In commemoration of the International Day of Monuments and Sites on April 18, the Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Nigeria has announced that it had gotten international funding to restore and return to use the iconic Premier Building at Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar.
The one-storey building built in 1894, is said to be one of the earliest known examples of educational buildings erected by missionaries in Nigeria.
FOPCHEN said it was “excited to work on this project because of its significant historical, architectural, and educational value and the commitment of Hope Waddell proprietors (the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria), the school administration, and the alumni executive of the institution to see this building restored and return to use.”
A history professor at the State University of New York, Cortland, and the Program Director/ Principal Investigator, Bekeh Ukelina, regarding the project said “the restoration of this building is long overdue. It is not enough for it to be listed as a national monument.
“A building where notable Nigerians such as President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr Akanu Ibiam were educated should be properly restored and preserved.
“When I visited the building in 2019, I was so moved by the poor state of conservation of the building and I knew I had to do something about it.
“I gathered our team at FOPCHEN and we discussed it. We were excited about the prospects of working on this building and we started looking for funding for the project.
“In January of this year, the team made a formal visit to Hope Waddell where we met with representatives of the Presbyterian Church, the alumni executive and the Principal of the school and we agreed to cooperate in carrying out the restoration and preservation of the building.”
Previous interventions were carried out by the Hope Waddell Training Institution alumni, who raised funds and put supporting steel beams to hold the first floor of the building and prevented the building from collapsing.
The lead heritage architect on the project, Dr Tokie Laotan-Brown, said the first step of the project was to “do an architectural survey and document the building to determine the appropriate action plan and rehabilitation activities.
“The Hope Waddell community comprising the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, the alumni, and the school’s staff and students celebrate this excellent news and are looking forward to collaborating with FOPCHEN to complete this project successfully.”
Commenting on the restoration, the Prelate of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, His Eminence, Nzie Nsi Eke, said, “This good news wouldn’t have come at a better time than during this Easter season when we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour.
“This restoration work will bring back to life the Premier Building which has served generations as a place of academic excellence.”
The President of the Alumni Executive, Efiota Okon Ephraim, expressed the organisation’s readiness to assist FOPCHEN in bringing the project to fruition.
He said, “We are happy to hear this news. The alumni board stands ready to assist with the successful execution of this restoration project and we pledge our support for the ongoing preservation and maintenance of the building when the restoration work is completed.”
The Principal of the school, Okon Onoyom Ita, said he was elated when a representative of FOPCHEN called him to break the news to him.
He said, “This is Easter Good News! We are ready to start this project and the school will make available what is needed for this project to be successful.”
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