By Tope Templer Olaiya and Tunde Alao
IT is beyond guessing that much of the flicker of development in the New Lagos points to the direction of the Lekki-Ajah corridor. And it takes no clairvoyant to get this deciphered or read the mind of government and business leaders.
Already, multi-billion investments like Lekki Deep Seaport, Free Trade Zone, International Airport, Atlantic City and Dangote’s refinery/petrochemical plant, are among the up coming business opportunities to open up the Eti-Osa-Lekki-Epe axis.
Following Dangote Group’s commencement of construction work on its refinery-cum-petrochemical plant at the Lekki Free Trade Zone, property prices in the area have risen by over 100 percent from what it was last year.
These potentials notwithstanding, for residents in that corridor, the ordeal of commuting along the expanded 10-lane Lekki-Epe expressway is tortuous, especially when navigating through the Ajah roundabout. The traffic gridlock is worsened by the activities of commercial bus operators, who have converted the fringes of the roundabout into bus and taxi garages.
A motorist, Ayodele Omowale, told The Guardian that: “it is easier to pass through the eye of the needle than for one to have a smooth sail going through the Ajah roundabout of congestion. Setting out for my daily activities in the morning always puts me in a terrible nightmarish condition.
“Some of us whose health cannot withstand waking up at 4am
and hitting the road 4:30am everyday, and as such cannot leave home earlier than 6am, have no option than to abandon our cars at home and ‘fly’ commercial motorcycles to Ajah roundabout before joining commercial transport, with all the safety and security risks, for that is the only way we can reach our workplaces before 8am.
“That is the only way we have been beating the traffic, which stretches two kilometres or more and takes not less than one hour. Sadly, this was not the case before the Olympic-size Ajah roundabout was constructed,” he noted.
For those who can’t go the Omowale way, sitting idly in their exotic cars and listening to latest update on Traffic Radio takes their minds off the worries of the congestion.
This too is losing its appeal as the traffic reports doesn’t say anything new to the regular road users, such as: “Abraham Adesanya inward Ajah is heavy; Jakande Roundabout is busy; or LASTMA monitors are working hard to ease up traffic on Sangotedo up to Ajah.”
Another resident, Suraj Oyewole, while chronicling the ordeal residents go through daily, said, “our worst nightmare in the last one decade has been the Lekki-Epe expressway, the road that connects us to other parts of Lagos. The relief we taught we had in 2006 when the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the concessionaire of the Lekki expressway reconstruction project, rolled their equipment to the highway to commence the project, has since been misplaced.
“For instance, we were not experiencing traffic on Ajah-Addo-Badore road before the construction of Ajah roundabout. Now, connecting Ajah through Addo road takes up to one hour during peak periods (6-9am). This is something that should not take more than 10 minutes, as was the case before the construction of that roundabout.”
Oyewale, however, reechoed the wishes of most Lagosians living in that axis, which is a vociferous but passionate call for a flyover bridge at Ajah roundabout. “Common wisdom calls for construction of a route that connects to the expressway, not at the roundabout, but further down. And the solution to the puzzle is a flyover and a pedestrian bridge to reduce congestion and pedestrian crossing at the roundabout,” he said.
SINCE Dangote Group awarded the project management consultancy and construction of its 400,000 bpd (20 million tonnes) oil refinery and 600,000 tonnes polypropylene plant, Lekki and its environ has never been the same again. The area, which used to have a narrow single lane road and notorious traffic congestion, is fast becoming a global business haven, a new dual carriageway with three lanes on both sides.
The new attracting features of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LKFTZ) are enormous. Added to these are the state-of-the-art tollgates and most importantly well-structured estates and beautiful architectural landscapes. The presence of Dangote alone has attracted other related businesses like Progress Maritime limited, OBAT Oil and Eko Resort to the area.
For instance, Progress Maritime limited, a shipping company that bought hundreds of hectares of land in the area, has awarded the construction of its Tank Farm development to Oladele Oluwamotemi & associates, a notable project developer. Like Dangote, the developer has moved its construction equipment to the site, which has been fenced round.
The presence of giant investors (Dangote Group and Progress Maritime limited) has transformed Lekki, Epe from a near backwater settlement on the outskirts of Lagos into a sprawling, modern settlement, one of the fastest growing areas in Lagos. To many, the Lekki corridor is the ‘New Lagos,’ judging by its booming real estate, massive construction projects and noticeable government presence in the planned Lekki Free Trade Zone.
To real estate professionals, these areas are now a goldmine. For example, both foreign and Nigerian professionals whose offices are in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, VI, are relocating to LFTZ.
Gbenga Owoeye, a property consultant, explained that due to the non-availability of land in Ikoyi and VI and the attendant rising rents, more prospective homeowners are also looking towards the Lekki–Epe axis and are erecting structures comparable to those in Europe and other advanced countries. Epe, Oakview estate, Otunla Town, Awoyaya, Beachwood estate, Lakowe Lakes International Golf Course and Amen estate and many more are replete with such exotic structures.
Lakowe Lakes International Golf Course is one of the most developed real estates in Lagos State in form of infrastructure and utilities. The unique characteristic of the estate, which is in Ibeju Lekki, is that its kitchen is fully kitted in contemporary fittings that make cooking and serving delight. The estate also boasts of Olympic size swimming pool, 24-hour CCTV surveillance, maximum security and a state-of-art recreational park among others.
Beechwood, another estate, could only be termed a mix of grandeur and style. The walls of the properties are screened, that is, sanded and polished to allow a smooth and straight finish, creating a sharper appearance and textured finish; while the ceilings are plaster of Paris (PoP), coated, providing a smooth finish and a white effect.
Homeowners in the areas need not worry about buying household artifacts or furniture. Such are already provided for; while in some others the property is partially furnished. Many expatriates are easily attracted to such apartments. The houses are serviced with 24-hour backup generator (three units inter-changeable); there are those who come with swimming pools, gym and fitness spaces, as well as ample parking spaces and adequate security.
Apart from residential apartments, offices of banks, major automobile dealers, eateries, as well as shopping plazas now dot the LFTZ landscape. Indeed, experts forecast that LFTZ has the potential to be Africa’s largest commercial city in the nearest future. Credit for the rapid growth and development of Lekki is given to the Lagos State government, which constructed and expanded the Lekki–Epe Expressway, the introduction of the computerised tollgate.
The only hindrance to the rapid development of the areas is the perennial traffic gridlock in Aja roundabout.