Asokoro Gardens: A place developed by nature
The Managing Director, SED Ltd, Sami Abou Jaoude, last week said the place will be habitable by end of this year. By then all amenities - water, electricity and sewage will have been fully operational. “From infrastructure point of view, it’s about 95/96 percent completed. As for housing, most of the constructed houses can be moved into end of this year or early next year,” Jaoude assured.
He said, “We’ve completed phase one of the project. The phase one is like a showcase to what is coming up in the next phase. We’ve started the phase II. We’ve started on one of the largest shopping malls in Nigeria. We’re negotiating on the five-star hotel. We’ve started having investors interested to come in and start developing with us. The project is already progressing and moving at a faster rate than expected before.”
The five-star hotel is to be built on the highest tabula hills on the land. Anyone who climbs this place enjoys a 360 degrees view of the city of Abuja.
Phase one has 118 housing units with differences between two-bedroom apartment, three-bedroom apartment and individual houses on different plots. There are already completed houses one can pay for and move into them. Alternatively, one can ask for a house to be built for them.
A club house is to be built. Part of concept is not just to have houses to live in but to give a neighbourhood that people will enjoy, the Managing Director explained.
There is a boulevard under construction. Called Nelson Mandela Boulevard, the place is being developed to be one of the major roads in the estate.
Works started in 20011.The estate sits on 70 hectares. It is mixed use having both residential and commercial areas. It is designed as a low-density and low-rise estate with 75 percent green spaces. The place with a serene and stimulating environment is opposite Mogadishu Cantonment on the Abuja-Keffi highway.
Value to Abuja
The development of this estate will complement Abuja in terms quality provision, Jaoude said. According to him, it will make people see that good quality is achievable and should be done to make the capital keep the standard it has had. It will provide residents the opportunity to enjoy living in an area with quality construction, good maintenance.
But developing Asokoro Gardens is quite difficult. The topography of the place poses a big challenge to the constructing firm. The company faces the task of negotiating the topographical nature of the land. It is a hilly area so the developer has to find comprise in terms road infrastructure design because there are a lot of cantours to negotiate and design appropriate access to the plots. Balancing between the plots and the roads is quite challenging especially in very high areas.
The Managing Director said the shape of the land is to be maintained as much as possible because residents are not only to be provided easy access to their plots but also to make them enjoy the surrounding view.
There is a small lake close to the Keffi highway on the north-eastern side of the land and a stream that traverses. “We intend to keep it [the lake] because it attracts people to come around. We’re maintaining this lake as it’s already existing in the place because it will give a nice surrounding of the area. Around the lake, there will something like a restaurant,” said Jaoude.
It is equally costly working on this land. Jaoude said it is anticipated that SED will spend N60 billion to provide infrastructure alone. “It is relatively more expensive than developing on flat land,” he noted.
Return on investment
So what does SED get in all this? Jaoude explained: “We did feasibility studies and it showed that return on investment is acceptable. Because of the complexity of the project, one has to be careful with expenses/cost to make sure that return on investment is viable -- cost of development and the market’s willingness to participate in the project. From the market’s willingness, we’re quite confident from the feedback we have of what people came and saw in phase one, they like the place, they can invest with us.
“We’re trying to control our costs as much as we can while at all times not compromising on the quality. It’s a matter of keeping a settled balance. Certainly the project is viable because Abuja is growing at a very high rate - demand is there.”
The agreement is that SED will develop the infrastructure of the place, build homes, sell and then transfer to government after 25 years. Government’s bodies like the development control, urban and regional planning are involved in the project from the scratch. There will be police and fire stations and hospital to be directly under government management even before the transfer.
Actually, government encourages the private sector to invest and accelerate the provision of housing. Demand for housing is said to be growing at a rate much higher than the general growth of Nigeria so private developers are encouraged to step in and close the gap.
The Coordinator of Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre (AIIC), Mr Faruk Sani said his office does not oversee Asokoro Gardens because it is not part of the land swap programme introduced by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed.
AIIC promotes and facilitates private sector participation in public infrastructure as well as coordinate the implementation of the land swap programme under FCT administration.
Sani said the benefit of building Asokoro Gardens is the FCT is being developed. “The Sunrise Estate development is not part of the land swap programme and it wasn’t done on the basis of the land swap initiative. Sunrise Estate [Asokoro Gardens] Development was conceived when the administration was looking for developers to give them hectares of land to develop houses so that the multitude of people coming into Abuja could be accommodated. It wasn’t mass housing in the strict sense of the word but you could say it’s a forerunner of the mass housing scheme,” the coordinator explained.
When confronted with the question of high cost of houses in the estate, Sani said the housing sector is driven by market economy therefore it is the buyers’ prerogative. “If prices are high, they know the kind of district they want to create,” he said. In Asokoro Gardens, property prices range from N115 million to N850 million. Some say this cannot be mass housing.
The dream of Asokoro Gardens
It was the vision of the chairman of Setraco Group, Mr Said Khalaf who has been in Nigeria for more than 45 years. At a time, Setraco was developing Abuja-Keffi road and Khalaf saw the hills and the dream came to his mind. He was said to have seen the quality of infrastructure work in Abuja - the bridges and roads, he then thought of having quality development in housing. The dream is to provide for Abuja something that is unique and qualitative. The idea is to see nature and maintain nature - everything on the site.
It is to provide nature, landscaping, architectural quality, construction quality and neighbourhood quality. Here, there should be no abuse of the land - it is properly maintained through the land use and landscaping. Buildings here don’t exceed 25 of the land. The remaining part of the land remains as green as possible.
Jaoude said, “We’re sticking to his vision as much as we can. So far, we’re quite happy about that. Our happiness is coming more by the responses of many that come to look at the place. When they come, they view, the infrastructure, they see, the landscaping, everything, everybody is happy!”
He said construction of houses comes along as the project is being developed. This is detected by demand. There will be a mosque, a church and a petrol station.
SED, a sister company of Setraco Nigeria Limited prides itself as trendsetter in the real estate sector.
A comleted house in Asokoro Gardens
Sami Abou Jaoude, Managing Director, Sunrise Estate Development Limited