The Managing Director interview with Punch Newspaper

The Managing Director interview with Punch Newspaper

The Managing Director, South Energyx, promoters of the Eko Atlantic City Project, Mr. David Frame, says investor confidence is gradually returning to Nigeria, as he shares his dreams on the 21st century city, which is bound to change the socio-economic landscape of the state as a whole. He spoke to Adeola Balogun.

Having been in Nigeria for a long time, would you say the Nigerian environment is attractive to foreign investors?
It is well known worldwide that there has been a financial crisis and many governments are cutting back on expenditure. Indeed, many projects around the world have been stalled. Financial institutions still have plans to find potential investment opportunities, which are few and far between in Europe, America and even the Far East at this current time. So, as a potential for investment, Africa as a continent, is very much in focus right now. The Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria in the next five years and beyond is in positive territory; between seven and eight percent, whereas America, the United Kingdom and Europe are in negative territory, like one per cent growth. So, equity investors, who are looking for potential for growth, are looking closely at Africa, and Nigeria is the golden bowl. With democracy thriving in Nigeria, investors see the country as a safe haven for investment and this has been shown in many discussions I have had with people in the real estate and financial sector.

What of insecurity problem?
I have been living in Nigeria for 30 years. When I first arrived in Lagos, I checked to find out what the situation was, against the background of seeing the West African region as a security risk. But what I found out did not back that up. And I tell this to a lot of people I meet in Europe. I tell them,’Come to Lagos in particular.’The general level of security in Lagos has improved significantly in the past six years and incidences of armed robbery in banks have reduced. That, for me, is an indication of the level of improvement of security generally, and this is something we should be proud of. I attended a conference two weeks ago in France, in attendance were 50 equity investing agents; people who work for clients that want to pursue potential investment opportunities. They were all very excited about Lagos and our project. What was quite interesting was the extent to which our project is known internationally; most operatives in the financial sector are following the project closely. That is a positive element for the development of Lagos, establishing Lagos further as the financial capital of the continent of Africa. So, there is a lot of enthusiasm for what is happening in Lagos, and in addition to that, I discovered that more and more expatriate Nigerians are now coming back. That, to me, is an indication of renewed confidence in Nigeria.

How would project, like Eko Atlantic City that you are managing, fare in the face of power failure in Nigeria?
The concept is that we will have an independent power facility tied with the provision of gas and we are talking to the authorities on a regular basis. What we do know is that with the existing gas availability, we are able to provide sufficient gas for the early stages of the project. But there are future plans to extend the pipelines, which are supplying the gas from the Delta and what we understand is that there will be more sufficient gas supply to meet the demand of the whole Eko Atlantic.

Is it not possible to try hydro-electrical system?
We are looking at alternative power supply but I think it is fairly true to say that these technologies are at the early stages of development. We know that there is potential to annex power from the ocean but we have to look at it from the commercial point of view. We know that we can generate power from the ocean using turbine but it would never be in a situation as the technology available at the moment to provide all our power needs, though it can be considered as a supplementary means of power supply.

How did you come about the idea of Eko Atlantic project?
When the project started, it was really a response to a request from the then Lagos State Governor, Mr. Bola Tinubu, at the time. He was concerned that there was a rapid erosion of the Bar beach, and we made an effort to replenish the beach. However, we were not keeping up with the pace of erosion, it was sweeping closer and closer. And over the decades, the ocean had reached the border of Ahmadu Bello Way that had partially collapsed into the sea. This was obviously a severe threat to the very existence of Victoria Island.

The governor was concerned that he wanted to find a permanent solution to the erosion of the Bar Beach and the threat to Victoria Island. It was in 2003 that he approached us, asking us to study the problem and come forward with some solutions. During the course of the study, we discovered a number of things; one of which was that the highest elevation in Victoria Island was actually on Ahmadu Bello Way, and Akin Adesola. Had the sea been allowed to completely remove Ahmadu Bello Way, the whole of Victoria Island would have been in danger. In December of 2005, the initial stages of a permanent solution were initiated and the shoreline protection, as you see today, was constructed in 2006 through 2008.

But in further developing the idea, we also discovered that the original coastline of Bar Beach was actually two-and-a-half kilometers further out to the sea, and the consultant told us that if we were to construct the wall on the original coastline, it would go a long way to mitigate the course of the erosion. Then, the whole concept fell into place; we’d put the sea wall on the original coastline as much as we can determine. We would then fill up all that area that was lost to erosion and because it was on the edge of the existing commercial area of Victoria Island. It naturally because a viable extension of the reclaimed land, which subsequently opened up the prospect of building a new 21stCentury city.

What would be the effect of the sand filling you are talking about in the area?
It is there to protect not just the land that is being reclaimed; it also protects Victoria Island. And as the consultant told us, by following the existing coastline of 105 years ago, the effect of the ocean current, which has been causing the erosion, would be mitigated to a great extent. Ahmadu Bello Way has remained intact since the construction of the shoreline protection in 2006.

What is the model of the 21st Century city called Eko Atlantic you intend to put up here?
We have a master plan as you can see here; obviously we are improving on that. That is the master plan of the city. That is a fair indication of what the city life would be. It is designed by consultants of international repute; these are consultants that have been involved in similar projects in the Middle East, Quarter and Australia. We are building a city of International standard and it would stand a test of time.