Hinting that you are visiting Banana Island in Ikoyi, Lagos, not only sparks curiosity, it also invites envy.
Owning land on this island is a reserve for the super-rich as a plot normally goes for between Sh4 billion to Sh6 billion.
Sitting on the peripheries of Ikoyi where the obscenely wealthy reside, this artificial island is a place of unrivalled opulence and grandeur.
While the rest of Lagos is ranting about regular and random power outages, poor infrastructure, the inhabitants of the island are enjoying 24-hour power supply thanks to underground electrical systems.
This gated community also enjoys extremely tight security, well maintained water systems, roads and green surrounding. Banana Island is Nigeria’s most extravagant and expensive neighbourhood, rivalling the likes of 7th Arrondissement in Paris —home of the Eiffel Tower and La Jolla in San Diego, California.
Among renowned individuals with homes on Banana Island is Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Niger’s newest billionaire Mike Adenuga renowned musicians Davido and P Square as well as Iyabo Obasanjo, the daughter of former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo.
According to Forbes Africa magazine, it is also a safe haven for corrupt government officials and their concubines.
Opulence greets you right from the time you get into the highly guarded main entrance. An estate embossed in bold green fonts on a large polished stone sits right outside the gate.
Uniformed guards manning the gate will not grant you access unless you show proof of your reason for visit and the person you are coming to see confirms as such.
I was privileged to stay at an Olive Court on Banana Island, during my recent tour in Lagos, the commercial city of Nigeria. Any first timer on Banana Island cannot fail to notice fresh air which is a far cry from the heavy oil-laden atmosphere that characterises Lagos city centre.
This reclaimed island sitting on 1.6 million square metres is a planned, mixed development with dedicated areas for residential, commercial and recreational activities. One cannot build a house that is more than three storeys. The average cost of buying a three bedroom apartment is Sh206 million and rent goes for about Sh15.4 million per annum.
The island area is divided into 536 plots, which are mainly arranged along brick-paved cul-de-sacs (streets/passage close at the end) with clear signage for structures.
Austine, a manager at the apartments where I was staying, said during a drive around the island that everything from design to finish is a careful and deliberate plan, strategy and execution by the founders.
“There is a residential committee that oversees all activities in the neighbourhood, which includes approving drawings for construction works. Nobody moves to site until the drawings are approved,” he said.
Banana Island was the brainchild of the late Chief Adebayo Adeleke, a University of London-trained civil engineer. His intention from the onset was to create a development that would “make Nigeria proud”.
Today, the island not only boasts of working infrastructure and systems, it has one of the highest density of millionaires within its precincts.