ENDLESS AMBITION

Nigeria 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks Ibiene Ogolo, Chief Responsibility Officer of Eko Development Company, on the development of the Eko Atlantic project and its future impact.

 Ibiene Ogolo
BIOGRAPHY
Ibiene Ogolo is the Chief Responsibility Officer at Eko Development Company. Her career, which spans over 16 years, commenced in the Nigerian financial sector. Within the commercial banking industry, she has held several leadership roles across operational, marketing, and credit administration functions leading teams to deliver key initiatives. She has a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Port Harcourt, Dhoba, and a post-graduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Liverpool. She also has a Master’s in Investment Promotions and Economic Development from the University of Edinburgh.

Eko Atlantic is one of the continent's most significant development. What about it was attractive?

We saw Eko Atlantic as an ambitious project and that, for us, marked it as a grand opportunity. At the site Eko Atlantic now occupies, formerly known as Bar Beach, there was significant erosion over the years that, as recently as 2005, threatened all of Victoria Island. Eko Atlantic resulted as a solution to protect the shoreline of Victoria Island and also to create a city that would be well-planned as well as developed in accordance with 21st-century best practices. Speaking from the perspective of investment, this project is a critical part of the transformation of Lagos, Nigeria, and Africa at large. As a result, Eko Development Company saw this as the perfect location to deploy our project, aptly named Azuri Peninsula.

How will the legal differences from the rest of Lagos State, such as a free trade zone (FTZ), benefit not only Azuri Peninsula, but also the rest of Eko Atlantic?

The FTZ, which is a federal government initiative, will give confidence to investors who want to live or transact business within Eko Atlantic. As a free trade zone, we will benefit from tax exemptions for materials that come into Eko Atlantic. We must bear in mind the impacts of these exemptions to the cost of construction as well as the finished product. From the perspective of a developer, that will give us reassurances that our projects will be competitive. If you take into account the cost of land and construction, one would expect our pricing to be exorbitant, but I can say that today that the cost of our finished project will be competitive with Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos. The second consideration is that since Eko Atlantic City is governed by South Energyx, a municipality in its own right, and is exempt from the familiar day-to-day bureaucracy of Lagos State, and has its own streamlined system. The time line of projects are shortened with the stamp of approval from the government. Confidence is constantly being built, and there is a steady stream of work at Eko Atlantic on a daily basis. It is set to be the first in-mind interface of cross border transactions, and a transparent means of building foreign confidence in Nigeria. It will be a point of capital and intellectual inflow that is tailored to private sector needs and one that matches its pace.

What stage is the Azuri Peninsula project currently at in terms of construction?

We are currently engaged with the piling stages of the development, which we began in January of 2015. We have, however, completed piling works for the first tower (Orun), 236 of them to be precise, and are at about 90% along with the second tower (Oban), with just 20 more piles outstanding as at June 2nd, 2015. In terms of time line, we are on schedule and have begun making off-plan sales. By the end of 1Q2016, we will have finished the podium of the development

Would reform in the petroleum industry be a boon to Azuri Peninsula?

Most government initiatives will have some sort of impact either directly or indirectly. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), when passed, will have a positive impact on the industry. Nigeria is an energy producing country. However, only 20-30% of our GDP is funded by oil. If oil prices go up, there will be more liquidity and access to cash. I do not see the PIB as the only government initiative that will be of importance to us. With the new government in place, I want to believe that there will be more prudence, more initiative toward economic development, and growth that will help deepen our capital and money markets and thus translate into better access to much-needed funding such as development grants, loans, and mortgages.

What are your expectations for the year to come?

There will be more economic stability and confidence in the market. The delivery date for Azuri Peninsula Phase I is 2018. We are currently on the drawing board for Phase II with smaller-sized apartments to cater to our clients.