Infrastructural challenges, a major plague of the Nigerian economy, appear to have extended its frontiers to the highbrow Government Reserved Area (GRA) of Ikeja, threatening investments and revenue generating opportunities for private investors in the capital city of Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial hub.
Ikeja GRA, located in the seat of government of a state that is generally touted as an example in astute public management, is believed to have lost its glory following years of neglect as government shifted attention to areas such as Ikoyi, Victoria Island, and the Lekki axis.
But business a.m.’s week-long combing of the area revealed a state of neglect that has resulted in huge infrastructure deficit in the area, with some pockets of environmental and health risks that are enough to be concerning to residents.
The current state of the once highly revered and regarded urbane GRA is fast becoming an impediment to economic growth, not only within the seemingly hallowed area of Lagos but to the entire state.
A business corridor to major players in the hospitality industry, such as Radison Blu, Protea Hotel, Shoregates, with Lagos Sheraton just overlooking from across the bordering Bank-Anthony road, and other mid-sized players like Casa Millie, Presken, MSquare Hotels, Nekter & Bonds-Pels Ltd, as well as host to real estate investments like Integrity Gardens, Coral Gardens, Maranatha Court and others; shopping centres like Hubmart, Adam & Eve, Ademola Shopping Mall and restaurants like Jevenik Place, Yellow Chili, La Cassia, among others, the GRA appears to have lost the touch of its glorious past, which used to be the bride of the state and local administrations.
Our findings across the entire GRA showed near absence of drainage facilities, poor waste management system, many bad roads with potholes, poor street lightings, air pollution, which have all combined to pose a serious threat to the burgeoning hospitality industry, real estate business, and many others, businesses with estimated worth running into several tens of billions of naira, and which constitute huge revenue generating sources to the state government.
business a.m. also found that despite the land use charge and other forms of tax levied on property owners and businesses, the state government has left the provision of drainage facilities to these corporates and individuals in the GRA. Business owners, especially those in the real estate business, now have to undertake the task of building a drainage system, failing which they are sanctioned by the government. Some even take it upon themselves to provide street lightings and repair some bad portions of the roads.
According to some property managers who spoke to business a.m. the situation is increasingly becoming a scare to investors, as no investor would want to venture into a business environment bedeviled by the absence of infrastructure, in addition to other business risks.
Oladele Fakoya, a property manager in the reserved area lamented that the state government had abdicated its responsibility to them. According to him, residents and real estate investors within the GRA are required to provide water treatment plants to manage wastewater emanating from their facilities. He wondered why there should be such a transfer of responsibility by the state government, to which land use charge and other forms of taxes are duly paid.
“The Lagos State government through its wastewater management office has mandated all property owners, including organisations and businesses in the Ikeja GRA to provide wastewater treatment plants in their premises. I don’t think it is the responsibility of either private individuals or organisations within the GRA to have wastewater treatment plants in their premises. It’s the responsibility of the government to provide good drainage facilities within the GRA. If you (government) provide the drainage, people will just channel wastewater from their houses into the drainage,” Fakoya said.
Fakoya further explained:”Most people within the GRA have septic tanks in their premises or soakaway pit. This soak away pit absorbs the water and takes it to the earth beneath and that is it. For our own property, we designed a deep leech kind of soakaway system, whereby water goes right around the perimeter fence to water the garden. That is why all year round you find that our garden is green. It’s a system design that collects all the water from the estate into a small soak away pit. This soak away pit has deep leech system that allows water to spread right around the perimeter fence to water the garden and it cost us a lot of money to design that.
“And then you find that the Lagos State government through its wastewater management office comes to tell us that this is not acceptable, when the government is shying away from its responsibility of providing drainage for the GRA, which would ultimately link to the drainage basin at the link bridge by Sheraton Hotels,” he said.
Commenting on the perceived negligence of duty on the part of the state government as it concerns the provision of effective and efficient waste management and drainage systems in the GRA,, Michael Chukwuma, who plies his trade within the reserved area, observed that people are moving out in droves, a situation which he attributed to the high tax rate levied on occupants, despite the huge infrastructural deficit and its attendant challenges in the state.
He noted that the high taxes paid in the area does not reflect in the quality of facilities in the area, adding that the state government could generate much more revenue than it currently rakes into its coffers if it had been alive to its responsibility to residents and business owners alike. He alluded to the fact that some business owners now operate under cover since they feel that infrastructure on the ground does not account for the tax levied on businesses.
“People living in GRA are packing out because the area is no longer conducive in terms of tax and levies. That is why many do not live here anymore, operating undercover. Only those living around and people involved in transportation know,” Chukwuma disclosed.
business a.m. also gathered that facilities within the GRA, now unofficially divided into two sections (old and new GRA), are in deplorable condition as the lack of effective waste management and drainage systems often gives rise to the outflow of wastewater from overloaded sewers, leaving the heavy stench of decay hanging in the atmosphere.
Another source at Hubmart on Isaac John Street, one of the shopping malls in the GRA, disclosed that a fly infestation within their vicinity is a source of concern and constitutes a risk factor.
The source, who spoke to business a.m. on grounds of anonymity, revealed that the noticeable fly infestation within the environment is fast becoming a threat to the business of his company which also operates restaurants.
He noted that government’s failure to brace up to its responsibility as it relates to waste management and drainage systems must have occasioned the fly infestation.
“Since I resumed here, I have noticed that there are so much flies around. That has prompted the management to procure flycatchers. I think the drainage and waste management systems here in the GRA need to be upgraded,” he said.
business a.m. also found that non-compliance notice was posted on the gate of Coral Gardens as part of the sanctions for not heeding the state government’s directive of sourcing their own drainage system. A property manager said this action of the state government represents a drawback to real estate business in the reserved area. Some portions of the streets in the GRA were noticeably waterlogged at press time. Streets with such portions include; Oba Akinjobi and Oduduwa Crescent. The said portions also have potholes, precipitated by flooding and overflow of wastewater. business a.m. sent messages to three principal officers of the state government regarding the current condition of that part of the state, namely; Secretary to the state government, Tunji Bello; Commissioner for Information, Kehinde Bamigbetan and Commissioner for Environment, Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti. But only the commissioner for information replied, advising that we visit the GRA to see that the roads were being fixed. However, during our investigation, going around the GRA, work was only ongoing on Oba Oladejobi Street entering Harold Shodipo Crescent.
Story by Chukwuemeka Obioma & Temitayo Ayetoto