Sunday 31 May 2020

Banana Island Lagos, Nigeria's Most Exclusive And Expensive Neighborhood In Africa

Banana Island Lagos, Nigeria's most exclusive Estate.
Banana Island is Nigeria’s most extravagant and expensive neighbourhood - on par with the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris,  La Jolla in San Diego, California and Tokyo's Shibuya or Roppongi neighbourhoods.

The exclusive playground of Nigeria’s obscenely wealthy, Banana Island is an artificial island built on reclaimed land in Ikoyi-Lagos. From an aerial view, the island is actually shaped like a banana, hence its name. Sitting on 1.6 million square meters, the sumptuous island is divided into about 535 plots ranging in size from 1,000 square meters and 3,000 square meters.

Banana Island is a place of unrivalled opulence and grandeur. It’s an entirely different world from other parts of the country. It’s a gated community, and its inhabitants enjoy such luxuries as underground electrical systems and water supply networks, 24 hour-electricity supply (the only other place such privileged is the Nigerian President’s residence), extremely tight security, good road layout, a central sewage system and treatment plant and the well-cherished company of fellow wealthy folks.

The estate is also a reminder of Nigeria’s broader failure. Or, at least, a reminder of the ridiculous cost of success here. The comfort of the estate comes at a price, one the average Nigerian would find shocking. Just think, property here is priced in dollars.

The island is the most expensive place in Nigeria and one of the most expensive in Africa to own a house. Property on Banana Island is dollar-denominated. The average cost of buying a three-bedroom apartment is $2 million. However, if you’re just looking to hang around the island for some time, and not to buy property, you can rent the same apartment for about $150,000 per annum. But there’s a clause: you must pay for an initial minimum term of 2 years - in advance. And there are no refunds. Ever! Also, the tenant is also mandated to pay a ‘service charge’ of $17,000 per annum.

A typical plot of land on the island usually goes for between $4 million and $6 million, and the cheapest building on the island costs upward of $8 million. But because of the ridiculous prices of property on the island, about 60% of the completed buildings are currently unoccupied.

So, who are the people who occupy the land? The list includes multinational corporations, well-paid expatriate employees, corrupt government officials; their concubines (or mistresses), and wealthy businessmen such as Alhassan Dantata, Kola Abiola and Nigeria’s newest billionaires, Aliko Dangote. Kola Abiola. Linda Ikeji. Alhassan Dantata. Even Mike Adenuga, CEO of Globacom and one of the wealthiest men in Africa.

Banana Island is different. Here, commercial and residential zones are distinguished. On the right side of the estate is the strictly residential area; mostly comprised of private homes while the left side is the mixed area, in use by for-profit businesses including 9mobile and Olaniwun Ajayi, as well as service stations and a few private houses.

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This is Banana Island, originally called 'Igbo Ogede' Lagos, in the 1970's.

The estate is also removed from the outside world; a gated community with only one major entrance. Resting at the Northeastern corner of Ikoyi, it is as if the estate and its residents don’t want to be found. And if they could, they would detach themselves from Lagos Island and settle somewhere in the serenity of the Lagos Lagoon.

 A functioning system in Nigeria…
Banana Island was built to function in a country that does not function. Residents enjoy luxuries such as near-constant electricity, water, and drainage.

The constant electricity in the estate is a big deal; after all, Nigeria has the second-worst power supply in the world, and the rest of the country is almost always in darkness. “At the very least there’s 20 hours’ worth of electricity in Banana Island,” says Chidi on the state of power in the Estate. That is thanks to an independent power plant, which directly supplies the estate with electricity.

“We have street lights, family parks, halls, religious centres, convenience shops, pools, a minibus system and a golf course,” explains Chidi on the other perks that come with living in Banana Island. These amenities are not just available but are frequently maintained and upgraded. For example, according to Chidi, a bad road within the estate will likely be fixed in a week or two.

Banana Island is proof that things can work properly in Nigeria. All it takes is money, planning and a vision. It is a picture of what Lagos could be, if not in the future, but in another world.

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