Gleaming new city for the wealthy leaves historic Lagos in the dust
(GIN) — As developers rush to complete a dream city of soaring glass and steel high-rise buildings with luxury housing for 250,000 amidst a leafy boulevard with ritzy shops and high-end restaurants, hopes for a better future are growing dim for the sister city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with 17.5 million residents.
Eko Atlantic, the new project, is rising on Victoria Island — now connected by an artificial land bridge to Lagos which sinks deeper into poverty as its neighbor’s income skyrockets.
Lagos was the nation’s capital from 1914 to 1991. Today it struggles with aging infrastructure, unreliable electric power, fierce traffic jams and sprawling slums. Even in posh neighborhoods, sewage bubbles up from open ditches. Companies squeeze their headquarters into moldy mid-century ranch houses and turn off the lights at lunch to rest electric generators.
Two-thirds of the city’s residents live in “informal” neighborhoods, while more than one million of the city’s poor have been forcibly evicted from their homes over the last 15 years. Eko Atlantic is a prime example of a trend toward walled-off cities for the very rich on a continent that is still home to the world’s poorest population.
Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Martin Lukacs warned, “Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future — privatized green enclaves for the ultra-rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scrambles for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms.”
He continued, “Protected by guards, guns and sky-high real estate prices, the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising… This is climate apartheid.”
Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey added, “Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion.”
The developers, a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, received a 78-year seal of ownership of Eko Atlantic to recoup their investment.
The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, calls Eko Atlantic “one of the most inspiring and ambitious civil engineering projects in Africa,” according to the U.S. mission in Nigeria website. Last year, former President Clinton participated in the ground breaking ceremony as did Ambassador Terence McCulley and Consul General Jeff Hawkins, among others.