Asokoro Gar­dens: A place de­vel­oped by na­ture

Daily Trust - - PROPERTY - By Ben Atonko

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.

The chal­lenge

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.”

Govern­ment’s stake

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

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