Badagry town best epitomizes the slowdown in infrastructural development in Lagos State. A few years ago, the town was lathered with razzmatazz about its tourism potential. The prospect gained momentum with the visit in 2009 of Marlon Jackson (brother of the legendary King of Pop, the late Michael Jackson) and his Motherland Company. They came as investors with a grandiose plan of investing $3.4bn in a deluxe Badagry Historical Resorts that will include a five-star hotel, concert halls, golf course, casinos, slave history theme park and a Jackson Five museum.
Further impetus came with a 2013 hullabaloo caused by a plane towed from the airport to Badagry by Captain Matthew Ekeinde (pilot husband of Nollywood’s star actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde) to an entertainment centre reportedly projected to become one of its kinds in West Africa. And as late as 2018, Badagry was still in contention for big development following the federal government’s approval of the town as a location for a deep-sea port.
Just as suddenly, an echoing silence ensued. Like a pipe dream, everything fizzled out. The anti-climax got many tongues wagging. Some mooted a theory about the town’s insurmountable jinx––and they have a ready example to prove their point: The abandoned multi-million naira Badagry-Marina Lagoon reclamation project.
Started by the state government in 2016, the marina was scheduled to be completed in August, but two years and seven months later, the project is in limbo––uncompleted, abandoned and, now, misused. What’s worse, it has become a breeding ground for vices, not least the traffic in sex which has become an evening pastime vigorously engaged in by those who frequent the marina, according to findings by Saturday Sun.
Great expectation and great disappointment
On July 25, 2016, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode while inspecting on-going projects across the state spoke highly of the Badagry-Marina Lagoon reclamation, which was flagged off simultaneously with a similar project in Epe.
“We want to actually duplicate what you see in Dubai-Marina,” he declared. “This is a whole stretch of two kilometres of real estate and new tourist centres that we are putting in Epe and Badagry at the same time.” He also assured that the “Badagry-Marina Lagoon reclamation project would be completed by the end of August, this year (2016.)”
Two years and seven months later, Saturday Sun visited the marina on March 3, 2019, to take stock of the situation and found a depressing epilogue to a story that started on a good note. A single derrick crane sprouted against the skyline, grounded and rusting away. The long stretch of fine beach sand has been covered by grasses. A tract of the waterfront has been overgrown with bush and the sand dunes are now covered by a carpet of grass. There was no sign of recent activities. It was a picture of neglect.
Arena of recreational activities
In the absence of the expected development, the people of Badagry and its environs have put the abandoned Marina to good use, turning it into an amusement park of a sort. On this Sunday evening, members of an Islamic group having an occasion pitched their tents a few meters away from the regular under-the-tree gathering of plastic chairs occupied by people who came to while away time, eating, drinking and socialising. A cacophony of mixed music from both parties clashed with the din drowning lesser noises.
Underage boys carved out fields and are busy playing football. Mothers and their broods also claimed parts of the vast ground, and a brisk buying and selling went on as the young kids whet their appetites with junk foods.
A woman who gave her name as Rose Ibeh said she came from nearby Ajara with her five children: “This place is like a beach. I bring the kids here in the evening, especially at weekends,” she said.
A few families drove down to the arena with their cars. The Ateyigbo, a family of five, came straight from church service. “We find it refreshing coming here to enjoy good breeze and the good view of the lagoon,” said Paul Ateyigbo, the head of the family. A few teenagers lolled against the rail on the embankment, gazing into the lagoon. There was also a couple that sat apart from the crowd, facing the lagoon, praying. The serenity notwithstanding, there was a disturbing side to the seemingly good picture.
Playground for trysts and escapades
Observers do not need to look far to find the unpleasant facet of the Marina. The most obvious was the reckless smoking of cigarette and weed by some youngmen. The second more serious decadence only became apparent as it was getting dark and a part of the Marina turned into a playground for illicit sex.
Anyone going eastward to the far end of the stretch would have to pass through a pass between a set of sand dunes that was overgrown with weed. A few couples had casual walked through the pass and disappeared among the dunes. Couples, some of whom had earlier drifted from the main square, sat comfortably in twos in various compromising positions.
Olu Jayesinmi (“You can call me Jaye,” he insisted) who works at the jetty on this end of the marina told Saturday Sun: “It is a common thing here. Those boys you see standing by the water edge smoking are waiting for some girls. As soon as it is dark now, you would see them pair off and disappear into various corners.”
What happened next, he said, is “no man’s business.”
By 6:40 pm, dusk had settled. The crowd paired off and began to migrate eastward to the dunes. They drifted side by side.
Jaye said some of them will be busy there till about 9 pm.
Joseph Hunyinbo, another respondent who spoke with Saturday Sun, strolled into the fenced marina at a time mothers and kiddies were leaving. “I come out here every evening to enjoy the breeze,” he said as he unrolled his mat. “I will be here until about 11 pm.”
Asked about the negative development, Hunyinbo said: “This place has been favourable to the growth of some vices. It has even encouraged promiscuity among married couples. We have had incidents in the past about housewives who were caught in the act having sex with other men. At a point, the palace had to take a firm measure to curb the growth of the vice. It still happens but at a lower rate.”
He continued: “See all these young girls (he pointed at a group of four), they have been invited here by boys. Very soon, you would see them disappear into some corners. What are they going to do? Engage in sex. They are not from the immediate neighbourhood. Some of them come from as far as Ajegunle to escape prying eyes. If you go round those places in the morning, you would see used condoms everywhere.”
The source of the blight on the Marina is located some metres away. At the mouth of the street, close to the Badagry market, the waterfront is a potpourri of cheap bars, bet shops and viewing centres.
The popular joints, including Kings Arena, Savannah Café, Palace Bay and Hilander bar continually oozed loud music. They were mostly rendezvous for meetup and pickup, where ladies of easy virtues pretending to while away time over a bottle of drinks tried to hook interested customers with come-on stares.
These mushrooms of hangouts made the Marina Road a pulsating neighbourhood. Like magnet bars, they draw all manners of characters, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Savannah Café, with old fashion ambience of 1980s beer parlour, was peopled by mature patrons, most of them locals, dressed in Ankara. Palace Bay had the outlook of a joint for yuppies and hustlers while Hilander, the most family-friendly of the hangouts, attracted a mixed crowd of families and friends, but also pulled a crowd of young men, some of whom did not hide the fact that they belonged to some fraternities.
From this enclave, they drifted to the marina to satiate dark desires under the cover of dusk. Some residents of the town have no doubt as to who or what to blame for this negative development along the waterfront.
“The vacuum created by non-completion of the Marina is being filled by vices,” said Jaye. Hunyinbo was more poetic: “When Dubai would not come, Gomorrah came instead.”