SEA CHANGE

Nigeria 2019 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

An ambitious new project, Eko Atlantic, that reclaims land from the sea to create more space for an ever-growing Lagos gives investors another reason for optimism in Nigeria.

Ibiene V. A. Ogolo
BIOGRAPHY
Ibiene V. A. Ogolo runs the development of Eko Atlantic City’s signature luxury community, Azuri Peninsula, as the Chief Responsibility Officer at Eko Development Company. Her career, which spans over 18 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, Choba, 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.

Can you give us an update on the Eko Atlantic project?

The project is still ongoing. The entire project will feature about 10 million sqm of land to be reclaimed. To date, more than 7 million sqm of backfill has been completed. Construction of the Great Wall of Lagos, a sea wall that wraps around the project, is still ongoing. The infrastructure is more than 90% complete in terms of roads. There are some residents in the project, and the 15-story office complex is fully inhabited. We have moved our offices here to ensure we are closer to the project. The ITB life camp is here, and we have ITB staff living here. We have developed a strong foundation to understand exactly what the space needs in terms of power requirements and emergency services. The city is completely self sufficient, including its own local services and infrastructure. It will have its own waste management system, though it will still tie part of the larger Lagos system for regulatory purposes. On the Azuri project, we are well advanced in terms of the structure. The first two towers are at their full 32-storys height, while the third tower is at 29-storys. Structural works are 85% complete. The development is mixed steel and concrete, and it is advancing at a rapid pace. With the hiccups in the economy in the last several years, many did not have the funds to continue their payments, and we needed to reassess how we could best make this a success. In construction, once you start, you must finish; postponing results in almost twice as much cost. The owners of the company decided that this could not happen and thus found ingenious ways to source further financing to keep the project going. We are ambassadors for Africa, and we are extremely mindful of this role. We want to keep our promises to both our contractors and the larger public.

Are your targets international investors or locals?

The project transcends its location. We interviewed the diaspora in many countries and determined what truly attracts them. We want to develop based on all the strengths of the various places that the diaspora lives in. We are keen to sell to anyone discerning enough and show off the added value of our products.

How have the efforts to turn Eko Atlantic into a free zone progressed?

Eko Atlantic is now a free zone. The operator of the license manages all the enterprises that are registered within Eko Atlantic. For example, we have done our own registration, and we now have a subsidiary company that operates out of the free zone.

How would you define the impact of Eko Atlantic on the economy of Nigeria?

Eko Atlantic has put Lagos back on the map for viable projects. The media is filled with negative stories about Nigeria; however, Eko Atlantic offers a completely new and positive narrative of the country. We are a tangible example of the way that Nigeria can and should do business. We have had many visits from missions backed by various embassies and chambers of commerce that are interested in seeing exactly how we operate. The dialogue has started; people now understand that something important and vital is happening in Nigeria. Individuals interested in expanding their business are now extremely interested in Nigeria via Eko Atlantic. This is massive in terms of positive perceptions regarding the company and country.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

From a company perspective, 2019 will be marked by a great deal of strategic reorganization. The company will grow and these strategies will come to fruition with many positive results. There are obstacles, and there will always be obstacles; however, we thrive in this environment. 2019 will be significantly better than 2018.