Behold the new Voice of Nigeria’s corporate headquarters, a multi-level marvel of a building standing in elegance. This world-class iconic architectural masterpiece comes with all facilities and conveniences needed for operations of a broadcaster of VON stature.
That the edifice was originally owned by a single individual, a public servant for that matter is beyond comprehension. To put figures on the jaw-dropping building, let’s say it is worth billions. But the absurdity is that it was built from proceeds of financial crime against the Nigerian state.
It is one of the inexplicable assets seized from the former Chief of Defence Staff, Late Air Vice-Marshal Alex Badeh. This is the story of how the government anti-corruption strides yield sophisticated Office complex for VON.
Recently, the Management of Voice of Nigeria moved a good number of its staff from Radio House Garki Abuja to the new head office. At a modest ceremony a few months back, the Economic Financial Crimes Commission had handed over the state of the art multi-million dollar office complex to the management of Voice of Nigeria for use as corporate headquarters.
When the building confiscated from the former Chief of Defence Staff became a public asset, the VON management, badly in need of office accommodation to carry out critical aspects of her operations as an international broadcaster, approached the presidency to concede the building to the corporation.
With the concession, VON management immediately set to work to fit the necessary facilities that will ensure the suitability for a broadcast operational centre.
For more than 25 years, Voice of Nigeria can be said to be a tenant in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. From 1961 when Voice of Nigeria was commissioned as the external service of Radio Nigeria till 1991, Voice of Nigeria operated mainly from Lagos.
That however changed when the Federal government ordered movement of federal ministries and parastatals to Abuja but with skeletal services in Lagos.
For VON which also complied, however, her main operations were still based in Lagos although the chief executive or the Director-General and a handful of strategic staff moved to Abuja.
In Abuja then, VON was operating from rented apartments. That was a drain on the Corporation’s budget before the commissioning of the Radio House, opposite the International Conference Centre at Garki. When the Radio House was commissioned, VON was allocated 6th and 7th floor, of a building that housed the Ministry of Information, FRCN and other departments and agencies of the ministry.
The allocated offices at Radio were still insufficient for VON if it must have the full compliments of an operational broadcasting headquarters. So, for almost the past three decades, VON was more or less a squatter broadcaster in Abuja.
While the Federal government allocated land to the Corporation, intense politics inside government robbed the corporation of retaining the land. The Yaradua Centre and PTDF are the beneficiaries of the horse-trading.
As funding dropped for the corporation, it could not afford to erect a permanent headquarters of its own, although it succeeded in building its Transmitting Station.
While waiting on the hope of fund for the development of the land replacement, an opportunity emerged from the Badeh Affair as EFCC seized many properties traced to the former air force chief. The smart Director-general of VON, Osita Okecukwu latched on the window presented by the seizure.
Since such assets should be returned to the public, VON, the nation’s international public service broadcaster is fitting to have a bite of the opportunity. He approached the presidency and he had listening ears of an understanding head of state, the arrowhead of the anti-corruption crusade in the country.
Following the presidential endorsement, VON had a smooth sail at EFCC to take ownership of the exotic building. With necessary paper works completed, VON last month formally moved some of its operations that the building could accommodate.
Now, VON staff need not cry of space constraint in Abuja any more as it commands three operational centres in the city. These are the Radio house in Garki, the new edifice in ab exotic area of Abuja municipality, and the transmitting station in Lube.
At the formal handing over of the majestic building to VON, it was praise galore for Mr President for his commitment to the anti-corruption crusade. The staff of the corporation have also been expressing gratitude to the federal government for releasing the office complex to VON for use as the new corporate headquarters.
They also salute the wisdom of Mr Osita Okechukwu who discovered the smart solution to the lingering accommodation problem of the corporation, as they described his move as leadership ingenuity at its peak. They are also confident he can still extract more from the government to ensure that VON is better funded to compete with her peers in international broadcasting.
There are of cause more assets owned by unpatriotic Nigerians strewn all over the country built from proceeds of corruption and compromise. If these can be recovered, and put to use as public utilities or assets, it would be the most reasonable way of enriching the state. With Badeh’s House turned to VON Broadcasting Centre, it is a good omen that the state is mighty.
By Abdulwarees Solanke, Deputy Director Strategic Planning & Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria