TRIBUTES to the human will and intelligence to conquer nature reverberated in Lagos Thursday as leaders stood in awe of the Eko Atlantic City, located inside the Atlantic Ocean-end of the state.
The Eko Atlantic City was described as a project equal to any other of its type from any part of the world.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was at the laying of the dedication stone for the five million square metre-Eko Atlantic City project, explained that the corporation would be driven by a Public Private Partnership that would also involve international financiers.
On the occasion, Jonathan announced the launch of a national mortgage finance corporation to address the country’s over 16 million housing shortfall.
He disclosed that the World Bank had already provided $300 million to kick-start the company even as major stakeholders involved in the project would include Mortgage Banking Association of Nigeria (MBAN), local and foreign bodies such as Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the World Bank.
“We believe this will provide the much-needed liquidity that has been lacking in the mortgage sector as well as solve the problem of high interest rates. The housing sector has its peculiar challenges and that is why the Federal Government, a few weeks ago, organised a private sector retreat where it was agreed that the revival of the mortgage sector was paramount to solving the national housing problem.”
The Federal Government, according to him, has been meeting with all the states in the country so as to fast-track the process of land titling which has also been a drawback to housing.
The event, which drew a large audience, comprising captains of the industry, policy makers and traditional rulers, was hosted by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was elated to see the project becoming a reality. According to the governor, nature has lost again to the supremacy of human spirit and intelligence.
Also at the event were former governors of the state, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who initiated the project in 2003. The business community was led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Oba Otudeko and others.
Fashola recalled that the project had been raising a lot of questions, for the right reasons, all over the world. “It is beyond the civil and engineering master-piece on display, but I see more the determined effort and spirit to conquer nature. This project is one of the major accomplishments of man in the moulds of airplane, Euro-tunnel, the Egyptian pyramid and so on.”
He, however, lamented where, due to man’s negligence, nature had been allowed to fight back, referring specifically to a case of the century-old Apapa Ports. He insisted that man must not submit to nature.
“This project is not finished, but it is already a success story”, said Fashola, who stressed the restoration of businesses along the Victoria Island corridor, even after what looked hopeless in 2003 massive flooding of the area.
Disclosing that the Federal Government planned similar projects in Abuja and Kano, Jonathan stressed that government at the centre would not be beaten by the success of the Eko Atlantic City. “This project is a continuation of good news narrative that has been sweeping the country such as the recent victory at the African Nations Cup and revival of the Lagos to Kano rail.”
The special guest at the event, former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who spoke to the gathering, commended the project and stressed that it would be an international tourist attraction.
“No one is strong or wealthy enough to solve all the world’s problems; but it is through the collective efforts of people that make a difference. And I urge you to continue. I am convinced a lot of people will want to come and see this place
“The walls built to arrest any over-flowing of the sea, tagged ‘The Great Wall of Lagos’ will not only protect the new city from the Atlantic Ocean, but also the adjoining Victoria Island.
“The wall now stands at three and a half kilometres in length and has brought back the coastline of Victoria Island to where it was a century ago before coastal erosion began to wash it away. The Eko Atlantic land reclamation started in February 2008 with a seven-year dredging operation planned to create 8,000 square metres of new land every day,” Fashola stated.
Earlier in his address, Executive Chairman of Eko Atlantic, Mr. Ronald Chagoury, said: “Nigeria is a great nation. Building a city of this calibre can only be achieved by putting our hands together. Today, we are at a turning point, where the real construction of the city has started.”
He stressed: “Today, Lagos is the economic capital of Nigeria. We pray, by your blessing, Mr. President, to become the economic and financial centre of Africa in the near future.”
The milestone achievement of the planners and city developers of Eko Atlantic was recognised by the unveiling of a marble plaque by President Jonathan.
Speaking on behalf of Eko Atlantic, the Managing Director of Eko Atlantic, Mr. David Frame, stated: “Completing 50 per cent of the land reclamation for Eko Atlantic is a major milestone and we are incredibly proud to be able to celebrate the occasion today with His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and President Clinton, as well as His Excellency Governor Fashola. Their participation is a major endorsement of our objectives; and we thank them profusely.”
Head of Communications for the new city, Mr. Brent Sadler, stated: “Eko Atlantic is a ground breaking vision for the future of Lagos, offering world-class infrastructure to facilitate the development of a new African city. It will help meet the needs of Lagos’ growing population and business community. Eko Atlantic will be a clean, energy efficient city for the 21st Century.”
The construction of infrastructure for Eko Atlantic, such as roads, drainage and sewage systems has also started, including the foundation work for Eko Atlantic’s first commercial tower block.
Upon completion, the developers and planners of the new city will have produced 10,000,000 (ten million) square metres of land, ripe for development: equivalent in size to the skyscraper district of Manhattan in New York City.
The essential new city for Lagos is being designed as a solution to coastal erosion and also to help relieve pressure on the congested city of Lagos.