Sam Diala explains the current boom in property development in Akowonjo, Alimossho local government area of Lagos and attributes it to rapid urbanization and population rise that follow the gradual shift from the high-brow island area of the state
Developers have ‘besieged’ Akowonjo, a fast-growing Lagos suburb in Alimosho Local Government Area which is undergoing the pressure of rapid urbanization and population increase common with the state. Its proximity to the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, the Muritala Mohammed International Airport, the popular Tower Aluminum products manufacturing factory, among others, gives Akowonjo a location advantage which property owners are fast exploiting.
Before now, Akowonjo was an ordinary community with nothing special about it, except that it serves as gateway to the sprawling Shasha community. Shasha, on its part, was notorious as a den of criminals, and not many people would want to go there for anything. Perhaps, aside the Air Force base located between Shasha and Idimu, which is also close to Ejigbo in the Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area, Shasha-Akowonjo or Akowonjo-Egbeda as the area is also called, is a typical Lagos suburb.
However, Akowonjo is turning into a fast-growing business district as developers abandon high-brow Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi for the upland which makes Akowonjo attractive to prospective property owners. Existing landlords cash in on the development to demand for exorbitant rent. Investigation shows that the turn of events favours money-bags who would not want to continue with what a property expert called “expired superior life of Lekki residents”.
From the traffic-choked Dopemu interchange adjoining Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and overlooking the rowdy Aluminu Village in Agege, Akowonjo’s new status can be seen from new and renovated buildings that spring up by the day. These buildings house expansive hotel premises, banks, eateries, and other businesses. As if a subtle completion runs among property owners, construction or reconstruction work has become a regular feature in Akowonjo. This has resulted on both sides of the busy Shasha, Akowonjo and Egbeda Roads which are linked to two major round-about areas in the vicinity, being busy on a daily basis.
Two popular estates, Santos and William, which share boundaries with Akowonjo have regained their lost glory and are beginning to bubble again, despite the dilapidated outlook of most of their out-fashioned buildings. The ‘besiege’ of Akowonjo by Lagosians who are escaping from the wrath of unbearably mounting rent on the island, especially Lekki, has become a blessing to Akowonjo property owners. The newly constructed link-road from Ejigbo junction, linking the end of Shasha Road, has increased the flow of traffic in Akowonjo.
Virtually all the deposit money banks have their branches in the area. These include FCMB, Union, Key Stone, Standard Chartered IBTC, Diamond, Sterling, GT, Zenith and First Bank.
The branches of UBA and Fidelity on the other side of the expressway are being affected by the population upsurge in Akowonjo. This is seen from their crowded banking halls and long queues at their ATM booths virtually at all times of the day. Access Bank along Egbeda Road, was given a face-lift not long ago apparently to positions it for effective outlook competition among Akowonjo/Egbeda business houses.
The competition has become so fierce that some businesses have disappeared for stronger ones to appear. For instance, a new eatry, Food Major, commissioned about 2009, was suddenly ‘swallowed’ up by a more aggressive competitor, Sweet Sensation, which has two active branches in the area. The trend also consumed the long-existed Tantalizer which eventually became abandoned soon after a branch of Sweet Sensation emerged opposite it.
With two petrol stations in strategic locations, reputable hotels, prominent church buildings, hospitals, schools, warehouses, club houses, DSTV and GSM network provider offices among other places of prominent commercial activities, Akowonjo is changing rapidly. It is also undergoing rapid transformation the league of high-brow locations that would in the near future sift the ‘chaff’ residents from the ‘substance’, as a property consultant, Okenwa Timothy said.
Investigation shows that rent is rising “outrageously” in Akowonjo which, as Timothy noted, may signal a shift from what Akowonjo used to be known to where it now belongs “in the scheme of things” as developers take advantage of the rapid urbanization and population pressure to hike rent in the area. For instance, a landlord whose property lies on the busy Shasha Road, has increased his property rent three times in four years. A three bed-room flat which attracted a rent of N250,000 per annum in 2010 now costs between N450 and N500,000.
Property consultant and Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Lanre Taiwo, explained that the bust of the 2008/2009 property boom is largely responsible for the development explosion in Akowonjo. He told The UNION that the high-brown Lekki, Victoria Garden City (VGC) and their environs have become too expensive for a moderate income earner to live in. “Developers and property owners who borrowed from the banks during the boom period are finding it difficult to meet up with their commitment with the banks.
The result is that they keep increasing the rents to meet up with their debt obligations, while the poor economic outlook makes it increasingly difficult for tenants to remain their too,” Taiwo said.
According to him, the major disadvantage of Akowonjo is its location on the other side of the Expressway which imposes some inconvenience on the residents while returning from work as they have to cope with the impenetrable traffic jam at the Dopemu interchange which is a major bottleneck on the route. “Not many people have the spine to bear such pressure after a hectic day’s job,” Taiwo explained, “and that is why Akowonjo has not developed as rapidly as it was expected, given the pressure from rapid urbanisation and population increase.