January 9, 2024

The Villa makes it easy to get lost, By Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

When General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (82) moved the seat of the central government from Lagos to Abuja on December 12, 1991, he did so to hide himself. You can’t be active when you are hiding. 

 On August 17, 1991, he commissioned the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. The bridge is the biggest project ever executed  in Lagos and since the commissioning of that bridge by General Babangida, no Nigerian leader has sited a bigger project in Lagos. 

On August 12, 1975, Brigadier General Murtala Mohammed the then head of state inaugurated a panel on the issue of transferring the nation’s capital out of Lagos. The panel was given up to six months to submit its report and make recommendations. The panel was directed to examine the desirability of retaining Lagos as the Federal capital of Nigeria. The panel was further directed to recommend a suitable alternative location should it determine that the Federal capital be moved out of Lagos. The panel was headed by Justice Akinola Aguda ( June 10, 1923- September 5, 2001). Justice Aguda was from Akure in Ondo State.

Dr. Aguda had his education at St. David’s School, Akure; Government College, Ibadan; Higher College, Yaba; London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, England and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was the former Chief Justice of Botswana, administrator-general and public trustee, Western Nigeria, 1961-1964; legal draftsman, 1964-1967; Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Ife, 1965-1966; Director of Public Persecutions, Nigeria, 1967-1968; Solicitor-General and Permanent-Secretary, Western Nigeria Ministry of Justice, 1968, Judge, High Court, Western State of Nigeria, 1968-1972, later Chief Judge, Ondo state until 1978, appointed director, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 1978.Unfortunately, he did not make the list to the Supreme Court. Other members of the committee were Mohammed Isma(Secretary), Ajato Gandonu, a geography professor and town planner; Tai Solarin, an educator and social critic; Owen Feibai, O.K. Ogan, and Pedro Martins, the first Catholic Chaplain of the Nigerian Army. 

On February 3, 1976, General Murtala Mohammed made a broadcast to the nation on the conclusions of the meeting of the Supreme Military Council. On the issue of the new Federal Capital, the General declared: “The panel on the local of the Federal Capital has recommended that the nation’s capital should be moved out of Lagos to a Federal Territory of about 8,000 square Kilometre in the central part of the country. The Supreme Military Council has accepted the recommendations. The site recommended satisfied the Panel’s criteria of centrality, good and tolerable climate, land availability and use, adequate water supply, low population density, physical planning convenience, security and multi access possibility. The area is not within the control of any other major ethnic groups in the country. We believe that a new Capital created on such virgin land, as suggested, will be for all Nigerians a symbol of their oneness and unity. The few local inhabitants in the area, who need to be resettled outside the area, will be resettled in lace of their choice, at Government expense. 

“In order to avoid land speculation in the area, a Decree is being promulgated immediately to vest all land in the Federal Territory in the Federal Government. A Federal Capital Development Authority is to be established to plan and administer the territory. An Administrator for the Federal Territory will soon be appointed to provide municipal services in the area. The Chairman of the Federal Capital Development Authority is expected to start work at once but the movement of the seat of the Federal Government out of Lagos is expected to take some ten to fifteen years. The Present Administration is firmly committed to ensuring that the necessary groundwork is completed and construction work started within the next four years. 

“Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of it nerve centres. But in terms of servicing the present infrastructure alone, the colossal amount and effort required will be such that Lagos State will not be able to cope. It will even be unfair to expect the State to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is therefore necessary for the Federal Government to continue to sustain the substantial investments in the area. The port facilities and other economic activities in the Lagos area have to be expanded. There is need to in the circumstance for the Federal Government to maintain special defence and security arrangements in Lagos, which will henceforth be designated a ‘special area’. 

To be concluded