Agbowo Shopping Mall: Can Makinde Fulfil His Promises In Second Term?

 

The moribund Agbowo Shopping Complex was once a pride of Oyo State but however became an eyesore in the last decade.

Promises by the successive government to maintain and reconstruct the building have been mere dreams.

Strategically located in the front of the premier University of Ibadan, Agbowo shopping mall is one of the sources of internally generated revenue for Oyo state and was also providing thousands of direct jobs for residnets of the state.

This massive Agbowo Shopping Complex was the brainchild of the then-military governor of the Western Region of Nigeria, General David Jemibewon and was later constructed on 30 plots of land by the former governor Bola Ige in 1983. It was commissioned in 1984 by the Military Head of State – General Muhammadu Buhari.

Embedded in this massive facility are; 84 shopping units, a 10-story building and banking halls, three departmental stores, a cafeteria, a nightclub, a 540-seater cinema theatre, and 15 grocery shops.

Agbowo Shopping Complex suffered many years of neglect by successive governments particularly under civilian rule since it was constructed.

On Oct 13, 2016, the Oyo State Government under the administration of late Sen. Abiola Ajimobi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a consortium of investors, Agbowo Mall Infrastructure Development Company Limited, for the remodeling, redeveloping, and rehabilitation of the Agbowo shopping complex which will cost the investors about N8 billion.

Late Ajimobi government aimed to give the complex a befitting outlook that would meet international standards with ultra-modern facilities that will promote and accelerate business activities in the state, with the assurance that, the old occupants will be given priority during allocations after the completion of the project

According to the representative of the investors, Mr. Tunde Shonekan said that the rehabilitation of the entire complex would take about thirty months before completion, adding that, they were ready to invest the sum of N8 billion into the project.

Till May 29, 2019, nothing concrete came out of the proposed renovation after signing a memorandum of understanding with the investors.

On his resumption as the new governor of the state, Seyi Makinde deemed fit to actualize the dream of bringing Agbowo Mall back to the limelight and the business hub it is known for in Ibadan.

Governor Makinde blamed his predecessors for neglecting the Agbowo Shopping complex to the extent that by 2012, the facility had become moribund.

The governor invited investors,
and on Wednesday, September 23, 2020
leased the multi-million naira popular Agbowo Shopping complex, to Whitestone Global Limited for 50 years, and explained that the renovation would be completed before May 2023.

Governor Makinde during his flag boasted that what the Ajimobi’s Administration could not do in eight years; he would surely do in under two years.

While speaking at the flag-off of the renovation, reconstruction, and remodeling of the structure, governor Makinde said his administration will be working with Messrs Whitestone Global Ltd, and added that the collaboration will be in the form of a long lease concession ( 50 years ) with a capital injection of N4.9Billion, as the mandate is to convert this moribund structure into premium commercial real estate and a 4-star hotel under 24 months.

However, till his administration ended in 2023, all promises by Governor Makinde about the Agbowo Shopping Complex failed.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Whitestone Global Investment Limited, Arc. Woleola Adebowale Oluwole, during an interview granted around March 2021 on one of the Ibadan-based radio stations, Fresh 105.9FM said, his company was bullied out of the site as a result of his decision to terminate the structure’s external works given to a local contractor.

Arc. Woleola said an end to the project started when some people in government recommended to him to do the external work ( stripping of the structure ) were serial fraudsters.

He claimed that he decided to kick them out of the project had he noticed that they had been selling the assets of the structure, an allegation which was also confirmed by the police.

According to Woleola, after noticing the motive of the local contractor recommended by the people in government, he said ” We sent them a letter terminating their contract with us and after terminating their contract they refused to leave the site.

” Eventually, we had to take them to court so that we could have an injunction stopping them from operating on that site any longer because they were also collecting rent fraudulently from people”.

Speaking further, he said Whitestone Global Investment Limited began to lose its feet about the project when the real people in government who have been backing up the illegal activities at the Agbowo Shopping complex site revealed their true identity.

However, while admitting the failure of the project on the Fresh 105.9FM program, ‘political circuit,’ on Saturday, October 29, 2022, Governor Makinde admitted that the project to remodel the Agbowo shopping complex failed due to some factors that had nothing to do with the state government.

He said:” I’ll admit to the people of Oyo State that the project failed.

“When we came on board, the state government was the one still managing the place. I went there during the campaign and the place was dilapidated. We advertised for investors and people applied.

“We advertised and they brought the file to me. The Brent group came first. I said engage them. This is during COVID-19 time. But they said they can’t do anything until after a year because of COVID. We already wasted a year on COVID-19, and because we want to give the place a facelift, I said to then to bring the second person.

“While I was trying to decide who I should give Agbowo remodeling to, a prominent Ibadan elder came to me that I should give the second person, I gave it to him.

“We got to know that the guy doesn’t have money to do the job. Someone told me that the guy who came third was the one financing the second person. I said since you know that number 3 is financing number 2 and number 2 has no money, let’s go to number 3. I later got to know that the second person had already applied during the previous administration. If I had known, I wouldn’t have given it to him, despite the Ibadan elder’s intervention.

“This is an asset that is dilapidating, that was how we got to number 3.

“If you have a problem staring you in the face, you tried to solve it and it failed, you come together to solve it.”

On the 20th of January 2023, major suppliers (of materials), sub-contractors, and occupants of shops at the abandoned N4.9 billion Agbowo Shopping Complex renovation project staged a protest at the state secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, lamenting non-payment of over N250 million since two years ago.

They displayed placards with inscriptions such as, ‘Mr. Governor: Write Your Name in Gold, Agbowo Shopping Complex is a legacy project’; ‘Mr. Governor, Agbowo Complex contractors, and shop owners are dying, Save Us’; ‘We want our money back #Agbowo Shopping Complex as well as No Shop No refund”.

Aftermath of his admission of his failed attempt to renovate the Agbowo building, the state governor, Seyi Makinde made open his second attempt, he announced to the public, during the unveiling of the billboard commemorating the UI @ 75 anniversary on the University Campus in Ibadan on November 11, 2023.

According to Governor Makinde, he said
” The project that the Oyo State government is carrying out, which is the junction improvement at UI will be expanded and we would put a pedestrian bridge so that when students are passing, they don’t have to get knocked down again, that would enhance the refurbishment of the Agbowo Shopping Complex.

“It is a life project, it would happen and you will see the contractor on site within a few weeks. I don’t think it would be more than four weeks, but they must get to that site and this time next year, it would be a typically different story,” gov. Makinde quoted.

The state governor after making a promise in November last year, that the contractor would resume the renovation of the complex in a few weeks, it is exactly 6 months gone, no contract cited on-site, and the Agbowo Shopping Complex, which was a place to be for consumers, though begging for attention.

The complex at at the time of giving it out for renovation was still providing 2,000 direct jobs for people made up of retirees, graduates, and traders. They had their means of livelihood solely depending on the complex.

An occupant claimed that, as decayed as the complex when they were using it, it is capable of generating over N100 million for the government, if little rehabilitation is done and properly managed as well as the open space around is well-utilized.

Already, late governor Abiola Ajimobi failed in his effort to renovate the Agbowo Shopping Complex during his administration, the present governor, Seyi Makinde also failed in his first attempt, he remade a promise for the renovation, but, it is yet to be actualized, the question in the minds of many residents of Oyo state, as to what becomes the result of the contract and when the renovations would commence are seriously begging for answers.



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Sarafa Alli
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