Bennett Oghifo writes that this is the best time for high-flying Nigerians in the Diaspora to come home to make an exciting difference. One of such success stories is 360 Degrees Towers being built by a highly regarded developer Femi Osibona, who returned to Nigeria recently, bringing back his wealth of experience and technical know-how in the development of intelligent homes
Nigerians in the Diaspora who are experts in their host countries in various fields can come home to set up their dream projects if they are certain of the right investment turf. They have definitely heard unfortunate stories of people who dared and got their fingers burnt and this could be discouraging. Regardless, this is motherland, which means they must take that bold step as did the promoter of 360 Degrees Towers, three fine pieces of high-rise, real estate, being built on Gerald Road by Fourscore Homes, whose Chief Executive Officer is Olufemi Adegoke Osibona, popularly known as Femi FOURSCORE, a Diasporan with landmark developments in the United Kingdom, South Africa and in the United States of America and from the look of things, has presented something excitingly different in the high-priced Ikoyi enclave.
Real estate market buzz has it that the iconic towers have been over-subscribed, but it was not thrown open to just any client because prospective buyers were profiled to ensure the right clientele. Located at 44B, C & D Gerald Road, 360 Degrees Towers presents very unique features, which instantly attract attention. The towers will encompass smart homes, imbued with accessories controlled with artificial intelligence. There are virtual offices for homeowners and five star board rooms, among others.
Osibona, who reluctantly discussed the project and the reach of his company in Nigeria and overseas, said Fourscore Homes is a member of the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council) in South Africa and Zurich Building Guarantee in Europe, as part of the company’s presence overseas. His company specialises in the building of choice properties in different parts of the world, Osibona said. “We have exhibited our expertise in property development in the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United States of America and Nigeria. Fourscore Homes possesses uncommon capabilities in redefining property development in any market we choose to play in.”
Fourscore Homes has an enviable track record built by Osibona, better known as “Femi Fourscore”. The company began its foray into real estate in the United Kingdom before branching out to South Africa and later Nigeria. In 2009, when Brig-General Buba Marwa (rtd) was the Nigerian High Commissioner in South Africa, Fourscore Homes built six luxury units called Fourscore Mansions in Waterkloof, a very exclusive neighbourhood in Pretoria.
Femi FOURSCORE was also the first African developer to deliver a seven-storey building in the United Kingdom. The property called Fourscore Mansion is located at 113, Albion Drive London Fields, E8, 4LZ, East London. Not only that, he was the first black developer of African origin to build other projects in the UK.
The company’s real estate business started in Hackney, London in 1997. “I was one of the people whose real estate developments led to the growth of East London. I bought a house on New Cross Road and renovated it. I also bought a piece of land behind it and built two flats there, and that is what I will call my first real estate project. That was how I started building houses for sale. Renowned Juju music maestro, Ebenezer Obey visited the property when he was in London.”
Osibona said prior to making a foray into real estate, he sold clothes and shoes for a living in London. “I started selling shoes in July, 1991 after I finished my HND in the UK, and later sold suits but I stopped in 1998 and I started real estate development and purchase of property in 1997. The popular Pastor Ashimolowo never ceases to talk about the testimony and rise of Osibona. I also noticed that many Nigerians at that time were reluctant to go into construction but I believed anything was possible with God on my side.
“I built over 50 projects in London and Manchester and from there, went to South Africa where I built a number of estates.” After developing so many properties abroad, Osibona said he decided to come back to Nigeria to contribute positively to the nation’s real estate development. Osibona also started building in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 2016. “In all the projects abroad, we buy land and develop and I am the builder, I don’t engage any builder. I was in Atlanta for only four months before I decided to buy land. It is the same procedure in housing development and if you have done it in one country, then you can do it in another because it is the same principle.”
Apart from developing residential homes, Fourscore also deals in residential light fittings and other building materials. “We are really passionate about value creation, we want everyone who purchases real estate from us to derive maximum value for their money. To achieve this, we go out of our way to ensure we chaperone the entire process from design to completion, ensuring that we adhere to best practice while minimising our costs. This way, we are able to deliver high quality units at the best value for money.”
360 Degrees is strictly a residential facility that evolved from Osibona’s desire to do something unique, indeed, something that has never been done in Nigeria. The concept is to have serviced flats in the three towers and for residents to experience a stress-free lifestyle, complete with a hotel flair. “What we want to achieve is to have people live in their homes as if they’re living in a 7-star hotel. There is security with access control from the entrance on Gerald Road and there is another security post when coming into the buildings. Electricity will be guaranteed 24 hours a day and there will be cleaning and gardening around the estate, as well as housekeeping/concierge services for those who desire it.”
The design and rendition is targeted at people that are too busy to concern themselves with anything else, Osibona said. “This development will give peace of mind and comfort to the residents, because everything works.”
On the first floor is a suspended platform that serves as a recreational area where residents can unwind and hold a small party, if they wish. Also, there is a five-star lobby where residents can host friends and family members, without compromising their privacy. The towers have various house types: Maisonettes of about 420sqms each on three floors; penthouses on two floors; and four-bedroom flats on one floor, with each flat as large as 400sqms – almost twice the size of most flats in other developments in Ikoyi. The penthouses are about 600sqms to 800sqms.
The homes in 360 Degrees Towers, better described as ‘Luxury in the Sky’, are being sold off-plan and directly to people who intend to live there, Osibona said, explaining that “90 per cent of people that have bought from us are those that own houses. However, what is happening now is that most people with big, single unit dwellings are now cutting down for several reasons: Their children have left the nest, most of them are in their 50s and they want to really enjoy their lives and are looking for a place that is secure with no headache. Imagine living in a hotel where your money works for you.”
Land in Ikoyi is highly priced and that is the reason most developers in Ikoyi do all that is necessary to put their money’s worth on the ground and traces of these accomplishments can be seen on both sides of the dual carriageway from Osborne Foreshore through Alfred Rewane Road (former Kingsway Road) to the foot of Falomo Bridge. Turn into Bourdillon Road to see other beautiful buildings, a mix of office spaces and head-spinning residential apartment buildings.
A good number of sturdy pieces of commercial and mixed-use real estate line Alfred Rewane, some evergreen in their rendition like the Kingsway Towers, Mulliner Towers and Heritage Place, the upcoming Famfa Towers and the Dangote HQ, British-America Tobacco building, Rising Sun, Alliance Place, One 6 Temple, among others.
Leaving Alfred Rewane, taller apartment buildings dot the landscape along Bourdillon, Lugard, Alexander and Gerald Roads. Joining the multitude, are the three towers of 360 Degrees, which are already up, rising up to 15 floors and are being serviced by a busy crane. The construction wrappers of the towers, which look like body-hugs, are attention grabbers. Also intriguing is the fact that the towers enjoy very good setback from the road, a feature that shields it from busy and noisy traffic on Gerald Road.
360 Degrees Towers are an improvement on whatever structure that has been built in Ikoyi, according to Osibona. “The buildings that can compare with ours is Number 4 Bourdillion where three bedroom flats and above sell for $1.9 million to $7 million. There is also The Belmonte where apartments go from about $1.7 million upwards. These are on Bourdillion and they are the two properties that can be compared with ours, and our prices are very competitive.”
However, there is an exciting difference that stands 360 Degrees out of the crowd, according to Osibona. “You need to understand something. Anywhere in the world, nobody wants to live on a very busy road, but we also understand that Gerald-Bourdillion Roads are some of the most expensive locations in Africa. So, we are very lucky that we are on Gerald Road but we have a very long setback of about 200 metres. The implication is that you’re living in a place where you can open your windows and take in breathtaking views but without noise because the building is not smack on the road. Our entrance is on the road but you will need to drive for about 200 metres to get to the parking lot. The setback is our main selling point.”
Added to this is that from the buildings, residents would have scenic views of the Lagos lagoon, the Atlantic Ocean, neighbouring estates such as Banana Island and Parkview, Osborne Road and the Third Mainland Bridge, as well as the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge, among other interesting sights in Lagos.
An issue that becomes very contentious with projects of this nature is parking which can be a challenge with the prosperity of the residents. This would not be an issue said the promoter of 360 Degrees, as they are building more than 160 spaces for vehicles of residents and their visitors, even when parties are being hosted and with appropriate landscaping with rich green areas. The facility also has water and sewage treatment plants, as well as private and public power sources.
Another unique feature of the development is that at the entrance, there is a huge aquarium on the driveway and can be viewed at both the entrance and exit gates of the property. There is provision for water fountains at strategic positions on the property. The towers are expected to be completed at the end of next year, Osibona said, and that as things stand, his firm has sold over 50 per cent of the apartments.
“The advantage of buying off-plan is that you’re buying at a discounted price and it always appreciates. You have to understand something about Nigeria; people say the market is not moving but if you do something that is interesting and unique, then people will buy. I guarantee you that. The market doesn’t bother us, we have always been selling. Remember this is not my first development, I did Nos. 2-4 Mosley Road – The Shalom Apartments in Ikoyi, which we built in 2010. It has 40 flats with common facilities like a swimming pool, gymnasium, and the estate is powered 24 hours a day amid tight security. The low-density facility is occupied by high net worth personalities. It was sold out.”
Funding and Engineering
Real estate developers all concede that funding is a major issue that must be taken seriously. Osibona said 360 Degrees is being built through venture capital and from off-plan sales, which is doing very well because of his company’s track record in the industry. The project is being developed by expatriate project managers, he pointed out, adding “two of them are from England and two from South Africa”.
Osibona plans to build another high-rise building of 25 floors on Gerald Road, adding that there is keen competition for the development of skyscrapers in Lagos.
Fourscore Homes also has plans for more accessible housing on the mainland, specifically at Isheri. But they had some challenges that are being resolved. “We are trying to tackle the water challenges in the area,” Osibona said.
Fourscore Homes had secured approval for the development of 420 flats and another set of 110 flats also in Isheri North, less than a minute’s walk from the popular Isheri North estate built by the Lagos State Government, about a three-minute drive from Shoprite, a three-minute drive from the newly built fire station, and two minutes away from the police station, making it the ideal residential estate for prospective homeowners and investors in the property market. The facility is to be built on five hectares of prime land and each flat will occupy 133sqm.
Cost-effectiveness rules in the real estate market, which is why the talk is always about the bottom-line. While profit is cool, Osibona is also not new to philanthropy, as background checks revealed that he built and donated three buildings for Little Saints Orphanage at No. 15 Joe Ona Agbato Close, Ogudu Garden Valley G.R.A. He also visits and feeds orphans monthly and has an annual feeding programme at Ikenne Ijebu, his hometown. By his nature, he derives more pleasure giving than receiving, saying, “Most of my developments have always enjoyed the favour of God.”
A graduate of Croydon University in the UK where he studied Business and Finance, Osibona before proceeding overseas for his undergraduate studies, had his primary education in Lagos and his secondary education at the prestigious Mayflower Secondary School, Ikene, Ogun State.
Nigerians in the Diaspora and at home need to get reprieve from the government, particularly from the scourge of multiple taxation that tends to be predatory. An investor from the Diaspora once said the government in Nigeria budgets on the anticipated earnings of the citizens, particularly on the earnings of the business community. Governments in progressive countries fund the private sector for economic growth, because it is government’s responsibility to see to the welfare of the nation.