From today's This Day:
Nigerian Generals Trapped in New York Lift
From Constance Ikokwu in Washington, D.C., 04.20.2009
What could have amounted to an international embarrassment for Nigeria in New York last Friday night was averted when Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau, some officials in the delegation of the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Salamatu Suleiman, and other generals were trapped in the elevator at the Nigeria House.
They were attending a reception in their honour after a meeting held earlier in the day at the United Nations by the military top brass. The Nigerian officials, who were trapped for more than 30 minutes, took the lift from the 21st floor, but it jammed halfway causing panic among embassy staff.
Engineers were called in to rescue them. While they mulled over their fate inside the lift, the party continued upstairs as some were unaware of the situation.
Others, including this reporter, escaped through the stairs. At the ground floor, a man in his late fifties was complaining of pain after climbing down from the 21st floor.
After what seemed like eternity, engineers succeeded in landing the elevator on the third floor. Everyone, including the dignitaries departed unhurt. In the event that there was death or serious injury, Nigeria stood the risk of being sued by the families of any of the visitors, particularly foreigners.
The building also risks being sealed off by authorities of the city of New York if this continues.
THISDAY gathered that lift shutdown at the Nigeria House built between 1992 and 1993 by the Federal Government is a constant occurrence due to its deplorable condition. The building houses the Nigerian Embassy and staff of the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the UN.
Located in the heart of Manhattan, an upscale business district, Nigeria House is meant to generate funds through the rent of properties to private companies. However, only one organisation is currently a tenant. Other companies, THISDAY learnt, moved out due to poor services provided by Nigeria.
At different times, visitors including those from the UN, have been caught in the same situation. Sources say it could prevent guests from stepping foot in the building for fear of their lives.
Only recently, one of the country’s drivers was thoroughly bounced like a ball inside the lift. He was lucky to get out alive.
Almost $6,500 is paid monthly on lift maintenance. But several parts are moribund. An elevator company, Otis, has presented a quote for a new lift but no decision has been taken yet on the issue.
Not much has been said on why it is pending but sources say this is a national emergency given that the country is continuously embarrassed by this incident. The New York Fire Police Depart-ment is frequently called in to release people caught in the elevator.
The reception room on the 21st floor, where the event took place was not in use until recently, because the roof was leaking. It was repaired following orders from Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Joy Ogwu.
Before she took office in May last year, visitors were hosted at five-star hotels such as Waldorf Astoria at exorbitant prices. The situation presented a loophole for corruption under the pretext of hosting guests.
Ogwu, THISDAY learnt, was determined to manage funds wisely hence her determination to fix the reception hall. The problem was that the lift and the 21st floor were not the only nightmares to deal with.
Another disaster was averted last week when the basement was flooded following the collapse of the sump pump. An expert told THISDAY that this is a dangerous situation because frequent flooding affects the foundation of the house.
The fire alarm, camera and the metal detector at the entrance are out of use. The machine room is full of obsolete equipment and the cooling system has broken down.
It is a symptom of a larger problem. For instance, Ogwu’s official residence at Tarry Town is in bad shape. Consequently, she did not move into the 17.5 acre run-down residence upon her arrival. Instead, she lives in a rented apartment, located in the middle of nowhere and devoid of any kind of security.
Over the years, lack of funding has made it impossible to fix the house. When THISDAY visited the official residence Saturday morning, the breathtaking magnificent edifice, located on top of a hill overlooking the Hudson River, was a shadow of opulence.
Previously owned by the prominent Rockefeller family, the building is unrecognizable, according to sources. In its glory days, it was the desire of any wealthy and influential property owner. Neighbours have lodged complaint. It has fallen on deaf ears.
The sewage flows into the lawns. One of the rooms has a death trap. A big hole that can swallow an unsuspecting visitor was covered with a piece of wood. The tiles on some parts of the kitchen floor are gone. The roof and walls are leaking. The carpets are stained and worn out. Several rooms have developed mould.. The swimming pool has not seen water for years.
When approached for comments, Ogwu simply stated that she would “rather discuss the challenges before Nigeria at the UN and avoid comments on the state of the mission or state of Nigeria’s property and leave that for the bureaucracy
Monday, April 20, 2009
From today's This Day: