A word-class golf course is currently being constructed in Lagos State. Caterina Bortolussi spoke to Ibukun Akin Fakeye, the Managing Director of Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resort Limited.
Please give an overview of the Lekki Beach Golf Resort and the current status of development.
Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resort was formed to develop the Lekki Beach Golf Resort, and right now work is in progress – this is what Nigerians have been looking forward to having in this country.
Construction started in July 2007. Initially we had problems with importing all of our equipment, but as of now, we have 90% of our equipment on the ground and work is in progress. We have cleared almost all the land and are working on some artificial lakes, including two existing natural lakes. As regards the golf course, shaping is completed on holes 14, 15, 16, E5 and E6, and it is ready for the installation of irrigation equipment.
Who initiated the Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resort?
I did. It is shocking to know that Lagos State, with its population, has only one 18-hole golf course. Harare in Zimbabwe has up to 17. I started nursing my desire to build a golf course about 12 years ago. I realised it was going to be a massive project.
Getting the support of the government wasn't easy and it took about seven years to convince the previous administration of the need for a championship golf course and the associated benefits to the nation. It is worth the interest and time of the government because Lagos is very congested. The only way we can decongest these areas is to take development into other areas. It was not until 2005 that the governor granted us approval and the land for the project.
During my search for architects, I zeroed in on an international golf course architect in America called Ron Garl. He has designed over 200 golf courses, 80 of which are in Florida. He has also designed golf courses in Thailand and Canada, and is presently doing a project in China.
Is Ocean Beach privately owned?
It is a public private partnership project. The Lagos State Government owns 20%, represented by the 400 acres of land. In order for the project to be completed, government also assisted in providing additional funding of US$20-million. This will be paid back as soon as corporate members start paying their refundable membership fee of US$250 000. We will be taking a maximum of 100 corporate members.
Will you be organising boats for transportation to the golf course?
Yes we will. We are going to have our own boats and also expect others to complement our efforts in the business of transportation. Members will be encouraged to have their own boats. The 100 corporate members will be allocated a plot of land on the lagoon side to build a corporate home should their foreign counterparts come visiting. There will also be a Techno Park.
When you say Techno Park, what exactly do you mean?
A Techno Park is knowledge-based complex and home for IT companies, petrochemical research, medical research and service-based industry, and also provides eco-tourism opportunities where people study the environment and find means of protecting, preserving and maintaining it. We want to make sure that the community in which we are operating is not left damaged.
At Lekki Beach Golf Resort we aim to create a balance between land use for industrial as well as for eco-tourism next to each other.
What about the hotels and recreation centres? Are you looking for investors?
There are plenty of opportunities for investing partners here. We are already working with an American resort architect for the master plan. At the moment we are concentrating on the golf course, from the shaping of holes to the grassing of the golf course before embarking on the other projects.
Who is going to finance the project?
The company is going to follow the joint-finance route in completing the project, after the resort architect has designed a master plan for the resort. Then we will organise a forum where investors will be given the opportunity to signify their risk-profit interest.
What are the investment opportunities in the golf course resort?
We believe the returns will be enormous. There are investment opportunities in the in-residence hotels and the associated facilities, and also the village shop with specialised retail outlets, pharmacy and art and craft, as well as the restaurant, which will be a combination of both continental and local cuisine.
Do you think the golf course and resort development will have a broader impact on Lagos?
In order for us to compete favourably with South Africa in producing world-class golf champions, we need to build a world-class golf course with an academy that can compare with the best in the world. Our agreement with the Lagos State Government is to develop and equip similar academies in each of the local government areas in Lagos State where we will organise training clinics for children. With these things in place we can also produce world-class golf champions who will be able to compete internationally.