while on a visit to the site, Balogun was attacked in the premises by hoodlums and was lucky to escape unhurt. Subsequently, he wrote to the chairman of the Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences, Ikeja, Lagos. In the correspondence dated May 22, 2008, the Bagreit Ventures Limited boss complained that some unscrupulous elements, allegedly within the Ijero Community Development Association threatened his life as well as accusing them of causing monumental damaged to the property.

"These unscrupulous elements have, over the years, as a result of their illegal activities on the complex resisted our plans to embark on the transformation by virtually converting the place to their private property and illegally selling sands in and around the premises, collecting rents from various squatters and illegal occupants; demolition of partitioned walls amongst other physical harassment and dangerous threats to me and my staff," he said.

Recently, Balogun discovered that the LAWMA again went into the property and had commenced fencing it. Despite all these attacks and illegal encroachments into the property, Bagreit Ventures Limited boss told THISDAY that work on the social/commercial centre will soon commence and nothing can stop the project and with the fire in his yes, truly nothing is going to stop that project, which every stakeholder is already waiting and rearing to go.

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