Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has reiterated his administration’s resolve to completing the proposed 10-lane Badagry – Mile 2 expressway, saying it is geared towards positioning the region as a major tourism hub of West Africa.
Making the disclosure, Thursday, while declaring open the two-day Badagry Economic Summit (BES), Governor Ambode said the project is also driven by his administration’s commitment to ensuring an all-inclusive government where all the component communities are fairly treated and given the opportunity to realise their economic potential.
The summit is organized under the theme: Unleashing investment potential around Historic and Coastal Zones of Badagry and Epe.
The Governor, who was represented at the occasion by his Special Adviser on Community Affairs and Development , Mr. Kehinde Bamgbetan, further explained that the expressway is to be complemented by the proposed deep sea project, which, according to him, aims to further grow capacity of the destination and people of Badagry.
“One of the cardinal policies of this administration remains the pursuit of an all-inclusive government. This policy drives the desire to complete the 10-lane Badagry expressway project so as to harness the already identified tourism and economic potential of the region. It also increases our resolve to realize the APM terminals project in the area .
“We want to assure that the outcome of this economic summit will form the content of a comprehensive economic masterplan for the people of Badagry and the destination.
“We are committed to exploiting these potentials and in the same way as we seek to position Badagry as the biggest business hub on the sub region and by extension the continent.”
While commending the Badagry Conventions and Visitors Bureau (BCVB) for its choice of theme for the summit which he noted has remarkably assembled experts as well as the community members to articulate ideas and proposals to grow Badagry destination.
Governor Ambode also used the platform of the occasion to assure indigenes and residents alike of oil producing communities in Aje of equity and fairness in the construction and compensation procedures.
“I commend the Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau for the choice of theme as this has brought together experts whose ideas and recommendations will not be swept under the carpet as they will be adopted by this administration in its quest to grow the Badagry.
“We assure residents and indigenes of oil producing communities of their fairness, equity and protection of their rights on our quest to explore other sources of revenue in the state as a whole.”
Former chairman, Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Aare Olarenwaju Hakeen, in his paper presentation, titled; Capacity as catalyst for oil and gas exploration, seaports and logistics development in Badagry, urged the state government to establish a maritime academy so as to prepare the youths for the challenges ahead.
Hakeem who decried the lack of professionalism in the sector, which he blamed for the high cost of processing freight, said the problem explains why importers prefer Cotonou, Teme and Lome ports on the West African axis rather than patronize the country’s Apapa and Tin Can ports.
“We have a problem of lack of professionalism aside the one of corruption which is why importers prefer Lome, Tema and, Cotonou for imports and they then just go the border and pay the custom duties.
“Our youths need to know about the industry to be trained in the processes. They need to be empowered in terms of capacity in order to compete in the industry.
“The country needs also to get its act right. In the United States, you cannot practice as a clearing agent if you are not a citizen. But here anybody is allowed to do the business. There is a security implication to that. Imagine the other time when an agent cleared arms in containers. These are why we need to clean up the sector, train our youth so that they are not seen as smugglers anymore.”
On his part, former commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, advised government to downplay the potential of oil and gas, as according to him, the future of the state lies with tourism.
The is just as the former senator who represented Lagos West district, urged for the involvement of all critical stakeholders towards the attainment of the goal of positioning Badagry as the preferred destination on sub region.
“We must all begin to work and increase our contribution towards the growth of Badagry just like Dubai. The people are the owner change. Produce souvenirs, keep your environment clean, create sustainable brands. You don’t need government to do these little things.
“Government will do its own, no doubt, but the bigger impact can be spearheaded by the people. Badagry has its challenges, in terms of infrastructure. But when you look at neighbouring destinations like Lome, Cotonou and Accra in terms of organization, you know we have to change our orientation,” said Afikuyomi.
CEO of the Whispering Palms resort, Professor D. Femi-Pearce in his paper titled; Business opportunities for youths in Badagry, challenged the youths to exploit the natural resources of the town like the coconut with a view to harnessing the produce’s cosmetic potential as a way of viably engaging the youthful workforce.
Earlier in his welcome address, chief executive officer of BCVB, Mr Ashamu Fadipe, assured investors in Badagry of the town’s readiness to providing a veritable platform for them to grow their investment.
Other speakers on the opening day of the economic summit include; Mr Gani Tarzan Balogun, the CEO of Tarzan Marine Enterprise, who spoke on ‘Aquatic tourism and water transportation.’
Also, CEO of La Campagne Tropicana, Dr Wanle Akinboboye delivered a paper on ‘The essence of tourism development and impact on the local communities.’
The Badagry Economic Summit, which held at the Conference Hall of the Administration Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), gathered industry players from the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), tourism and maritime experts, as well as traditional rulers in the communities and members of the academia.