Repositioning Destination Badagry; the BCVB project

Posted: November 21, 2016 in general
badagry-town-overlooking-the-ocean

Badagry overlooking the ocean from Ibereko

VICTOR NZE

In the wake of the crude oil find in the region and a grandiose plan by the Lagos State Government to complement the offshore discovery with the location of a multi-billion dollar deep sea port in the domain, it is now pertinent that Badagry is about to enter a new phase in its nearly seven century-old existence. And the Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB) is not taking matters for granted, knowing what this development portends for the town.

It would be recalled that only last month, in October, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, said the completion of a proposed $2.6bn Badagry Deep Sea Port Project would mark a turning point in the growth of Badagry and the nation’s economy.

lagos-badagry-expressway

the Lagos-Badagry expressway

Ambode while meeting with Mr. Morten Engelstoft, the Chief Executive Officer designate, APM Terminals (Maersk Group) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the advancement of the deep sea port, added that the project will also complement the emergence of Lagos as the fifth largest economy in Africa.

“This port and free zone, situated on over 1000 hectares is expected to be the largest deep sea port in Africa upon its completion. The project will include a container terminal, oil & gas services and a liquid bulk terminal, with general cargo and RO-RO facilities,” Ambode said,

He added that the port was expected to generate 500,000 direct and indirect jobs upon completion and promised that the state government would ensure the protection of the interests of the host communities.

shokunbi

Fatai Shokunbi, BCVB chairman

Ambode also said talks were in advanced stage over the funding of Lot 3 of the Mile 2 to Seme 10-lane highway expansion, adding that it would complement the ongoing Badagry Deep Sea Port Project, further noting that the Lot 3 would run from Okokomaiko-Badagry-Seme, as he affirmed the commitment of his administration to providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the State.

Ambode said that the project, which was 500 metres away from the ‘Point of No Return,’ in Badagry would also serve as a tourist attraction.

“For us, we have decided to protect that particular place to make sure that tourism is also complemented in this project.

“With a Deep Sea Port project like this, it means that there will be new settlements in Badagry, new towns and the standard of living will be positively affected by this kind of project. “I just want to assure you that simultaneously, those two projects will start in earnest and then we will use that to create jobs for our people and also increase the GDP of the state’s economy.

“I assure you strongly that within the next four years, you will see a dramatic change in this axis of Lagos,” Ambode also said at a separate forum.

“We are likely to have three Sea Ports in Lagos in another two years; we have the Badagry Deep Sea Port and the Lekki Port and also the Apapa port,” said the governor.

Similarly, in May, this year, the Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum (YFP) announced the commencement of production of crude oil from its OML 113 offshore field in Aje, Badagry, which now puts Lagos on the list of oil-producing states in the country.

fadipe-and-hundeyin

(From left): Bureau’s scribe, Mr Ashamu Sewanu Fadipe, Mr Whedeyan Hundeyin, chairman of the Badagry Zone of the Lagos State Hoteliers Association

YFP said after over 25 years of exploratory, appraisal and developmental activities, it had successfully pioneered the opening of the Frontier Benin Embayment, describing the Aje field as the first to record production from this part of Nigeria and the first production outside of the Niger Delta.

It said the inauguration of the Front Puffin Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel was successfully completed after its arrival in Nigeria on March 16, 2016.

Oil produced from the Aje field will be stored on the Front Puffin, which has production capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil per day and storage capacity of 750,000 barrels, according to the YFP.

“The attainment of this milestone is indeed a laudable achievement not just for the YFP, but for the Nigerian oil and gas industry as a whole and indeed Lagos State, which can now be addressed as an oil-producing state.

“We are very proud of and appreciate the efforts, determination and commitment of the entire Aje project team, past and present; the constant support from our regulators, the DPR and Ministry of Petroleum; and our financiers. We believe this crucial support will spur us on to even greater achievements,” Folawiyo added.

Aje is an offshore field located in OML 113 in Badagry. The field is situated in water depths ranging from 100 to 1,000 metres and is about 24 kilometres from the coast. It contains hydrocarbon resources in sandstone reservoirs in three main levels – a Turonian gas condensate reservoir, a Cenomanian oil reservoir and an Albian gas condensate reservoir.

Against the backdrop of these recent developments, therefore, the Bureau, from November 15 through to 17, had cause to organize a familiarization trip for tourism & travel journalists and bloggers around heritage sites, hospitality establishments in Badagry.

The tour also provided a forum for interaction with the paramount ruler of Badagry kingdom, as well as a host of other traditional rulers in Badagry, especially those who would serve as host communities for the proposed deep sea port and oil facilities.

Badagry undoubtedly, has benefitted immensely from its enviable position as a border community housing two border posts in Owode and Seme towns which serve as direct boundaries with the Benin Republic, and further down the sub-regional coast of other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members like Ghana, Togo and Liberia.

This position has meant that hotels and other leisure outfits have catered for the hospitality demands of clients transiting to other West African states via the town.

As it is now, Badagry is a gateway town about to transform into a mega city, and the Bureau is getting a head start in projects to prepare the minds of the people and the business community to this huge development.

Founded around 1425 AD, Badagry, populated by the Egun and the Awori majorly, has many things going for it; aside from the fact that it remains a serene and unspoilt natural town. It happens to be a very historic town with regards Nigeria’s journey to political independence from the British.

As a tourism hub, Badagry was a major slave trading port and market on the West African coastline. The town alone accounted for nearly one million slaves sold to the Newfound Lands in the Americas.

Today, Badagry, is a preferred destination for heritage tourism, with its historic sites, landscapes, cultural landmarks, and relic telling the Trans-Atlantic slave trade era. There are structures, sites, and memories of this iniquitous period for domestic and international tourists to see as proof of the inhumanity suffered by Africans; and those structures form the heritage tourism attraction Badagry has now become.

Badagry is also one of the earliest local Government Authorities in the Nigeria beginning with the Treaty of Cession in 1863 and the posting of the District Officers from England in 1865. Badagry became outstanding council during the colonial era. By 1938, it became the Badagry Town Council and later renamed the Egun-Awori Native Authority in 1948 before becoming the present-day Badagry Local Government Area in 1976.

The BCVB, established to provide platform to harness and showcase Badagry Tourism only recently, has in a space of two years now found itself now striving to cut a workable framework of operations between, on one hand, the emerging business interests and the communities of Badagry, who have become accustomed to heritage tourism, to meeting the challenges of industrialization, now staring Badagry in the face.

On the other hand, the bureau is also tasked with driving rapid infrastructural and capacity development among the hospitality establishments which dot the landscape of Badagry in order for them to meet the demands of a new type of business clientele represented by the international business tourists; and further wooing the support of the Lagos State Government, people and traditional monarchs of Badagry to protect and safeguard the revered heritage sites which had provided economic sustenance to the communities this long.

The need to preserve and protect these heritage sites is informed by the heavy price which heritage sites have been made to pay for industrialization in other climes.

Badagry is a heritage tourism destination recognized by historians across the world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and others.

The bureau is getting off its mark early as it envisages that Badagry is likely to witness a level of infrastructural development and industrialization that can only rivalled by the Eko Atlantic City project in Lagos.

Badagry tourism on its part can still be said to be a fledgling industry. With hotel room rates from as low as N3, 500 to those of N150, 000 per night, the hospitality sector is still growing albeit, slowly, largely due to huge running costs encountered by hoteliers, and occasioned by poor infrastructure in place in the sprawling town.

According to Mr. Fatai Shokunbi, the BCVB chairman, who also doubles as chairman of FAMS Embassy Suites, situated along the Lagos-Badagry expressway in Ibereko, the Bureau is a collaborative effort of the Lagos State Government, the Badagry Local Government as well as members of the organized private sector operating in Badagry.

“The bureau was established to showcase Badagry as a tourist destination for tourists and visitors alike to come and see the heritage sites. Also, it was established to make sure that people come here and see what Badagry has to offer.

“Incidentally, this belief also informed our decision to site the FEMS Embassy Suites here and largely because of my passion for tourism and conviction that Badagry remains a destination with a huge potential for return on investment for investors

“I know Badagry has economic potential. I believe that it will grow. If you are going to Ghana, Togo or Benin Republic from here, even if you are coming here from those countries, you will pass through Badagry.

“What the Lagos State government is planning for Badagry is laudable. I believe the government means well for the town but I also worry over how soon these projects will take off. The proposed sea port and petroleum refinery are all good infrastructures for Badagry with a bigger prospect to grow the tourism industry. I’m speaking as businessman not a politician.

“However, I’m concerned about the state of roads leading to the town and I’m saying this because we know there’s a lot of work to be done towards attaining that status we all expect Badagry to reach. It’s not just fixing the roads when a prominent politician is about to visit the town as has been noticed of late; maintaining the roads has to be a routine procedure because roads are important for businesses to thrive.

“Government needs to do more. Government has to do find a way through evolving and enacting policies that will encourage people outside the country to come in and invest. This is how an economy grows anywhere in the world. I know for sure that there are many Nigerians abroad who want to come home and invest but the harsh conditions are a huge drawback. Incentives have to be provided as it is being done Ghana for businesses springing up in that country. Presently, the running costs for hotels are not encouraging,” Shokunbi said

For the Bureau’s scribe, Mr Ashamu Sewanu Fadipe, a former Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations, it is what the Bureau had worked for all this while; the idea of taking Badagry tourism to the next level, which according to him, portends many positives for both the people and business community.

“I would like to point out first that the BCVB was originally established to focus on international conference management in and around Badagry, and to meet the needs of conference participants, visitors and destination operators alike, in addition to tour guide services.

“In line with this mandate and in the light of the recent developments in the form of the deep sea port and petroleum refinery lined up for the town, we on our part, have also lined up a host of programmes for next year 2017. These projects we believe are tailored to raising the profile of Badagry as a Meetings, Incentive, Conference and Events destination which is also a build-up to the ultimate goal of sensitizing the minds of the people and business community of what is coming ahead for them by way infrastructural development.

“The Lagos Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (LAHTIC), is one of them. It is an event of international level organized annually by the bureau which aims at promoting hotel and tourism business in Badagry, as well as the rest of Lagos communities holds from August 24 to 25, next year.

“The event also provides a veritable platform for participants to meet and interact with influencers in the industry from within and outside the country.

“Also we have the Badagry Economic Summit planned by the Bureau for August 27 through 30 which holds under the theme of; ‘Unleashing Investment Potential Around Seaport and Tourism Projects along Badagry-Epe Coastal Investment Advantage.’

“The event is a bi-annual conference which aims at attracting local and international investors to Badagry’s investment advantages. The project also seeks to work with the Nigerian and as well as the Lagos State Investment promotion agencies, multi-national and private business corporations and other stakeholders in Badagry trade corridor.

“In addition, we have lined up the Yoruba Conference Series, which is also another project of the Bureau planned for next year under the theme of; ‘Danger of Distorted Yoruba To Subsequent Yoruba Generation,’ and which aims to reunite distorted Yoruba historical accounts from the African standpoint, using conference resolutions as unifying basis.

“The project which holds every five years will hold next year but with an unconfirmed date.

“And finally we have the Igbo Art and Culture Festival, an event planned for April 28 to 30, 2017 by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Badagry in collaboration with the bureau which is expected to feature Igbo cultural performances, visual art exhibitions, colloquium, workshop and many more from the Igbo community in the town.

“Let me also seize this opportunity to point out that Badagry alone has eight islands located on its lagoon overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We have been engaging the state government on this matter so that they can decide on what to do with them. Some are entirely uninhabited while others are perfect for eco-tourism and bird watchers. The earlier the government finds purpose for these islands the better for us at the Bureau so we can also on our part begin promoting these islands as tourist destinations,” Fadipe stressed.

For Mr Whedeyan Hundeyin, the owner of the Soketta Hotels, chairman of the Badagry Zone of the Lagos State Hoteliers Association, the prospect for tourism in the town remain bright with many positives for expanded growth with the coming of the huge investment from the proposed deep sea ports and crude oil installations in the town.

“We have been constantly engaging governments at the state level and local level and at each forum we raise the issue of infrastructure as one the biggest drivers of any economy. Badagry tourism is not an exception. It is this kind of investment that can lift our tourism industry.

“We have prepared for it as we regularly harp on the need for our members to improve their capacity and service delivery level so that a good impression can be created in the minds of our guests. With a bigger clientele base now in the offing for us, we hope the projects can begin in earnest. But having said that, other amenities like roads need to be attended to as fast as possible.”

For the traditional monarchs, paramount ruler of the Badagry Kingdom, the Akran, HRH Oba Wheno Menu-Toyi II, posited that it is a welcome development for the Lagos State government to recognize his kingdom in terms of developmental projects.

“I am not surprised that these projects are coming to pass in my lifetime. This has been what I have been working and planning for all through my reign as ruler of Badagry.

“For us, including me and my chiefs here to make sure there is a smooth working relation with the multi-national companies coming for the projects to make sure there is no friction. We have made ourselves available and ready for a peaceful transition.

“It’s not my desire or that of the state Governor Ambode for any friction or trouble by way of youth restiveness, community dissatisfaction or disenfranchisement towards the projects planned for my kingdom,” said the 80 year-old monarch, who completes 40 years on the throne by April, next year.

For the Alapa of Egun-Awori, the Apa kingdom, Oba Oyekan Akanmi Olufemiloye Ajose Possi III, in whose domain the proposed deep sea port will be located, it is all about gratitude to Governor Ambode, even as he assured cooperation of his people with the companies involved with the projects.

According to him, his people had resolved that the negative effects of oil exploration and its attendant societal effects as witnessed in the Niger – Delta, particularly Ogoniland, would be avoided by ensuring that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is followed strictly.

He revealed that the report of EIA conducted by his palace has already been submitted to authorities concerned with the project and the high ranking chiefs in the community for them to study and come out with a position on the best way forward.

“We have already commissioned a team of experts to conduct an EIA and the report submitted to the people because we don’t want what happened to Ogoniland to happen to happen here. Anybody who wants to bring development to our land would be assigned, the palace and chiefs will control the people and the boys. My people are peace-loving, we are ready for the investors, we have the land and we are ready for development.”

A courtesy call was also paid to the palace of the Onibereko of Ibereko, Oba Israel Adewale Okoya, who assured the readiness of his community to embrace the huge development planned by the state government, as he described his people are ‘ receptive and hospitable.’

Some of the accredited hospitality establishments toured by the team included: the iconic Soketta Hotels, the expansive Whispering Palms leisure resort, the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria lodging facilities, impressive Next Level Hotels & Suites, ever-busy Star Rise Golden Hotel, the scenic Hilander O2 leisure spot, the spacious Hunwaji Conference halls, the relaxing Ar-rakhab beach & holiday resort and the magnificent FAMS Embassy Suites.

Heritage sites visited included: The Badagry Heritage Museum, First Storey Building in Nigeria, Old Slave Market, where slaves were purchased, District Officer’s Residence and office, the Williams Seriki Abass barracoon, where purchased slaves are holed up awaiting shipment to the Americas, the Agia monument, the Mobee Royal Family original slave relics museum and the administrative office of the bureau located on Vlekete street which it shares with the old slave market and DO’s residence.

“We have just realised the importance of partnering with the media in our aim of promoting Badagry as a major tourist destination which informed the setting up of the bureau in the first instance. We know we must devise a workable framework or method for protecting the heritage sites in the face of the new economy envisaged for Badagry. We have already begun working in that direction at the Bureau. So we are prepared and we are working out modalities geared towards meeting that challenge,” Fadipe beamed with optimism.

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