Friday, July 24, 2009

Nigeria House Must not Fall

Nearly five months after world attention was drawn to the rot at the “Nigeria House” located in the Manhattan business area of New York, United States the building is yet to be fixed. In that incident, the Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau and other government dignitaries were trapped in the elevator of the building built with the tax payer’s money.
The Nigeria House was built between 1992 and 1993 by the Federal Government. Although it houses the Nigerian Embassy and staff of the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the UN, it was also meant to generate funds through the rent of properties to private companies.
But now, the building is in a sorry state. Most of the facilities, including the heating and air conditioning system, elevators, offices, the curtain glass on the building have not been replaced for more than 16 years.
Recently, the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman went to inspect the 21-storey building and came back with an open lamentation that the building was seriously deteriorating. Earlier, Nigeria’s Permanent Represen-tative to the UN, Professor Joy Ogwu met with the Minster and also confirmed that the building was in a deteriorating condition and needed “total rehabilitation” to enable it conform to New York building code and other requirements. Also, the immediate past former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, General Oluwole Rotimi had severally raised alarm about the deplorable state of the embassy building.
When last March the army generals and high-ranking government dignitaries were trapped in one of the elevators of the building, this paper published an editorial calling for an immediate repair work on the building. Several Nigerians followed suit and similarly called on the Federal government to effect urgent repair work on the building.
We are rather disappointed that up till now the Federal Government is yet to commence renovation work on the building. This is a building Nigerians in the US as well as those at home have been proud of. It has been an appropriate venue for hosting many dignitaries from Nigeria.
This Nigeria House in New York must not fall. The Nigeria House is not just any building, it is a symbol of Nigeria located right at the heart of the prestigious Manhattan business area of New York. It stands out amidst other high rise buildings of other nations and corporations. Under international law, the House is inviolable and enjoys full international protection and immunity. Therefore, to be lukewarm in the maintenance of such an important building is very regrettable.
Once again, we urge the Federal Government to commission urgent repair work on the building. The Committee set up to study “a proposal for the maintenance and possibility of engaging private managers” to carry out repairs on the building should expedite action. There is need for immediate action, not unnecessary government bureaucracy. If, as in the past, it is for the Ministry of Works to repair the building, the urgency of the task should not be lost to bureaucracy.
There is the tendency for New Yorkers and visitors who do not know Nigeria to see the deplorable condition of the Nigeria House in New York as a reflection of the conditions in Nigeria. Therefore, to protect our international image, we must act fast now and fix the building. That big house in upscale New York ought to be the pride of our nation.