President Goodluck Jonathan and former American president, Bill Clinton, were two of the main speakers at a Lagos event on Thursday.
At an event to commemorate the reclamation of 5 million square metres of land at the emerging Eko Atlantic City in Victoria Island, Lagos, Mr. Jonathan said that the Atlantic City Initiative was another major addition to the nation’s resolve to promote tourism through public and private partnership.
“This landmark event is continuing the good news narrative that Nigeria must embrace permanently.
“It took 19 years for us to win the Nations Cup again; the trains that now run from Lagos to Kano took us another 19 years to get them back on track,” the president said.
“And in this same year preceding our centenary, we are gathered here to witness the ground breaking of a modern city that will rise from the Atlantic bed in the commercial nerve-centre of our beloved Lagos.
“This is good news indeed,” he added.
He said that the housing sector all over the world created employment for citizens and this was why the Federal Government had accorded the housing and urban development sector priority attention.
“Its huge potential have been the engine of growth and sustainable development. To this end, the enabling framework for kick-starting the privatisation of this sector is now being put in place.
“As part of the overall transformation agenda, this administration is committed to harnessing the potential, organising the construction sector as an important growth area for the economy,” the president said.
Mr. Jonathan emphasised that the housing and construction sectors were important components in Gross Domestic Product.
He said that the challenges in the housing and construction sector cut across a number of areas, including access to finance, property tax loan and high cost of building materials.
“I am pleased to announce that we have commenced work on establishing Nigerian Mortgage Finance Corporation (NMFC).
“This corporation will help to provide finance for the housing and construction sector. The corporation will be private sector led. It will be established as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement,” the president said.
“The partners will include the Federal Government, Nigeria local banks, savings and loans institution and the most important institution is the World Bank, which is providing constructional credit of 300 million dollars,” he added.
The president said the NMFC, in the new arrangement, would be able to approach the capital market to raise long term fund. He said that the intention was to ensure that funds were available for those who intended to build for commercial purposes.
He said this would be “most especially for private mortgage institution so that if anyone wants to buy a house, one will be able to access cheap funds.
“We expect that this will provide more liquidity for the housing and construction sector.”
A former President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, said that the city when completed, would not only create a tourist delight but contribute to the development of Nigeria’s economy.
“I want to thank the government and the developer for building this city. They have reclaimed five million square metres of the land initially lost to the sea.
“That marks the beginning of this amazing wall, the Great Wall of Lagos. I am convinced that within five years, people will be coming from all over the world to see this wall,’’ he said.
Describing the city as an ingenious engineering feat, Mr. Clinton said it could also be home to people around the world.
“I spent more than two years as UN special envoy after the horrible Tsunami. I saw what happened in America. Hurricane Katharina went wild in the city where I spent my childhood with buildings buried in water because they were not prepared.
“And most recently, my state in New York was hit by Hurricane Sandy in which thousands of people lost their homes and many lives lost.
“These people will come to Nigeria. People want to live near the water where they can have a feel of nature. You have provided a beautiful option to brand the city, the state and the nation.
“The shape of the stones of the Great Wall shows the understanding of how the water reacts; people will come from all over the world to study the wall,’’ he said.
On his part, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State commended his predecessor in office, Bola Tinubu, for his foresight to kick-start the project.
He said the occasion was another victory for human commitment.
“Although it is not finished, it is already a success story. The road that was lost to the coastal erosion is back and now motorable.
“The buildings that were deserted are now occupied. Somebody’s values have been restored and multiplied,” he said.
The event attracted dignitaries from all walks of life, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun.
Others were former Governors of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, Ndubuisi Kanu and Mr. Tinubu; as well as former Governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; and renowned industrialist, Aliko Dangote.