Nine months after President Muhammed Buhari approved the handing over of the Presidential Lodge in Marina to the Lagos State Government, the state has officially taken ownership of the edifice.
In a ceremony in Lagos Thursday, the Federal and Lagos State Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding formally transferring ownership.
Mr. Buhari had approved the transfer of the Lodge to Lagos State for tourism development in November last year.
But in March, this year, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode accused the Federal Ministry of Works, headed by his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, of frustrating the handover process.
Speaking at the ceremony on Thursday, Secretary to the State Government, Tunji Bello, who led the State officials including members of the State Executive Council, promised that the State Government would not compromise its structural integrity while preserving the architectural finesse and beauty.
Mr. Bello said the administration of Governor Ambode would ensure the edifice becomes a tourist destination.
He said the edifice would become one which residents of Lagos and Nigerians would not only be proud of but which compares to similar ones in distant locations.
He assured Lagosians that the State will put the edifice to judicious use.
“The successful handover of the structure represents one of the landmarks of the City of Lagos and an eloquent testimony to the new dawn of politics of tolerance and inclusiveness which the All Progressives Congress (APC) has brought to the Nigerian landscape”, Mr. Bello said.
Mr. Bello, on behalf of the governor of Lagos State expressed appreciation to President Buhari for his “statesman-like gesture” in the approval of the release of the edifice to the Lagos State Government.
He also applauded the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, for ensuring that the handover process became realizable and Mr. Fashola for his assistance to ensure the success of the transfer.
“The list of appreciation will be incomplete without mentioning the Permanent Secretary in the State House, Abuja, Mr Jalal Arabi with whom I co-chaired the committee that midwived the handover process for the painstaking job,” said Mr. Bello.
“Same goes for all the directors and top staffers in the Presidency with whom officials of the State Government worked. Mr Arabi and his team have been very supportive forthcoming and painstaking in the last couple of months since we commenced this exercise by ensuring that nothing is left out. We are indeed very grateful to you and your team.”
Earlier, Jalal Arabi, who described the occasion as a solemn one because of the emotional attachment that most of the staff have towards the complex, said they were happy it was a smooth transition process.
He said the several months of perfecting the transfer of the ownership was a ‘family discussion’ which was devoid of bitter feelings. He expressed delight that his team carried out the directives of Mr. President concerning the handover of the edifice and ensured that all the equipment and properties were not removed.
The event featured a ceremonial handover of the keys to the building and the symbolic takeover by the State Government officials led by the SSG.
Also part of the Lagos State team were the Commissioners for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Seye Oladejo; Housing, Gbolahan Lawal; Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Lola Akande; Special Adviser on Tourism and Culture, Adebimpe Akinsola; Special Adviser on Urban Development, Yewande Onabule and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Olujimi Hotonu.