The federal government has formally transferred the Presidential Lodge in Marina, once the State House in the First Republic, to the Lagos State Government, a development that has elicited jubilation among the state’s eminent indigenes.
The transfer of the Presidential Lodge was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter from his Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, to the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, last week.
Buhari’s approval followed Ambode’s request to release the presidential lodge to the Lagos State Government in its bid to transform the Marina-Onikan axis into a world-class arts and tourism hub.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said yesterday that Ambode commended the president for approving the transfer of the Presidential Lodge in Marina to the state government.
He said Buhari’s large heart demonstrated his “keen admiration for Lagos State as the centre of excellence that is well suited to becoming Africa’s foremost hub for arts, entertainment and tourism”.
With the presidential approval, Ambode said the Presidential Lodge would be redeveloped “to The Heritage Centre for Leadership, which would subsequently be redesigned and equipped as a landmark research and tourist arena that will be open to local and international visitors”.
He said: “On behalf of the government and people of Lagos State, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his kind handover of the Presidential Lodge in Marina to the Lagos State Government.
“This, in my opinion, demonstrates the president’s special interest in Lagos State, which is in line with the promise he made in Lagos during the electioneering that the interest of Lagosians will always be paramount in his heart.
“Buhari’s approval has come at a time that the old Lagos State House in Marina, which is next door to the Presidential Lodge, is also being prepared for transformation to The Lagos History Centre, as a mark of honour to and celebration of all former governors of Lagos State, as well as for the benefit of humankind as a whole.
“The State Executive Council has already approved the Lagos House Marina to be turned into Lagos History Centre for tourism purposes. With the handover of the Presidential Lodge to Lagos State, the state government will begin the process that will transform the whole area into a cultural zone in the next two to three years that every Lagosian will be proud of.
“These two buildings will be nurtured as world-class monuments by the Lagos State Government to complement the ongoing larger plan that aims to transform the Marina-Onikan axis into a multi-sectorial culture zone.”
He also unveiled the state’s plan for Marina-Onikan cultural zone, including a skywalk that would connect Marina all the way to the Freedom Park on Broad Street in order to offer the ultimate view of the “culture arcade” that will emerge between Marina and Broad Street and the entire zone to tourists and local visitors.
Ambode said the axis would also accommodate a Tourist Welcome Centre, which he said would comprise a multi-layer car park, mall, Lagos aquarium centre and other tourists’ facilities.