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Forgotten monuments

| September 11, 2012 More

•Collapse of Bauchi wall reminds us of the need to regularly maintain such structures

THE preservation and maintenance of historic buildings and monuments is rigorously undertaken by most serious nations. Apart from their great antiquity and tourist value, they are often regarded as encapsulating the norms and beliefs that countries hold dear. As in so many other aspects of national development, however, Nigeria seems to be an exception to this general rule. The recent collapse of the historic Bauchi wall is a case in point.

Built around 1804, the wall is an outstanding example of indigenous architectural and engineering skill, and served primarily to protect the equally-historic Galadiman Bauchi House in the Bauchi State capital. It collapsed at about noon, falling on to nearby houses, resulting in the deaths of two persons and injuries to about four. Witnesses at the scene attribute the tragedy to a heavy downpour on the previous day.

This was a tragedy waiting to happen. A wall of such size and age should have been subjected to regular checks of its structural integrity, especially given its historic importance. It is also clear that little or nothing was done to prevent houses being built too close to it. The blame for this oversight must be placed at the door of the National Commission of Museums and Monuments (NCMM), the Bauchi State Government and the local government council within which the wall is domiciled.

The NCMM is a Federal Government parastatal tasked with the duty of ensuring that the country’s monuments and historical buildings are kept in good condition and raising public awareness about them. The collapse of the Bauchi wall is a clear demonstration of the lack of efficiency which it brought to its job. A serious organisation would have established a regimen of periodic checks and inspections aimed at ensuring that the wall and other monuments are kept in good condition and open to visits by interested members of the public. Indeed, given the general dilapidation of city walls and similar structures all over the country, it is actually surprising that they have not been collapsing with greater regularity.

The state and relevant local governments also have a lot to answer for. Even if the commission was not living up to its statutory duties, they had a direct interest in making sure that such an important edifice is not only safe but marketable as a tourist attraction. As the state in which the famous Yankari Game Reserve is located, they should have been aware of its importance to Bauchi’s status as a major tourism destination. In other countries, regional and local authorities devote substantial resources to ensuring that monuments are properly maintained.

The Bauchi tragedy clearly indicates the pressing need for an overhaul of Nigeria’s approach towards its historic buildings and monuments. NCMM must be strengthened to enable it carry out its regulatory responsibilities with greater efficiency. In particular, it must be given the wherewithal to properly maintain such edifices. There are walled cities and ancient buildings all across the country; their condition should be thoroughly assessed and remedial action undertaken where necessary. A comprehensive plan of action to market them as tourist attractions would help to defray the costs of their maintenance. 

The Bauchi State Government should conduct a census of all historic buildings and monuments in the state with a view to identifying those which are in need of maintenance or repair. The proper utilisation of such edifices will strengthen local pride in the state’s rich history and culture, and could become an important source of much-needed revenue.

Category: Bauchi State News

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