A community in tears over neglect, abandonment
It is an ancient city and the first administrative area of one of the five divisions of Lagos State that has been in existence for many years. Also, as a border community, it has no doubt, established relationships with other West African countries and even with European countries. Disappointedly, the town is far from being a developed area, despite its exposure to the wealth of the smuggling businesses and other countries. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
Founded on the Gulf of Guinea decades ago, it was a town known mainly for slave trading as far back as 1440. Much later, it became known for thriving in smuggling activities. It is also the first Nigerian community to establish relationships with different European nationalities. Unfortunately, Badagry seems to be thousands of years backward compared to its counterpart divisions like Ikorodu, Epe, Lagos and Ikeja. It is actually in a dilapidating condition. Starting from the road to the town, it was not a smooth ride down. In fact, the road says it all, terrible ditches that are deep and wide enough to swallow a whole vehicle if not careful on the road.
Going down the city, there is nothing to suggest government’s presence in this part of Lagos, except for notorious officers and men of different security agencies at different checkpoints. The buildings are still as ancient as they were and in fact, in a more terrible state; dilapidated buildings, cracked-open walls, sandy streets, they still fetch water from wells unlike pipe borne water in the city of Lagos.
Some of the houses are still in mud-look as it is obtainable in villages, yet it is part of the centre of excellence-Lagos- Mega City.
Going by the historical openings of the town to slavery that later led to economic exposure in terms of smuggling of buying and selling goods, the town ought to have been wearing the look of a ‘little London’.
Rather, the town not only smells but it also wears the look of abject poverty. As a historically slave city, there ought to be some standard museums with good cinema to tell the story of 1943 when the city was under the siege of the white men and exploited as a slave route.
Having gained freedom from that colonial nightmare, the people seem not able to find their ways round their independence from oppression and intimidation, and making the most of it.
Luckily for them, smuggling gave them insight into becoming economically empowered; the only snag is that their town is not developed.
No standard industries like fishery since they are surrounded by water. Instead of major and standard leather producing industries, there are mushroom looking shops managing to manufacture shoes and belts.
When New Telegraph stopped by one of the shops, the owner, Fatai Koshovoi, said he could do better with little government support in the area of power supply for at least six hours.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw electricity in this area. I came back from Cotonou, Benin Republic in 2011. I have only seen government supplied light twice.”
Also, being a major smuggling route, there are no substantial investments or development within Badagry to reflect the passage of wealth of various currencies that have exchanged hands in that axis. Again, as a historical tourism environ, Badagry is not reflecting that at all.
There are no too good and or standard hotels around Badagry.
Even, roads leading into that axis especially from Agbara down to inside Badagry are beyond description, but can best be depicted as horrendous. But the bad road from Agbara Junction is attributed to wastewater coming out from manufacturing companies around the area.
“A major company is largely part of our problem on this route. The wastewater coming out of the company is unguarded but rather channelled onto the road directly. The water is not properly channelled into drainage. The chemicals in the wastewater may also be responsible for damaging the road the more apart from the heavy trucks plying the roads. We have laid complaints to Ogun State, their host, but all we hear are promises they would take appropriate actions, yet, we see nothing done,” Chief Gboko Gunuvi, the leader of the Gunuvi Movement, said.
Most disappointing and annoying is the manner, the officers on the road extort money from motorists and commuters – very aggressive and authoritative in demanding for money (bribe). While extortion is ongoing on one side of the road, lawlessness and recklessness take reign on the other side of the road.
While on a tour of the town, New Telegraph observed that Badagry is vast in land and trying in vegetation but not developed at all. Most of the young ones are engaged in riding commercial motorcycles and rickety smuggling vehicles.
“That is the only job available for us in this town. We eke a living from smuggling business, from driving people who come to buy or sell goods. And we make good money. As you see me, I am used to daily income, on a daily basis, I could make N45,000 from helping to drive goods from Seme border to inside town or from the border to Igbo Elerin Road, where they are safe from officers’ extortion,” a resident, Agbe Kesu, he said.
As for Donalse Kodigbe, a Biochemistry graduate of the Lagos State University (LASU), life couldn’t have been better outside riding motorcycle popularly called Okada. “I’m sure I couldn’t have made what I make on a weekly basis doing Okada business by doing an office job.
On the average, I make close to N15,000, weekly from driving passengers both within town and outside. At least, I am content with that in the absence of a befitting job,” he said.
New Telegraph also observed that their women are mostly into fish and crayfish trading, and some into petty provision selling. Generally, life seems to be miserable for the residents of Badagry.
The silent cry of Badagry and its residents for government attention, political recognition, and better standard of living for their communities is becoming deafening.
Just as the town is not wearing a pleasant look, the people are also not cheerful in look. There is grumbling on every lip and corner of the town. Although the residents tried to be friendly, the aura of the town seems to be tensed and intimidation wrapped in frustration and a grudging contentment, especially when comparing with their neighbouring environment like Ojo Local Government Area.
Cries of lamentation hover round the town. From residents to even guests, there were cries of disappointment in government and lamentation of neglect from the residents.
Boarding a tricycle to the waterside of the town, the driver, Moses Maugro, lamented throughout the journey. He complained of government’s neglect of their plight, especially the youth, who have found succour in smuggling.
He also complained of not being properly represented at the decision making level. Maugro told New Telegraph that the larger part of Badagrians, as they are commonly called, have not had light for 15 years consistently, while other parts have been having incessant power supply for almost 10 years. “Is that a good standard of living? At least, government should have been sensitive and fair to us here because we generate good revenue to both state and Federal Government through our borders- Seme and Igolo in Idiroko especially. We generate nothing less than N6 billion revenue through the boarder for the government, I learnt,” he said.
Comrade Abel Mautin Ogunbiyi, the Ovipetogi of Badagry Kingdom and President Hengo Youth Association of Badagry Kingdom, lamented that Badagry is marginalised. “We are going through pains in Badagry. Our environment is tourism friendly but the bad road kills tourism. Hoteliers are facing serious challenges due to low patronage. Exporters plying these borders are losing on large scale because goods coming from West Africans no longer have access to Nigeria,” he said.
He corroborated Maugro’s assertion that Badagry generates N20 billion on a monthly basis but now importers are running away, prices of goods have skyrocketed as even during festive period, tourism is no longer at its peak. Museums and their artefacts are all damaged, according to the youths’ president. Comrade, as he is fondly, called said: “If I had my way, I will move Badagry to Benin Republic because they seem more developed in terms of road and electricity than us in Badagry. We are not asking for much for now but for patched road, at least and for recognition at the governance level.”
He recounted that when the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, visited Badagry, he promised them a raised standard of living.
“He promised us good roads, to rebuild and expand our museums, and a good seaport, but none of the promises kept. That’s the reason I said I preferred Badagry to join Benin Republic. Our suffering is too much.
“Most peaceful environment in Nigeria is Badagry and that is why government is taking us for granted. They are taking our gentility for stupidity.”
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari promised Badagrains good things of life, like free education, good standard and well-equipped health centres but all that seemed to be forgotten.
“Rather, he is busy chasing looters in the country. I believe that Nigerian government ought to do something for Badagry. We know how much we generate for this country. In fact, as a riverine area, no effective water transportation to provide alternative means for the road means of transportation. Both state and Federal Government should endeavour to implement ferry system. You can imagine that for a town as big as this, no potable water and electricity supply to improve our businesses,” he complained.
Ogunbiyi recounted a period when a friend came to buy some acres of land in Badagry to establish a four star hotel and a leather industry for shoes and belt. But after a few visits to and fro Badagry, he cancelled the plans and went back to Italy.
“He told me that the inconveniences of the roads and environment will certainly lead to choking and killing of businesses. Let me tell you that we have not only lost money there, we have also lost the opportunity of getting our youths gainfully employed into a more decent and dignifying jobs. We also lost the chance of improving upon our economy.”
Gunuvi told New Telegraph that Badagry has been seriously relegated to the lowest of its ebb. According to him, the town generates the highest revenue for government. Gunuvi’s main concern is political recognition for Badagry.
He said the last time a political appointment was made in Badagry was in 1960 when Oba C. D. Akran was appointed the finance minister and ever since then, no other relevant political appointment was ever made. “Meanwhile, the local governments that Badagry gave birth to get more recognised than the town at large,” he said.
Most worrisome for him and the elders of Badagry is that people are moving out of the town en masse and that investors are not interested in investing in the town.
“You can’t imagine the loss and disappointment for us when an investor from Indonesia wanted to come with an investment of turning waste into fertilisers. He made just a visit with one phase of soil test and never came back to Badagry. It is obvious that government wants to kill Badagry,” he concluded.
The Secretary of the Gunuvi Movement, Mr. Babalorisa Monday Sewanu (an engineer), told New Telegraph that Badagry is the heart of Nigeria, as such, demanded political recognition. “As a division, we want Badagry to enjoy dividends of democracy. We need choice political appointments like deputy governor (if not governor) or chief of staff. We also want government to improve the roads urgently. We demand stability in electricity supply as it will encourage investors to Badagry. We implore them to provide job to our learned youths.
We are not happy as most of our youths are involved in smuggling. It’s cutting short their lives. Whenever there is face-off between them and Customs or Immigration officials, we lose some of them to the clashes. We don’t want this anymore,” he said.
The Agoloto of Badagry Kingdom, High Chief Owheton Ahube, said that Badagry was seriously marginalised. He explained the marginalisation from the point that the traditional rulers in Badagry are poorly paid compared to their counterparts in other parts of Lagos. “Here in Badagry, traditional rulers are paid N30,000 monthly. We are also not upgraded like our counterparts in other parts of the state. Again, from that meagre salary given to us, government still removes taxes. So, what is left for us, our families and the people we rule?”
Ahube also lent his voice to those who demanded political recognition of Badagry.
He said: “We pray to be at the realms of affairs of government.
We need at least two commissioners selected from this zone.”
The Agoloto disclosed that Badagry should be considered a too important town, for the fact that it is currently producing oil. He said that with the discovery of oil in the community in the OML 113 (Sections 1-3 for gas; 4-5 for oil), there is the need for the Federal and State Governments to return something to the community.
“It just has become too important for Lagos State government to do something for Badagry from the 13 per cent derivation that comes from the Federal Government,” he advised.
Ahube suggested other ways that government could use in developing the town. It includes setting a heritage site of modern taste, training of tour guards, and refurbishment of the roads. He also demanded that the state government establish a university or any other tertiary institution in Badagry.
He emphasised the necessity for government to create jobs for the people especially the youth. “All the youth here are jobless. They ride Okada. Even our tourism sites should be rebranded and upgraded. There is the ocean, lagoon and “point of no return”. These are interesting tourist sites that need government touch and would definitely generate income,” he stated.
Explaining Badagry as an ancient town since 1425, the Agoloto said that the town was a passage to other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, as such; it should generate more revenue and develop faster than it is.
But Lagos State especially, he said, is not waking up to that reality and opportunity. He also pointed out that development towards Badagry is at slow pace.
“No light and potable water in Badagry. In fact, there is no solid industry in the town. The main occupation is smuggling. They supply us scantily towards the end of the month when they are about to circulate their crazy bills. They are seriously marginalising us in this town,” the chief lamented.
He pointed out that Federal Government collects revenue from sand dredging, saying that Lagos State should look into this area especially as nothing is given back to the town.
Ahube added that Badagry should be too relevant to be neglected to such a dilapidated condition. He explained that Badagry from 1943 till May 27, 1967, was the district headquarters to Ogun State (Yewa South/North) where all matters of relevance were discussed. There was presence of a post office, Electricity Commission of Nigeria (ECN), Agbalata International Market, Teachers College through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) and so many other relevant establishments, but all those are forgotten. “Badagry now wears and smells ancient city.”
Meanwhile, New Telegraph observed two major estates on the road to inside Badagry. Going into the town, on the right side is named ‘Muhammadu Buhari Estate’ at Agemowo area of Badagry.
It was alleged to be a whole community of more than 64 hectares of land, destroyed for the erection of police estate with 1,083 units of three-bedroom flats and semi-detached houses. The community is still in court to recover the land from the police. There is also the housing estate, started by former Governor Babatunde Fashola, which was deemed finished and commissioned. But the estate is desolate and abandoned in poor state.
The Agoloto is not only angry with the state government; he is also angry with the representatives of the area at various levels of government. He said that the two House of Assembly representatives they have in the area have not done anything serious in terms of bringing legislations to bear on the community. “I need to state this clearly. Of all the five divisions of Lagos State, Badagry is the most backward. Go to Epe and look at what Governor Ambode has done there now. It has turned to small London. Can you compare Badagry with Ikeja, Ikorodu or Lagos? Even Ikorodu, did you not see the good roads Fashola and the present government gave and are giving them? Which part of Lagos State can you compare with Badagry? There is none. We are the most backward of the five divisions.” He added that, what was painful was that Seme Boarder, which gives Nigeria the highest revenue from the Customs is located in the area, insisting that Badagry has been left behind by all the local governments that sprouted from it, from Apapa to Ojo to Ajeromi Ifelodun, among others that are now in Ogun State. He said government should also speed up work on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
Meanwhile, calls and a short message sent to Honourable Joseph Hontoyo, member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Badagry West, as at press time were not responded to, making efforts to get reactions abortive.
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