Unfortunately, the continued existence of the Seriki Williams Abass museum in Badagry Nigeria, is threatened by many risk factors.
The British colonial government made the compound of Seriki Williams Abass, a monument in 1940, but after the departure of the British government because of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the heritage site was abandoned. It was in the year 2002, that the then Federal Government of Nigeria, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, re-commissioned the edifice as a National Monument, under the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
But, by this time several parts of the building have been affected by destruction due to human activity, specifically, because some people were living in the compound and had little or no knowledge about the building’s historical and cultural significance or its preservation. Prior to starting work as a Tour guide, thus, I was compelled to reconstruct the affected areas of the building, rearrange relics and historical artefacts in a way that appealed to both the visitors to the museum and officials of the government, to the extent that we were able to convince everyone of the museum’s continued relevance.
I must say that along with some of my colleagues, we only applied limited knowledge, which I hope to improve upon if invited to attend preservation training programmes.
Along with the risk associated with fire, the building is also prone to flooding (a lagoon is directly opposite the heritage and the Atlantic ocean (the slave point of no return is not too far away), and Human encroachment (Some people are tampering with the original structure of the site because they live in the compound).
My vision is to work assiduously towards giving the site the United Nation’s recognition and to protect, preserve and encourage more patronage by International organizations, including the UNESCO and Ritsumeikan University, Japan.
The Heritage management and preservation in my country is hardly given attention in spite of its crucial place. I am presenting some of the activities that I have been involved in. I hope they are worthy to give me a place in the training.
There are other sites that had been destroyed and the location of some of these places are not known which is a disaster to the generations unborn. There are more than five Portuguese Slave Barracoons that were destroyed by the British (during the agitation for slave abolition in Lagos) on the atlantic waterfront, and Lagoon front from Ebute Metta, Lagos Island to Epe. Unfortunately nobody is discussing about the history and location of these places.
The country is fortunate because one of such slave post although in ruins still stands and the history is kept in Lekki Village. Yet, the government has closed it's eyes. Consultant like Anago James Akeem Osho is conscious of the importance of Lekki Slave Site and have pictures and history of the place, but how do we preserve the relics and brick structures if we do not learn Disaster Risk Management and preservation of Cultural Heritage.
To be a part of the training on heritage preservation will be a turnaround in the Cultural Heritage development and promotion in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa.
Well, i was opportuned to have been a part of both training (COAST PROJECT) and experience as a DSMC (Demonstration Site management Committee) member, organized by GEF/UNEP/UNIDO/UNWTO and Lagos State government. The programme began in 2009 and ended in 2012. The Badagry demonstration site exposed the participants to the importance of sustainable tourism and how to protect Coastal areas. We were also taught the importance of communication in disseminating information acquired to the general populace.
The team Attending Knowledge Management and Communications Missions which I was involved in includes countries from Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The Project Manager: Mr. Hugh Gibbon was very encouraging as he explains in one of the meetings why communities should be involved in Heritage preservation for community development and sustainability.
The training in Best Practices on Tour Guiding took place in Badagry, Lagos State, Nigeria in October 2012. It was organized by Collaborative Actions for Sustainable Tourism, UNIDO, Lagos State Government, Lagos Tourism, UNEP, UNWTO, GEF and as a participant, I was awarded a certificate of participation.
Through the training, I realized the relationship between the Tour Guide, visitors and the Cultural heritage. A passionate guide knows that without the monuments, there will be no visitors, and without the tourists there will be nothing for him to guide the visitors around. It means the work of heritage preservation and continuity will provide work for him.
On April 2013, training On Souvenir and Curio Production was held in Badagry, Lagos State, Nigeria.
It was also organized by Collaborative Actions for Sustainable Tourism, UNIDO, Lagos State Government, Lagos Tourism, UNEP, UNWTO, GEF. The training briefly taught us how to preserve antiques but was more on how to create and invest in Souvenir and curio Production.
The Heritage site of Seriki Williams Abass Slave Museum and Brazilian Barracoon of 40 Slaves is prone to flooding and human activities like littering. A beach and Lagoon is close to the site. In respect of the risk associated through this against the site, on the18th of June, 2016, an NGO called The Beach Samaritans in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Culture and Tourism organized a beach clean up on Gberefu Beach side and the education on why the beach and lagoon should be kept clean at always. I was the Badagry Coordinator of the Beach cleanup. My duties involved youth attendance, education, Equipment donation, and sustainable beach cleanup by the community.
Flooding as a risk is really unchecked in the Badagry axis and most of the risk that is associated with the site and community are perpetrated by human activities. The government is trying to develop tourism in Lagos State but how is this possible when human activities are not really checked.
I was the Resource person and Tour Guide of Mrs Ndams Veronnica Sannar. She was a MARPM Student at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos Nigeria. I was her research and resource person during her Master’s Degree thesis titled “Sustainable use of Mangroves on the Riverine Zone of the Badagry Lagoon.
When she first contacted me, she told me that she got to know about my work through some students at the university and I was highly recommended. For her work, I told her that it will take more than a day. The books she collected on the subject were old and the information’s were outdated. I encouraged her to visit. She visited me at the museum and I encouraged her but told her that this research work is an opportunity to rewrite and present current information concerning the subject.
Unfortunately, the Mangroves, which she came to research on, were nowhere to be found. The Mangroves used to be much on the lagoon across the Museum of Seriki Williams Abass, but today there were no mangroves on both side of the Lagoon.
The advantages of Mangroves are numerous to the environment and everything around it. The people used to gradually cut down the mangroves for firewood to smoke the fishes caught in the lagoon and sea, until they cut all the mangroves and Mrs Veronnica was very disturbed to find out that there are no more mangroves on the Badagry axis of the Lagoon.
We rode on the boat throughout the day and passed more than seven villages before we found some mangroves. We took pictures, videoed and I and some villagers were interviewed by her.
The major disadvantage is that, mangroves hold the soil by protecting it from erosion and fishes lay eggs in the mangroves to protect their fingerlings from been eaten by other fishes and animals in the water.
Today, fishes are expensive in Badagry and flooding is common in some communities. It is vital to think of the importance of preservation.
The Cultural Heritage and Risk Management, International Training Course (ITC), is very important to me and is beneficiary to the community, the Museum and my colleague if the opportunity is given to me to attend the course because there are many things that we take for granted.
The importance of the training on heritage preservation is not known around here and I may be the first participant and my position gives me the opportunity to teach others what I have learnt.