Dangote Group, Ocean Beach Resorts row over multi-million naira Lagos project

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The aim of those who conceived the idea of Lekki Golf Resort was to bring the entire world to Lagos, since the flight from the capitals of most countries to the West African city is not more than 10-hours. To them, the future of Lagos lies in tourism, leisure and entertainment, considering that oil is gradually going out of fashion.

To make this dream a reality, Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts partnered the Lagos State Government to build the Lekki Golf Resort. But the dream of making Lagos the centre of tourism, leisure and entertainment is about to be truncated.

The Lekki Golf Resort project started about 10 years ago when former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was about to leave office. That was after a property was given to Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts by the Lagos State Land Bureau, since it was a joint venture between the Lagos State Government and the Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd.

Realising the viability of the project, Tinubu’s successor, former Governor Raji Fashola, commissioned the project two days before Tinubu left office as the governor of Lagos State.

Speaking to The Nation, the Managing Director, Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd, owners of the Lagos Lekki Beach Golf Resort, Mr. Ibikunle Fakeye, said the project was conceived to bring development to Lagos.

“The future of this country, especially Lagos, depends on how many people it can attract into the leisure industry. The most viable asset Lagos has is its water fronts. And the only way we can make maximum use of it is to build leisure and entertainment along the water fronts,” Fakeye said.

Although there are many other golf courses in Nigeria, the Lekki Golf Resort, aside bringing development and generating employment when completed, will have the capacity to bring great golf players to Nigeria. It is going to be a leisure and tourism centre.

Fakeye said: “On this project, I can say the Lagos State Government can be making $100 million annually from tournaments, hotels, restaurants and concerts. This facility has a broadcasting centre that will broadcast events that are going on live. We also have medical clinics to carry out emergencies. Not only that, there is also a helicopter park that will be bringing guests.”

Speaking further, Fakeye said most investors who want to stay in Nigeria and do business will be happy to stay in that environment because they would meet the kind of people they want to do business with. “It is both a meeting and recreational area. It has been designed to meet US Professional Golf Association and the European Golf Association standards so that they can allocate tournaments to us here. Then we can attract a lot of income both from sponsors of sports and merchandisers. Merchandisers are those who manufacture the shirts they wear, the caps, the balls and other things. Nigeria is a massive place you can attract manufacturers to,” he said.

Aside boosting the economy of Lagos State, it will also create employment for the teeming unemployed youths, especially those in the hospitality business.

“Golf creates employment for young ones. Part of the reasons we’re building a golf course is to create employment for secondary school leavers and graduates who are into related things we do there; like those who are into hotel and catering businesses, those who want to do research on water animals and those who want to do research in vegetation.

“There are so many opportunities in this golf course. We have lots of companies that are interested in partnering with us,” Fakeye told The Nation.

Threats to the project

Good as the project looks, it has been faced with one encumbrance or the other since it started. The handlers of the project, Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd, according to Fakeye, had been able to surmount many of the challenges but some seem to be beyond them.

The first was the hostility of the community, where the multi-billion naira project is being sited in Lekki, Lagos. According to Fakeye, at the beginning of the project, the villagers were opposed to siting it in their community. It took education and persuasion to make them see the benefits of such a project. Although the villagers are yet to move to their new abode, it is just a matter of time.

Speaking on how Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd and the community reached a consensus, Fakeye said rather than wait for the government, Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd had to spend its money to do a master plan layout for the villagers’ new land before getting approval.

He said: “We had encumbrances on the land and these encumbrances are still there. We have villagers who have been given land on the opposite side. They have exercised land and it was also the government that said your exercise is not complete until you have a master plan layout. We on behalf of the community and the government, we did this master plan layout.

“We applied for approval of this master plan layout. We knew the villagers do not have the fund for this, but we on our own, rather than wait for government or the community, applied. It is about 140 hectares. It took us six years to get the approval. This is a project that has government involvement. We don’t know why it took us so long”.

Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd is currently waiting for the government to relocate the villagers. “Within the time we started, we have been attacked by the villagers. We have been shot at by the community and our equipment have been damaged,” Fakeye said.

But he said that all the challenges had been put behind them because the community now knows better and they are the ones urging the Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd to speed up the project.

However, Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd has been able to surmount the challenges posed by the host community, the project is currently threatened by the activities of Dangote Group. According to Fakeye, Dangote Group in its bid to create a way to move its heavy equipment, allegedly damaged a part the golf course.

Fakeye said: “The damage done to the site is causing us hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you look at where Dangote is building its jetty, for example, there is a small channel of water beside us. Dangote said it was difficult for their company to move heavy equipment because they are building refinery and ferterliser plants. They have heavy equipment and they are looking for a place to offload them, and they said they want to use the place for one year.

“We asked them for the design to see what they want to build there so as to see whether it fits. As we speak, they have not submitted any design. This was four years ago.”

Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd was surprised that rather than agree on the design before the commencement of work on the site, Dangote went ahead to dredge a small channel of water beside the resort. Fakeye claimed that the effect of the dredging was so much that it caused so much damage to the resort.

“All the plants, our irrigation equipment that were installed to water our grasses were swept away due to the activities of Dangote. All the money we have invested till date had been washed down by their activities,” he said.

Fakeye, while admitting that Dangote had written Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd a letter, claiming that it was not their activity that caused the damage on the golf course but would help in remedying some of the damaged portion on the golf course. He wondered why Dangote was trying to rectify the damage after insisting that it never caused the problem on the resort. “Somebody said it was not his action that caused the damage, yet he still wants to rectify the damage. How do you justify that?” Fakeye asked.

Fakeye said his organisation, the Lagos State Government and Dangote Group had several meetings on the need for Dangote to submit a working design. “Yet, Dangote is going ahead to build a sea port there. It is not an extension of Free Trade Zone. I don’t know what the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Physical Planning and Environment and the Ministry of Justice are doing for someone or corporate body that is violating the environment and they are quiet.

Fakeye insisted that the Lagos State Government should make Dangote do the right thing rather than allow it to destroy the environment because the future of Lagos depends on tourism and leisure.

“Refinery is going out of fashion. It is only now that we Nigerians are looking at refinery when it is going out of fashion all over the world. I don’t mind refinery being built, but I mind it destroying the nature and environment.”

Our story, by Dangote Group

Dangote Group, reacting to the damaged resort in a letter written to Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resorts Ltd on December 7, 2017, and signed by the Group Executive Director of Dangote, D.V.G Edwins, said: “We had clearly established, through various pictures, how erosion is happening all along the coast and, as such, the erosion near the golf course is not due to any specific activity of our company in the area.

“However, we always believe in good neigbourliness and, since you presumed that our presence next to your property is the cause of the erosion in your property, we decided to execute restoration work.

“To our utter surprise, your resort has willfully and persistently refused to allow us to construct a temporary access from our area of operation to carry out restoration on your property.

“We are deeply dismayed that our gesture of goodwill, as a good neighbour to maintain peaceful and cordial relationship is neither being understood nor appreciated by your resort.

“Under this circumstance, we hereby put you on notice that if we are prevented from creating access to your site to restore your shore, we would cease to make any further efforts, having made our best efforts to please and assist our neighbour, even though we were neither the cause nor the source of your problem.”

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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