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Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway: Go Back To Original Plan, It’s Win-Win for Everyone, Landmark’s Onwuanibe Tells FG

Landmark’s Onwuanibe says government won’t have to reclaim land or pay compensation if the Lagos-Calabar highway reverts to original plan.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of Landmark Group, Paul Onwuanibe, has said that the Nigerian government should return the construction of the coastal road to the original alignment that was planned for it before it was moved to the path of Landmark beachfront.

The Lagos State government had earlier issued a 7-day evacuation notice and demolition notice to Landmark Beach Resort, saying that the property is in the way of a 700 kilometre Coastal road that will link Lagos to Calabar.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, Landmark’s CEO Onwuanibe however revealed that in the original plans for the coastal road, the road was meant to start from a different path – Water Corporation Drive- before it was changed to pass through Landmark Beach Resort.

He then asked that the government go back to the original alignment, as the original plan will not only save businesses that will be destroyed as a result of the revised plan, but also save money and manpower for the government.

Onwuanibe said, “The original alignment of the coastal road was Water Corporation Road. I mean, you had the picture on your screen, and it actually showed quite clearly the Water Corporation Road, the two feed in lanes, and then the medium that was meant to house it. Then there’s landmark, and there’s the beach, and there’s the sea. The alignment was changed from Water Corporation Road to run- so instead if it running on the land side of Landmark, it’s going to run on the beach side of Landmark. 

“So, that’s where this issue came up, it’s that the alignment was changed. Our request is simply go back to the original alignment, nothing wrong with it. What’s going to happen is that it goes back to Water Corporation, and then it’s a win-win for everyone. They’re seeking to put it on the beachfront, and just immediately after Landmark, it turns back and goes back to the original alignment.

In his request for the return of the coastal road plan to its original alignment, Onwuanibe said, “It saves our business, and also obviously saves the government what I believe is a lot of money, because there is a stretch of road that you don’t have to reclaim land for, you don’t have to do all that engineering, and you don’t have to destroy businesses or even talk about compensation here.”

The Landmark CEO however said that he is in support of the coastal road’s construction, saying, “What a coastal road does, it enhances tourism, it accelerates tourism, it puts tourism on steroids. And what it does, it connects the coast, connects different tourism entities, and allows people to move across a city, a country, or a coastline. So, this is a fantastic idea, how one can fund it and deliver it and realise it and ensure that it enhances the businesses rather than destroy the businesses along it. But more importantly, we want to survive, and with this coastal road that is built, we will thrive. But it does take time.”

Describing his reaction to the evacuation letter sent by the Lagos State government, he said, “It’s absurd when you see a letter like that that says, someone has built something over 17 years and pulls three and a half thousand people, over four million visitors that come here every year or three and a half million visitors that come every year, and you give them 7 days to evacuate. I couldn’t evacuate my bedroom in 7 days.”

Onwuanibe, hoping for a resolution to this challenge faced by Landmark, said, “I started Landmark 27 years ago in the UK in Europe. We’ve worked in several different countries. 

We brought Landmark to Lagos in 2003, brought this site in 2007, and in the last 17 years we’ve put everything into it. And when I say everything, I mean everything into it. So, it’s touched a lot of lives, and most importantly, it’s ripped out my life, this is my life’s work. So obviously, it’s important that I tell the story and I stay here and sort of defend and figure out a win-win.”

Onwuanibe further said the issue goes beyond monetary compensation even as he hopes for a win-win situation at the end of the day.

“There were no forms of discussions before the notices were sent out. In several discussions, compensation issues have arisen, and people are aware of the protocols and processes for compensation in issues like this. But I want to make it clear this is not an issue of compensation or money. I think, whatever decision is made, I think the wisdom of Solomon needs to be applied. This needs to be a win-win.”

Acknowledging the coastal highway as a great idea that will enhance tourism, the GCEO also highlighted the significance of Landmark as a business hub which has evolved over 17 years to become a premier destination on the West African coast.

He also cited the numerous investments that have gone in, efforts, and the dedication of thousands of staff members that have made the business become what it is.

“I’ve gone on record; I think the coastal road project is a fantastic project. It’s there to enhance tourism of this terrain. I would also like to believe that the ladies and gentlemen and people out there have enjoyed Landmark and what we have brought to the nation in terms of several things. And I’d like to believe that it can survive alongside this, because we are ground zero, we are in the first one and a half kilometres of this 700-kilometre road.”

“We bought the site in 2007, so it’s a long time ago, 17 years. And over the last 17 years, we’ve developed that site over stages and tried to provide what we believe is the biggest and the best, but certainly the most visited business leisure and lifestyle destination in the West African coast. This has taken time, a lot of money, a lot of effort, and a lot of people- we have a staff of three and a half to four thousand people who apply themselves, so these are real families.

“But even more importantly, quite a few years ago, I took my entire team to Dubai just to learn and understand how to put tourism projects like this together, and we’ve seen the fruit of that labour. So, I think that’s important.

“Now, over the period of time, we’ve had several different developments, so we’ve sought planning consent, building permits, I think four different times. Once in 2007 when we built the towers and then when we built the event centre, and then when we built our retail boulevard and then lastly, when we built the water view apartments which are currently going up. So, yes, everybody is aware that we have our ducks in a row, and I think maybe there’s some more conversations to be had.”

He also outlined the efforts that are in place to address the issue, stating that there would be a stakeholders’ meeting in a couple of days in that regard.

“They’re progressing, and we’re speaking obviously to the federal ministry of works, we’ve engaged with the federal ministry of tourism, Lagos state ministry of tourism, Lagos state government at some of the high levels, we’ve met with the planning team, the planning commission, and the infrastructure team, so these talks go on. In a couple of days, there is a stakeholder’s meeting as well.”

Chioma Kalu and Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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