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Badagry a city surrounded by aquatic splendour and blessed with beautiful lakes and creeks, Badagry is supposed to be a leading center of tourist attraction in the country. But this is not the case for the second largest town in Lagos State, Nigeria’s former capital, as several development projects intended to improve the living conditions of the people and boost the ancient town’s tourism potential have remained abandoned for many years, reports MEDINAT KANABE.
THE announcement, which was promptly backed with action, was music to the ears of indigenes and residents alike. The locals, serenading over the prospect of having an elixir of development sited in their community, dreamed big dreams. That was 12 years ago when the federal government announced that it would site a National Youth Development Centre in Badagry.
Sadly, twelve years after, the centre is yet to be completed let alone take off. One of those hoping to use the yet-to-be-completed centre to develop into sporting stars was Jemila (surname withheld on request). A table tennis enthusiast, Jemila, who has since enlisted in the Nigerian Army, dreamed to be a professional table tennis player – a sport she hoped would transform her to the heights attained by the likes of Fan Zhendong, Ma Long, Wang Liqin, Xu Xin, Liu Guoliang, and other notable stars of the game.
“When the project started, it was so real that people were hopeful. My sister, Jemila, who is now in the Nigeria Army, was interested in the games because her dream was to become a professional tennis player but that opportunity never came because she couldn’t wait her whole life for the completion of the project and had to join the Nigeria Army,” her brother said of Jemila.
Another resident, Mike Akande, 42, said he was 30 years old when that project started. Like Jemila, his ambition was to nurture his talent and become a sporting prodigy.
“I was 30 years old then. I believed I had a chance of becoming a popular sportsman, but look at me now. Nothing works in Badagry; everywhere you turn to is one abandoned project or the other,” he said.
A teacher in one of the public schools told this reporter how he spoke enthusiastically to his students about the project when it just started.
“But all of them have graduated from the university now; some are married and the project is still uncompleted. I thank God that I did not encourage anyone to wait for that project; I would have regretted it,” he said.
In 2008, the federal government, through the office of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, laid the foundation for a National Youth Development Centre in Ajara Vetho, Badagry. The centre was to provide people living around Badagry the opportunity to learn one or two indoor or outdoor games and further develop their sporting talents.
The would-be beneficiaries of the project said they were excited about the plan and even donated their lands to facilitate construction. Unfortunately, the project has been abandoned with many families that gladly donated their land to pave way for the project now rueing their decision.
“Right now, my family regrets giving out the land because as the years goes by, my family is becoming larger and the family compound cannot take us anymore. We are managing in the small compound while our land is wasting away,” High Chief Ajo Hunpevi Paul of Ajara Vetho Kingdom said.
The obviously disappointed traditional leader said he feels it is time the government removed whatever structure had been built on the land and returned the land to the family because they will have better use for it.
This reporter, who spent five days in the community, found out that the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development awarded the contract to Haramani Chemical Nigeria Ltd, Abuja, in 2008. According to information available, the contractor requested for N384 million and the federal government made an initial payment of N101 million and another N35 million, bringing the total money released to N136 million. When the contractor exhausted the money, the waiting game began; and it has been lamentation galore since then.
The anger of Chief Hunpevi and other locals seemed justified over the turn of events in Badagry, an ancient community that was formerly a middle ground between European traders on the coast and traders from the hinterland.
Located between the city of Lagos and Seme, the border with Benin Republic, Badagry is inhabited largely by the Awori, Egun, Yoruba and Ogu people – all known for their hospitable disposition. In years past, especially during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the settlement served as a lagoon and an Atlantic port, emerging as a commercial center on the West African coast because of its connecting and navigable lakes, creeks and inland lagoons that facilitated trade and acted as a security bar for residents.
Like Lagos Island, the town is on the bank of inland lagoons, with a system of creeks and waterways that are navigable to Lagos and Porto Novo.
Despite the fact that Badagry is surrounded by lakes, creeks, island, beaches and historical assets, the locals live under deplorable conditions as they are deprived of many basic necessities. It is littered with many abandoned projects, including the National Youth Development Centre, Gberefu Health Care Centre, NIOMR Shrimp Farm, Cultural Industries Centre, Lagos State Vocational School for Fishery, Yafin Road, among others.
A visit to the National Youth Development Centre
The stench of human waste that greeted this reporter on her visit to the abandoned project site was enough to send one running out of the environment. A lot of care was taken not to step on faeces that littered the environment where the project was sited. More than 15 structures had been erected before the project was abandoned.
Making her way in, this reporter met some young men smoking marijuana that hot afternoon. As this reporter bumped into their enclave, they demanded to know where she was going and asked if they were safe. They informed her that the only person in the environment with authority over the abandoned site was Godwin. It was later learned that Godwin works as a labourer for people who have secured a piece of the land to farm on the abandoned site.
This reporter was only able to access the site after expressing desire to farm there. Godwin quickly helped call Isiaka, the security man at the centre, who is said to be the one in charge of giving out space for farming. Pronto, we settled for N3, 000 to be paid to Isiaka for what seemed like two plots of land and N25, 000 to be paid to Godwin to clear the land, with an added obligation to help get cassava roots to plant. Isiaka insisted on N3, 000 and warned this reporter that on no account should she touch the granites or sand on the land as they belonged to the federal government.
He said the granite and sand have been on the land since it was abandoned and he has made it a point of duty to make sure the building materials are intact. According to him, what belongs to government should not be pilfered.
A visit to Ajara Vetho
After bargaining with Isiaka as a ploy to gain entrance into the abandoned site, this reporter headed straight to Ajara kingdom, another community in Badagry. There, she was attended to by High Chief Ajo Hunpevi Paul after explaining that the King HRM Aholu Ebenezer Ahisu Koshoedo Aholu Dazuno Detoyi 1 of Ajara Vetho Kingdom was taking a rest and may not be able to speak with her because of his age.
He said the youth development centre is just one out of many abandoned projects. “There is another mini stadium that was being built in the community, which was also abandoned,” he said.
Chief Paul traced how the project became abandoned. “At this time, former local government chairman, the late Husitode Moses Dosu, was in office. The place was constructed during his tenure. At that time we were still being governed by Baale; so we engaged the representatives of the Ministry of Youth And Sports Development and what they told us was that they discovered some of our youths have the talent but no place to develop the talent. So, the land was given to them by the local government chairman to build a centre where the youths can be coming to display their talent.
“They said it will be a place for indoor and outdoor games; that’s why you see the lawn tennis court there. Everything was being constructed but after completion, no facility was brought there. We didn’t even know who to contact to report the situation to. The place was then locked up and a security man who didn’t even have access to the building was placed at the entrance. Right now the roofs are gone, the beautiful paintings are no longer visible and when we told them that we should take over the building as a community they said we should do a letter but never told us who to address the letter to.
“The building is dilapidated even though it was never used. Winds blew off the roofs but scavengers removed the windows and catered away with all the aluminium there and the place is now a hideout for hoodlums. It got to a stage when LASRA came to use the building as a registration point but they were moved to the local government. With the way things are going, one day the community will take over the place and make use of our land,” he said.
Asked if he is aware that the abandoned site has been converted to a farmland, he said “yes we know that the place is now used as a farm but we don’t know who is using it. Apart from that, it makes the place look clean and we are embracing farming in the country now but that is not the primary reason why the place was built.”
He also admitted that when the community heard that some young boys were using the abandoned site to initiate members into cult groups, the community leaders activated a traditional security called Zangbeto at the entrance. At night, nothing like that (cult initiation) happens there any longer, but during the day they still go there, he added.
He reiterated that the locals are not happy that the place was abandoned because it was built for a purpose but the purpose has been defeated. “If the centre was not abandoned, our youths would have been patronizing the place. They would have by now developed one talent or the other. Even the females among them would have also found love in one of the games and made us proud. Even some adults can go for indoor sports instead of just sitting home during the weekend.”
In search of Sadel consulting
In a bid to find the consultant, Sadel Consulting whose address is written on the signboard as number 37, Ire-Akari Road, Isolo, our reporter went down in search of the office but was shocked to find a Foursquare church at the address. The secretary of the church was said to be in a prayer session with a few members. One member invited this reporter to join the prayer session, which she said would last a while.
When the secretary came out, this reporter told her the mission: in search of Sadel Consulting whose address was the same as the church’s. She explained that the church started about four years ago after buying and demolishing the building that was there and remembered that there was Sadel Consulting where a friend worked as well. She tried to call many people but none could give the address of the new location or a phone number. After asking from building to building, a phone number was gotten that paved way for a conversation with the contractor of the abandoned project.
When this reporter called the Sadel Consulting boss whose name was given as Segun, he said that he was on his way to attend a meeting to discuss the abandoned project. Paucity of fund crippled the project, he said. He added that when people see abandoned projects, they feel that money was released but the contractor had embezzled the money. The problem is that government often puts its hands on too many things at the same time, despite not having enough money to complete the projects, he explained.
“As you are talking to me, I am dressed up for a meeting at the Federal Ministry of Youths And Sports Development in respect of the youth centre projects in Badagry. The project has been abandoned just like many federal government projects because of paucity of funds. But now they have some small money that they want to put into the project and I have been having meetings with them since last week. We are having a meeting with the contractor today trying to bring the project back to life.
“I have also been speaking with the House of Representative member representing Badagry, Babatune Hunpe; so we are on top of it and thank you for your concern and do a good job. Bring about all abandoned projects like that up so that government can do something about it. There is no point starting projects everywhere and not completing them,” Segun said.
Asked if he is sure that work will resume at the project site, he said the ministry is making efforts to revamp the project.
“Right now N90m has been approved to continue the project, but the project requires more than that to be completed. What they are trying to do is to make sure that the project comes alive with the 90 million. Finish some of the projects completely and make sure that they have light and water so that they can start using the environment if the contractor will cooperate.”
For the abandoned youth dev centre project, you need to check the budget of the federal ministry of Sports to see if they have budgeted anything for it in the last 12 years. Your report cannot be complete without that. Even at that, ill ask our data unit to check and see if there have been any releases for the project in the last 12 years.
Yovoyan community and its four abandoned projects
At Yovoyan community alone, there are four abandoned projects, including Gberefu Health Centre, the National Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Lagos State Vocational School of Fisheries, and a Skills Acquisition Centre by the federal government.
In 2012, the people of Yovoyan, along Seme expressway way in Badagry, said their joy knew no bounds when the Lagos State government promised and later awarded contracts to build a Primary Health Centre (PHC) in the community. The construction started and was soon completed with the installation of a brand new Mikano power generating set and well-furnished maternity ward. That was the end of the good story, as the hospital never admitted a patient since it was built and equipped before it was abandoned eight years ago.
The residents have to travel over 13 kilometers to receive health care services at the Badagry General Hospital. The PHC, which is supposed to serve three communities (Yard, Yovoyan and Gberefu), is another case of abandoned project after completion.
According to the only cleaner at the PHC, since she started work in the PHC two years ago, there hasn’t been a doctor. “No electricity and because we don’t sleep here, we cannot attend to patients. What we heard is that no doctor wants to be posted here because it is far; the road leading here is bad and there is no electricity. During the peak of the Covid-19, we didn’t get sanitisers or any protective gear,” she lamented.
The building looked abandoned even though the cleaner said she comes every day to work. She admitted that there have never been security personnel to protect the facility. The cleaner added that she has never witnessed supply of drug to the hospital as well.
“I am a cleaner and I come here every day to do my job. Sometimes, we don’t get anyone here for more than a month because the people know that if they come here they will not have a proper care or see a doctor but I still keep the place neat. The brand new Micano generator has never been used, I have never seen some of the rooms opened before, and water has never run in the hospital,” she said.
According to a resident who vows never to visit the hospital, the story of the PHC is a pathetic one. She said she lives in the community; so she knows how much they need the PHC to function well so that people like her can use it.
“This clinic is located inside Yovoyan community, a settlement of Ghanaian migrants, specifically the Ewe people who are fishermen and many of them get injured from the water but they cannot visit the clinic because they will not get proper care,” she said.
The reporter, who noticed maize growing on both sides of the front building, asked a resident why they have turned the place into a farm. Her response was that it is better to farm there than to leave it for grass to grow everywhere.
Another resident who gave his name as Nani pointed out that the community had been in need of a clinic for years. “In this community, we were without a clinic for years. We used to go to Badagry General Hospital for illnesses as little as malaria before this hospital was built and we thought that it would change things but nothing happened.”
An elderly man who didn’t give his name said government is not serious with the health of the people. “How can we go to a hospital and find no doctor on ground? Sometimes they will close the hospital for one year and reopen it again just for a few months before closing it again. This is why our people don’t visit the place.”
Speaking in the local Ghanaian dialect, another elderly woman said she goes to Badagry when she feels sick because she knows that no doctor will attend to her and there are no drugs in the clinic. “Instead of wasting my time to visit the hospital, I go to Badagry General Hospital for treatment. You see, we even take little ailments like malaria to the general hospital because this one close to us isn’t functioning,” she said.
A community health worker at the clinic said when the place was opened, all facilities were brought there. Though not in use, the PHC has a pharmacy, a labour room, a laboratory, six rooms with matrasses, an injection room, consultation room and four toilets but the labour room looked like what has never been used. The pharmacy and laboratory also carry the same story and the beds and air conditioners as well as fans haven’t been used since then. There are four toilets in the building, but users must go into the community to get water before using the facilities because there is no water to serve the hospital. The fridges and freezers that were brought into the hospital since 2014 have also not been used.
What LASG said on the abandoned PHC
The Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Prof Akin Abayomi, who responded to questions, said the state government is not unaware of the situation where some facilities are underutilised or not used at all as a result of personnel not willing to work in hard-to-reach areas, especially in riverine communities. He promised that the state government is working to prioritise having workers in such hard-to-reach locations.
“There are many places like that and we call them hard-to-reach locations, usually around the riverine areas where we have a lot of challenges in terms of security, access and personnel who are not prepared to be deployed to those kinds of places.
“We have a new strategy for 2021 called hard-to-reach locations being initiated, which is one of our priorities. We will first of all locate good structures in the very remote areas and then have a way of deploying staff there on a rotational basis and then pay hardship allowance. Also increasing our ability to access those places in a safe way and also have the ability to evacuate patients who are in distress,” Abayomi said.
Other projects abandoned by the federal and Lagos State governments
A vocational training school for fishermen, one of the training centers, which have been abandoned for over 30 years, is now being taken over by some people in the community. James Yovoyan who was the tour guide at Yovoyan, said that the Vocational School for Fisheries was built by the Lagos State government in the 70s. He said those who attended the school usually proceeded to the School of Oceanography in Lagos, with many of them becoming captains.
“There were four buildings at this spot but people have converted them to their homes and toilets,” he said.
Also abandoned is the Skill Acquisition Centre initiated by the federal government. Investigations showed that it was used for a period of time before it was abandoned by the federal government without explanation. Yovoyan pointed at where the cold room used to stand with a generator, adding that everything went bad and the buildings collapsed after the place was abandoned.
“Many sailors were trained here, but everything is messed up now. If the schools were still functioning, a lot of people would have become professionals, and become employed but look at our young men, they are here doing nothing. We are already fishermen; all we needed was for some more trainings to enhance our fishing capabilities,” he noted.
A resident who said he worked at the state-owned centre 25 years ago said they resumed work one day and were told that the centre had been moved to the Lagos Bar Beach but they were not asked to resume there.
Another resident who gave his name as Mr Hanson worked with the Federal government owned centre when he was a young man. He explained that both centres had different staff and added that nobody can truly say what happened or why the government decided to stop using the place for fishing an processing of fishes.
Another abandoned project in Yovoyan community is the National Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, NIOMR. The tour guide, after taking this reporter to see the abandoned site, said the building was abandoned after it was completed. When this reporter asked why projects are being abandoned in the community, he said “if we had electricity, people will not abandon all these projects here. The community people don’t get to have power (electricity supply) except they go to Badagry.
“About four houses in this community have generators; so everyone depends on them when they put it on. We requested for road, electricity and hospital but we have gotten only the hospital, which is now abandoned. So we are waiting for the electricity and road,” he added.
Is this not the same project as the last? Both are NIOMR
The third abandoned project in Yovoyan is the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, NIOMR. This project, which was also completely built, has never been used before. It has been abandoned for over 10 years now. At the NIOMR office, this reporter met an angry Executive Director, Abiodun Sule, who insisted that NIOMR never abandoned the project. “We are very angry that the project had to stop because we had plans and had put in a lot of manpower to work,” he said.
While giving an explanation into why the project was abandoned, NIOMR Director Research and Aquaculture, Dr Patricia Anyanwu, said the land in Yovoyan was secured for the project through the help of the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture to develop shrimp farming.
“The Lagos State government leased that land to us, but in 2013 we heard that Lagos state consulted a private developer to set up a deep sea port, which impacted on our community. So they said that we should stop and that they will relocate us.”
She said since the village is a settlement with makeshift houses they felt it would be easy to relocate the settlers and the project but “we have gone there to do all the necessary assessment and it was agreed that we will be relocated to Gberefu but we have been waiting for the relocation since then.
Asked why it is taking so long she said they have asked about the relocation but were told that they cannot be relocated without informing the Lagos state government in case they also have things to do at the proposed relocation site. “So we didn’t abandon it; we are waiting for the promoters of the deep sea port to do the needful. When this is done they will call us, relocate us and compensate us as well,” she noted.
Anyanwu said what they built at Yovoyan is a three bedroom apartment and a shrimp hatchery complex that was already in the level of roofing for the Mari culture as well as ponds. She noted that the project became necessary when the government sand-filled everywhere around the Victoria Island sea and they had to go and start using tanker to get sea water, which isn’t perfect for research as they have to be close to the sea. So Yovoyan was located. She hinted that building started in 2010 and in 2013 we they were told to stop.
“If they had started the project since, a lot of development would have come to the community because the East West Road is passing through Gberefu that can lead to Takwa Bay on the Island which is already on course. If the project is awakened again, it will benefit the community a lot. There will be a lot of fish production because we will partner with them as fishermen. We will teach them about Mari culture and employ some of them as hatchery attendants because they are the ones that will go out to the sea. By the time we finish with the work there and start the shrimp farming, a lot of people around the community will benefit from it,” Anyanwu said.
Yafin Cultural Industries Centre
Another abandoned project is the Cultural Industries Centre, a project of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. The project started in 2017 and was completed the same year, but was never put to use. According to the Baale of Yafin, Abiodun Whedoku Patinvoh, some needed equipment for facilitating was also brought but since then it has been abandoned. “We thought that after the 2019 election, it would be opened, but nothing has happened. What we are waiting for now is for the federal government to get us facilitators that will teach our youths but the wait has been since 2017.”
According to a young lady who gave her name as Sherifat, if the project had been put to use, she would not be spending so much going to Badagry to learn fashion designing. “I had to go and learn tailoring in Badagry because I could not wait anymore for the place to be opened. I have been taking transportation to Badagry and it is costing me a lot but I don’t have a choice.”
Another resident, Mercy Ogunsanwo, said Yafin is the closet place for her to learn fashion designing but now she goes to Badagry to learn. “In order to save transport money, I sleep in a church in Badagry from Monday to Friday and go back to my house on Friday evening because my parents cannot afford the everyday transport money.”
Residents lament over abandoned Yafin Road
Many residents traced the poor state of affairs in Badagry to poor state of major roads that would have opened up the community. One of such important roads is Yafin road, which was abandoned 19 years ago when Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the governor of Lagos State. It was a major road that would have further opened up Yafin and environs. A resident, who didn’t give his name, said he never wanted to live in Yafin but he changed his mind when he saw efforts being put in place to fix the road. He bought a land, developed it and has since settled down there. It is a regrettable decision, he said. “I regret buying the land now because Ansar-ud-deen road where I was considering before coming here now has good roads and we are still waiting for this one to be fixed,” he said.
The major road was abandoned by the contractor, FTS Construction Company, Victoria Island, after the contractor complained that he was not being paid. When Babatunde Raji Fashola became governor, the Baale in Yafin said they wrote to him and in 2011 he promised to fix the road. He did some work but up till now, it is still in the stage that Fashola left it. During the administration of Akinwumi Ambode, nothing was done about the road.
The Baale is, however, optimistic that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will come to the aid of the embattled community. “We have been writing series of letters to remind the present government and Sanwo-Olu responded. But we are still waiting. This road serves more than 1,000 communities in Ogun State. They pass through our jetty during dry season but during rainy season they cannot pass because of the bad road,” he said.
Babatunde Hunpe speaks on all the projects
When our reporter met Babatunde Hunpe, member representing Badagry Federal Constituency at the Federal House of Representatives, said the journalist was the first person to bring the matter up to him since his assumption of office.
“I have written to the Minister of Youth and Sports on the Ajara project and I thought something would have been done by now but since nothing has been done, I am promising you, I am taking it up as a motion.” He promised to check Yovoyan and Iyafin for other projects mentioned.
Also, a Badagry youth representative, Michael Sewanu, said the youth centre at Ajara Vetho was formerly managed by the local government but the council did not pay attention to the place. According to him, the major reason why projects are abandoned is because of the bad road in Badagry. He also blamed lack of continuity and selfishness on the part of political leaders.
“Almost every infrastructure of the government in Badagry is abandoned, both the ones that are revenue generating and the ones for youth development. During the time of Senator Ganiyu Olarenwaju Solomon, I met him and challenged him at the Badagry Charlet. He promised that if he wins the second term, he would continue but he lost and the person after him didn’t do anything.
“When Gbamgbose Joseph was member representing Badagry Constituency 1 in the Lagos House of Assembly, he claimed that he was very busy and never concerned himself with the project just because they don’t see anything in the youths of Badagry. They see the youths as weapons they can use to win elections, but once they get into office they don’t care what happens to the youths,” Sewanu said.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.