Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Vlekete - When a Slave Market Becomes a Tourist Centre

VLEKETE Slave Market which was established in 1502 in Badagry Lagos, served as the meeting point for European slave merchants, African middlemen and slaves brought from the hinterlands who were later auctioned. Although there were other slave markets in the country, the Vlekete Slave Market was unarguably the largest and most populated.

Reports showed that the market opened for business every two days with no fewer than 900 slaves sold per week. The slaves were auctioned for commodities like iron bars, mirror, cotton, dry gin, whiskey, cannons, gunpowder, gun and other assorted spirits.

Determined to develop this market into a national heritage and tourist centre, the Lagos State Government recently embarked upon its redevelopment. Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola who recently undertook an inspection tour of ongoing projects in different parts of the city, last week, visited the Badagry Local Government Area where he gave reasons for redeveloping the market.

According to him, the slave market represents one of the historical sites that Nigerians pay money to visit in other parts of the world. He explained that the state is building all of the road networks around the historical sites as part of the development of tourism in Badagry. The development of a Marina shoreline for the Point of No Return, he said, is aimed at providing the infrastructure that brings people to the place in a comfortable way and takes them back comfortably.

"What you would see on the beach front ultimately is an opportunity for the people of Badagry to show all of their skills; all of our people who sell fabrics, Batik, who make dresses and beads which are all products from the skills centres," he said.

Fashola explained that it would ultimately be a big market for the sale of souvenirs not only for the people of Badagry but all Lagosians. "It is a place where tourists can eat the local cuisines such that people in the culinary business can set up businesses as part of efforts at waking up the economy," he said.

On why work at the combined Magistrate and High Court complex is progressing at a rather slow pace, Fashola said he has spoken to the contractor who promised to complete the project in April this year. Apart from the slave market, the Governor's team also inspected the ongoing reclamation of the Marina shoreline for the exposition of the historical assets at Badagry as well as the Old District Officer's building whose restoration and preservation is almost completed.

Other places inspected were the 48-bedroom hotel at the Lagos State V.I.P Chalets and the proposed site for Oba's Palace in Badagry.

Fashola who was accompanied by his Deputy, Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire and members of the State Executive Council, took time to berate those who are criticising him for borrowing to develop the state.

Describing them as voodoo economists, Fashola claimed that that is why they are in the opposition. "They will never get into government because clearly, it is dangerous from the way they are talking, they don't know what the economics of governance is," he said.

On 200cc motobikes: Asked whether courier companies should obtain fresh clearance before plying the roads with 200cc motorcycles, the Governor said no such clearance is needed. "First of all, when you have a 200cc motor cycle as your own form of transport or movement, not public transportation, you can ride on any road in Lagos, you don't need any permission, you don't need any exemption.

Even if you are running courier business, once you have a 200cc, just go to the motor registry, you license it, get your plate number, just as you will license any other vehicle. That is all you need, at least from Lagos State Government.

"I don't know about the regulation for courier business because it's not my responsibility, but as far as plying my road, once you meet that, you don't need any exemption or permit from anybody, whether in the Ministry of Transportation. I have told the Commissioner for Transportation... that he must make further clarification on that; but the answer to your question is that no exemption is needed once you have a 200cc motorcycle," he said.

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