Festac Town: Addressing a monumental decay

Effort to address infrastructural and environmental degradation in Festac Town is receiving attention as both Federal and Lagos State Governments have agreed to work together to combat the failed housing estate. Dayo Ayeyemi reports


When FECTAC Town, a federal housing estate, situated in Amuwo- Odofin area of Lagos State, was inaugurated in commemoration of the Festival of African Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77), the new city was a beauty to behold, going by its glittering infrastructure, ranging from modern housing units, paved roads, street lanterns, drainage, sewage treatment plant, alluring open spaces and buffer zone, serving as noise and wind breakers.


However, four decades after, the entire Festac town and the facilities have become shadows of themselves due to long abandonment of infrastructure maintenance, over population , abuse of open spaces and encroachment of buffer zone by mechanics, churches, car dealers and the rest.


Open defecation becomes the order of the day while the only sewage treatment plant built in nearby Satellite Town to serve Festac packed up over 30 years ago without any hope of resuscitation.


In all of these, genuine allottees of Festac Town are at the receiving ends despite several “save our soul “ letters, protests and representations made to the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), their landlord and manager of the estate.


According to the Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC) in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Mr Jola Ogunlusi, a major health disaster is looming in Festac if government fails to act fast, decrying high level of degradations in the entire town. By 2004, he stated that the residents association and FHA removed 1,681 containers in phase 1 and 2, noting that currently, the containers have resurfaced.


Bemoaning the situation, Ogunlusi said: “Kiosks are everywhere. All open gutters in Festac Town are leaked with household sewage by people, while underground sewage system, which is supposed to pump the waste to  treatment plant at satellite town had gone bad for 30 years now.


“Right now, Festac is receiving a lot of immigrants. The estate is getting congested.” He alleged that past successive governments were unable to address the situation, hence the continuous degeneration of Festac Town. Hope in sight However, reprieve is not too far from the residents if last week’s meeting and resolutions between the gederal and Lagos State Government to address degeneration of infrastructure in Festac Town is anything to go by.


The resolve by the two parties to jointly confront the unregulated property development and facility deficit in the housing estate was the outcome of a meeting between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Senator Gbenga Ashafa. Ashafa, who led top officials of FHA to the Lagos State House on a courtesy visit, presented four partnership requests to the state government, among which include knowledge sharing and technology transfer, cooperation on infrastructure delivery and quick resolution of development crisis in Festac Town.


Governor Sanwo-Olu said the state government took land administration and property development as critical, stressing that his administration’s urban renewal project was being implemented with the objective to open up remote communities for healthy living and investment drive.


The governor described development crisis in Festac Town as “unpleasant”, pointing out that the population growth and influx of people led to the degeneration of the neighbourhood.


He also said failure of oversight on activities of property developers in Festac Town distorted the original master plan of the area. He said: “Festac Town as it is today is not what it looked like from 1970s to 1990s, given the degeneration of infrastructure and the unpleasant development observed in the community.”


According to the governor, the original master plan did not consider population growth, which reflected in the calibre of allotees that got the property then, adding that as a result of lack of monitoring and enforcement, people took advantage of the weakness to build indiscriminately on every available space.


He said: “I think we can still correct this irregularity and regenerate the entire area for healthy living and business, now that the Federal Housing Authority is headed by a highly knowledgeable indigene of Lagos.


Once the Federal Government is ready, Lagos State will cooperate fully and work through our Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on agreed plan. “We are ready to give waiver on statutory issues that may aid the progress of this move. Lagos is not the owner of the estate but we have a sense of duty to prevent the depreciation of the asset on that corridor,” Sanwo-Olu said.


The governor also conceded to FHA’s request to collaborate in the area of technology transfer, pledging to work with the federal hous- ing agency to raise its capability by creating electronic solution that would further ease allocation of property, land administration and approval of survey plan.


Ashafa, a former Senator representing Lagos East, said FHA was ready to resolve all lingering crises delaying the re-modelling and regeneration of Festac Town, expressing confidence that the midway approach adopted by the agency would yield positive outcome for the both Governments and residents of the estate.


Residents’ views People said the meeting signaled an end to the lingering disagreement between the state and the Federal government over the matter. Ogunlusi, a former chairman of Festac Residents’ Association, said that there was need to reactivate Festac Town, pointing out that the level of its degradation is not an easy thing to approach. He stated that all stakeholders that gathered in FHA office during the visit of Ashafa, agreed there was serious degradation in the town, and that there was a need to look at issue of totality of its master plan.


“There is need to commit to two issues: degradation as it affects the buffer zone and 2nd Avenue,” he said. He stated that the recent judgement secured by residents was that all shanties, the churches and car dealers on buffer zone should be removed.


On buffer zone, Ogunlusi said the part facing the expressway was to be for commercial, while part facing the 2nd Avenue was purely buffer zone, pointing out that all these facilities must be reactivated to bring back the glory of Festac Town.


He urged Ashafa to look into the case won in 2005 , which he described as “consent judgement” in which FHA, residents, allottees agreed that areas allocated as residential should be purely residential to show the beauty of Festac Town.


Ogunlusi said: “There is need to reactivate the waste treatment plant or find alternative because people just defeacate everywhere in the estate.” Last line Committee, comprising FHA, local government, allottees, residents’ association and CDC should be set up to look at how to address infrastructure degeneration in Festac Town to avoid disaster.


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