African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 197

Full Length Research Paper

Assessing the state (physical and functional) of the heritage buildings in Lagos State

Folasiji Anthony Bomi-Daniels
  • Folasiji Anthony Bomi-Daniels
  • Department of Building, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 09 March 2022
  •  Accepted: 15 June 2022
  •  Published: 30 June 2022


Heritage buildings form a critical part of the cultural heritage of any people or group, recognized by the United Nations with several international charters formed to promote, protect, and preserve them. This study assessed the physical and functional state of heritage buildings within Lagos State and determined their preferred state. The study was conducted through questionnaires and case study/observation method. The data collected through the questionnaire were processed and analyzed using SPSS (statistical programming for social sciences) software and Microsoft excel. Descriptive analysis and Relative Importance Index (RII) were used for the analysis, such as the measure of central tendency for some parts of the questionnaires. Case study/observation method was also used to assess the heritage buildings. The research findings show that the heritage buildings should be in good physical, functional, and socioeconomic states but they are not. The study recommends that all heritage buildings should have an active management board that oversees their physical, functional, and socio-economic state. A partnership model between the management board and external consultants/ contractors should be in place to ensure optimum maintenance levels.


Key words: Heritage buildings, conservation, cultural heritage, maintenance management, preservation.


From the early ages of humanity, mankind has lived in clusters of people and groups bound by norms, belief systems, and traditions which become their way of life, culture, or cultural history. As older generations give way to newer ones, the cultural history becomes the cultural heritage of the people group and the values they will strive to uphold (Osasona, 2017). In 1945, in response to the widespread disaster occasioned by World War II, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was formed with a mandate to prevent another world war by building peace fostering international Cooperation in Education, the Sciences  and Culture (UNESCO, 2019b).


At the core of the activities of UNESCO is the protection and preservation of the World’s Cultural History and Heritage (UNESCO, 2017). Available research has shown that cultural history plays a vital role in the sustainable development of nations aiding entire communities in deriving a sense of identity and meaning (Emerson, 2013). In September 2015, the United Nations adopted a global agenda that would drive universal sustainable development; this agenda includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets with an implementation target of 15 years, which would end by the year 2030 (United Nations, 2015).


Goal 11 and target 4 of the agenda 2030 explicitly outline the importance of cultural heritage to the overall sustainable development of any nation as it is outlined as follows: “Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage” (United Nations, 2015). UNESCO (2008) classifies cultural heritage into two, tangible cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage. Historical buildings are classified under Tangible Cultural Heritage and form a critical part of the cultural heritage of a society. According to Idrus et al. (2010), heritage buildings incite a feeling of awe and inquisitiveness about the culture and people who designed and constructed them; they are buildings with generally agreed historical, architectural, archaeological, religious, political, and economic values. They are defining buildings that have become icons for the modern society and include relics of a relatively distant past. They are buildings that have become monuments and, by the consensus of the society, should be conserved and preserved for future generations (Idrus et al., 2010).


In 1979, Nigeria created the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), replacing its former Antiquities Commission set up by the British Colonial Rulers. The NCMM is tasked with researching and discovering national monuments, antiquities, and historical sites, preserving and conserving the same whilst creating awareness among Nigerians of the country's diverse Cultural Heritage. The Commission maintains a register of listed and intending listing heritage sites and buildings (NCMM, 2019). Lagos State, the commercial capital of Nigeria and one of the surviving earliest kingdoms of old west Africa, a city-state that was a seat bed for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, has the highest number of nationally listed Heritage buildings by the NCMM. This is attributed to skilled returnee slaves who, in settling in the Lagos island region (initial boundary of the City) built most of the surviving heritage buildings in the state (Danmole, 2017).


Statement of problem


The human population has been rapidly growing since 1950 with a current growth rate of 1.2% annually, with some areas in sub-Saharan Africa projected to double their present population by 2050 (United Nations, 2019). This spike in population has various effects, including rural-urban migrations and rapid urbanization, with over 50% of the world’s population currently living in urban areas, and this trend is projected to increase by over 20% by 2030 (Habitat, 2018). This population growth spurt and its subsequent urbanization and rural-urban migration trends typically amount to the abandonment of Historical Buildings and Heritage Buildings (Onyima, 2016).


Nigeria, a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-linguistic country, is awash with cultural heritage and efforts to ensure  that Nigerian cultural heritage are identified, preserved, and conserved have been in place since 1948 with the establishment of the National Museum in Jos and later on the NCMM in 1979 (Osasona, 2015). However, the research effort by Osasona (2015) identified a gross lack of commitment to heritage building conservation, preservation, and restoration by the Nigerian government despite the institutionalized provisions. It further suggested that available evidence showed that private organizations seem to be making more contributions to the conservation and preservation of Heritage Buildings/sites in Nigeria than the government.


There is a dearth of available information on the current state of heritage buildings in Lagos. Osasona (2017) highlighted the gross neglect and lack of concern for these buildings, further stating the erroneous belief among practitioners that heritage buildings were old and belonged to the past. This perspective was shared by Zubairu et al. (2012), who highlighted the urgent need to create a database of all heritage buildings and structures in Nigeria whilst encouraging the NCMM to provide the listing requirements for buildings/structures adjudged to have historical or cultural value. Available research has concentrated on the neglect and abandonment of heritage buildings in Lagos; there is a need to discover, document and highlight the present state of these buildings and improve/optimize their operations.


There is thus a gap in research in the documentation of these heritage buildings, the factors contributing to their continued neglect, abandonment, and the income-earning potentials of these buildings that reverse the ugly cycle of neglect, abandonment, and destruction. The analysis of previous research has also identified the need for improved efforts in the conservation, preservation, and economic optimization of Nigeria’s cultural heritage. This research seeks to study these gaps in present research knowledge by asking the question: What is the current state (physical and functional) of the heritage buildings and the preferred state for Heritage buildings within the study area?


Objective of study


To assess the physical and functional state of heritage buildings within Lagos State, and determine the preferred state for heritage buildings within Lagos State.


Research question


What is the physical and functional condition of various heritage buildings in Lagos State, and what is the preferred condition of these buildings in Lagos State?


Research hypothesis


H0: There  is  no significant difference in the conditions of the various heritage buildings in Lagos State.


Scope of the study


The focus of the study is on heritage buildings within the geographical study area which is Lagos State.


Heritage buildings


Every building has a life cycle from conception to decommissioning; every heritage building begins like every other building. It is often after the passage of time and significant events that heritage attachments are then placed on certain buildings. Osasona (2017) asserts that heritage buildings are historical buildings with cultural significance to a people, place, or period. A building achieves heritage status when it becomes widely accepted by members of a particular community (large or small, local or international) begin to accord historical, cultural, religious, economic, scientific, and other significant values to it. Vicente et al. (2018), Umar and Said (2019), and Olufemi (2017) all agree with the argument that a building becomes a cultural heritage when the majority of a society or people group begin to attach historical importance, artistic appeal, scientific value and/or communal sense of belonging to it. This attachment drives the need to protect, conserve and restore the building as a legacy to be handed to subsequent generations. In a research effort, Illiyasu (2014) identified and listed several international and national agencies/charters, including the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tasked with the protection and conservation of Cultural Heritage, again underscoring the importance of Cultural Heritage to their host communities, nations and the world at large.


The United Nations, after extensive deliberations in September 2015, adopted a global agenda aimed to drive worldwide sustainable development, which would be implemented by member states which would enact policies geared at the actualization of this agenda. To track the overall picture whilst keeping all the separate parts working, the UN agenda proposed seventeen (17) sustainable development goals (SDGs) and a hundred and sixty-nine (169) targets as implementation markers for the goals. The SDGs have an implementation timeline of fifteen (15) years ending in 2030. In the charter document guiding the actualization of the SDGs, the Goal 11 of the SDGs expressly deals with human habitations and settlements with a drive to make all human settlements safe, sustainable, and resilient. Specifically, the fourth target of the eleventh goal deals expressly with safeguarding the world's cultural heritage (United Nations, 2015). Available research all  agree  that  identifying, classifying, and documenting historical buildings are key primary factors in preserving and conserving them.


Classification of historical buildings as heritage buildings


While existing research has shown that a building achieves a heritage status when members of its host community or nation attach various “sentimental” values to it, not every old, unique, or interesting building becomes a heritage building. There are certain procedures and criteria for buildings to attain before they join the list of legally protected buildings, also known as Listed Buildings.


The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1977 established a World Heritage List from pre-set criteria to identify and protect buildings adjudged to have “outstanding universal value”. Some of these criteria are “represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”, and “is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history” (UNESCO, 2019a).


In Nigeria, the NCMM is tasked with identifying and designating buildings as heritage buildings after certifying them to be of special architectural and/or historical interest (Zubairu et al., 2012). The study further identified factors used in Nigeria to identify and list buildings, including the building’s importance, historical significance, and contribution/sense of place within its host community. In Lagos State, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is mandated to identify, list and protect Heritage Buildings not yet listed at the National level by the NCMM. Specifically, there is a department in charge of monuments in which heritage buildings and listed buildings fall under and the ministry is tasked with identifying, protecting, and promoting these cultural Heritages (LSMOTAC, 2019).


Heritage buildings in Lagos state


In 2010, NCMM compiled and released a list of Heritage Buildings and Monuments, including thirty (30) buildings and two World Heritage sites. Five (5) of these nationally listed Heritage buildings are in Lagos State (Nduka, 2013). The Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture listed three (3) Heritage buildings. The eight (8) listed heritage buildings and their listing bodies are presented in Table 1.


Factors affecting the physical and functional states of heritage buildings


Heritage buildings are historical buildings, and historic buildings  tend  to  be  neglected  over  time  and become dilapidated, which in turn affects the functional performance and condition of the buildings (Aksah et al., 2016).


This view was supported by Vicente et al. (2018), whose research efforts focused on the conservation and structural retrofitting of historical buildings. The research paper identified three main factors contributing to deteriorating conditions of heritage buildings; “material deterioration”, “urbanization is driven by people”, and “environmental and climatic changes”.


Preservation and conservation in an optimal working state remain the goal of Maintenance Management in Heritage buildings (Idrus et al., 2010). Akinbamijo and Alakinde (2013), in a study on conservation challenges and prospects of 18th Century Buildings in Calabar, Nigeria, found the following among the factors affecting the preservation of heritage buildings: “lack of adequate maintenance” and “inadequate government funding of agencies tasked with preserving heritage buildings”.


Other factors and challenges affecting the physical and functional states of Heritage buildings include “Inadequate and unenforced Laws”, “Neglect and Lack of Maintenance”, and “Outright Demolition” (Bamert et al., 2016; Onyima, 2016; Osman, 2018, Darmawan and Woro (2017) and Ribera et al. (2019), Efthimiadou et al. (2017) and Olufemi  (2017).


These factors were also alluded to by Illiyasu (2014), who, in a study conducted on preservation challenges of Ancient Kano city walls, added the following to the list of factors affecting the preservation of Heritage Sites and Buildings: “poor physical planning mechanism”, “poor communal participation” and “ignorance of these cultural heritages”. Onyima (2016) identified other factors affecting preservation efforts, including “Vandalism”, “commerce”, and “Christianity”. Ten (10) factors that affect the state of preservation in Heritage buildings are identified in Table 2.


Further review of the literature identified two distinct classes of action to be undertaken in preserving heritage buildings; “preventive” and “proactive”. Preventive measures are analytic studies of the current state of the buildings with a view of documenting their current  state and recommending actions to be taken, while proactive measures encompass all restorative efforts aimed to keep the heritage buildings in an optimal performing state (Eken et al., 2019; Prompayuk and Chairattananon, 2016; Vicente et al., 2018). This study is an analytic study of the current and preferred states of heritage buildings in Lagos State.



The study area for this research is Lagos State, the economic capital of Nigeria, located in the South West region of the country. The choice of Lagos State as a study area is hinged on several multifaceted reasons; it is the most populous state in the country, it is rich in cultural built heritage and relevant historical buildings worthy of study, and it forms a good nucleus to obtain relevant data for the study within available time frame and resources.


Two main data collection methods are employed. In accessing the current state of the identified Heritage Buildings, Case Study/Observation Method was used on the Building, while in accessing the preferred states of the Heritage buildings; a structured questionnaire was developed and administered to Facility Managers of the Heritage buildings, Construction Professionals, and some members of the host community.


A total of 150 questionnaires were administered, out of which 120 were retrieved, achieving an 80% response rate. The data collected were analyzed and processed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23.0.


Case study/observations were undertaken on selected Heritage Buildings to determine their current physical and functional state and their current use/patronage levels in terms of observed human and vehicular traffic. All these methods were carried out simultaneously.


This part of the study entails the presentation of the research findings on the physical and functional state of heritage buildings in Lagos State.


Preliminary analysis


The analysis of respondents’ demographic data is presented in Table 3. In the table, 75.8% were males, while 24.2% were females. This implies that the majority of the respondents were males. The results also indicate that 65.8% were Construction Industry Professionals, while 34.2% were not. In addition, 40.8% of the respondents were Architects, 26.7% were Engineers, 12.5% were Builders, 8.3% were Estate Valuers, 4.2% were Surveyors (Land or Quantity), 0.8% were Town Planner, while 6.7% belonged to other professions. Also, from the table, 68.3% practice in the Construction Industry, while 31.7% do not.


Study area and heritage buildings


The study area for the research is Lagos  State, South western Nigeria, one of the earliest kingdoms of Old West Africa Coast. The city was a major trans-Atlantic port for European slave traders in the early 18th century and received lots of escaped slaves and returnees who mostly settled around the epicentre of the ancient city, Lagos Island (Danmole, 2017).


Figure 1 shows a map of the study area; the areas marked in grey are where the ancient city expanded to make up the current metropolis of Lagos State while the areas marked in green (light and deep) show the original footprint of the ancient city of Lagos.


Of the 9 heritage buildings in Lagos State; 7 representing 77.78% of them are in Lagos Island local government, which according to Danmole (2017) was the focal point of the ancient Lagos City; while Surulere Local government and Lagos Mainland both each have 1 heritage building representing 11.1% each. Table 4 presents the location analysis of the heritage buildings in the study area.


Presentation of results


This part of the study presents the results of the study from the analysis of the respondents’ data and the observation study. They are presented in Tables 4 to 6 and Figures 1 to 6.


Physical and functional states of the heritage buildings


Table 5 shows the current functional states of the Heritage Buildings in Lagos State, while Figures 2 to 6 present the result of the observation study in pictorial formats.


Table 6 presents the result of the analysis of the preferred physical and functional states of heritage buildings in Lagos. In the table, the top three (3) preferred physical and functional states based on the relative importance are Preserved (kept in their functional original state) (0.803), Maintained/Renovated (0.792), and Adaptive Re-use (modified to fit a new/modern function) (0.742). The least include Neglected/Ignored (accessible to the public but with no oversight/monitoring body) (0.507) and Abandoned (Secured under lock and key, inaccessible to the public) (0.452). From this result, it can be concluded that Heritage Buildings within Lagos State are preferred to be kept in good physical and functional states, preserved, maintained, and renovated and where necessary modified to fit a modern function whilst preserving its heritage features.


Factors affecting preservation


Table 7 presents the factors affecting the preservation of Heritage Buildings in Lagos State. Ranking the relative importance, the top five (5) factors are lack or inadequate maintenance (0.873), lack or inadequate funding (0.873), inadequate enforcement of legislation (0.848), poor physical planning mechanism (0.835) and unavailability of skilled workmen (0.825). The least of the factors include religion (tendency to consider heritage as idolatry) (0.742), poor government willpower (0.722) and activities of developers (0.699). It can be concluded that the factors affecting   preservation are deficiencies  in maintenance, funding and enforcement of legislation.


Observation study in pictures building name: Jaekel House


Figure 2 shows the front view of the Heritage Building with its distinctive architectural elements preserved in their natural state. Figure 3 shows the suspended floorboards which have received repairs/restoration works in such a way that follows the existing construction method. This causes minimal disruptions to the character of the heritage building and was deliberately left unpainted to aid easy identification and appreciation of restorative efforts.


Building name: Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS)


Figure 4 shows the portion of the independence entrance with the concrete roof cover in place; signs of wear and tear were noticed. The structure was recently painted. Figure 5 shows the exterior view of the building cordoned off for the on-going renovation.


Building Name: National Theatre, Iganmu


Figure 6 shows the exterior view of the building cordoned off for the on-going renovation.


General Comments: During the authors’ visit, the building had been concessioned in 2020 by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers Committee and was under   renovations.  No   access   was   granted   to   the premises for new internal pictures to be taken.


Building name: Old Iga Iduganran Building (Oba’s Palace)


General Comments: Our observation study was undertaken in the aftermath of the ENDSARS protest in Lagos, during which the Heritage Building was partly burnt and looted by hoodlums. Security was heightened in the building and the research team was not granted access to the building.








This study has examined the physical and functional condition of various heritage buildings in Lagos State and determined the preferred condition of these buildings.


The results of this study revealed that there is a wide margin between the preferred state of heritage buildings in Lagos State and their current physical and functional state. More specifically, the authors found that the Heritage Buildings were preferred to be preserved, well maintained, and, where necessary, modified to fit a modern function. Explaining further, five (5) of out the eight (8) Heritage buildings representing 62.5% were found not to be in good physical and functional condition with one of them (the Ilojo Bar) suffering the worst possible condition (demolished).

This result aligns with the findings of Akinbamijo and Alakinde (2013) and Illiyasu (2014) who in separate studies show that Heritage Buildings are often neglected and abandoned, coupled with a weak enforcement policy for their protection, the buildings from Heritage Buildings into communal ruins.


The results of the research indicate that the top five (5) factors affecting the state of Heritage Buildings in Lagos State are lack or inadequate maintenance, lack or inadequate funding, inadequate enforcement of legislation, poor physical planning mechanism, and unavailability of skilled workmen. This finding aligns with Osasona, (2017), Idrus et al. (2010) and Umar and Said (2019) who attest to the critical role Government and Regulatory Agencies play in the provision of right, legislation, funding and necessary willpower to enforce the legislation as needed. The results however differ from the findings of Onyima (2016) who attributes the key factors affecting the state of Heritage Buildings to be Christianity and Vandalism.


Furthermore, the results of the study indicate that the major common factor between the three (3) Heritage Buildings assessed to be in a fairly good physical and functional condition is the availability of a direct management board. This result also aligns with Illiyasu (2014) and Onyima (2016) who both recommend several levels of engagement and community participation in the preservation and conservation of Heritage Buildings for upcoming generations.



Consequent to the result of the study, the study concludes as follows:


Heritage buildings in Lagos State have not gained much attention, even though it is target four of goal eleven on the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. The study reveals that the overall physical and functional states of Heritage Buildings in Lagos State are not in good condition when compared to the preferred physical and functional states. The study further revealed that Heritage Buildings with a Management Board are in better physical and functional states than those without an oversight management board.


The study recommends that all heritage buildings should have an active management board that oversees their physical, functional, and socioeconomic state. A partnership model between the management board and external consultants/contractors should be in place to ensure optimum maintenance levels. Where the management board makes requisitions and provides supervision, while the contractors/consultants carry out maintenance operations. Similarly, a funding proposal is recommended to be received from government agencies, public-private partnerships (concessionaire arrangements), and grants/donor agencies. Adaptive re-use techniques should be performed on every heritage building to modernize its use while preserving its current state and adapting its use to maximum economic benefit.


The author has not declared any conflicts of interests.


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