Lagos, Badagry, Porto Novo Ahoy By Frank Meke - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Lagos, Badagry, Porto Novo Ahoy By Frank Meke

Behind and beyond the lagos back water, great discoveries abound. Indeed,. Little of the many marine tourism businesses are out there in the public space, even most socioeconomic researchers are left floundering in the dark about the many littoral resources that could change the narrative of the rural poor within and along the vast shores of Lagos water boundaries of Badagry.

There are two things most  people usually remember about the Badagry coastline,  the slave museum and monuments and the second, the iconic traditional ruler, the Akran of Badagry. Though some may vote Badagry as Nigeria's major smugglers route since it borders Seme in the Republic of Benin, the road to that frontier is dead to any cross border activity, legal and otherwise. It had been woos and bitter cry from residents and other road users for over eight years, with craters and gullies swallowing the very intrepid persons.

Even the Customs, Police, Immigration have reduced their capacity on the the human and vehicler trap called Badagry expressway.sady,  Imagination and creativity has flown away and one of the most important economic highways shut down to development.

This unbelievable scenario has made Badagry economy unattractive, even its unique and diverse Cultural and historic endowment left to swings of platitudes and to vanities of political shenanigans.

Truth be told, many lagos administrations in the past,  had failed to truly appreciate and promote the economy of Badagry. Yes, there is comparable museum of slave history but the place is beginning to give way to slothfulness and neglect.  Beautiful as the structures of preservations were, the absence of power to keep the artifacts and relics in good condition, is one the major half measures of state support here. 

Roads around the iconic Lagos tourism destination is in desrepair and begs for some touch of modernity without destroying the many strategic historical strongholds.

Let me, keep this engagement in view. Badagry is the most undiscovered gold mine today in Nigeria. It is boxed off in confusion and political fears, maybe the blood of indigenes ferried through the waters and sold off to  European slave merchants centuries  ago has a hand its socioeconomic backwardness. I just wonder!!

Tope Fajemirokun, a scion of the famous late billionaire business man, Fajemirokun, is the new "Mongo Park" of Badagry. His project" Badagry beyond the brown water economy" is an ambitious  discovery and recovery agenda to turn around the fortunes of this this tourist wonder land.

Four years ago , Fajemirokun and his Sim Top team, took the waters to change the narratives of this frontier of black history. Tope Fajemirokun knew that Badagry is a gold mine but hardly got featured in the state government economic growth agenda. It's coconut trade, fisheries and mat making creative options were left economically undefined. 

He knew he must work to support Badagry growth and brought baskets of opinion, including the palace of the Akran to a strategic restoration table to convince doubting Thomases that Badagry is not just about slavery and pains of past and present colonial neglect and exploitation.

And with the Travel and Maritime media as partners, the cheering option and reality that Badagry can be safely assessed and evidently valued through the waters gained traction.

From ikorodu, CMS and Ebute Ero jetties, the one  hour splashy drive to the city of Badagry opened up the new Vista of  rural development and growth.

The various littoral communities along this vast shoreline, bubbles at new migration of city businesses and investors. The boat Operators and of which Fajemirokun is the driving force and engine of development, thrives under the watch and support of National Inland Waterways Authority ( NIWA) and lagos Waterways Authority.   For over two years, the strict adherence to extant safety regulations has seen the reports of  accidents drop to zero level, generating confidence and patronage beyond growth projections.

Though not yet uhuru, Top Fajemirokun believes that time has come for aggressive development of Badagry with jetties saturating its many far floung Communities as enabler of rural poor empowerment.

Today and as this Column noticed on the fact finding trip to Badagry and Porto Novo, last week, the telling absence of key marine infrastructure may dampen the current private sector feverish effort to redefine the economic values and expectations of the people and nation of Badagry.

Security on the vast way is another ingredient to the recent upsurge of boat transportation traffic between Lagos and the littoral communities along and beyond Badagry. There is also the growing presence of hospitality investors, though most are indigenes, bringing knowledge and facilities back to  the city,  left unsung for decades.

The Badagry Marina Bay can do with some architectural visitations depicting local and contemporary art works, endemic to Badagry histography, however the the creativity  of the locals managing most of the waterfront resorts and recreation centers such as the iconic 02 clinic is worthy of a futuristic template.

Getting the very visible and passionate young persons manning the various configurations of boats plying the long and cross over Short routes to embrace knowledge and skills acquisition, is another strategic input by Tope Fajemirokun to the discovery of the full potentials of Badagry. A record 400 boat operators were recently  trained by facilitators from lagos area of Office of Niwa, a template which gave rise to mandatory use of life jackets, route expansion, and the boat crew new oath of commitment to passengers safety.

No wonder, over a hundred boats ply the Badagry routes, daily not just for business and trade services but for leisure and tourism, also providing beds of strength for marine biology research and education.

Interestingly, Porto Novo has become an ambitious discovery by the organised boat operators under atbowaton and facilitated by chairman Badagry chapter of atbowaton Mr Tope Fajemirokun. If you like Water or marine tourism, Porto Novo, is a business and tourism trade post that could keep you fantasizing of the most beautiful surrealistic encounter.

No harrassment of any kind from the various security points along way. However, you  must be careful of ferrying contraband goods.  chatting with phones is also  forbidden at the check points. Ordinarely, the security presence on the Badagry and Porto Novo routes is warm, friendly but firm.

In Porto Novo, Benin republic, the orderliness and rurality breaks the noisy history of lagos. De Marie, a gathering hole of both indigenes and foreigners, leaves a refreshing correctional facility to engage even the most extrovert. I just feel in love with the organised ambience and artistic colourings, an umbrella of sort to those who love grooves and nature.

My take aways: Badagry is about to break and credit to the ambitious and dedicated boat operators led by Tope Fajemirokun. Secondly, the coconut and mat making markets, even salty waters are waiting for proper harnessing. Today, smart traders from Benin republic have taken over the economic value chain of Badagry and through its water border posts, exporting the Lucrative endowments to companies on the west coast driven out of Nigeria by national developmental dislocations.

Do you know that the Telapia fish and a particular shrimp used in the making of spices, are endemic to Badagry waters? No doubt, the Tuesday weekly fish market in Badagry has become an exclusive zone to foreign industrial outfits which pays so much for the exclusive Badagry catch.

It was a love at first sight, having had the deep possibilities that are opening in Badagry and Porto Novo. Grit and attitude is the winning formula and to Tope Fajemirokun and his new team of" Mongo Parks", with their  hands on the deck, a new story, an emerging market for trade and tourism brims on the  Badagry map. My story on Badagry beyond the brown water economy has just began.

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