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17.08.2013 Africa

TB Joshua’s Neighbours Convert Homes To Hotels

By Nonye Ben-Nwankwo
Hotel Near The-Synagogue-Of-All-Nations-ChurchHotel Near The-Synagogue-Of-All-Nations-Church
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Many residential buildings in Ikotun-Egbe on the outskirts of Lagos have been converted to hotels and inns because of the presence of the Synagogue of all Nations Church, writes 'NONYE BEN-NWANKWO

Mr. Joseph Sunday, who resides at Egbe in Ikotun Egbe, Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, last Saturday looked every inch a worried man. The expression on his face showed a man whose inner recesses are preoccupied with worries.

Indeed, the 40-year-old father of five, who our correspondent saw at a property agent's shop, is having an accommodation problem. His landlord at Bolungberu Street on the Isolo-Ikotun Road, has given him a notice to vacate his house in the next six months. So, Sunday's anxiety was not only on how to secure another accommodation for his family, but also how to raise the needed money to do so. He also has to meet his landlord's deadline if his belongings would not be thrown out of the compound.

Securing and paying for accommodation in Lagos is no child's play. Besides, the huge two or three years' rent one has to pay to get a fairly good place, other sundry financial bills like the agreement and agent's fees, among others, are part of the burden one has to bear.

The legwork, as it were, is another task any potential accommodation seeker has to face. Indeed, anybody looking for an accommodation has to register with agents, which, of course, requires monetary involvement (perhaps between N2,000 and N5,000) in as many shops as possible, although that does not suggest an automatic access to the apartment of one's choice.

These and many other psychological issues were occupying Sunday's mind last Saturday.

Like Sunday, many other residents of Egbe and its environs are facing a similar experience. Small-scale business owners too are not left out of what a resident of the area described as the 'mad rush for the occupation' of the territory.

Property owners in the area are no longer interested in giving out their apartments to families for a long period of years. In the new thinking, there is now a fresher approach to recouping the money they have spent on the buildings.

Not only that, many house owners prefer to relocate to other parts of the city and let out their houses as chalets.

One of them, Mr. Gabriel Omatade, who relocated to Gemade Estate in Egbeda, said he had two houses now turned to hotels in the area.

According to him, it makes more economic sense for him to live in a rented apartment elsewhere because he makes more money from the houses converted to hotels.

Another house owner who craved anonymity, gave the same reason for moving out of the area.

He said he makes more than double the money he could have made if his house had been solely occupied by tenants.

'The easiest way to make more money from your apartment is to turn them to chalets. There are enough visitors here everday to stay in them,' he added.

Little wonder, the Egbe-Ikotun area of Lagos, the once residential area, is of late beginning to attract a lot of attention and increasingly becoming a business hub, courtesy of the presence of Synagogue Church of All Nations.

Following the large number of people coming to worship or seek one religious favour or another in the church, the tempo and standard of life in the area have moved upward.

The many hotels, lodgings, business shops and transport companies springing up around the locality are pointers to the pace of development in the area.

In fact, saying that there is no street in that neighbourhood without at least three hotels or lodgings would not be far from the truth.

The area has also become a hotbed of activities for some young employment seekers recruited to solicit customers and clients for the growing business outfits in the vicinity. These young individuals, our correspondent gathered, are paid commissions for every new client they attract to a hotel or any of the hurriedly organised lodging places.

In fact, just as soon as our correspondent got to Segun Irefin Street, which is just adjacent to the church, a commercial motorcycle operator quickly offered to take her to where she could get a 'decent' accommodation.

The okada rider, who later gave his name as Simon, informed our correspondent that he is usually and adequately compensated by the hotel management depending on the number of guests he brings in.

'Each time I take a guest to any of the hotels, I write my name and the number of guests I bring. At the end of the day or month, I am compensated. Some hotels can give me a bag of rice at the end of the year. Others can give me commission based on what the guests pay,' he said.

Simon, who said he had been doing the business for more than three years, noted that he had even moved up to buy a car, which he also uses for the business.

'It depends on the guests. Some of them, I use my car to take them to the airport or the park. I have so many customers. All they need to do is to call me when they are coming to the church and I will go and pick them up. We are so many in the business. You can see all the young guys hanging around here, we are all agents and this is what we do. The more guests you are able to take to any hotel or lodging, the more you are compensated,' he said.

Indeed, the 'agents' are not just young boys and okada riders, female recharge card sellers readily take guests where they could pay as low as N500 a night.

On Unity Street, off Liasu Road, is a hotel where each room can have as many as 12 double-bunk beds.

Gloria, a recharge card seller, who took our correspondent to the hotel, said a bed space is N1,000 per night and those who could sleep on the mat would need to pay N500 for a night.

'You know that some people come with very sick people. Those ones might not need to sleep on the bed. They would only need just a space to put their heads. That is why we have mats for such people,' she said.

A resident, who craved anonymity, noted that his landlord on Unity Street, last year jerked up his three-bedroom accommodation rent from N130,000 to N250,000. The landlord, he added, even threatened to turn the living home to a lodging if any tenant contested the rent.

Apart from apartments, owners of business shops, whose economic fortunes are nose-diving, are now converting their premises to mini lodging places. Examples abound.

On Opeloyeru Street, also adjacent to the church, two emergency pilgrims' hostels have sprung up in the last few months. The Isolo-Ikotun Road end close to the church has also started witnessing a beehive of activities. For instance, a hotel, Victoria Continental, has opened within the neighbourhood in the last couple of months.

No matter how indecent some of these lodgings are, guests still troop to them, not minding the terrible state.

A visitor to the church, Edith Iro, who informed our correspondent she is based in Cameroun, said she had relatives in Lagos, who she could have stayed with but she preferred staying in a lodging.

'By 3 am, everywhere is already filled up. There is no space in the church. So, I would rather stay in a nearby area in order to get a seat. These places are terrible. I came with my younger sisters and we stayed with eight other strangers in a room where we paid N800 a night for the three nights we stayed here,' she said.

The Manager of Decent Accommodation, a property agent at Ile-Iwe Bus Stop, Alhaji Femi Taofeek, also attested to the increased patronage in the area. He stated that the cost of renting shops and accommodation has increased tremendously.

'Rent for any property within this area has skyrocketed. The concentration of people doing the hotel business is between Ile-Iwe Bus Stop, Ite-Alahaji Bus Stop, Bolorungberu Bus Stop and Synagogue Bus Stop. People now engage in accommodation business. So many new buildings are coming up. We now have new structures which are all for lodging and mini hotels,' he said.

'In fact, some people rent the flats and turn them to mini chalets and most times, the landlords don't even get to know about it. Some landlords who found out that their tenants turned their flats to lodgings have given them notices to quit. It is not proper for anybody to turn a residential flat into a lodging. Some of the guests are sick people with one ailment or the other.'

Taofeek stated that landlords were driving out their tenants and turning their property to lodgings.

'A landlord can wake up one morning and tell his tenants that he wants to turn his property to a hotel, thereby giving them notices to quit. This is what has been happening in this area for some years now. Most of the hotels are not even registered. It is not proper. It is high time the government looked into this,' he said.

In another instance, Desmond Ojeh, another property agent, said shops, which used to cost between N700 and N1,500 now cost between N2,500 and N7,000 per month. Securing a plot of land in the neighbourhood now, he added, cost between N7m and N12m.

Besides issues of accommodation, food vendors are equally making brisk businesses in the area. Because many of these emergency hospitality outfits do not provide or sell food, petty food vendors have now cashed in on the situation to flourish in their own enterprises.

Also Keke Marwa (tricycle operators) and banned motorcyclists (okada riders) are into 'big' business as they move visitors and passengers from the church to many of these lodging spots.

'Since the government banned our business, we have come to this area and I must tell you that it has not been bad; people always troop to this place looking for accommodation. Since they are mostly strangers, we take them to the places we know they would be accommodated depending on their pockets,' an okada rider told our correspondent.

Even the mobile Hausa currency exchange dealers have hurriedly found a place in the neighbourhood. One of them, who identified himself as Alhaji Kabiru, told our correspondent that they are patronised largely by visitors, who troop to the church.

'We get to change different kinds of currencies for them. Most people that patronise us are not Nigerians. They are people from other countries who come to the church. We were not here before, it was because of the presence of the church that we came here,' he said.

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