Heritage in peril: Tafawa Balewa Square gate demolished in Lagos, ICOMOS calls for action

The gate of the Tafawa Balewa Square in Onikun, Lagos, before it was demolished by the Lagos State Government.

The Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) gate in Onikan, Lagos, has been met with widespread disapproval after it was demolished by the Lagos State government. The International Council on Museums and Sites (ICOMOS) Nigeria, a non-governmental organization that advocates for the preservation of cultural heritage sites in the country, condemned the move and called on the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) to intervene.

According to Aliyu Abdu, President of ICOMOS Nigeria, the TBS is an historical monument that should not be tampered with. He stated that it is surprising to see that the Lagos State Government, who recognized and listed TBS as an important state monument, has allowed this to happen under its watch.

Abdu referred to the Lagos State law of listed sites for preservation enacted by the state House of Assembly in 2011, which states that no property, site or monument listed as a grade I, II, or III monument shall be altered, demolished, or improved upon without the prior issuance of listed site consent of the governor.

The TBS, a rectangular 3.9615 hectares ceremonial ground originally called “Race Course” in Lagos Island, holds significant historical and cultural value. The site was the location where the Union Jack was lowered to mark Nigeria’s independence in 1960, and has also hosted the inauguration of governors of the state.

Abdu called on local communities, professional urban planning agencies, organizations, and other cultural heritage and conservation groups to take an interest in protecting monuments and heritage sites within their localities.

He also urged the NCMM to be proactive in protecting and preserving other monuments proposed for enlistment, and expressed that ICOMOS-Nigeria is ready to partner with all stakeholders to protect and preserve important monuments across the country.

Meanwhile, Prof. Abba Tijani, Director-General of the NCMM, stated that the TBS had yet to be listed as a national monument. He assured that the NCMM had spoken with the management of TBS and that they had expressed their innocence and promised to stop all activities at the site.

The destruction of the TBS gate has sparked outrage among heritage and culture enthusiasts, with many calling for swift action to be taken to preserve the site and hold those responsible accountable. As the TBS holds immense historical and cultural significance, it is crucial that measures are taken to ensure its preservation for future generations.

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