last house standing
?In the midst of new road and bridge, one building stands as rock of
Gibraltar in a popular Lagos bus stop, even as others have been pulled down
By JOSFYN UBA and RACHAEL AGUNTA
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The building and the new bridge behind it
Cele bus stop, on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, is unarguably one of the busiest and most popular bus terminals in Lagos. Visitors coming from all parts of the country could easily identify the point. Some of the characteristics of Cele is rowdiness and disorder. Most importantly, it is known for the huge human and vehicular concentration.
Cele has shed some of these qualities for a more decent look, while retaining the mad crowd and rush at peak hours. There is more order, at least, with newly paved roads - the Fashola symbol. It has, in addition, a bridge across the busy highway, linking Okota, Isolo and other places with Ijesha and Surulere that has pitiably defied the speculation of Lagosians on when it would come into use. Many that bet their money on how fast the road would be completed lost that and also their interest to continue with such baseless gamble.
One cannot mistake Cele at any point. It remains a convergence of all manner of persons. Lunatics, beggars, discerning people and touts make it up. Known for a high level of notoriety and criminality, this point would become more dreadful just as the evening prepares to wear its negligee.
While some may see Cele in the eyes of its new attire, as a clean and new place, many still link its identity with hoodlums and their clans who carried out their nefarious activities because there were no security lights at nightfall.
One notable landmark at the bus stop was the pedestrian bridge. Much as some people dreaded the bus stop for the chaos, they can?t do without passing through it. It serves well as a transit point to every other part of the city. There is virtually no place one cannot proceed to from Cele.
In all this confusion though, Cele bus stop still scored one undeniable point in the minds of Lagosians. No matter how late one gets there, you are sure of catching a vehicle to any location. It had a non-stop bubbling element.
For many people, therefore, it was unimaginable that notorious and chaotic places, such as Cele bus stop, could ever be sanitized. But when an agent of change comes, it could only be resisted for a little while. Today, most of the ugly characteristics this popular bus stop was known for have been swept into the trashcan of history. A massive and rapid transformation has taken place in Cele, thanks to Governor Fashola. Anyone who leaves the city for just a few weeks would return to seek people?s assistance to find his bearing right at the same old Cele he had known, but now with a new toga.
Now, the sight of pedestrians milling through the foot bridge is not just a sight to behold but sends a visible signal that it is no longer business as usual for unrepentant Lagosians, as failure to use it brings such offenders face-to-face with the law. Street trading and operation of open-air food vending are now a thing of the past.
No doubt, Cele is gradually emerging into a neat and beautiful spectacle. However, there is one building in Cele that has defied the bulldozer?s teeth and jaws, as it has defied the change that has runover its rowdy enclave. It is a two-storey building in ox blood colour. It is tucked in between the bridge and the link road, rendering its essence inconsequential. The building has turned a shrine of sort, an untouchable gallery that stands like the impregnable rock of Gibraltar, which refuses to change or shift grounds after all the world around it has taken a new look. You would wonder why the building stands there unscathed. You wonder also if the owner owns the entire Lagos and above any government policy.
The building sticks out like a sore thumb. It is the last and only property standing at the point. The floors that used to serve as stores and offices have been deserted by the occupants. The building is now a shadow of itself. Its value has grossly depreciated because of its present position and lack of interest by tenants. The evidence that it had once served a useful purpose to the landlord, the previous tenants or anyone had vanished. Because it has now been subsumed in the new road construction network, it may pose a danger at the centre of the road. This once-upon-a-time choice property, funny enough still has a sign: ?To lease or let? hanging on it. But who needs this island of a property, which is not even linked to the power grid any longer irrespective of the screaming ensign in black paint emblazooned on a white plywood board?
The entire surrounding is being turned into dustbin. A heap of garbage is gradually building up around the abandoned property.
Many who pass through Cele often ask ?why has the building not been pulled down, like the others??
Saturday Sun gathered that the untouchable property is a matter of contention in the court, as a result of lack of compromise between the landlord and the Lagos State government over the real value of the building. According to a reliable source, the owner of the building has taken the government to court to restrain it from pulling it down, pending the time his demands are met. The government therefore, in strict adherence to its terms, has allowed the status quo to remain pending the determination of the suit. The contentious issue does not, however, stop the construction of the bridge.
Engr. Suleman Abdullahi lamented that the position of the building is not safe for habitation or any other use. He asserted that such buildings are supposed to be pulled down because of its nearness to the flyover. ?Buildings are supposed to be far away from flyovers for people?s safety. The rule is that it has to be some 500 meters away. As it is, the building is in a dangerous zone,? he said.
Saturday Sun learnt that the untouchable building maybe pulled down next month because the bridge is already at its finishing stage. ?The bulk of work we are doing now is the channeling of the water in the canal. It is greatly in progress,? said Abdullahi.
Mr. Chuks Offor, an estate valuer, said the best thing for the owner of the building is to reach an agreement with the government because the state of the structure is no longer in his interest. ?The value of the building has greatly depreciated. Even if the government decides to allow it to be, it is worth nothing. There is no tenant who would be so daring to occupy the building. So, the best bet is for him to quickly reach an agreement with the government and collect whatever is due to him,? he said.
Another estate manager, Mr. Ephraim Okafor, told Saturday Sun: ?The contentious property has lost all values. It poses danger and as such would no longer attract the attention of any prospective buyer or user. It is not suitable for anything. The way it is the structure has lost all values and it will be in the interest of the owner to just let go of the case in court. Whether he wins the case or not, no right thinking buyer will opt for it because it negates all building and safety standards.?