The article, on The Guardian property page of Monday, June 7, 2021, titled Federal Secretariat, Defence building, other properties in Lagos wallow in neglect made interesting reading.
While we commend the newspaper and the writer, for keeping on the front-burner, the issue of the old Federal Government Secretariat complex, Ikoyi, Lagos bought by Resort International Limited (RIL), it is necessary for us to put in proper focus, the role of the Lagos State Government and its agents in stalling efforts by the company to, as of right, take full possession of the property and put it into the use it was meant for.
When the Dr. Wale Babalakin’s RIL won the bid for the purchase of the complex from the Federal Government, following a keenly contested bidding process, its intention was to convert it into a housing estate to help bridge the huge housing deficit in Lagos State.
The estate was meant to accommodate 480 families as The Guardian article rightly pointed out. What is however not true is the claim that “… the move failed because the buyer- hospitality and leisure company, RIL, wanted to use it for purposes that were against the Lagos master plan for the area.”
The fact of the matter is that if such a claim was made by the state government, it must have been an afterthought. When the Federal Government, which had moved its seat of operations to Abuja felt it was no longer in need of the old secretariat complex in Lagos and decided to put it for sale, rather than leave it to rot away, it called for a bid on the complex and this was widely advertised nationally and internationally.
The bid process spanned almost two years with the Federal Government setting up about three committees to verify the bids. At the end of it all, RIL emerged the preferred bidder, beating Dangote Group and the others that participated in the exercise.
RIL paid N7 billion for the property in 2005, then the Lagos State Government jumped in with the argument that the complex ought to have been sold to it, not anybody else, whereas it had all the time to participate in the bid process, but it did not show any interest.
The state government did not stop at that. It sent thugs to chase away workers of RIL when they moved to site to commence construction. In a clear demonstration of bad faith, the Lagos State Government also made other ridiculous demands, including that RIL must obtain a fresh Certificate of Ownership (C of O) from it, irrespective of the documents issued by the federal government on the property.
It equally asked RIL to apply for the consent of the Lagos governor on the property and apply for a change of use. In addition, it asked RIL to apply for a development permit from the state government.
The state government also demanded between 15 and 50 per cent of the cost of properties from buyers as an additional condition before work can commence. RIL, being a law abiding had no alternative but to seek legal redress. RIL then declared Arbitration against Federal Government for failing to ensure Lagos state gave approval in accordance “No-Objection Approval” stipulated under Clause IV of the Development Lease Agreement (DLA) between the Federal Government and the company and it was awarded N50 billion as damages.
The tribunal, chaired by Fred Adeniyi Coker, an architect, supported by a leading legal practitioner, Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), and a former Attorney General of the Federation, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN), ruling in favour of RIL, in a formal award letter dated December 3, 2015, declared that the Federal Government had failed in its obligations to Babalakin’s company under the Development Lease Agreement (DLA) entered into by both parties when RIL acquired the old secretariat complex under the sale of Federal Government’s assets in Lagos State.
The DLA, dated October 10, 2006, granted RIL a 99-year lease to redevelop the disused Federal Secretariat complex, Ikoyi, into 480 luxury apartments. RIL claimed at the arbitration that it had suffered damages totaling N88 billion as a result of the breach of the “No-Objection Approval” clause of the DLA by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government is yet to pay the cost awarded against it. The Lagos State Government has also refused to budge and the purpose for which Resort International Limited bought the old Federal Secretariat- providing decent housing for the teaming populace – remains precarious.
• Mumuni is the Group Corporate Affairs Manager, Resort International Limited.