Some residents of Era in Oto Awori Local Council Development Area, Lagos, appear to be fulfilling the saying that nature abhors a vacuum. Instead of allowing the uncompleted and abandoned 18-storey building in the area to go fallow and over taken by weeds and dangerous animals, they have turned the building to suit their various purposes.
The building, which was said to have been started before 1978, has been abandoned by successive governments. It was to house the National Provident Fund, which later transmuted to Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
According to Saturday Sun investigation, people use the building for different purposes. For some, it is a sex haven, for others it is a meeting place. Indian hemp smokers also use it as hide-out. It also serves as meeting venue for Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), and other associations in the area. The compound is also a testing ground for driving school students and the ground floor of the adjourning blocks are habited by a few others as accommodation.
It is where people who could not afford to pay for short time service in hotel go to satisfy their sexual urge. Even though there are no beds, what they do is to go there with mats folded and concealed in bags or wrappers, which they spread on the floor and have sex, with full natural air coming from every side. They stay as long as they want instead of going to a chalet where the rate in some instances is calculated per hour. What ever floor you choose to stay and have fun is at your discretion, you don’t pay a dime and nobody questions or molests you, except if you are unlucky when the police come to raid the place in search of Indian hemp smokers.
Moses, one of the mechanics in the area, told Saturday Sun that it was very hard at any time in the day that you search through the entire complex, and you would not see randy males and females in the act.
According to him, the situation got out of hands and became annoying that they (the mechanics) started chasing the promiscuous fellows away, and it yielded results, as they have to confine themselves to use the property to satisfy their sexual urge only in the night.
“As we succeeded in stopping their daylight activities, they continue in the evening when we have closed for the day, when they have a field day as, nobody challenges them, and they stay as long as they want,” Moses said.
When our reporter visited the building on Tuesday at about 8pm, he observed flicked lights that could be mistaken for a giant glow worms on the second, third and fourth floors, but on getting closer, they were phone touch lights, or conventional touch lights with weak batteries. Also, faint voices of people thrown into sexual ecstasy were coming from different angles, forcing the reporter to retreat.
The following day, he went back, he saw freshly used condoms and old ones littered some of the floors especially the second, third and the fourth floors.
Tissue papers used as swabs after sex also littered the floors, and empty packets of condom.
On the same Wednesday, vigilance group in the area kitted in their uniforms were meeting on the ground floor.
Bayo, a panel beater, told Saturday Sun that a Pentecostal church had come to partition the left arm of the building and started a church there, but after sometimes they left.
“We didn’t know their reason for leaving, but some people said it was what they were seeing that forced them out of the complex. Imagine a church service is going on, people are coming to have sex on the same floor separated by a wall. It is immoral. I think that is more reason they left”, he stated.
Bayo blamed the various governments that have abandoned the edifice, saying if the house had been completed and put in to use, Era and its adjoining communities would have developed far more than what they are today.
“Since the government cannot use this building, some other people have found good use of it. This large expanse of land occupied by the various mechanics, and these private houses are still on the same land with this abandoned building.
“It is the government, the day the government would remember this building, people who had partitioned the land and erected structures would cry.
“On the other hand, if these people probably don’t go to the place to enjoy themselves, weeds would have taken over the place and some unfriendly creatures would live there. Maybe it is their presence that keeps these animals away from the place”, he added.
For marijuana smokers, the building is a very safe place to smoke and sleep off when weighed down by the hypnotic influence of the weeds. Occasionally, police come to raid the place and arrest some of them. While raiding the place, the police are said to sometimes go beyond their bounds by also arresting those that have gone there for love making and are said to extort money from them and set them free.
Various artisan unions and associations have made the building their meeting venue. In the day time, various groups meet at the ground floor. They come with their chairs and tables. A white garment church is by the swampy side of the building. Other buildings are also springing up within the area said to be in the piece of land acquired by the government for the building project.
Outside the building is a very level ground that driving schools are using for test driving by their students. Mechanics and other artisans are also occupying parts of the land.
Ikem, another mechanic that has his workshop within the area, corroborated that it is the ‘good use’ the people are making of the building that has kept dangerous animals and weeds from it the past 35 years that it’s been abandoned. He said: “Since the government has abandoned the building, it is better as people are making very good use of it. Without these people making use of the building, no one would be able to pass this place because it would have been overtaken by weeds and dangerous animals, especially reptiles.”
He berated successive governments for abandoning the building as he said that the Era and Adaloko areas would have had accelerated development if the building was completed and a government establishment moved into it. Tracing the age of the building, the mechanic said he was a teenager when the project was started and that a baby girl born at the time the building was started had got married and even stopped bearing children. He said to the best of his knowledge, the building started when the construction of Lagos-Badagry expressway started, that is, under the Yakubu Gowon administration while Obasanjo completed the road.
The imposing building, which is behind the National Postgraduate Medical College and also beside Federal Government Collage, Ijanikin, is seen afar from about five kilometres on the Badagry expressway.
It is sited on an over 10 acres of land. The 18-floor building has adjourning buildings of three and four floors.