By Jude Njoku
The Lekki -Epe corridor in Lagos is unarguably, the fastest growing construction corridor in the Nigeria today. Almost all affluent Nigerians and those in the middle income bracket, want to own properties in this highbrow corridor. The once dreaded swampy neighbourhood became the toast of property investors when Messrs HFP Engineering Limited developed Victoria Garden City, VGC, the flagship luxury estate along the corridor.
The success of VGC opened the floodgates for hitherto lethargic investors who now see the area as a haven for real estate investments. The number of estates and new towns springing up in that neighbourhood have already stretched the infrastructures available beyond limits.
A resident of the corridor who simply identified himself as Basil, explained that although the cost of land in the area is hitting the rooftops, the existing infrastructure is nothing to write home about. He noted that roads in the area are usually impassable in the dry season, not to talk of when the rains set in.
Effects of increasing developments
Built environment experts have however warned that the upward swing in construction activities in the area, may lead to an environmental catastrophe if urgent steps are not taken to stem or mitigate the effects of the increasing developments.
A Town Planner, Mr Moses Ogunleye described the major challenge facing the corridor as flooding. He noted that apart from the Lekki-Epe toll road which has drainage channels, other inner roads in the neighbourhood are usually flooded at the slightest showers because of the absence of drainage channels.
“In terms of flood, there would be problems. In ranking, we have excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. I would rate the drainage systems in Lekki poor, not even fair. Apart from the main expressway, other connecting roads and streets do not have drainage outlets.
“So, infrastructure (drainage channel) is the biggest challenge facing the corridor. Even those who live in Lekki Phase 1 know that it is a potential disaster area because of the big challenge of storm water control ,” the former Secretary of the Nigerian Institute of Town planners, NITP, said.
He noted that people who live in many parts of the Lekki corridor, get trapped for days each time it rained, because it takes the flood water about three days to recede.
Ogunleye whose firm, Beachland organises the annual Lagos Housing Fair, explained that it would be difficult to control the flooding in the neighbourhood because most of the estates in the area are not linked to each other. They are mini-towns or mini-communities which will make flood control difficult, he said.
The settlement expert was however quick to point out that the land use master plan for the Lekki which envisages the Lekki Peninsula as a “Blue-Green” Environment City in Lagos, if implemented, would take care of the problem. The master plan which was prepared by Messrs Dar al Handersah, Shair and Partners, according to the Beachland boss, made provision for flood control in the highbrow axis.
On the durability of houses in the neighbourhood, Mr Ogunleye posited that there is no cause for alarm. He hinged his optimism on the fact that most property owners in the corridor belong to the high income bracket, hence they ensured that they built solid houses that will withstand any adverse weather conditions.
“The building strength is not a problem at all because only wealthy people build in that axis. They usually make use of engineers who advise them to do special foundations like raft or pile foundations,” he said.
He called on the Government to expedite action on the construction of the proposed coastal road in the area.
Ogunleye’s views were corroborated by an Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Pastor Stephen Jagun, who noted that Lekki is fast turning into a slum. According to him, the area is a time bomb waiting to explode hence the government should take proactive steps to provide infrastructure in the area.
Jagun who is a former Secretary of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Lagos Branch, regretted that Lekki axis ‘has no infrastructure at all”.
Describing the area as a goldmine for government, the former President of the International Facilities Management Association, IFMA, Nigeria, noted that the state will make more money from the area by providing the enabling infrastructure.
He decried a scenario where people built houses before the infrastructures are put in place. According to him, there are some areas in Lagos where the state is doing new roads but the level of the roads are higher than the houses because people settled in those areas before the roads were built.
“The ideal thing is for the roads to be built so that people can use them as a benchmark when building their houses. The implication of this scenario is that the houses would be flooded when it rains,” he said.
Another Lagos -based Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Mr Kunle Awolaja painted a picture of the traffic problems in the axis, due to the dearth of good roads network. Awolaja who is the General Secretary of the NIESV, stated that it is “either that the government is not proactive enough or estate developers are just eager to make money and leave buyers to suffer the consequences”
The right thing to do, according to him, is for people to wait for the government to provide the needed infrastructure before moving in.
Mr Awolaja enjoined the Lagos State Government to enforce the town planning laws as it relates to developments in the Lekki axis.