In good old Lagos, fondly called Eko, few landmarks stand out and remain indelible in the minds of the aborigines as the pride and heritage of Lagos. Eko Akete, as the Islanders love to call the city would recall, is the hot hub of Eko in the 60s through to early 1980s, which included the Tinubu and Campos Squares, the City Hall, Quay Side on the Marina; and then the Bar Beach.
Until 12 years ago, the Bar Beach held a natural history that was once thought to be a myth, but those curious enough did verify the story, and spiritualists, even the commercial white garment churches had it going for them ? until 2003. The story was that the Bar Beach Ocean, and the Lagos Lagoon, reached an understanding to dwell together; the two mighty elements had agreed to respect the other?s territory without breach and this treaty was very visible at a point some seven kilometres from the land area housing the School of Oceanography and environs. What would have earned its right of place among the natural wonders of the world was the point where, it was said, both oceans met side by side, the Bar Beach, with her clear sparkling blue waters and the ash dark waters of the Lagoon with neither flowing into the other. There was even a story that if you pour both into a bottle, you would risk an explosion, even when there was no proof.
Daily Times took time to visit this place, tracing the old path that could lead to recapturing the wonder in the face of the massive Eko Atlantic City project. Daily Times was able to search out one inquisitive lady, now a grandmother, Mrs. Yomi Adeosun, a medic and social worker, who first went there as a child, and much later as an adult. She went back down memory lane to the most eerie and awesome sight she ever saw. Like an intellectual documentary, Daily Times relives Yomi Adeosun?s live encounter with the Bar Beach and the Lagos Lagoon: ?We entered from the road beside the School of Oceanography, which used to be the demarcation of the Bar Beach and the Lagoon. A little way down you find piles of stones arranged in a straight line into to the sea; its width was like a normal road but it was a very long road ? up to seven or more kilometres, running in a straight line, till where the road ended. ?There was a rail track skillfully laid on the rocky road; but the rail terminated at a point, it was not clear what the rail was used for, but it was a very rugged old rail track. ?In those days, we trekked all the way as there was no motor able road. The separating rocks were high and people used the available spaces as churches, restaurants, and the type we call buka. At the end of the road, was a light house, and that was where the rail terminated. ?When we stepped down from the rail, we were confronted with a very big building, the entrance opened into a space that would occupy two modern living rooms put together?. ?It was like when you get to the end of a street, or a road intersection, there is usually a slight bend, and so it was there; they had left the front untouched but built a a white garment church there. ?The church had two entrance doors; we saw signs of female and male entrances and visitors were expected to strictly observe the order; they go in one way, and come out from another. ?It happened that we went on a day there was no service and, as we approached the church, we saw one man standing on one of the rocks and he was fishing; he looked over at us, and asked in Yoruba whether we wanted to see someone, but the man with me, one Mr. David Olowolabi refused to reply.
?We just walked in as if we were members of the church, but we each observed the rule. Mr. David went in through the male entrance, and I followed through the female one, and we both met at back of the church facing the sea. ?My heart skipped a bit and started racing, my hairs stood and I felt goose pimples all over me. The Church has drawn the Star of David on the ground and right there we saw a man kneeling and praying. I couldn?t climb any of the rocks because I was afraid. ?From left to right you can only see the Takwa Bay in the distance. While I was staring, Mr. David asked whether I recognise it was Takway Bay, I just nodded because I was still awed by the sight, and the massive waves lashed, even as the waters would sometimes splash on us. In fact I was told that if we had come during the high tide, the waves could throw out live fishes on the rocks?. The marriage of two oceans ?From this end of the church you could see the meeting point of the Bar Beach and the Lagoon. ?Both met side by side, the Bar Beach, with clear sparkling blue waters and the ash dark waters of the Lagoon. The line of demarcation was distinct from where we stood.
?It was a sight I will never forget. In fact it was the desire to see it again that made me go there a second time. When our correspondent visited the area on Christmas day and on January 1, a diligent inquiry revealed that the mysterious white garment church has been demolished, and so were all structures that dotted both sides of the rail track; they have given way to the state government?s ambitious 10 square kilometre land reclamation that has gulped up the natural wonder no one would believe ever existed before 2003. The rock pilling thus far has taken up five million square metres of sea to a spot called Point Zero. It is a pyramid shaped pile of massive rocks, some as massive as a lorry, and others shaped to fit into gaps in between; systematically the rocks at the pyramid point, spreading backwards. Daily Times learnt that the rocks have been brought in by huge trucks from Ibadan, Oyo State. The rocky road which was about the width of a normal one lane road had been expanded, while the ocean reclamation has continued beyond the location where the church used to be right into the infinite, formless deep seas.
Daily Times sought the opinion of someone in the know, a cleric and legal practitioner, Barrister Sylvester Okwechime of Wisdom Chambers, Maryland, Lagos. ?Land reclamation from the sea?? he began; ?You can only reclaim what originally belonged to you that was illegally taken from you. I see the 10 square kilometres land reclamation for Eko Atlantic City project as a forcible land acquisition and illegal occupation. What the principals of the project have done is a forcible dumping of rocks which they believe cannot be moved, but only time will tell. ?As a cleric, I can tell you that natural law comes to play here; to force their dwelling upon the face of the seas, even to the extent of overrunning the confluence of the Bar Beach and Lagoon? Is there no better and safer way for science and technology to prove their wisdom?? When Daily Times reminded the cleric that God gave man dominion over the seas, he refused to concur. ?God gave man dominion over the fish in the sea, not the sea. God gave man dominion over the earth and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth but not the sea. ?Time will not permit me to show you that the sea is a human being, since you know that God gave man dominion over the earth, you should also know He created the earth and the entire web of life upon the seas, and established them all on the flood; so the sea is the strongest and most powerful element created. ?I love natural scenes and I have great passion for preserving them. If there is to be one natural tourist attraction the state government should have preserved, it the confluence of the Bar Beach and the Lagoon. It is not a land that should be giving way in the overriding public interest. ?There is a place for the rivers, and there is a place for wild beasts and birds; there is also a place for man and his kind. Would it not be wise if men stay within the natural boundary set for them? God made all the nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth, and has set the bounds of their habitation. ?Then you overrun a sensitive point like that, and you say, Eko o ni baje? Let me tell you, it is only a mad man that would gather woods with live cobra in the forest, carry it on his head and expect to arrive home safely.?
Sensing the lawyer is a lover of nature; Daily Times asked if he wished the area had been spared. ?See, I love natural scenes and I have great passion for preserving them. If there is to be one natural tourist attraction Lagos State Government should have preserved for posterity and for all times, it the confluence of the Bar Beach and the Lagoon. It was not a land that should be developed for whatever reason. ?Besides that, there is a place for the rivers, and there is a place for wild beasts and birds; there is also a place for man and his kind. Would it not be wise if men stay within the boundary that nature has set for them? For God He is, that made of one blood, all the nations of men for to dwell on the face of all the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and has set the bounds of their habitation.?
On the demolition of the church, Adeosun nodded with approval. ?For me, it should be demolished because that day, when we were in the church, you could feel strong negative spiritual presence. I think it is good they demolish it. Such a place should not be allowed to exist.? ?Have you seen models of the Eko Atlantic City, and the 3-G photographs?? Adeosun asked with excitement; ?You need to see it. When you see the animated version of what the city will look like, where the shops will be, the apartments and all that, Olorun oni je ki omi gbe nwo lo! (God will not allow water to carry them away!). ?Do you know why I am uncomfortable with this land reclamation? At Lekki Phase 1, where the late Prof. Ransome Kuti lived, even though the water is clean and clear, but whenever it rains, we usually wade through the flood to get to his house. ?When I was young, that Sura water covered up to Sangross. Where the lagoon waters stopped is the place we have Sura market now. In fact, Leventis and Kingsways were built on the strip of the Marina that separated them from the lagoon.?
The good side The Lagos State Government is convinced that the Eko Atlantic project is worth all the demolitions of monuments in the area. Information available at the website on the mega project says that the new Nigerian city will rise from what was in existence over 100 years ago; that it will support a new urban development the size of the Manhattan District of America?s New York City. What is Eko Atlantic City? The proposed city is the most impressive urban development project in Nigeria.
It will be home to an estimated 250,000 people and the workplace for another 150,000. It is a 10 square kilometre development project with waterfront areas, tree-lined streets, efficient transport systems and mixed-use plots for residential areas with leisure facilities, offices and shops. In addition, it is envisaged to enhance the status of Lagos and create a new and stronger financial hub for the entire West Africa region.
According to Governor Fashola, Eko Atlantic will change the face of Africa and will help Lagos transform into megacity status. The state will provide space for the 25 million people expected to live and work in the region by 2015. Eko Atlantic is an ambitious project that will be a source of national pride.