The many checkpoints mounted by officers and other personnel of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) welcome a first time visitor to Badagry, an ancient community of Lagos and a border town to Benin Republic and Ghana.
Beyond the scary presence of the eagle-eyed officers mounting surveillance on illegal immigrantsand smugglers, as well as importers of illegal goods, Badagry is an ancient community which history dates back to the 15th century.
It is also a relic of Nigeria’s chequered past, being the centre of slave trade in Africa in the early 1800.
Badagry also holds the ace in hosting Nigeria’s first educational system as a British colony with the establishment of the St. Thomas Anglican Nursery and Primary School.
The first storey building in Nigeria was also located in Badagry. It was built by the missionaries.
Up till today, colonial relics flood the community, making it a dominant tourist site in Nigeria. More dominant is the slave cell, known as the Brazilian Baracoon, which is a major attraction for tourists.
Visitors to the cell can only imagine the savagery, cruelty and man’s inhumanity to man that were the features of the slave trade system.
The cell has 40 rooms, which are like cubicles, and accommodated 40 inmates each.
It is indeed a tourist destination as people from far and near troop to the Baracoon, owned by the late Chief Seriki Williams Faremi Abbass, a slave who became a slave merchant.
His family members still run the museum up till today.
The community presents scary memories of how the white slave masters cheaply exchanged men for items. For example, 40 slaves were exchanged for an umbrella, a medium-sized mirror for 20 persons, and so on.
Beyond the relics of slave trade, Badagry’s historical landscape is fast changing.
This is going by recent developments, including the discovery of oil in Aje, a district within the community, which has made Lagos officially an oil producing state.
Also, the planned establishment of the largest seaport in Badagry by the state government has contributed to the rapid transformation of the community from a slave trade centre to one of the economic bases of Nigeria.
The expected transformation is, however, taken with mixed feelings by members of the community following what they called years of neglect by successive governments, both at the centre and the state.
They said that despite the presence of the Seriki Williams Abbass Museum in the community, which attracts tourists from far and near, it does not attract the required attention from the government in terms of development projects.
Members of the Seriki Williams family are angry at the failure of government to develop the tourist centre.
They said the little token collected from visitors is used to maintain the museum.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that the street hosting the museum, and the first storey building in the community, are littered with dirt.
It is also believed that government has not fully tapped the tourism potentials in Badagry.
Members of the community wondered why many projects such as a resort, the road linking the Point of No Return, among others, have been abandoned.
A tourist guide, Simon Stone Eyanam, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the expectations of the people from the government were enormous.
He said many tourists to Badagry were often disappointed at the state of development in the community.
“Let me say the government is trying, but their best is not enough. As a tour guide I can authoritatively tell you that tourists are always disappointed at the level of development in Badagry.
“They have been trying to build a resort here, but the project has been there for more than four years. I don’t know what is really happening to the project.
“The road project to the Point of No Return, where slaves were finally moved to the Atlantic Ocean for onward movement to Europe, has also been abandoned.
“That hotel project at your left hand side has also been abandoned. That is the problem we have been having; so government should do more.
Another problem we have is that the environment is dirty. There is supposed to be a bin where people would dump their refuse.
“This centre was commissioned as a national monument; and you can see the state of a national monument.
“There is the need to keep the environment clean so that it would be attractive to tourists. The little money we collect from people is what we use in maintaining this place,” Eyanam said.
He, however, believes that the discovery of oil in the community would change the face of Badagry.
Lagos as an oil producing state
Recently, Lagos was pronounced as one of the oil producing states in the country.
As a result of this, the federal government approved a monthly payment of 13 per cent derivation for the state.
The discovery of oil in Badagry was a result of painstaking exploration activities by an indigenous oil firm, the Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company, which spanned over 25 years.
The new status of Lagos was also confirmed by the working visit of the members of the Indices and Disbursement Committee of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The committee, led by its chairman, Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed, embarked on the visit to verify the production of crude oil and gas at the Aje oil wells for the purpose of disbursing the 13 per cent derivation fund to the state in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The commissioner for energy and mineral resources in the state, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, explained that the state government would depend on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for authorisation and certification before carrying out production.
He added that government would fully involve international bodies.
He further said the discovery of hydrocarbon (offshore) is also a step to attracting exploration activities to the Dahomey basin area and boost the revenue profile of the country and Lagos State, as well as generate employment and positively impact on both the formal and informal sectors of the nation.
Oluwo noted that the proposed Dangote refinery at the Lekki Free Trade Zone would also be on stream to complement oil production by the Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company.
He said the commencement of crude oil production from Aje and other prospective fields would be leveraged through the state’s Ibile Oil and Gas Corporation.
“This milestone has occurred at a very critical period in the continued effort of the current administration to advance the state to a modern mega city status that can compete with most industrial, commercial hubs in the world,” he said.
However, experts have cautioned against repeating the mistakes of the Niger Delta, where oil boom has virtually become an oil doom, going by the seemingly unending militancy in the region.
Mr. Martins Ogaga, a Lagos-based financial expert, described the current development as a blessing for Lagos West as it has not developed in the same pace as other parts of the state.
He said: “What we are hoping to witness with this discovery is the metamorphosis of Badagry.
The government must begin to tinker with the idea of an oil producing area development commission that would begin now to articulate a holistic master plan for that area, which is intended with the strategic long term goal of Lagos.
This commission would also ensure that it understudies the behaviour of oil companies in the Niger Delta and draw important lessons that we must avoid in Badagry.”
He said that given the increased business activities that would take place in that part of the state, government should revisit the expansion of the Lagos-Badagry-Seme road to aid smooth vehicular movement.
He called on the people to close ranks and ensure they speak with one voice on what their priority as a people would be. “It is only in such atmosphere that the oil companies and the government can engage them in meaningful dialogue on how to develop Badagry,” he said.
The Lagos State government said it was not unmindful of the fact that the production of oil in the state may bring about pollution and environmental issues, which the state is taking cognizance of to avoid the Niger Delta experience.
The commissioner said the state government would carry the Office of Civic Engagement along to educate the residents of Lagos on the development.
“The truth of the matter is that there might be pollution and community issues.
“We have been studying the Niger Delta to know how far they have operated.
“Lagos stands at the threshold of a new era and holds the key to a new era of oil production. A clean environment and human capacity development can be achieved through the radical provision of infrastructure and technological advancements,” he added.
Prior to the glad tidings about the oil discovery, there had been a discussion on the proposed Badagry deep seaport and the expansion of the Lagos-Badagry expressway, which is expected to come on stream before 2019.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had, in July 2015, said work would commence in September on the proposed seaport, alongside the 10-lane expressway project.
He said the proposed deep seaport was an investment dear to the state in terms of job creation and development of new settlements and towns.
According to him, it is expected to occupy a land mass of over 1,000 hectares and would be the biggest in Africa.
But there are fresh concerns about the proposed deep seaport. Some of these concerns are dwindling revenue and land related issues.
Investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that those promoting the project might face several challenges, including sourcing for the over $2 billion needed to complete it.
Though a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, the proposed deep seaport is expected to attract some funding from the federal and state governments.
Some of the stakeholders are of the view that the federal government ought not to invest a kobo in the project other than providing the land.
Irrespective of the expected challenges, the people of Badagry are looking forward to when the project would come on stream.
While assuring the people of Badagry of the viability of the project, Governor Ambode said, “This deep seaport means a lot to us in terms of employment.
It also means a lot for us in terms of new settlement. We hope that in the next two months we would start this project here.”
Many residents and indigenes of Badagry are not anxious about the various gigantic capital intensive projects being proposed in the community.
But they look forward to having their lives transformed, with their youths gainfully employed and leaders carried along in the implementation of these projects.
It is expected that in few years to come, Badagry would have transformed from a slave trade zone to a vibrant economic centre.
Source: Daily Trust