The History

They have been living in the community since the 1700s, that’s hundreds of years before Lord Lugard was born.

These people claim to be the first salt producers in Africa saying till date is a respectable occupation and source of income.

They also farm coconut and produce oil from it.

Their closeness to coastal waters also encourages some residents in the community to fish and make tents.

They looked sad as they shared their rich cultural heritage with Bounce News. They wondered what they would tell generations unborn about their sudden exit from their native environment.

The Lagos State government is set to construct the new deep-sea port which will have tremendous benefit to Lagosians, Nigerians and the West African sub-region but they keep asking "what about us, don't we count?"

Aivoji community sits on a vast expanse of land in Badagry with at least 2,000 people resident.

Modernism Comes Knocking

They are fighting the battle of their lives to save their community from being taken over by those they described as more powerful.

They have made it clear that they will not vacate their historical land for the new deep sea port in Badagry.

How much can they fight, how long can they hold on to this community as they know it?

The Badagry sea port has already attracted investors and leading global port and cargo inland services provider - APM Terminals, is the handler of the project worth $2.6 billion.

According to the timetable seen on Badagry Port and Free Zone website, technical studies started in 2012, while construction began in 2016.

There is expected to be a soft launch of the port in 2018.

Baale Mauwedo of Aivoji community, Cowell Aivoji, who is also a retired military officer, insists the people will not be swayed by juicy offers from state authorities.

"2011, some people came to us that they are going to make sea port, and they were here to discuss with each community that a project is coming to this side and it is for our benefit.

"They said any community that want them to go ahead with their project, they will, and any community that does not want them to implement the project, they will go away.

"When they came to do space work, we explained to them that former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime had come to us on that but we told them to go into virgin lands inside Badagry, they went and came back to tell us that they will still work on our area.

"They said they will take the soil test of this community, and they will create a new area for affected communities. Drive them from their original abode to the new location and name the new place after their community.

"We told them they can go ahead with other communities, but we will not accept to leave here because this is a historical area".

Behind The Clouds

According to the Baale, “This place has been existing since the 17th centuries, why we don’t have many concrete building here is because our forefathers built with sticks.

“This place used to be a very big industrial area in those days. When there was shortage of salt, it is this sea water that was used to cook and produce salt and sell to Ibadan, Abeokuta and others.

“This area came to be in the 17th centuries when our forefathers came from Dahomey, which is now Republic of Benin to settle here as this place is close to the sea, they like the beach.

“Aivoji is the name of one of the sons of the forefathers, who decided to settle permanently in the community to do is fishing business. He had a big fish factory, and also farm coconut and cassava."

Local Interpretation Of The Government's Plan

“The former government had planned to make this area a tourist site so that people from far and near can come and learn somethings about the history of slave trade and lots more.

“They said the area the deep-sea port will cover is about 600 hectares, which did not affect or get to this Aivoji community.

"But later they said they want to do free trade zone and they will increase the land size.

“They came and said they want to do soil test, but we stopped them and told them we are not interested in their juicy offers of huge amount of money in cash and relocation to another settlement.

“Then they called us to a meeting with the commissioner for commerce and industry of Lagos state, we explained the reason we cannot move from this place. We support all their project except taking us out of this place.

“They promised us money but we told them we don’t want their money, because this place is a historical area and we cannot move away from here.

“We later took them to court during Babatunde Raji Fashola regime, and since we began the court issue, they have not showed up for once.

“Even the present governor Akinwumi Ambode came to Berekum to see about the project, and when he saw the size of the land, 1,100 hectares of land, he was surprised and told them the size is too much."

The Baale said they discovered that some people are planning to claim the land, and when the original project takes 600 hectares, they will then sell off the remaining 500 hectares to their own and other industries and make crazy money.

The Governor's Visit

“This port and free zone, situated on over 1000 hectares is expected to be the largest deep sea port in Africa upon its completion. The project will include a container terminal, oil & gas services and a liquid bulk terminal, with general cargo and Ro-Ro facilities.”

This is according to Governor Akinwumi Ambode. He said this at a gathering in October 2016.

Ambode added that the port is expected to generate 500,000 direct and indirect jobs upon completion and promised that the state government would ensure the protection of the interests of the host communities.

The governor gave an asurance that the aggrieved people of Aivoji and other communities where the deep sea port project is situated would be adequately compensated.

He said that about 350 hectares have been earmarked for them. But the people of Aivoji are not convinced, they are wary of being oushed into selling their destinies for a couple of millions in naira.

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