Lagos has come a long way since its first storey building was erected 170 years ago in Badagry by the Anglican church. The building was occupied by Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African C.M.S Bishop, and it was from here that he translated the Holy Bible from English to Yoruba.
But exactly how far has Lagos come in 170 years? How much higher have we gone since the translation of the bible? Like Babel, has Lagos gone up too fast too soon and now finds itself stunted?
In 1979, the Lagos skyline was majestically interrupted by NECOM House, standing at 160 meters, with 32 floors and dwarfing every other structure before it.
Compared to the one-storey Babel Tower of Badagry, NECOM House was literally touching the heavens. At the time, it was thought that the NECOM building would be the first of many skyscrapers in Lagos as the city took its rightful place among the legion of mega cities in the world.
It is a little surprising therefore, that in the 37 years since, very few other builders have dared the majesty of the NECOM House anywhere in the country. Of course there have been a few pretenders to the throne – the Intercontinental Hotel (105 meters) in Victoria Island which has 23 floors, and the Union Bank Plc head office standing at 124 meters with 28 floors.
Yet NECOM stands head and shoulders above all else.
Past masters must be recognised and the aptly named Independence House (103 meters), completed in 1960, and which served as the head quarters of the Ministry of Defence for many years, stood proudly as the tallest building in Lagos until the completion of NECOM House.
In fact, NECOM House stands as the tallest building in West Africa…for now. But, how does the ageing Nigerian champion rank on the continent, especially against the lofty contenders from South Africa? Let’s compare.
The tallest building in South Africa is the tallest building in Africa, and its called the Carlton Centre, located in Johannesburg. This towering edifice casts its shadow from 223 meters high, a whopping 63 meters more than our local champion, NECOM House.
Carlton Centre is followed by the Ponte City Apartments also in Johannesburg, and standing at an impressive 173 meters. Does this then put our NECOM House in 3rd place? Sadly, no.
The bronze medal actually goes to a late challenger from Kenya called the UAP Tower, completed in 2015 and rising 163 meters into the Nairobi skies.
With barely 3 meters shorter than the UAP Tower, NECOM House however completes the African quartet of skyscrapers.
How do these 4 African super structures fair against opposition from the rest of the world, starting with the Asian challengers from India and China, and then the skyscraper capital of the Middle East, Dubai.
Before we commence our journey beyond the shores of Africa, let us note a few interesting points – a skyscraper is a building of 150 meters or more in height, and the first skyscraper in the world was built in the united States of America in the 1800’s.
Nigeria therefore has ONE completed skyscraper – NECOM House, and it resides proudly in Lagos.
To be continued…