Demolition Ilojo Bar
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How to kill a monument: the demolition of Ilojo Bar

Ilojo Bar a national monument in Nigeria built in mid 19th century by returned slaves from Brazil has been demolished. The iconic building which housed a music shop owned by veteran musician Victor Olaiya was where King Sunny Ade once bought a guitar. The demolished plot now spots a sign post announcing it property of the government.

Last Sunday, September 11th, a national monument in Lagos, Ilojo Bar also known as Casa Fernandez or Olaiya House was demolished. Ilojo Bar, described in the New York Times as one of the most eye-catching examples of Brazilian architecture in Lagos, was built in the mid-19th century by freed slaves who had returned from Brazil.

The building, 161 years ag,o was initially meant as a bar and restaurant. It was sold to Alfred Omolana Olaiya in the 1930s and renamed Olaiya House. It is protected by the National Commissionn for Museums and Monuments Act where it is listed as No. 44.

Ilojo Bar, described in the New York Times as one of the most eye-catching examples of Brazilian architecture in Lagos, was built in the mid-19th century by freed slaves who had returned from Brazil.

In this now deceased building, the legendary Victor Olaiya had a guitar shop where King Sunny Ade got his guitars. Valuable parts of the iconic Lagos Island monument overlooking Tinubu Square had been auctioned off by thugs present during the demolition.

Demolition Ilojo Bar
Ilojo Bar being demolished on Sunday 11 September 2016. Photo : ktravula.com

For a national monument to have been demolished, the persons responsible must have gotten a permit from the Nigerian government.And indeed a man who identified himself as Onitolo maintained that he had permission from the government for the demolition. He also stated that he had been contracted by the Olaiya family to demolish the building and start development.

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The general manager of Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) Remi Oni-Orisan and Oladotun Lasoju of the Lagos State Building Contol Agency (LASBCA) in a classic case of Nigerian government officials swooping in to save the day after the die has been cast, lamented on how the site had been taken over by developers who worked at odd hours.

Demolition Ilojo Bar
Officials of Lagos State Building Contol Agency (LASBCA) at the demolition site. Photo : ktravula.com

Remi said “It was during holiday, last Sunday precisely, that they pulled it down. During the holiday or in the night, they surround the place with ‘Area Boys’ and commence development on property. This is what most of them do on Lagos Island.”

The last part of that quote is a classic example of a pot calling a kettle black. In the last weeks, the Lagos Government has been widely criticized for their demolition of several small to medium enterprises including Nuli Juice, on the same Lagos Island.

At a time when Nigeria suffers a recession and looks to tourism as a source of revenue, this demolition is especially perplexing.

Meanwhile, Legacy 1995, has begun a petition demanding  the punishment of the developers in question. They also call for the recreation of the building.

Read: The fate of Zimbabwe’s colonial monuments

At a time when Nigeria suffers a recession and looks to tourism as a source of revenue, this demolition is especially perplexing. Of the many monuments. landmarks and heritage sites in Nigeria, most of them, like the Kano Walls and Benin Moats are in a state of worrying disrepair.

As more national monuments are lost, we must ask ourselves, what becomes of a society without relics and monuments?

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