As the rest of the world celebrate World Tourism Day on September 27, the good people of Epe Local Government area in Lagos who are blessed with a vast aquatic resource were not left out as they attracted stakeholders to the attention of its untapped tourism potentials.
The carnival-like one-day event sought to raise awareness on the economic significance of tourism and its socio-political, cultural and economic value within local and international communities. Other highlights of the event include cultural performances, boat regatta, mini-exhibition, live band and a grand unveiling of a new visual identity for Epe Tourism.
The ceremony held at a historic waterside venue known as Oju Alaro located at Epe Marina area. Oju Alaro houses a shrine near the entrance and overlooks a vast Lagoon serving as a local gateway linking travelers to the City of Epe. A few blocks away, the signs of a new jetty that is being constructed by Lagos State government is springing up. Life around the area is bustling with activity with an adjourning local market at once making it a melting point of commerce and culture.
At the centre of this drive to attract strategic collaboration to the tourist potentials of the rich aquatic splendor of the Lagos community is the Executive Chairman, Epe Local Government, Hon. (Princess) Surah Olayemi Animashaun. Dressed in Ankara accessorized with cowries, the former Tourism Supervisor opened a door of collaboration that will attract meaningful development via tourism.
The showcase ceremony attracted dignitaries such as the Oloja and Paramount ruler of Epe Land, Oba Kamorudeen Ishola Animashaun, The Olu Epe of Epe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr) Shefiu Olatunji Adewale (Bamgbopa Esinlokun 1), title chiefs, traditionalists, Local Government counsellors, among others. Others include representatives of Mrs Uzamat Akinbile Yussuf, Commissioner for Tourism, Dr Joe Owie, Managing Director, Villa Rica Beach Resort, Eleko among others.
In her welcome address, the Executive Chairman acknowledged the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) theme tagged Tourism for Inclusive Growth under the leadership of Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvii. She notes, “As we gradually ease out of the restrictions and containment measures of the Covid19 pandemic, it is important to have conversations around the diversification of the economy, shifting from total reliance on the oil sector and identifying other more inclusive non-oil sectors that can be equally beneficial to the Nigerian economy and its people.”
Buttressing the economic impact of tourism on job creation, Hon. (Princess) Surah O. Animashaun went on to say: “Our country is blessed with rich tourist attractions and if properly harnessed, will not only impact positively on the IGR of the nation by increasing international and local trade within different sectors but will also create employment opportunities for a cross-section of people in various areas of specializations.”
“Currently, tourism stands as one of the biggest drivers for economic development and growth, accounting for 10.4 percent of the world’s GDP. Being one of the fastest growing industries, nations all over the world are increasing their investment in tourism development and leveraging heavily on their cultural exports to promote their destinations and kickstart their economy. Epe must not be left behind.”
Speaking about key attractions in Epe, Honourable Apata Samson Olatunji Olayan, Managing Director, Eko Destination Limited disclosed, “One key feature that draws people to Epe is its vast resources of fishes which makes people call it the ‘fish basket’ of Lagos and indeed, Nigeria. People come even from outside the shores of Nigeria to buy fish at our famous Oluwo Market.”
“Another attraction is the site of today’s event called ‘Oju Alaro’ with its own shrine and a tour guide to tell people about its significance. One key attraction about Epe is that it is blessed with a beautiful waterfront and this attracts a lot of people regularly. This ceremony is held to draw attraction to all these vast resources which are largely untapped. Rome was not built in a day and we believe that with strategic partnerships, we can together turn Epe into one of the choicest travel destination in Africa.
A major highlight of the event was the Agira Dance performance delivered by three colourfully arrayed Agira Magbo Masquerade of Epe land. Their energetic display enriched by songs in Epe dialect and backed by local drums sent the carnival-like atmosphere into a frenzy. The 40-man group with their bursts of adrenalin-pumping gyrations left the audience in awe, serving first-hand undiluted Epe culture. Oko Eshi or Boat Regatta as it is popularly known was another spectacle to behold. Decorated fully in colourful fabrics, three boats simultaneously maneuvered beautifully on the Lagoon to the gyrations of its own cultural troupes. Other performing groups include an all-white female Woro Dance Group and the Aziza Cultural Troupe with their beautiful Agehun dance symbolizing aquatic culture.
Commending the organizers, Dr Joe Owie agreed with the chief host that tourism has a capacity to help the people of Epe to fully leverage its untapped natural endowments. Owie, a stakeholder who runs Villa Rica Beach Resorts disclosed, “Tourism is the future of this country and an easy way to increase our Foreign Direct Income (FDI). Local tourism needs to be more promoted as a better alternative. This will not be possible without good infrastructures so that our tourism can be very accessible. Tourism has the highest return of investment.”