•Community cries out
•Says we are at the brink of erosion
•Calls for a National attention
By Binebai Princewill
BURUTU- The people of Forcados Community in Iduwini Kingdom, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State have expressed total displeasure on the Nigerian State for the acute negligence of the alleged first administrative capital of Southern Nigeria.
Forcados, is a small historical town under Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State. History reveals that Forcados and neighbouring Burutu played significant role in slave trade era. The Portuguese built a slave dungeon in 1475 where slaves were kept before exported to Europe and America. The Forcados slave wharf is one of the longest in Africa built by the Portuguese in 1472 and Renovated by Royal Niger Company in 1886 when they took over the town. The Royal Niger Company built a prison in 1887 and it was the first in West Africa. The famous Forcados sea wall was built in 1616 by the Portuguese to protect their houses which were threatened by flood then. The Portuguese also built a windmill in 1472. The abandoned Burutu sea port was built by the Royal Niger Company in 1887, the first modern sea port in Africa.
The Forcados Infectious Diseases General Hospital was the first in Nigeria and West Africa built in 1890. According to lay down history newly trained medical personnel from abroad began their first medical work in Forcados, the hospital still functions partially,renovated by Delta State government.
All the structures discussed are just a few of the structures built by the portuguese and the British that settled in Forcados and Burutu to do business. The structures discussed above and many more are still visible, but are fast decaying away due to lack of maintenance by the government.
This was disclosed to Gbaramatu Voice Newspaper during a media tour to the ancient community as residents expressed bitterness over the present dilapidated level of the town without Government presence, they alleged that Forcados was the administrative headquarters of colonial Nigeria that hosted the Portuguese and played a vital role in the colonial era and regretted what the community has become.
The community has a total human population of approximately 2000 inhabitants predominantly Ijaws with fishing as their main source of livelihood.
THIS WAS WHERE NIGERIA BEGAN ~ CHIEF GIYALE
Speaking to Gbaramatu Voice, Chief Jacob Giyale, an Elder of the Community alleged that Forcados was the first settlement of Nigeria’s colonial masters and was serving as the Federal Capital Territory with so much boom.
“Forcados is the first settlement of Nigeria’s colonial masters and the Federal Capital Territory. It was booming then, as the entire nation was here before it was taken to Lagos. Every other administrative and trading issues were done here as at then. There were traders from foreign countries, and this was about the 17th and 18th centuries. This was the first place Nigeria existed from. You can see the warehouses, prisons, health centers, dockyard, and so on that were built then.
“Our challenges are numerous, as you can see, there is no evidence of government’s presence in the community. All these buildings you see were all built by the colonial masters that were housing the white men. If time had permitted, you would have gone to the cemetery where their remains were buried. In addition, you can see the seawall protection that is not too far from my house. The entire Forcados is about to be washed into the sea. So we want reclamation and piling of the sea shore; if not, in a short while all of us will be washed into the sea, which is not a story that one has to frame because it is evident as seen by the massive erosion due to the collapse of the seawall. Ever since, both the past and present governments have forgotten about us. There has never been a day that one new project has been sited here, or have they come to ask us what our problems are and we have been crying to them.
“We have been using the Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS) television, African Independent Television (AIT), and some other media, even newspapers but all to no avail. As for the State government, we have been crying to them; we are not illiterates. We have been appealing to them. We even have representatives in the House of Assembly and House of Representatives that are sons of the soil; they too seem to have forgotten us. But i think that it is government that is deliberately avoiding us; if not, maybe our people are willing and they might even be appealing on behalf of us. I think it’s because we are in the minority in the political era and so, are finding things difficult to achieve. We are appealing through this media to the State and Federal government to come to our aid as urgent steps should be taken. This is where the country gets its revenue from, the Forcados Terminal. Go to the map of Africa and Nigeria, it is clearly there; there is no other Forcados anywhere except here.
“We want the government to help us pile Forcados to save the community from erosion and we are also calling for reclamation through sand filling. On our own we manage to poorly provide electricity for ourselves with Lister Generators using blanks as polls. As you can see, there is no electric pole here. In fact we need government to give Forcados a national attention. The flimsy excuse they gave us then was that Forcados was going to sink, and so they left here. But has it sunk till date? If they can venture into the open sea, sand fill and built gigantic buildings as they do in foreign countries, what about the land that you are seeing here? When you came did you meet us in the river or under the water?
“There are some monuments in form of wrecked ships in our water front, those where ships used by the United African Company (UAC) by the colonial masters for importation and exportation, they where used for importation of millets, groundnuts, and other products were done through these ships. In that time, the coal system was used in powering these ships. There was also one of the ships named Queen Mary, a ship that brought a Queen of England to Forcados.
“I wish our representatives can carry this message to the government and to fight for us in order to bring what is due us, we would be grateful. We appeal to them to put in more efforts so that every good development that is supposed to have been done to us which the government is doing in the upper-land should be done here also. You can imagine a 17th and 18th century settlement that was once an administrative headquarters serving as Federal Capital Territory have been deeply relegated to this extent, that alone tells a lot. Prof. John Pepper Clark came here some years back to do some fact finding too, he was the last on such mission before the coming of Gbaramatu Voice Newspaper.” Chief Jacob Giyale maintained.
SAVE US FROM THE BRINK OF EROSION ~ Negresse
Also speaking was the Chairman of Forcados Community, Mr. Doutimi-Areye Negresse who hinted that the major developmental challenge out of the many confronting the community is that of erosion that is about to consume the town.
“We are at the brink of erosion, please the government and its allies should save us from extinction, erosion is one of the developmental challenges we are facing here in Forcados community. Since the colonial masters left here, we don’t have any modern buildings or government projects been executed here. Moreover the seawall built by the white men in 1616 have started to collapse leading to loss of lands and the washing away of our houses. In fact our problems are just too many that we need a national attention.” He said.
The community Chairman further appeals to the State, Federal government and the multinational Oil Companies Operating within its territory like the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), Agip and their subsidiaries to come to their aide.
“We are using this medium to beg the State, Federal Government and the multinational Oil Companies to please come to our aid. We need the government to help us build modern schools and to help in reclamation of the community lands. When you go to the Forcados Terminal at Ogulagha, you will see the gas they are wasting. It is only Odimodi and Ogulagha that are privileged to use it as turbine. We therefore call on the oil companies to support us with a gas turbine to help provide electricity for us.” Negresse appeals.
A VISIT TO THE HOSPITAL
What is today known as the Forcados General Hospital was built by the Portuguese in 1890 as an Infectious Diseases Center and was the first hospital in Nigeria and West Africa at large. At present, it has been partially renovated by the Delta State Government, the hospital has been reduced with no proper attention as it lacks medical personnel and experiencing almost zero medical activity to carter for the health challenges of the community.
It is presently being surrounded by overgrown weeds with long expired and bed facilities rusting away with no refurbishing attention. The staff quarter is also a site to behold.
The Hospital grapples with several challenges ranging from under-staffing, highly unhygienic environment, lacking drugs and no beds for patients to lie upon. In fact the hospital is just lying fallow.
FORCADOS HEADING TOWARDS EXTINCTION IF NOTHING IS DONE
The Community and its colonial legacies is fast ebbing and rapidly heading towards extinction as the Seawall built by the Portuguese in 1616 with the primary motive of protecting the community from the big tidal waves that could cause erosion has been breached by the waves over the years hence erosion has infiltrated into the town thereby washing away houses into the sea and hitherto lands now constituting a carnal.
The situation is so terrible such that it has deeply eaten a larger part of the community as a major part of the town has now become a river, hosting fishes as canoes can be pulled freely within this area.
More worrisome is the fact that part of the town is cutting into the sea on a daily basis, this horrendous and terrifying situation can only be tamed if the Government and the multinational Oil Companies operating within the community’s territory do something positive as a matter of urgency to build a shore protection to save the community from washing into the sea as presently seen. This was apparently what the British and the Portuguese foresaw when they build the Seawall 400 years ago to curtail the impending disaster. The Government and its agencies, together with the Oil Companies should be responsible enough to save this historic town from washing into the Sea.
DECAYING COLONIAL MONUMENTS
The visit undoubtedly reveals several rare colonial monuments that are still visibly standing in the town decaying. The Wind Mill built by the Foreigners in 1472 is still standing skeletally, the slave dungeon built in 1475 which was used to store and export slaves is still there, the prison built by the Royal Niger Company (RNC) in 1887 which was also the first in West Africa as at then for administrative purposes, the dockyard for the maintenance of ships, the slave wharf was also built by the Portuguese in 1472 which was as at then the longest in Africa and several other colonial structures like the cemetery of white men which dates back to 1906 and many other historic dates showcasing their Countries and names are still rusting away.
FORCADOS, NO LONGER FORCADOS
Despite playing host to SPDC, CNL ,Agip and being part of the Nigerian federation with huge colonial and political contributions to the Nigerian federation reveals that the ancient town is facing ignominious neglect.
It has long become a shadow of itself, has unbelievably retrogressed beyond recognition as a result, overgrown weeds and timber trees have successfully conquered the community. The monumental legacies by the colonial masters are still visible and eroding away.
Forcados has been mercilessly relegated and reduced to a grave yard as dangerous creatures, snakes, reptiles and all sorts of deadly animals have become the most active inhabitants of the once administrative headquarters of Nigeria.
Life in the historic town is one of sober reflection, the people live in a terrible condition, Government and its allies have neglected the community, hence the people have been pressed and subjected to untold hardship, Forcados is a total mess and a living hell to the inhabitants, nothing seems to be working and there is allegedly no remedy yet in sight.
What then is the position of the Government in reviving this community that is on its way to extinction?
What is the multinational Oil Companies doing on their part to rescue the community from the multifarious problems rocking it?
This town is only comparable to Calabar, Lagos and Abuja in terms of prominence.
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