The historic Ilojo Bar, also called Olaiya House or Casa da Fernandez, a Brazilian-styled architecture located near Tinubu Square on Lagos Island, Lagos State demolished by a developer in collusion with some members of the Olaiya family on Sunday September 11, 2016, will soon be reconstructed. The project will be funded through Private Public Partnership arrangement.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between management of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), the custodian of the monument, and Olaiya family to that effect, was signed last Friday in Lagos. This signaled the conclusion of the reconciliation process between NCMM and Olaiya family that began since May 2018 as well as the withdrawal of all suits in court. The building was demolished due to alleged failure of NCMM to repair the dilapidated building.
Located between 6, Alli and 2 Bamgbose Streets, near Tinubu Square, Lagos Island, the Olaiya House, which overlooked the Tinubu Square, was originally built as a bar and restaurant in 1855. The building was referred to as Olaiya House after it was sold to the Olaiya patriarch, Alfred Omolana Olaiya in 1933.
Director-General National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof Issa Abba Tijani said that the MOU that was being signed has been acceded to by all parties particularly the NCMM and Olaiya family. The terms and conditions, he said, which would form the framework for the redevelopment of the site has been agreed by all parties. “It is believed that following the signing of the MOU, the reconstruction project shall be set in motion and we hope there will be further cooperation among the various stakeholders in order to ensure that the building is eventually erected in no distance future.
‘’For us at the NCMM, it is our resolve as a responsible agency of government to do all within our capacity to ensure that the entire process is pursued to a logical conclusion. We shall continue to carry out our statutory functions in safeguarding the nation’s heritage resources in the interest of the present and the future generations,” he assured.
According to him, the demolition is a good example of the challenges confronting the NCMM in the management of the nation’s vast monuments and sites, which are spread across the country. This, he said, could be attributed to the pervading ignorance among the people about the historical value of these heritage resources to the present and future generations.
“Therefore for us at NCMM, the pains and memories of this dastardly act is still fresh in our minds and it has become an ugly reference point in heritage management. This is because once such monuments are lost, they are irreplaceable,” he added.
The DG disclosed that part of the agreement was the adoption by technical committee and stakeholders of an architectural drawing by architect Theo Lawson, following presentation along other architects on January 27, 2020. The drawing, he said, is a seven-floor structure with prominent features of the demolished monument. The proto-type of the monument was presented at the signing ceremony.
Prof. Tijani commended the efforts of former Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Toyin Ayinde, who facilitated the reconciliation process between NCMM and Olaiya family since 2018.
Mr. Debo Olaiya who spoke on behalf of the Olaiya family thanked the NCMM and Mr Ayinde for resolving the impasse occasioned by the demolition of the iconic building in 2016. He also presented a ceramic statue of an Angel, the only object recovered from the debris to the museum management, which has been described as symbolic of the house.
According to Theo Lawson, the architect that designed the new Ilojo Bar, the redevelopment of the new Ilojo Bar will tap into the various Brazilian architectures in Lagos in order to restore the heritage part of the facility in its true forms. He disclosed that part of the facility will have commercial developments, which will be the interest of the developers financing the building, the Olaiya family and the NCMM, who is the custodian.
“Before COVID struck, there were lots of investors contacted for the development. But, with the COVID, some pulled out. However, we are considering working with consortium of investors; with two options of either to include a hotel or offices. There will be a dedicated block for the Olaiya family from where they can be generating income. The museum has two floors of spaces while the rest will be for the developer depending on the tenure agreed before relinquishing the building back…In one year and six months, the reconstruction can be completed if the funds are there,” Lawson said of the development plans.
When asked if the planned redevelopment of Ilojo Bar as a way of restoring the legacy of the site is a plus or minus, Lawson said: “Considering the economic reality of today, the old Ilojo Bar there then added little value in that space. It cannot accommodate all the Olaiya family members and cannot generate income for them too.
‘’As a museum piece, whatever will be put there now will not be the original. It will only be representation of the original structure and the only original object is the Angel sculpture, which is now the symbol of the Ilojo Bar.
‘’With the commercial block around and at the foot of the building and the faced, I think it is the best option we could arrive at.” The Nation