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Eko Atlantic City: Jonathan, Clinton Upbeat on Nigeria's tourism potential

By The Citizen
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Better days surely lie ahead of Nigeria as President Goodluck Jonathan, former United States President, Bill Clinton, and Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola, yesterday expressed the hope  that the country would soon be the choice destination for tourists across the world.

Speaking at the ceremony to commemorate the reclamation of a 5,000,000 square metres of land for the Eko Atlantic City project on Victoria Island, Lagos, the three leaders said there should be nothing to stop the country's tourism growth.

The Eko Atlantic City, according to the developers,  will involve the reclamation of about 10,000,000 square metres of land expected to lead to the construction of a 'world class city', which will house about 250,000 residents

Jonathan said the project 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 that Nigeria must embrace permanently. It took 19 years for us to win the Nation's Cup again; the trains that now run from Lagos to Kano took us another 19 years to get them back on track,' he said.

The President said the housing sector all over the world creates employment for citizens, adding that it was for this reason that the Federal Government had accorded the housing and urban development sector utmost attention.

Clinton said the city, on completion, would not only become a tourist delight for people all over the world but would contribute to the development of Nigeria's economy.

He said the city could also be home to people around the world, especially for over 10,000 people who lost their houses to hurricanes.

He said, 'I saw what happened in the US after Hurricane Katrina went wild in the city where I spent my childhood with buildings buried in water. Most recently was New York, which was hit by Hurricane Sandy with thousands of people losing their homes and lives.

'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.'

Fashola said '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. More buildings are springing up along this axis because of opportunities that lie ahead.

'When all is done, a new city will emerge from what was once a devastated area as a result of what nature cost us. Our ultimate triumph now beckons and the human spirit will prevail again. Nature has lost yet again, human spirit has won.'

Jonathan said his administration had commenced the establishment of a mortgage institution that would help in providing finance for the housing and construction sector, adding that the institution would be called the Nigerian Mortgage and Finance Corporation.

'The Nigerian Mortgage Finance Corporation will have partners that will include the Federal Government, Nigerian local banks, savings and loans institutions and the World Bank which is providing construction credit of $200m.

'We want to make sure that houses are available for those who want to rent or build as well as those in real estate business, so that people can have access to cheap funds and have their own houses,' he said.

The president emphasised that the housing and construction sectors were important component of the country's Gross Domestic Products, saying the challenges in the housing and construction sectors cut across a number of areas.

The areas include access to finance, property tax loan, and high cost of building materials, among others.