High Chief Menu Toyon, the Mobee of Badagry Kingdom spoke for the host community for the proposed Badagry Deep Sea Port. In this interview with journalists after the recently held All Nigeria Maritime Journalists Retreat, Toyon expressed worries about challenges associated with host communities of maritime and oil industries
Question: You are part of the community that used to be prominent for maritime activities; shipping slaves from Badagry to other parts of the world. Government has approved a port in Badagry, how do you feel about it?
Response: I am delighted but there is no good thing without the other side. Yes, maritime or whatever associated business that is coming to Badagry in terms of deep sea port will expose Badagry to some hazards no doubt about that. Yes there was jubilation on hearing the news that we are going to have a deep seaport but at the end of the day, Badagry where you came today and saw everywhere peaceful and fine may not be the same again.
When the time comes, there will be influx of people of questionable characters. It happens everywhere, all what we are praying for is that we don’t experience what is happening in the Niger Delta here in Badagry because maritime brings a lot of goodies and challenges.
Question: What good thing are you expecting because it is like you are expressing some fear that with Badagry with oil and maritime activities will not be as peaceful as the Badagry you have now. What other good things are you expecting from that port?
Response: The economy of Bdagry will be boosted. There will be jobs for our children if they are knowledgeable about maritime. I thank God we had a conference about three or four days ago at ASCON (Administrative Staff College of Nigeria) on the deep seaport and oil exploration.
We discovered we don’t have enough youth graduates that read maritime related courses but we were able to enlighten them to go to maritime institutions so that they can be aware of the challenges we are facing in Badagry. If we don’t prepare, people will just come from nowhere and take over the jobs that are meant for the indigent youths .
Question: Can you give us list by list, topic by topic, those areas you are afraid of when the port will start?
Response: Number one, when the port starts, our roads are going to be bastardised, there will be environmental degradation in Badagry which will be very bad. I would have preferred luxury cruise ships in Badagry where we have very beautiful vessels that can be taking tourists round. The port will distort our peace.
Question: Considering the fear that you have expressed, if you are asked to make a choice, would you want it to come or you prefer is taken elsewhere?
What is the state of the proposed port now? Has anything shown that it is about to take off? What does the community want either from the concessionaires or the government?
Response: Do you know why I will say yes that a deep seaport should come, because our father in the person of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one time premier had clamoured for deep seaport in Badagry over 40 years ago but thank God his prayer is being answered by God but you know we stakeholders don’t know where we are going yet.
They are going to use some peoples’ properties, they are going to dislocate some people but I will tell you that when you light a candle and put a paper on top of it, there is bound to be fire. Let the APM Terminal come and meet the stakeholders and talk to us. Though we held a meeting about two years ago, the state government will be having 20%, federal government will be having 20% and APM terminal will be having 60% which is 100%, what percent are they giving to the stakeholders, Imean owners of the land?
My grand father was among the first farmers at the Gberefu beach land in the 1880s and till now we the stakeholders have nothing to show that things are coming to Badagry. Good, It has been approved by the federal government, Lagos state welcome it, oil exploration is going on with crude being taken but the stakeholders on oil exploration area don’t have anything to show for it, we are in the dark.
Question: Can you precisely itemise what you want the government to do for you as stakeholders? Since the announcement that the port is going to be constructed, one expects that construction job should be ongoing but it appears nothing is happening yet, is it as a result of differences between you and the government that nothing is happening?
Response: For now, there is no disagreement between the federal or state government and the stakeholders, what we are expecting now since the inauguration has been done in Denmark by Ambode where he appointed Ernest Shonekan, the former interim president and chairman of the APM terminal.
In 1873, arbitrators were appointed on this axis, I have the document and everything is with me. Now before starting anything, there must be peace accord, amiable settlement between the stakeholders and APM Terminal. we welcome the idea in a very good direction but at the same time, we are in fear that what happened in Niger Delta does not to happen in Badagry.
Question: Don’t you think your opposing the establishment of the seaport may stall developmental projects which your children and those yet unborn will benefit from vis a vis job employment because any company coming here will always take into mind their Corporate Social Responsibility for the host community?
Response: No, I said it earlier on that it is a welcome idea, Badagry has been suffering for ages and this time that they brought deep seaport which I will tell you almost 90% of Badagry people don’t know what it means until last week when they held a conference at ASCON to enlighten our youths about what we are going to experience.
Now, it is going to bring influx of people, it is going to provide employment opportunities for our children even the yet unborn children but all the same, the stakeholders must be carried along, this is what I am emphasising on, we should be carried along, that is my submission.
You said something about youth restiveness in Badagry, we are peace-loving people. What happens in Niger Delta cannot happen here because we know how to go about our people, we control them, they listen to us. If I call my people now that I want to see them, they will come here en-mass.
We have eight quarters in Badagry, we are not hostile, the way they nurtured us right from youth cannot permit us to be violent like Niger Delta. But environments are impacted negatively and government contribution to developing areas where they explore. They hardly contribute to developing areas where they explore wealth from.