Fresh facts have emerged that the Presidency has waded into the dispute between the Raw Material, Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) over the occupation of the office premises in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The two agencies have been at loggerheads over the move by RMRDC to reclaim its premises. It was learnt that the Head of Civil Service of the federation in the year 2000, allocated the premises to SON on the condition that RMRDC remains the sole owner and custodian of the property; SON take full responsibilities of the maintenance, running cost and upkeep of the entire complex, including offices occupied by RMRDC.
They also agreed at the meeting that RMRDC retains the first floor as its Liaison office, exhibition and display centre; that the office of the Head of Service of the federation will allocate six units of the residential accommodation to RMRDC in Abuja as compensation for loss of revenue that would have accrued, had the building been leased.
The Guardian gathered that another letter was issued on July 9, 2015 by the same Office of the Civil Service of the Federation and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye titled ‘ Revocation of Office Accommodation’, where SON was requested to release the premises within 12 months for “ flagrant disregard of the terms and conditions of the allocation.”
RMRDC sources alleged that “SON has never undertaken maintenance of the five-storey building in their over 16 years of occupying the property. An integrity test on the Lekki building conducted in 2015 by Codub Consultants stated the property was under serious threat of collapse due to engineering malfunction in each floor, occasioned by years of non-maintenance.
“The central air conditioning system and safety equipment installed by RMRDC have long stopped operation for lack of maintenance by SON. The two sewage systems have been left to fail into disrepair and a notice was issued by the Lagos State Waste and Sanitation Management Unit to RMRDC on account of SON’s failure to keep the property free from filth and refuse.
“RMRDC has responsibly continued to pay all the land use charge bills to the Lagos State Government throughout the 16 year period SON’s stay on our property, SON has never paid any statutory land charges or development levies on the property”, the sources added.
But SON claimed to had carried out massive renovation of the entire structure to make it habitable and taken full responsibility for its overall maintenance including the provision of electricity and water to a floor occupied by RMRDC since the year 2000. The premises is said to serve as the Operational Headquarters of the SON while its Corporate Headquarters is located in Abuja.
Besides, SON also claims to have invested so much in constructing three additional structures accommodating its laboratories including two that are internationally accredited for food technology in biological and chemical testing in furtherance of the Federal Government’s economic diversification agenda. The mycotoxin and food fortificant laboratories are located in the premises while it also accommodates one of SON three State offices in Lagos State in view of the concentration of manufacturing and seaports in the state.
Specifically, the Chief of Staff to the President has wielded into the matter, and set up a committee to meet with the parties. In a submission, RMRDC stated that the matter has been resolved by the Head of civil service of the federation and only needs SON’s compliance.
“When SON could not meet the deadline, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu discussed with the Minister of Trade and investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelema and SON was granted more time to enable them complete their new four-storey building at Ogba, Ikeja, which is their operational headquarters.
“The current action of brazenly defying and disobeying constituted, superior authority in their dealings regarding RMRDC’s Lekki Lagos Property and present refusal to honour the gentlemen agreement reached by the ministers is not commendable and required condemnation.” he added.
However, SON claims that it would lose global accredited laboratories, if evicted from the premises, their diversification efforts to agriculture would be affected and over 400 staff would face trauma from lack of alternative accommodation. The laboratories were equipped by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).