By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
INTENDING retirees and “senior citizens” in Lagos State, can look forward to an enjoyable life in retirement without traveling out of Lagos, known for its busy and frenzied city life. This is because a new haven equipped with all facilities for relaxation and recreation has been built for them.
The sprawling mansion, known as Retirement Villa and built on a 7,240.48 square metres land in Lekki Phase II as a novel idea of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), has been commissioned for use yesterday.
COWLSO, chaired by the wife of Lagos State governor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, is a community-based gender organisation founded in 1974 by the wife of the first Military Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Funmilayo Johnson, to complement the efforts of government to provide recreational centres, mobilize grassroots support for child healthcare, and canvass for resources to empower women.
The project was conceived and the land for the facility purchased by former chairperson of COWLSO, Senator Oluremi Tinubu. The project was later to be executed by Mrs. Fashola on assumption of office as COWLSO chairperson.
The Retirement Villa, a first-of-its-kind project in Nigeria, cost the organization N300 million to execute with proceeds from the annual National Women Conference held between 2006 and 2009. A marshy land was acquired in a serene Lekki ambience, devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of Lagos metropolis.
Situated on Road 45, Lekki Phase II, the Retirement Villa is a relaxation centre for retired and active senior citizens, a place where they can visit daily to share quality time with themselves in a most relaxed environment and which provides opportunity to engage in sporting activities.
The aesthetic design of the villa is a delight and beauty to behold. The serenity of the environment exclusively for senior citizens to relax and engage in recreation activities will certainly be too much to resist.
The facilities for use at the villa include the main clubhouse, which comprises reception, administrative offices, lounge/games room, restaurant, bookshops/newsagents and laundry room. It also has a 240 square-metres multi-purpose hall and a store. There are also four split-level shops, doctor’s clinic, which includes waiting area, three consulting rooms and a pharmacy.
The villa has 12 chalets to serve as guest suites for people who want to stay for a while at reasonable cost. A staff quarter is built at the villa and it has male/female restrooms and caretaker’s two-bedroom apartment.
It is also equipped with recreation facilities, including gymnasium, sauna, massage room, two hard-surface tennis courts, swimming pool, and poolside bar and barbeque. There are also external facilities, such as 55 car parking spaces, paved private garden and well-landscaped courtyard.
According to Mrs. Fashola, the villa is not a replacement as a permanent home for retired civil servants, but its purpose is to serve as recreation and orientation centre. She stated that COWLSO began the construction of the project in 2010.
“We have just completed the Retirement Villa, which is situated at Lekki Phase II, immediately after Ajah. It is designed to be a place of relaxation and recreation for retired senior citizens and residents of Lagos State. Our vision was to provide a place where the elderly can visit to share fellowship with their peers while reliving the early days of their service and enjoying the company of friends.
“There is among other facilities a large auditorium where parties can be held. There are also guest chalets provided for those who may want to have overnight stay. The senior citizens will be charged a token for the maintenance of our facilities,” Fashola explained.
Chairman, Building Committee of the project, Mrs. Bimpe Martins, said the facility was solely built for the elderly, stressing that COWLSO undertook the project to make life meaningful for retirees in Lagos.
On the choice of location, Martins stated that COWLSO considered the fact that there were large spaces for such a project in many parts of the state, but that serenity and ambience were put into consideration in arriving at Lekki Phase II as the destined choice. “We wanted a place devoid of the hustle and bustle of the city, which informed why we chose this place.”
According to her, the 12 chalets in the villa could accommodate a maximum of 24 people at a time, with two people per room, if the occupier chooses to and the facility would be strictly for 60-year-olds and above. She added that the multi-purpose hall would be rented out for social functions to generate money to run the villa.
Apart from the retirement villa, COWLSO has also built several recreational facilities in different parts of Lagos, some of which are Agege Recreation Centre, Sam Shonibare Recreation Centre, Campos Square Play Ground, Oworonsoki Recreation Centre, Oshodi Sports Centre, Kudirat Abiola Freedom Square, Lafiaji Community Centre, among others.
The body also donates fund, food and other items to orphanages, physically challenged people; motherless babies homes, destitute homes, charity homes, juvenile welfare centre and several others.