• Mother with baby with hole in heart among protesters says she needs funds to save Ward’s life
About two years ago, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde leased the famous Agbowo Shopping Complex in Ibadan to Whitestone Global Limited for 50 years. The lease arrangement was to see the massive edifice, which was once an economic center in the state capital, renovated, rebuilt and remodeled.
Speaking at the kickoff, Makinde noted that many administrations had unsuccessfully tried to renovate the facility. He said the lease, which would see the investor inject around N4.9 billion, is expected to convert the moribund structure into high-end commercial property and a 4-star hotel.
The 36-year-old mall, Makinde recalled, was once the largest mall in the state, which not only generated revenue for the government but also provided thousands of direct jobs for citizens.
“In its heyday, there was a huge cinema and art hall, department stores, a nightclub and several large offices. This was one of the visions of the administration headed by the late Chief Bola Ige, which served as a single economic hub.
“Our administration understands that the only business government should be doing is creating the right environment and support for private businesses to thrive. And that’s what we do. You would readily agree that the injection of N4.9 billion naira into the state economy is a short-term economic stimulus that will translate into broader long-term benefits,” the Governor said.
At the time, Governor Makinde promised that “in 24 months, or 104 weeks, this complex will be ready to operate. Mr. Whitestone Global Ltd gave us this assurance.
Certainly, the Agbowo complex houses facilities such as 84 commercial units, 10-storey office buildings and banking halls, three department stores, a cafeteria, a nightclub, a 540-seat cinema and 15 grocery stores. Thus, Makinde’s promise of his resurrection gladdened more than one heart. But, two years later, there are still tales of disappointment emanating from the establishment located opposite the University of Ibadan.
Last week, a group of contractors staged a peaceful protest at the complex, demanding the urgent intervention of Governor Makinde. They specifically asked the governor to order anyone concerned to pay them the sums due for the materials they provided for the reconstruction, rehabilitation and renovation of the Complex. The protesters were led by Femtech Resource Global International Limited, Rotund Domus Enterprises, Adediran Adefemi Samson, Edo Awayie, Abiodun Popoola & Co and Omolara Ogunbiyi, among others.
In their petition, titled “Save Our Soul: Fraudulent Activities of Connect Multiplus Construction Ltd. in conjunction with Pavillon Engineering Construction Co. Ltd./Grenner Construction Co. Ltd./Greener Portion International (Nig) Ltd., Concessionaire of Agbowo Shopping Complex and non-payment of jobs at Agbowo Shopping Complex,” protesters called on the governor Makinde to compel the contractor, Toyin Owonubi, to whom Oyo State granted the Agbowo commercial complex, to pay their debts.
The petition reads in part as follows: “The fraudulent intent and act of malice was inflicted on us citizens of Oyo State and certain other contractors/vendors through Connect Multiplus Construction Limited under the leadership of Architect Toyin Owonubi in conjunction with Pavilion Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd, led by Engineer Obafemi Olufowora (Engineer/Project Manager), who was awarded the concession to remodel/renovate/rebuild and also manage Agbowo shopping complex for 50 years through Oyo investment and public-private partnership agency, on December 23, 2020.
“The company has refused to pay us for work/supplies performed since January 2021 to date, while all efforts to persuade architect Owonubi to affect our payment have yielded no results. This seems embarrassing / disgusting for us to hear architect Owonubi say that it was engineer Olufowora of Pavillon Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd who hired our service and that we should go and collect our payment from him despite the fact that the engineer Olufowara replaces Connect Multiplus Construction Limited in the execution of the project at its current level.
They also alleged that some of the materials, which they provided and had not yet been paid for, are being sold without their consent. “Mr. Governor, please investigate the matter. We staged this protest as a last resort, having visited Government House several times until security refused to grant us further entry.
“We have also approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), the Department of State Service (DSS) and other anti-corruption institutions. financial crime, but, at every step, we have been redirected to approach the Governor. Please help us and prevent us from dying untimely,” the petition read.
Protesters also said the governor should note that work has stalled on the site for the past five months, adding that the development is capable of tarnishing his political scorecard/image in front of the public.
One of the protesters, Adigun Femi, said he did his best to make the project work. “We’ve provided a lot of stuff over the last 18 months and we haven’t been paid. We reported to EFCC, ICPC, DSS and the government office in room 47. But nothing was done. The Ministry of Housing is also aware of the problem and we even met the current Deputy Governor.
Another protester, a nursing mother, Bola Shokunbi, who was holding her sick daughter, Ise Oluwa, said she provided 30 tons of stone dust and was promised her money would be ready in two weeks, but it has now been 18 months since she made the supply. .
“I have a baby who had multiple holes in his heart. I need money to always take him for medical check up in Ife and also UCH due to his health issues which need to be fixed before let her grow up. But I don’t even have a penny on me. I sold my car to settle some debts,” Shokunbi said.
Tunde Olawale, who represented the shop owners at the complex, said: “We paid between 1 and 6 million naira. The contractor promised that the stores facing the University would be ready in less than two months and we purchased equipment and spent several millions on goods in anticipation of moving into the stores. But now everything is ruined.
Several calls were made to the main contractor, architect Owonubi, but he did not return his calls. Lawyer Olalekan Banjo Esq, who was also listed in the petition as a legal draft, however, told the Guardian he was also looking for Owonubi, like the protesters.
According to him, “The same man refused to take my calls after refusing to pay me a penny for the legal work I did for him.”
State Information Commissioner Dr Wasiu Olatubosun said the contractor is responsible and the government did not engage the suppliers and therefore cannot intervene now. “Now that this has been made public, the government will take appropriate action.”
The Agbowo Shopping Complex is the brainchild of the Military Governor of the Western Region of Nigeria, General David Jemibewon. It was built on over 30 plots of land in 1983 by former Governor Bola Ige of former Oyo State. At the time, it was the largest mall in Oyo State, equipped with a central air conditioner. The commercial complex had a functional firefighting office which served it and the entire community of Agbowo and its surroundings. The complex has generated thousands of jobs.
When the shopping complex became underutilized in 2012, the State Housing Corporation cut the power and pulled out security guards, cleaners, gardeners and other service hands. The beauty of the shopping complex has faded and the sprawling estate has become a den of hoodlums. Beggars and people with intellectual disabilities also made the complex their home until September 2020, when Governor Makinde announced its renovation and remodeling, which now appears to have stalled.