By Dr Qasim Akinreti and John Ajayi
On a massive 50 acres of land lies modest homes of Nigerian Journalists , christened the Journalists Estates , Arepo phase 1and 2. Arepo is located in Ogun State western Nigeria. It borders Lagos State to the South, Oyo and Osun states to the North, Ondo State to the east and one of the Nigerian neighbouring countries, the Republic of Benin to the west.
Shelter, is one of the basic needs of mankind. For most Journalists in Nigeria like other citizens in some African countries struggled hard to get a roof on over heads. The Nigeria Union of Journalists across Nigeria have been inundated with sad tales of colleagues who retired without a personal home. Aside from inadequate remunerations, arrears of salaries, a good housing policy for Nigerian workers including the Journalists are contributing factors to poor plight of Nigerian Journalists.
Accordingly, in 2003, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos state Chairman , Mrs Funke Fadugba, took a bold step under her welfare programmes to assist in providing affordable homes for teeming Journalists in Lagos.
In her words, the Journalists Estate, phases 1 and 2 in Obafemi Owode area of Ogun state came into existence out of necessity. In 2002/2003 when the media was going through a trying period and payment of salaries became an herculean challenge for majority of media houses, journalists became vulnerable. They could not pick their bills ranging from children’s school fees to healthcare and housing.
It was so bad in Lagos the metropolitan capital that property owners were unwilling to rent out their buildings to some cadres of workers including journalists. Then, I had the challenge of being the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos state council. This led to us not only sustaining inherited programmes like health support, education assistance to rent support”.
Mrs Fadugba said to actualized the housing project, the union was condensed into a cooperative group, collation of individual contributions, land acquisition, clearing, allocation and securing of government approval, providing home to the various classes of journalists from reporters to the editors and media managers.
Arguably, the first and only journalist estate of its kind in Nigeria, Africa and indeed in the entire world, the estate is located around some prominent media houses, such as The Punch Newspaper, Channels Television, The Women FM, The Rainbow FM, The Music FM, The Defunct Hallmark and Compass Newspapers along the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway and the area is envisaged to be Nigeria’s version of Dubai’s Media City.
Popularly referred to as Little London in local palace, the estate is elitist in setting, structure and organisation that makes it a pride of place for all residents. It has two prototype designs, a modest bungalow and two story building, both in phase I and 2. Remarkably each street is named after media organisations in Nigeria.
The longest street is named Mrs Olufunke Fadugba, the initiator of the Journalists estate. Successive Chairman of the NUJ Lagos council resides in the estate.
Some of the prominent Nigerian Journalists living in the Estates are : Former Special Adviser On Media to President Musa Yar ‘Adua, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, Former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, Managing Editor Vanguard Newspapers, Eniola Belo Managing Editor Thisday Newspapers, Kunle Akogun, Director Public Affairs, University of Ilorin, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Dr Tony Iredia, former Director General Nigerian Television Authority, NTA and Emmanuel Efeni, Head Arise TV, among others .
All residents living in the estate relate and interact together in a manner typical of the local African community spirit which preaches being our brother’s keeper. To entrench the communal living culture, the residents meet once every Month on the last Saturday of the month to deliberate on progress and development of the estate. Today, the estate remains a major legacy for present and future generations.
To cater for the needs of average Journalists, the estate has a Journalists International Primary School, JIS, built with the support of Otunba Segun Runshewe, a foremost Nigerian Journalist, now the Director General National Council for Arts and Culture and the Journalists Residence Development Association, JERDA. The NUJ Lagos Council donated school bus. The school is expected to have a secondary school arm in the next academic session.
Although Journalist estate was conceived as a living abode for Nigerian journalists, there are non-media practitioners who have been accommodated either through marriage or social co-habitation. It is governed strictly by rules of engagement that make it conducive as a well organised private estate.
The estate is seen as first amongst equals in the comity and collection of estates in Arepo Community. The estate as a cynosure of all eyes has attracted global attention to Arepo Community and indeed Ogun State in general since it came into existence.
In December 2018, a group of Journalists and trainers from Kenya and Germany, under the auspices of Journalism In A Global Context, Erich-Brost- Institute, African Media Initiative, (AMI) and Africa Positive – (Dier Brilickezum bunten Kontinent) visited the estate, led by Veye Tatah . This group is the first set foreign Journalists to visit, Africa’s unique Journalists estates.
Veye Tatah, in warm handshake with Mrs Olufunke Fadugba, former Chairman NUJ, Lagos Council and Current Chairman , Journalists Resident Development Association, JERDA. Dr Akinreti Qasim, a Residence and Chairman NUJ Lagos Council with other Trainers from Germany, welcoming the visitors to Journalists Estate Arepo.
Three Nigerian Journalists and proud owners of houses at the Journalists estates, Hameed Olabisi, Managing Director, Marketing Vessels Ltd, Fabian Anawo, Radio Nigeria and Silver Okereke of Defunct National Mirror Newspaper, were full of praises for the eternal gifts to generations of Nigerian Journalists. According to Hameed “in the areas of community relations after the allotees got their plots at the beginning, we drew up an operational constitution that will guide relationships among a New Journalists community away from the hustle and bustle of the newsroom. We are fully secured, happy and looking toward handing over our properties to our children in a serene environment”