Over the last few decades, the geographical dichotomy between Mainland and Island in Lagos has placed the latter as a highbrow settlement that now boasts of some of the most immoderately aesthetic structures in Africa, and maybe the globe.
Even for a non-Lagos resident, the mere mention of places like Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Island paints a picture of a geographical milieu characterised by high-rise buildings, pricey real estate, Fortune 500 companies and generally a physical elegance that is attributable to a highbrow area majorly occupied by the elite gentry of the society.
The result of this upscaling and hype, which typically comes with it, is that the price of real estate typically rises above the purse strings of the average citizen. As a matter of fact, recent trends in the real estate sector suggest that the prices of landed property in these areas may well be above the reach of the middle class.
One project in the real estate sector which currently seeks to, yet again, take this upscaling to another level is the Eko Atlantic City. Initially conceived in 2003 as a solution to environmental hazards arising from the flooding of the Lagos bar beach, the Eko Atlantic project has snowballed to play host to one of the most expensive real estate locations in Africa, with a square metre of land now selling for almost $2,000.
Prior to the conceptualisation of the project, the expanse of real estate, now known as Eko Atlantic City, was a beach on the Atlantic Ocean along the shoreline of Lagos (Lagos Bar Beach), situated on Victoria Island. For a long time, it was the most popular beach in Nigeria, especially when Lagos was the capital of the country.
From the early 1970s to the late 1980s, during the military regime, Bar Beach was a site where many convicted armed robbers and coup plotters were executed by firing squad. It was always a public spectacle, with thousands of spectators, including television cameras and print journalists swarming around.
The first-ever public execution in Nigeria took place at Bar Beach in 1971; it was the execution of Babatunde Folorunsho, for armed robbery. Others included those of Joseph Ilobo, Williams Alders Oyazimo, Lawrence Anini and Dr. Oyenusi in the 90s.
However, over the years, Bar Beach has developed a reputation for overflowing its banks and claiming lives and property. Many times, the Ahmadu Bello Way, the road closest to its banks, was closed for safety reasons. Studies showed that between eight and 14 metres of the beach-front were eroded annually along Bar Beach.
In 2003, the idea of a modern city on the Atlantic coast was publicly discussed. It would be sited on what used to be Bar Beach, out of the reclaimed land. It would be called Eko Atlantic City, a residential and business district “standing on 10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean and protected by an 8.5-kilometre-long sea wall.”
In 2005, the then Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a letter addressed to President Olusegun Obasanjo and titled ‘Permanent Solution to the Bar Beach’ sought the latter’s approval for the reclamation of the coastal land on behalf of a private investor that would convert the liability to an asset that would benefit Lagos State and the Nigerian people at large.
A copy of the request letter, sighted by our correspondent, said the committee which examined the proposal by the company found it competent and financially viable to provide a permanent solution to Bar Beach and convert it to a first-class tourist resort.
That same year, President Olusegun Obasanjo gave an approval for the commencement of the project. The approval was on the condition that the development project be strictly supervised to ensure that it did not stray beyond the confines of the law, as well as the gambit of the approval given to the company. In 2008, the construction of the new city began.
As of May 2009, while the site was being dredged, about 3,000,000 cubic metres (equivelent to 3,900,000 cu yd) of space were sand-filled and placed in the reclamation area, while about 35,000 tonnes of rock were delivered to the site.
Standing on 10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean and protected by an 8.5-kilometre-long sea wall, Eko Atlantic is projected to be the size of Manhattan’s skyscraper district. Self-sufficient and sustainable, it includes state-of-the-art urban design with its own power generation, clean water, advanced telecommunications, spacious roads, and tree-lined streets.
The project is privately funded by South Energyx Nigeria Limited – the developers/city planners and a subsidiary of the Nigeria-based Chagoury Group of companies – working in strategic partnership with the Lagos State Government and supported by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Notable national and international banks have been quick to capitalise on the opportunities with some of Nigeria’s biggest – FCMB, First Bank, Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank – partnering with Eko Atlantic, with support from BNP Paribas Fortis and KBC.
On March 31, the US consulate in Nigeria officially broke grounds on its new consulate building. Located on a 12.2-acre site in the rapidly developing Eko Atlantic City, the new US consulate general in Lagos will support diplomatic and commercial relations between the United States and Nigeria and will provide American and Nigerian Consulate employees with a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern workplace, a statement by the American Embassy said.
With the 19-year-old coastal city project gaining increased currency by day, there has been little surprise that the price of a square metre of land now stands at N714,178. It is also understood that this rate is precisely 40 per cent higher than the rates obtainable in the choicest places of Victoria Island, where Eko Atlantic City is located.
While weighing in their views, experts have cited factors ranging from security, quality, to the hype surrounding the project as reasons the cost of real estate at the coastal city is high.
In a chat with our correspondent, the Managing Director of MDS Properties, Mr David Mba, said the design of Eko Atlantic City had made it attractive to potential investors, hence the surge in demand despite its above-median cost.
He said, “There are many drivers that determine prices. One of them is the general inflationary rates. Two, this forex challenge that we are having in the country has an impact on virtually everything, from the commodity side of things to the real estate side of things. Everything is impacted. Three, there’s an uptick in demand. You know whenever there is demand, prices rise. Whenever there is a demand slump or over-supply, prices fall. What you are seeing at Eko Atlantic is also visible and mirrored in Banana Island as well, where prices are over a million per square metre.
“There is also this need for people to come into a place that is highly secure. Eko Atlantic City is larger than the entire Victoria Island. It is about two times the size of the entire Victoria Island. It is also a well-secured environment. So, there is a definite yearning for people to want to move into that place.”
On the other hand, the CEO of Global PFI, MKO Balogun, cited the cost implication of developing a city of that distinction as an inevitable reason why cost of real estate there would be considerably high.
“It’s a new creation. There’s a lot of costs that go into developing a new city, especially when you have to do reclamation. I don’t think it’s that expensive; the only reason we can say it’s expensive is to compare it with similar cities around the world. The cost of developing it is not what a local content will cost. If you follow the development of the city, you will find the calibre of consultants and engineers who have worked on developing the sand bank first before they start developing the city. There is a lot of cost that goes into that, so I don’t think it’s too expensive.”
According to Balogun, first-rate real estate development projects in Lagos, particularly on the Island, are creating a price dichotomy in the market, even with gentrification projects geared towards taking advantage of the strategic locations in Ikoyi as well as other high-brow areas.
He continued, “There are two other things you can also consider. Even in Lagos, when Banana Island first started, how much was the cost then and how much is the cost today? There is the new Lagos, it is another city being developed. What’s their current rate? It’s always from that perspective we can say whether the cost for Eko Atlantic is out of reach. I don’t think it is. Even in Ikoyi, if you look at the rate of properties in Ikoyi, the old Ikoyi that a lot of people are redeveloping, you will find out that it is almost at par with Banana Island, almost 70 per cent the cost of an average property in Banana Island.”
According to him, the decision to buy real estate in the coastal city, for most firms, go beyond the hype associated with the project.
He added, “There are many factors: infrastructure is top-notch, and also the location. It is also privately owned; it is not government land. They’ve done a lot on the land. They’ve done sand-filling. They’ve done drainage; they’ve done a lot of things. It commands its own value. It is just unique on its own.
“In terms of comparative analysis with other emerging extensions, you find yourself within an environment where you are sure of 24 hours of power supply. You are sure of security 24 hours. You are also sure of the class of people you are meeting. It will increase your network, and when you increase your network, you increase your net worth.”