Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city, has become synonymous with congestion and gridlock, which is why anybody who has a passing knowledge of the city would dismiss it as a no-go-area for lack of access.
Though gridlock is a huge challenge that cannot and should not be glossed over, there are more to Apapa’s problems than just traffic and these are the real reasons over 40 percent of houses, mostly residential, in this otherwise enviable and urbane destination is empty.
In what could be likened to locust invasion, operators of commercial motorcycles (otherwise called ‘Okada’), Keke Marwa or tricycles, and Danfo (mini-buses) have invaded the port city, creating security issues that put residents and business owners on edge and scaring prospective renters or home buyers.
“It is an intriguing contradiction that in a port city whose economy is in excess of N20 billion a day, where a number of businesses are dying, the only industry that is thriving is ‘okada’ riding because other means of movement have been impaired by collapsed roads infrastructure, mindless and indiscriminate parking of trailers and tankers on all roads and bridges,” Emmanuel Ameke, a port worker, noted in an interview.
The failure of the Lagos State government to do what it is supposed to do by outlawing commercial activities in the area, including mechanics, vulcanisers, people frying bean cakes (akara) or roasting plantain (boli), has led to the degrading of the environment which, in turn, has led to a significant reduction in property value.
“Vacancy rate in Apapa has risen significantly by almost 50 percent and this is because there are no new investments in that part of town,” Chudi Ubosi, an estate surveyor and valuer, told BusinessDay.
Ubosi said Apapa was in the league of Ikeja GRA, but whereas a standard plot of land in Ikeja GRA goes for between N150 million and N200 million, a seller of the same size of land in Apapa would struggle to get N100 million as price for the property.
An estate manager who identified himself simply as Uche agrees, explaining that the only people who are still in Apapa are those who have their children in school there or whose businesses are located in that area.
Uche, who said he has been doing real estate business in Apapa in the last two decades, noted that property value in Apapa has come down to a point where a buyer can easily get 2,500 square metres for as ‘low’ as N150 million.
Though this offers investment opportunity for savvy investors, Uche said, “The situation is as bad as that.” He pointed out that house rents have also dropped significantly, from N5 million per annum two years ago to between N3 million and N3.5 million. “In some locations within the GRA, you can rent a house for N2.5 million per annum. And that is if you see tenants,” he said.
He blamed the Federal Government for the state of the property market in Apapa, saying that government shouldn’t have allowed the reconstruction of the Apapa-Wharf Road being undertaken by Dangote Group, Flour Mill of Nigeria and NPA to happen at the same time with the repair of Ijora Bridge, more so when the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway has been rendered impassable by trucks.
Ayo Vaughn, chairman of Apapa GRA Residents Association, in an interview with BusinessDay lamented how the situation in Apapa was denying property owners rental income, estimating that 40 percent of the entire buildings in the Apapa GRA were empty.
“On the average, 10 houses are empty on any given street. With about N5 million house rent per annum, it means that on one street alone, income loss for the five-year period is about N250 million,” he said.
Vaughn lamented further that “in spite of this ugly situation, Lagos State government still collects tenement rates from Apapa residents and expects them to pay same as payable in Ikoyi and Ikeja GRA”.