In an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for building the Largest Billboard, Idoko Ilonah, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lona Global Resources encountered an unfortunate turn of events.
In 2017, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lona Global Resources, raised the idea of erecting the billboard, he was trying to outdo his other records in the outdoor advertising business.
In 2011, his company built the then biggest billboard (20m x 40m) in Nigeria – an LED digital billboard installed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. Also, in 2016, he made another record by installing the biggest billboard in Africa (20mx80m) at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road, Abuja.
On the 24th of April, 2017, Lona Global Resources got approval from the Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signage (DOAS) to install the billboard near the New City Gate along Airport Road, on the 27th of April, the executive secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Umar Jibrin, visited the site proposed for the installation of the billboard and faulted DOAS decision to allocate the plot for the installation of the billboard.
Mr Jibrin said the plot was within the area marked for the new Abuja City Gate so he ordered a review of the approval for the location. He also set up an interdepartmental committee comprising the directors of DOAS, departments of urban and regional planning, engineering services, public building, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), among others
On the 6th of June, 2017, the committee, during its meeting recommended a new plot along the Airport Expressway/Wawa (Centenary) district.
The Director of Engineering Services, M.S. Audu,
informed of the interdepartmental committee’s new location suggested for the billboard construction. , via a memo addressed to the FCDA executive secretary, and dated June 19, 2017, read in part; “The recommended adjustment is to restrict the billboard within the airport expressway/Wawa (Centenary) district/New City Gate plot buffer, thereby eliminating the likelihood of encroachment into private committed plots within Wawa (Centenary) district. The Department of Public Building has been duly consulted in arriving at the above proposed mega billboard centre line alignment adjusted coordinates.”
The Director of the Urban and Regional Planning Department, Zaliha’u Ahmed, in another memo addressed to the FCDA executive secretary which in part read; “It was determined that the site (new site) is unencumbered and located about 150m away from the new city gate within the 60m wide buffer of the Musa Yar’Adua Airport Expressway.
Mr Ilonah said after securing the new approval, work on installing the billboard commenced almost immediately. He said his company spent N800 million on the design and fabrication of steel and other items. He said he was, however, shocked when the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello, ordered the work to stop. The order was informed by a letter of complaint to the minister from the management of Centenary City Plc, promoters of the Centenary City project, objecting to the new location of the billboard. The company argued that the erection of the billboard would obstruct the view of the city.
The letter, which was signed by the company’s managing director, Odenigwe Michaels, sought the minister’s intervention, suggesting the approval for the billboard’s location must have been given in error.
“The Honourable Minister may wish to recall that the Centenary City Project is an investment-driven project. As a result, an act that creates panic in the minds of the investors will not be good for the project. Let me also note that the claim that the location of the massive billboard is on a ‘Wayleave’ is not founded as wayleave is not intended for activities that will affect the adjoining developments,” he wrote.
Mr Ilonah told PREMIUM TIMES that his company wrote letters to the minister explaining its predicament. He said he even promised to remove the billboard whenever the government was ready to construct the new city gate.
“We took N300 million loan from a financial institution at five per cent interest rate and had already secured advertorial from the Globalcom Communications running to about N300 million as the first user of the board when completed,” he said.
Lona Global Resources took its case to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In a letter to Mr Osinbajo, in August 2017, the company argued that Mr Bello’s order stopping the installation of the billboard was not in harmony with the government’s policy to better the ease of doing business and support for local content in public procurement.
The vice president, through a letter signed by the deputy chief of staff at the presidency, Ade Ipaye, wrote Lona Global Resources Limited, notifying it that Lona’s complaints had been forwarded to the minister concerned for “review and necessary action.”
Since then all efforts to reach the president for a comment have been futile.
Meanwhile, Lona Global Resources said due to the failure to install the billboard, it has been unable to meet its financial obligations to the financial institution that loaned it N300 million. Also, the company is in trouble with Globacom over its failure to deliver services paid for.
“We, therefore, appeal to Nigerians to help us beg the FCT authorities before our business investments are finally ruined,” Mr Ilonah, the firm’s CEO, said.
Source: Premium Times