Story by Pelu Awofeso
Riding through Eko Atlantic City got my thoughts running wild. The latest high-profile home of the rich is quite a thrill, even though only a fraction of it has been completed. Sitting on 10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, it is a daring and ambitious project–and pleasantly futuristic too.
When it’s done, it will accommodate at least 450, 000 residents and 300, 000 commuters living, working and playing in a self-contained world that oozes luxury.
“The first set of residents moved into one of the Eko Pearl Towers at the end of 2016 and they are already enjoying spectacular waterfront views,” a senior representative of developers South Energyx Nigeria Limited tells more than 100 international delegates from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) who were in the state on a technical visit. “We had another set move into a second tower in December 2017.”
Also, businesses have occupied the first operational office block, Alpha 1.
Canals and jetties have also been planned into this project. The developers say that water transportation will be a key part of how residents move from one place to the other.
At the Eko Atlantic Sales Office on Ahmadu Bello Way, 3D models of some of the upcoming scrappers and other physical features spread out across the City’s 10 districts; I could literally glimpse the future of this place before my eyes.
Most Lagosians who work on the Lagos Island, and who commute through the adjoining Ahmadu Bello Way, get a sense that a lot of work is going on far inside the City, but no one would appreciate the extent of infrastructure developments that have been achieved if they haven’t been taken on a tour there.
Which is what we did. Facilitated by the Lagos State government, the UNWTO delegates and a team of select journalists got to have a firsthand view of the “premium smart city”, which included a stopover at the awe-inspiring 8.5 km-long “Great Wall of Lagos”, which supports a promenade that’s planned to be 10.2km long.
“We have been told by those who know that it will be one of the longest promenades in the world,” says South Energyx’s Managing Director, David Frame, just before the tour gets underway.
Besides its recreational value, Frame has previously been quoted to have said that “When finished, the Great Wall of Lagos will ensure that everyone living and working within the ten square kilometres of reclaimed land for Eko Atlantic, Victoria Island, and parts of Lekki are protected from the sea.”
From the promenade (12.5 metres wide) we get a commanding view of the bluish waters of the Atlantic Ocean and several cargo vessels in the far distance, all heading in different directions. The scenic expanse–in all directions–is complemented by a gentle-blowing shoreline breeze.
I ask one of the representatives if this promenade will be for only those who buy property here. “No, it’s for everyone,” she says without hesitation. “But each developer across the stretch will have the responsibility to manage its own space.”
As we wind our way back to Victoria Island, taking in the City’s luxurious sights, I imagine what it must have felt like in the early 1900s when the British oversaw the construction of a grand railway network across the country. I couldn’t help but feel it must have been as mind-blowing at the time as the Eko Atlantic feels today.
“Eko Atlantic is better seen than described,” says Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is also on the tour. “It is the biggest project of its kind in Africa, it is prime real estate.”
The smart-city wave currently sweeping the UAE and other parts of the world, and pulling visitors by the millions, is soon to become a lived reality in Nigeria’s commercial capital; I wonder if John Defterios is planning to visit soon.
He should, actually.