‘Our reclamation level guarantees investors a 75-year flood-free city’
Inclement weather conditions precipitating as flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes which humanity has seen in various parts of the world in the past few weeks have raised concerns, especially for investors and developments on coastal regions. In this interview, Femi Akioye, MD/CEO, Channeldrill Investments, developers of Imperial International Business City (IIBC), in Lekki, Lagos, speaks on these weather conditions and what his company has done to ensure that their development is not impacted and people’s investments are protected. He speaks with CHUKA UROKO, Property Editor. Excerpts
Weather events of the past few weeks such as flooding, hurricane and earthquakes have been frightening and there are concerns, especially for coastal developments. What are your fears as a developer?
Thank you for that question. My fears for what you have mentioned are not for coastal developers alone, if I can use your terminology, because this is a global problem that is now our reality.
Bringing it back home, developers must spend money on research and consultancy and I say this with every sense of seriousness because investments in brick and mortar is a long time investment and people that make these investments want to give it as an inheritance to their children. So, what sort of developer will we be if in 10 years our developments start having problems and investors start taking us to court?
We thank God that we have not been experiencing typhoon, hurricane and earthquakes along our coastal lines. But flood is something that we have experienced and we will continue to experience more of it, so we must find a way to deal with it.
Unfortunately, the major reason for the floods we have experienced recently is more of man-made than than natural occurrence and we have refused to take responsibility for that. By man-made I mean the way we block our drainage and canals with filth and waste. To answer your question, we at Chaneldrill Investment have no fear whatsoever for our coastal development because we have spent a lot of time, energy and money to engage one of the best marine consultants in the world and we know what is going to happen within our coastal lines for the next 75 years. Our developments are designed to make sure that it is not affected negatively by these unavoidable future occurrences. It’s amazing that when we started, people said we are doing too-know, but now they have had a glimpse of what is coming.
There are no doubts any longer that climate change is real. How much precaution are you taking on your new city development?
The issue of climate change is more real than people think. It is also not an European, Asian or an American problem. It is a global issue and the lagoon water level will rise by almost 2metres in the next 15-20years. This is the reality and the government can’t stop it because it is due to the thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and increased melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets.
Do you know that Lagos state actually commissioned an Associate Professor from Hydraulics Research Institute, Egypt, Ahmed Sayed Mohamed Ahmed, to do a Hydrodynamic Modelling of Lagos and Lekki Lagoons? Even the state is taking steps to make sure Lagos is way ahead of it and they have shown that they are taking this global threat seriously, an example of that is the new Freedom Road that was just finished, and you can see that it is well above all the developments around it.
So IIBC has taken the best of precautions based on the recommendation of our marine consultants, Mssr Royal HaskoningDHV of Holland and they are one of the best the in world. They have recommended that because of the inescapable global sea level rise that will continue to happen till Jesus comes again. IIBC must be reclaimed at 3.5metres above sea level and that is exactly what we are doing. So, after a life time settlement of the reclamation, IIBC will still stand at about 2.9metres above sea level. So, investors and future land owners at IIBC can be rest assured that their investment is safe. We call it ‘IIBC 75years flood-free strategy’ and I can assure you that out of all other developments along the Lagos coastal line, at least the ones that we have seen, it is only IIBC and another one on the ocean that can guarantee this safety.
Analysts are saying that these events like the flooding that happened in some parts of Lagos on June 8 this year will have negative impact on property prices. What are your thoughts on this?
The impact will be negative to some property prices and positive to others. Developments that are, at least, 3metres above sea level will enjoy positive impact while others might not. Personally, I will advise anyone that is building anywhere within the Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and most especially within the lekki axis to make sure that their foundation is at least 2.5-3metres above sea level and if it is a reclamation project, it must be about that same height unless we want to start having 10-15meters underground drainage like Japan or have an automatic pumping stations at designated area within estates that will pump water to canals that lead to the lagoon or the ocean.
That’s the Dutch model and they are well below sea level. Personally, I think that June 8 incident is a wakeup call and we must all do the needful and we the citizens have a lot to do; all hands must be on deck for these ones. We have to stop dumping dirt in our canals and drainages. What happened was not the fault of government.
Your project, the IIBC is one of the coastal developments that are just coming up. What assurance do you have for investors that their investment will be safe?
That is just simple. IIBC is being reclaimed at over 3meters above sea level and we have the best team of global consultants that has ever worked together on any project in Africa. Our reclamation level guarantees investors a 75 years flood free city and all our consultants are of top 20 global rating
When our marine consultants said our reclamation height must be above 3meters, I said ‘no way’ because, like most developers, I was looking at the cost and how much we would have to sell the land and if the public will be able to pay and also at our return on investment. But they said, if we don’t accept their recommendations, they will ask that we terminate the contract because when the flood comes, and it will surely come, they don’t want their company’s name to be associated with such bad image and, like a pack of cards, all the remaining consultants said the same thing.
So these world class firms that we have engaged care more about the name and reputation of their firms than money and we are all determined to do the right thing. That is the IIBC quality assurance.
Yours is not the only city development in town. Why should an investor put his money in IIBC and not the other developments; what different propositions are you making?
One of our major selling point is our reclamation height. IIBC is also going to be an eco-friendly, self-sustaining and smart city, We have the best consultants ever assembled to work on any project in Africa and, as I said earlier, you can go online and check, no other project in Africa has a better team than us. We didn’t do this because we just wanted to have the bragging right, even though we do have that.
We did it because we want these consultants that have worked on such smart and green cities like Mazda City in Abu Dhabi, Songdo Business City in South Korea to come and do the same in Lagos and we have enjoyed unbelievable help and encouragement from the Lagos State government. We are rest assured that, in the next few years, IIBC will be the bench mark for future city development in Africa, universities will use the city as a case study. Actually, my job was made easy because I have the best principal ever, someone who is ready to have a thin profit margin if that’s what it takes to fulfill his vision. I am talking about Oba Elegushi and, as if that wasn’t enough, am also lucky to have a chairman that understands the place of posterity. That is Emeka Ndu. So, IIBC is different for all things that are good. We are the real deal.
There are fears that the effect of dredging or sand filling in a place has negative impact on other places. To what extent is this true?
This can only be true if it is not done properly or if it is done without any form of regulation. The present Lagos State administration has regulated all forms of sand taken from dredging for reclamation and sandfilling to sand stock-piling. Do you know that you must now do an Environmental Impact Assessment and it must be approved by the state government before you can take a grain of sand for stock-piling in the state?
The last administration started the regulations and this present government has taken it to another level. Do you know that people that used to just take sand around Badore and co are no longer there? In fact, it is now so regulated that you can only use some particular type of dredger within some areas. Do you also know that over 60 percent of the world/cities that people dwell all around the world are reclaimed? Reclamation in Lagos is well regulated.
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