By Jude Njoku
The Lekki -Epe corridor in Lagos is unarguably, the fastest growing construction corridor in the Nigeria today. Almost all property investors, affluent Nigerians and those in the middle income bracket, want to build or own properties in this highbrow corridor. The once dreaded swampy neighbourhood became the toast of property investors following the visionary leadership of Mr. Yaakov Chai who presided over Messrs HFP Engineering Limited, the company that developed Victoria Garden City, VGC, the flagship luxury estate along the corridor.
HFP Engineering was one of the 16 private property developers given parcels of swampy land by the Lagos State government in 1992 to build housing estates in the corridor. While other developers were overwhelmed by the enormity of challenges they faced and backed out of the deal, HFP Engineering led by Mr. Chai (who reportedly passed on in his Israeli home recently), refused to give up. Their doggedness gave birth to the development of VGC
Chai is undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of modern developments along the expensive corridor. Apart from the development of VGC, he also superintended over the building of Mayfair Gardens, Victoria Court Cemetery and Ikota Shopping Complex, all located in the axis. Dolphin Estate in Ikoyi was also built by HFP Engineering under Chai’s watch for the Lagos state Development and Property Corporation, LSDPC.
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. Vanguard Homes & Property checks showed that although the cost of land in the area is hitting the rooftops, the existing infrastructure is nothing to write home about.
Apart from the Lekki-Epe toll road, other roads in the area are usually impassable in the dry season, not to talk of now that the rainy season has set in.
Consequences of unguided developments
Built environment experts who paid glowing tribute to the visionary developer, called for the provision of first class infrastructure to take increasing number of migrants to the neighbourhood. They 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 increase in developments.
The President of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria, ATPCON, 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.
“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.
Implement Lekki’s land use master plan
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.
Mr Ogunleye posited that there is no cause for alarm about the durability of houses in the area. 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.
Lack of infrastructure worrisome
Ogunleye’s views were corroborated by the Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Pastor Stephen Jagun. According to him, Lekki is fast turning into a slum, a time bomb waiting to explode. He enjoined the government to take proactive steps to provide infrastructure in the corridor.