By Elizabeth Toyon
Ancient town of Badagry in Lagos is facing a setback in it’s local economy as number of tourist visitors have reduced due to poor access road and other reasons
Badagry, noted to be a town with splendid history and a powerful link to trans-atlantic slave trade is located at the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic at the hem of the Atlantic Ocean.
The town is naturally endowed with marine resources that support fishing and water transportation in addition to rich agricultural endowments ,producing cash crops like coconut in exportable quantity.
It’s place in trans Atlantic slave trade, spread of the Christian religion and the rich cultural heritage of the people have made it an attractive destination in the world’s tourism map.
As a result of its significance in world history, Badagry is an international tourism centre which has popular top attractions that include: Badagry Slave Trade Museum and Black History Museum, Gberefu Island (Point of no Return), the first storey building in Nigeria and more.
According to findings carried out by this reporter, thousands of tourists used to visit Badagry tourism centres about eight years ago but the number has reduced drastically due to a major challenge which is the deplorable state of Badagry Expressway, challenging economy and some other factors including the COVID 19 pandemic that hated some activities across the globe in 2000 and 2001.
In addition to water transportation, Badagry Expressway is a major link to it’s tourism centres.The poor condition of the road have made the Badagry Tourism Centres inaccessible and it is a national setback.
During a visit to Badagry Tourism Centres by JournaNG, Abass Gafar Seriki the Curator of Brazilian Barracoon described Badagry as a tourist destination in Nigeria.
He said ” When we talk about slavery in Nigeria, it started in Badagry and Nigeria started in Badagry.The first primary school is located in Badagry and the administrative office of Lord Frederick Lugard , Governor of both Northern and Southern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914 is in Badagry.
Abass revealed that the the major factor affecting Badagry tourism is the poor state of Badagry Expressway.He explained that ” The major factor affecting Badagry tourism is the bad road.When people are coming from Lagos or any part of the country through Badagry axis, they complain about the road.
” There was a time some Black Americans booked a tour with me.When they got to Agbara there was a terrible hold-up and they spent two hours in the hold-up.They had no option but to go back” he lamented
Abass further explained that in recent years, schools, African Americans and tourists from all over the world visited the tourism centres in large numbers during the week and weekends.
He said” This place used to be jam-packed.When schools come for excursion, we used to receive about 2000 – 3000 students daily but the number of students that came for excursion this year (as at July 2023) is less than 500 because some schools cannot keep their students for too long in the bus.
School managements are trying to avoid embarrassment from the students’ parents.Some schools do not take the risk at all.
The Brazilian Barracoon Curator added that COVID 19 contributed to the factors that affect tourism in the ancient town.
Abass stated that in order to revive tourism in Badagry, the state government must fix the road so that anyone can drive down easily.He also said more adverts and partnership with the government and NGOs will promote tourism in Badagry.
His words ” In Badagry, we do not showcase what we have to the world.It was the tour operators that used to patronize Badagry tourism centres because their job was to bring in Americans to the tourism centres.
They do not have the support and partnership of the government and NGOs which would have helped to showcase the sites through adverts.
During a telephone interview with JournalNG, the Curator for the first storey building in Nigeria, Viavonu Ezekiel ,explained that people visited the the tourism centres regularly before but when the road became bad, the number of visits reduced.
He said ” There is a season for students’ excursion around February-April and we receive about 1000 to 2000 students.Individuals and families of about 400 to 500 used to visit during festive periods.
The number of students we receive now is 700 to 800 while individuals and families are about 100.
Viavonu revealed that to improve Badagry tourism, the government should fix the road and all the tourism sites should be developed through partnership of the government with the families managing the tourism centres.
“The government and private organisations should partner with the families managing the tourism centres because people come yearly and keep seeing the same thing.
According to Chief Tourist Guard, Heritage Museum,Hundeyin Zach Olamide , Badagry Expressway is an hindrance to tourists visit to Badagry tourism centres.
” I was expecting some tourists from the airport.When they got to Agbara axis of Badagry road, they went back.They said the state of the road was too bad and they could not make it to Badagry.I have an uncle that was coming from FESTAC , before he got to Badagry, his car bumper was destroyed”.
Olamide further explained “When I assumed office in 2017, during summer, a large number of tourists used to visit.I used to see about 15-17 Marcopolo buses parked outside.I used to work and get tired.Then, we had 85% visit but now we have 25% visits.I have not received any international tourist for the past three years”.
However, Olamide pointed that kidnapping and COVID 19 are other factors that affected Badagry Tourism.
In a bid to profer solution to the problem, Olamide acknowledged that the government has been involved in improving the Badagry Tourism Centres but he pleaded that the government has to do more.
He said” Government should improve toural advertisement.Heritage Museum is owned by the government and I promote this place online because I have my page online.I cannot do it alone.We still need the help of the government.
The operations manager, Whispering Palms said the patronage of Whispering Palms has reduced.He said the Badagry Expressway is s a problem although it is presently under construction.
“The Agbara axis of the road is the present problem.At a point, the number of people that patronize Whispering Palms reduced.It is very obvious that Whispering Palms is the first resort in Lagos but later on other resorts came up and that is what reduced the number of people that patronize us.We still have tourists that visit other resorts but came back to us to say we still remain the best
” We are really the best and we are trying to see how to ensure that our social media platforms are active.We are also creating contents to make people know that we are still here and flourishing.
Honourable Suru Oluwasegun Olatunji, supervisor for tourism, Badagry Local government during an exclusive interview with JournalNG reiterated that Badagry has been in existence since 18th century.
However he said ” The poor condition of Badagry Expressway has made Badagry tourism a bit backward but the road is presently under construction and we believe it will improve tourism activities in Badagry.If the road is intact, Badagry tourism centres patronage will be higher than past years.
Honourable Suru also disclosed that Honourable Teliat Olumide Adediran , Badagry Local government Chairman has been doing his best to make sure tourism, culture and heritage of Badagry is developed.
” There are roles that the local government have played towards the development of the slave market.Although the slave market was constructed by the Lagos State Government but there are impacts the Local Government Chairman has made.
Presently, the local government has a plan to have its own museum. The local government chairman is always ready to finance and develop anything that concerns tourism and culture in Badagry.
The supervisor for tourism in the same vein disclosed that the Lagos state Government has played a great role in Badagry tourism system.
” The Agia monument tree is presently being renovated by Governor Sanw-olu Administration and when it is completed, it will attract people from all over the world.However, The Vlekete slave market we have here in Badagry is the only one in the whole of West Africa where we have the interpretation of both English and French.
Suru added that there are festivals like the Agunke Festival, Oro Festival, Egungun Festival and World Tourism day and the local government has created an aspect where youths are gathered together and given the room to showcase their talents and prizes are given to the winners.
Besides, he emphasized that soon World Tourism day will be observed and the Local Government has made some proposals to showcase some certain things and this is going to be in collaboration with the youths.