31 March 2009

Nigeria: Lekki - Is It Really an Emerging Mega City?


Lagos — Very many people including the most discerning are going to be pleasantly surprised over the phenomenal development of Lekki in the not too distant future. It would be in awed stupefaction, instead of disappointment. This is because the momentum of development in the sand bathed, sun scorched territory would reach a scale least expected of it.

Indeed, Lekki has been a paradox of a kind. At the outset of the current spate of development in the early 90's, the corridor was regarded with great optimism by investors, real estate analysts and the various stakeholders. This accounted for the flurry of investments that were quickly attracted to the axis during this period. Overnight, many residential housing estates sprang up like mushrooms on the landscape. There was massive movement of people to Lekki from the Mainland Lagos and also from Victoria, Ikoyi and Lagos Island (Central Lagos) as well as from abroad.

Lekki then offered a fresh breath from the suffocating air that was choking Victoria Island, a district which was becoming too commercial and no longer residence friendly. Lekki also offered hope as a destination point for those who had become perennial victims of the area boys' menace that had gripped Central Lagos. Those who came from Ikoyi had laments of the extremely high and unaffordable property rents and prices, in addition to the increasing wave of commercialisation of some districts particularly the South West Ikoyi.

Those who came from the Mainland wanted to be closer to their offices in Victoria Island, while some others just wanted to belong as those people who reside in Lagos Island known for a class of its own. Then it did not matter that it took several years for Lekki to be connected to the mains grid of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and each house had to run its own power station based on generators.

Lekki became a melting point for these segments of people who had these varying resentments. It was in a similar fashion that America, "the New World," discovered by Christopher Columbus, came to be inhabited by people who emigrated from different parts of Europe. The settlers, mostly adventurers were people who resented their environment, the status quo and wanted a marked change which they found in the American Dream. The greatness that followed the "New World" shortly after is clearly well recognised up till this very day.

Lekki was born in similar circumstances and thus destined for greatness. However, this greatness would not come solely because of the historical antecedent, but rather because of what is clearly on the ground now and in the pipeline of a grand and deliberate vision of the Babatunde Raji Fashola Administration to transform the Lekki territory into Nigeria's own version of America's Manhattans.

The territory had been held down by a web of negative notions. It was as if the government programmes were mapped out to dispel the fears in the real estate circle that Lekki would "cave in". Many contended that the territory was doomed while some likened it to a cul-de-sac. The worst was expected for the residents of a fully occupied Lekki. Undocumented statistics were reeled out to back up the claim that only a fraction of the expansive territory had been occupied and yet the traffic situation was already so bad.

Fueling these fears was the state of grossly inadequate infrastructure in Lekki. The Lekki-Epe Expressway was the only point of entry in and out of the territory, accounting for nerve-breaking traffic bottlenecks that sometimes last for several hours. Matters were made worse during the rainy season when the expressway becomes flooded and movement of traffic is seriously impeded. Many decried the situation where housing development was of geometric (exponential) progression, but infrastructural development stagnant. It did not make sense at all.

It was this state of affairs that led a lot of people to take to the belief that Lekki should naturally take the back seat behind Victoria Island and Ikoyi, especially in matters concerning real estate values. This line of thinking will soon head for the archives because Lekki will assume its rightful place in the front drive. There are overwhelming advantages and opportunities that will connect to make Lekki the New Mega City of Lagos.

Observers said the present visionary government in Lagos led by Fashola has actually identified Lekki to be the New Mega City of Lagos. A new master plan of Lekki has been conceived as its being implemented vigorously already. It is incorporated with ultra modern infrastructure and amenities that will help to stimulate commercial and residential activities in the Lekki Territory.

The Lekki Expressway is being expanded to take in more traffic and eliminate congestion. The Lekki Concession Company (LCC) has completed the first phase and is now working on the second phase, which will expand the Expressway to the Third Roundabout and other phases will follow in earnest. Earmarked also for development in the comprehensive infrastructure Master Plan for the Lekki sub-region are the Coastal Lagoon Roads and other arterial and inter-connect roads that will provide more outlets into and out of Lekki.

Two bridges have been planned to link Lekki with Ikoyi and the Mainland. A suspension bridge is to link Lekki Peninsula to Osborne Road in Ikoyi, which means that traffic heading to Ikoyi can connect directly without going through the perennial hold ups in Victoria Island. Work has commenced on this already by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. Similarly, there is a fourth Mainland Bridge that will link Lekki to Ikorodu on the Mainland.

Besides, the Lagos State government has done an excellent job in planning this vehicular traffic movement and wider inner roads to cope with the new developments in Lekki. These developments will now reduce the commuting time to Lekki from Ikoyi and the Mainland Lagos, while also opening up the access from Victoria Island following the expansion on the Lekki Expressway.

In the new Lekki Master Plan, a new International Airport has been zoned to Lekki and will be built and operated by one of the leading International Airport operators in the world. What this means is that Lekki residents can connect their flights to other countries without having to go to Ikeja which save them a lot of commuting time and traffic stress with immense advantages which they will also enjoy on return to the country.

The development of water ways is one other medium through which the Lagos State government plans to improve traffic into and out of Lekki. Fortunately, Lekki is blessed as it is surrounded by water ways on each side-Atlantic Ocean in the South and the Lagoon in the North. The provision of numerous jetties and movement of people and vehicles by ferries has been planned for immediate implementation. This would mean that traffic will be diverted through the water ways bound to the Mainland, Apapa, Badagry and other key locations in Lagos surrounded by water.

Due to the nature of Lagos and its terrain, Lekki is the only axis that aptly fits the vision of the "New Mega city." The beautiful surroundings and expressway leading to Epe and other parts of the country make it the most promising location for planned development. There are several other points why Lekki fits the bill of the New Mega City.

A recent THISDAY investigation indicates that the axis between Exxon Mobil/Chevron Texaco will witness major development to house various international companies and their allied serving companies. Various International Schools are also located within the axis. Example is the New American High School, which is being built at the forth roundabout by Chevron. Lekki British International High School as well as the British International School is also there by the first round about.

Importantly, it is not every segment or estate of the present Lekki that aligns adequately with the vision of a New Mega City. As a matter of fact, such estates must boast of high quality infrastructure that meet international standard. At the moment, only a few estates meet these parameters.

With the short to medium term plans that have already begun, it has easy to envision what the new Lekki will be like. Freer roads, easier commute to and from the area, multiple forms of transportation-road, water and train-which would dramatically reduce the traffic, it would unconsciously expand the city with high quality and move it further away from the heavy hustle and bustle of Victoria Island, Ikoyi and into the mainland.

Tranquility, peace, and serenity will encompass the area and aesthetics and quality of development will be like never seen before in Lagos. Ironically, the further away one can go from Victoria Island, the value of land continued to depreciate but now with the new plans in place as well and short distance from Ikoyi-one of the highest valued land in continent)-Lekki's real estate value can only increase.

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