FG, Lagos, others collaborate to restore Festac’s lost glory

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WHEN FESTAC town was built to host participants at the second Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 known as FESTAC 77, it was a model estate and was the first of its kind on the shores of Africa. For those who dwelt in Lagos then, it was a delight to come here and savour the paved streets, the flowers, the modern planning and the decent environment. How this estate degenerated to this parlous state is a subject that should continue to engage our interest as stakeholders’’.

These were the words of Minister of Lands, Housing Urban Development, Ms. Amal Pepple at the stakeholders’ meeting on the restoration of Festac Town in the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area, Lagos, last weekend.

At the end of the meeting which was attended by top Federal government officials, Lagos State Government representatives, those from Amuwo-Odofin Local Government and representatives of Festac Town Residents’ Association, FTRA, it was resolved that stakeholders must collaborate to bring back Festac town to its past glory. This collaboration entails that all parties must fulfill their respective binding obligations to make the dream of the restoration a reality.

Restoration project
As a way of kick-starting the restoration project, two committees were immediately set up by the Minister to look into the various issues raised by various interest groups at the forum. The committees were Task Force Committee on Illegal Structures and Committee on Ground Rents and Rates. Each of the committees comprises five members selected by the various interest groups.

The Task Force Committee chaired by Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning Urban development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, a town planner, is to ensure the removal of all illegal structures in the estate and restore back all open spaces and parks.

On the other hand, the committee on ground rents and rates chaired by the Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Taxation and Revenue, Mr. Bola Shodipo is to look into non-payment of ground rents and maintenance rates by Festac residents as alleged by the Federal Housing Authority, FHA.

The Committee is also expected to come up with a strategy for the collection of these moneys, without which the restoration project will not be feasible. The Toyin Ayinde committee has four weeks to submit its report while the Shodipo committee has two weeks to submit its own report.

In her remarks, Ms. Pepple said following her earlier visit to the sprawling community in September last year, ‘’we came up with recommendations for a holistic restoration of Festac town. The recommendations were approved by the Federal government and a committee was set up to actualise the restoration programme. The committee’ work is in progress.

‘’This meeting of today is intended to share the highlights with a view to obtaining your buy-in as well as come up with a joint implementation plan. At this juncture, I should stress the need for stakeholders to prepare to play the part expected of them in the new dispensation. Residents should cultivate a new culture of refraining from habits that hurt the environment. Bills for services should be paid promptly’’, the Minister said.

Stakeholders meeting
Speaking on behalf of Lagos state, Ayinde stated that for a plan to work, there should be implementation and there must be maintenance. ‘’This is why Festac town needs to be restored. To do this, there is need to review the original plan of Festac. This stakeholders’ meeting today is in the right direction,” he said..

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, FHA, Mr. Terver Gemade, stated that a retrospective look at the original design of Festac town will disclose a total departure from the original concept. He pointed out that rules, regulations and terms of use have been severely violated.

Gemade who is an Architect, stated that housing units were allocated to winners or tenants on mortgage repayment basis spanning a period of 25 years. He noted however, that eight years after the expiration of 25 years, some of the residents are still unable to pay up inspite of the foreclosure clauses.

‘’We have noticed significant abuses in the usage of facilities and wanton conversion of residential property to commercial purposes. Other issues in Festac town include the disregard for rules and regulations accented to at the time of allocation.”

In his contribution, the Chairman, Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, drew the attention of FHA to provisions of the Constitution which places the management of parks and gardens in the purview of local government.

He said: “We believe that since Festac is situated within the larger Nigeria, this applies here. The local government will greatly appreciate it if FHA hands over the management and development of parks and gardens to it.

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