A Shadow of Its Past

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Pepple
Pepple

Built as a model estate in 1977, FESTAC town is in a pitiable state now owing to several years of neglect which affected the maintenance of its infrastructures

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun. 24, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

WHEN FESTAC town was built to host participants at the second Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, otherwise known as FESTAC 77, it was meant to be a model estate. It was the first of its kind on the shores of Africa. But 36 years after, the estate has become a shadow of its former self. Apart from the hundreds of buildings begging for immediate attention, various sections of the roads linking one part of the estate to another are in deplorable condition.

When Realnews visited the town, physical observation of some the sections of the town like Roads 511, 512, 23, 313, among others, showed that the town is begging for attention. Apart from the deplorable state of many buildings, many residents have also turned the iron railings in their houses into hangers for drying their clothes, while used objects apparently thrown down from top floors of multi-storey buildings could be found in virtually every part visited.

Some of the residents, who spoke to Realnews, lamented the state of infrastructure in the town, such as bad roads, faulty sewage system, poor drainage system and water supply, and the poor state of some of the buildings. Chidi Amuka, one of the residents, said despite the state of infrastructure in FESTAC, houses there are still expensive. “Houses here don’t particularly come cheap, yet access to potable water is a big problem. Many houses have resorted to drilling their own boreholes, since the pipe-borne water system is no longer functioning. In addition, many of us also rely on water vendors as our source of drinking water,” he said.

Festac Town
Festac Town

Obinna Obianyanwu, an estate surveyor and a resident of the estate, said that lack of maintenance on the part of the government and corruption on the part of those managing the estate, have largely accounted for the failure of FESTAC. “The first thing that led to the degradation was lack of maintenance on the part of the government. The entire infrastructures there have dilapidated over time. It used to be a very lovely neighbourhood with many green areas. Even public commercial buses were not allowed to come into the estate. But all these have since disappeared, which is also partly due to corruption on the part of the managers of the estate who have sold all the green areas to private developers. An estate initially meant for purely residential purposes has now turned into a commercial centre where many corner shops, stalls and even roadside trading have sprung up,” he said.

According to him, with the effort of the government and the leaders within the neighbourhood, things might improve for good. But the truth is that it can never go back to the state it was decades ago. He noted that Amuwo Odofin local government, together with the Federal Housing Authority should try and upgrade the infrastructures.

“If the green parks cannot come back again, at least some green areas can be resurrected, through the planting of grass and flowers which will improve the general ambience of the place. Many of the underground sewage systems at FESTAC have broken down; they must also be fixed and upgraded to cope with the continuous influx of people into the estate. If these are done, at least, there can be a semblance of the old FESTAC town.”

Worried by the deterioration of the estate, Ama Pepple, minister of lands, housing and urban development, said the deplorable state of the estate is a source of worry to the government. 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 be prepared 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,” she said.

Toyin Ayinde, Lagos State commissioner for physical planning and urban development, and Bola Sodipo, special adviser to the governor of Lagos State, on tax matters, were appointed as the heads of the two committees. Pepple emphasised that the visit was to enable all stakeholders’ resolve pending matters and come up with a joint implementation plans. “I am giving the Federal Housing Authority, a seven-day ultimatum to give the master plan of FESTAC town to the Lagos ministry of planning and infrastructure. This visit is to come up with a joint implementation plan. I can tell you that no one is happy with what has happened in the estate and how it has degenerated into a parlous state,” she said.

The minister further expressed concern over the collapse of the central sewage system in the estate, the total takeover by squatters of the buffer zone meant to shield the estate from the busy Lagos-Badagry Expressway and the unresolved issue of payment of ground rents.

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