If legal action against Eko Atlantic in Nigeria goes ahead it could be the beginning of the end for Africa’s most controversial eco city

Eko Atlantic, a city off the coast of Nigeria whose “whole purpose”, its developers say, is to “arrest the ocean’s encroachment,” has had it’s share of controversy since construction kicked off, but a new class action suit could be enough to bring the development to its knees.

Like many low-lying coastal African countries, Nigeria struggles with the impact of rising sea-levels. To defend against the coastal erosion and flooding, the city is being surrounded by the “Great Wall of Lagos” – a sea defence barrier made of 100,000 five-ton concrete blocks. Eko Atlantic will be a “sustainable city, clean and energy efficient with minimal carbon emissions,” offer jobs, prosperity and new land for Nigerians, and fight against the impacts of climate change.

But the plaintiff in the suit, Mondinvest Limited, is seeking in excess of R150 million as general damages from the three contractors handling the project, for alleged destruction of its property due to the defendants’ ocean dredging activities. Mondivest also wants to prevent the developers of Eko Atlantic from further dredging, sand-filling or reclaiming of the the Kuramo portion of the Atlantic Ocean pending the determination of the suit.

The Guardian has much to say of the development when construction kicked off in 2014. “In congested Lagos, Africa’s largest city, there is little employment and millions work and scavenge in a vast, desperate informal economy. Sixty percent of Nigeria’s population – almost 100 of 170 million people – live on less than a dollar a day. Preventable diseases are widespread and electricity and clean water hard to come by. A few kilometres down the Lagos shoreline, Nigerians eke out an existence in the aquatic slum of Makoko, built precariously on stilts over the ocean. Casting them as crime-ridden, the government regularly dismantles such slums, bulldozing homes and evicting thousands. These are hardly the people who will scoop up square footage in Eko Atlantic’s pricy new high-rises.

Those behind the project – a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, and a slew of African and international banks – give a picture of who will be catered to. Gilbert Chaougry was a close advisor to the notorious Nigerian dictatorship of the mid 1990s, helping the ultra-corrupt general Sani Abacha as he looted billions from public coffers. Abacha killed hundreds of demonstrators and executed environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who rose to fame protesting the despoiling of the country by Shell and other multinational oil corporations. Thus it’s fitting for whom the first 15-story office tower in Eko Atlantic is being built: a British oil and gas trading company. The city proposing to head off environmental devastation will be populated by those most responsible for it in the first place.”

The ruling will take place toward the end of March and should be a case to pay attention to in the coming years.

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