THE Federal Government sets bad examples in managing public assets. The abandoned buildings in Lagos that ministries and other establishments used before re-locating to Abuja stand tall in challenging government to act.
Some of the buildings are the 25-storey Independence Building, Ministry of Education, the National Assembly Complex at Tafawa Balewa Square and the 37-storey NECOM House on Marina, said to have been sold for a mere N4 billion. Others are the NITEL Building, former Supreme Court Building, former Navy Headquarters on Marina, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs once used, the NNPC Complex in Ikoyi, NITEL offices at Falomo and Iponri and the uncompleted NPF Building at Okokomaiko, off the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
Other less known buildings are government guest houses, on Bar Beach, and staff quarters in Ikoyi and other reserved areas nationwide.
The closest government came to using its buildings was seven years when it concessioned the Federal Secretariat Complex in Ikoyi. The edifices have remained abandoned due largely to unresolved tax issues between the Federal and Lagos State governments. The concessionaire wanted to convert the edifices into a residential estate, a move which Lagos town planning regulations stalled.
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State told an audience at a town hall meeting that abandoned Federal Government properties served as hideouts for armed robbers and miscreants, popularly called Area Boys. "These buildings attract criminals and miscreants who use them as hideouts for planning criminal activities and sharing their ill-gotten loot," Fashola said.
The Forum of Lagos Elders, whose membership includes Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, a former Deputy Inspector General of Police, and former Federal Commissioner of Works, Chief Femi Okunnu, made a strong case for the buildings, some of which are national monuments, to be handed over to the Lagos State Government.
We see the continued under-utilisation or outright abandonment of properties which should be generating substantial income for the Federal Government as a waste. It should be addressed. Private owners of similar properties make profit from rents.
However, we do not agree with handing over the properties to Lagos State since other States, and local governments are co-owners. Dialogue between the Federal Government, Lagos State on how best to put these buildings into effective use is one of the options to explore.
Alternatively, the government should sell the properties to interested corporate organisations that are better positioned to make good use of them. The continued abandonment of the buildings is an avoidable waste. Moreover, the longer they are in that state, they lose value, and become environmental and security threats to their locations.