Against the backdrop of deteriorating environment in one of its choice residential estate, the Federal authorities have announced plans to invite the private sector to upgrade some of the disused facilities in the popular Festac Town in Lagos. Festac Town is the first project of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which came into being through Decree 40 of 1973.
It provided first-class accommodation for all delegates and visitors to the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts ‘and Culture tagged FESTAC ’77. The Festac town project also had as its long-term objective the provision of a model residential community with necessary facilities and amenities to ensure high quality of life and environment for the residents. But as the years past, the estate managed by FHA over shot its population and infrastructure was poorly maintained. With the Supreme Court ruling that ceded some parts of town planning activities to Lagos, the residents went further into dispute with FHA and Lagos over Land Use charges and levies. Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Akon Eyakenyi who made the pronouncement during an official visit to Lagos, said that government resources are Limited and the best option open for mitigating the challenges is through Public Private Partnership. She further expressed concern over the collapse of the central sewage system in the estate, the total takeover by squatters especially mechanics of open spaces and the unresolved issue of payment of ground rents and land use charges. She said the charges and ground rents would be harmonized to bring about synergy between FHA, Lagos government and the residents.
The minister hinted that the private sector would be invited to bid for a new central sewage system, as the financial outlays for the repairs will be huge. She was shocked at the way some of the drainage system and roads have collapsed as well as the manner some of the residents have left their houses without paintings for several years. On the committees set up by his predecessors to restore the estate to its former glory. She gave the committees one week to submit their reports to enable a smaller committee harmonize the recommendations and come up with a workable joint implementation plans. The two committees are headed by the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Toyin Ayinde and Special Adviser on Tax Matters, Lagos State, and Mr. Bola Sodipo. Earlier, FHA Managing Director, Mr. Terver Gemade while responding to the minster’s concerns on developments involved in conducting a total overhaul was beyond the resources available to the Authority.
Gemade who disclosed that most residents no longer observe the original terms of occupants agreement, bemoaned residents’ response to the issue public water supply, as most of them have boreholes. He lamented that the authority is short staffed and need more hands to check illegal activities in the estate. Other challenges he noted, include conversion of residential to commercial buildings and development of the master plan for over 2,000 hectares of Festac Town Phase 2, restoration of key infrastructure such as street light, redevelopment of parks and green areas Chairman, Ayodele Adewale lamented the deplorable state of some basic facilities in Festac Town due to abuse by residents On the state of the sewage system in Festac Town, Adewale regretted the actions of some residents who diverted their sewage pipes into open drainage stressing that the unsanitary act poses great danger to the environment, which will manifest either now or in the future. However, President of Festac Town Residents Association, Jola Ogunlusi, while reacting to the Minister’s speech, urged her to increase the number of staff at the FHA’s physical planning unit. He said that resident’s suspended payment to avoid double payment, as Lagos government was also demanding payment from them. According to him, residents have been the ones fighting the battle to restore the estate by kicking against the sale of gardens and parks for building and removal of illegal shops, adding that their members removed about 200 illegal container shops in the estate. Ogunlusi further called on government to help provide a bridge and an alternative route for Abule Ado residents who are also part of Festac town.
Culled from The Guardian.