With a membership base topping 120, the prestigious Epe Club celebrated its 40th anniversary, highlights of which included the reeling out of the club’s achievements to the benefit of the community ever since its inauguration, as well as presentation of bursary awards to 53 deserving students of the Epe community drawn from various higher institutions in the country. Correspondent, IBRAHIM KADIRI in this piece, reports that the President of the club and one-time commissioner in Lagos, Chief Lanre Razak used the occasion of the anniversary to announce readiness of the club to realize potential of Epe, just as other indigenes of the area appealed to the Federal Government to address the problem of electricity in the area so as to fast-track development in the communities.
In its pristine present status, the refinement of the Epe area of Lagos will no doubt portend appreciable development if it would be allowed to materialize in due course.
The above postulation encapsulates the Epe Division, the inhabitants of which also comprise the Ijebu Epe and Eko Epe. This division has, regardless, been positively used to cement a rather mutual relationship among communities and neutralize the earlier perceived rivalry among the Epes.
Stretching over 641km square metres of land mass with attendant waterfront, many, including economic experts and scholars agree that Epe is capable of becoming one of Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction and by extension a commercial and industrial hub of Lagos, in particular, and Nigeria as a whole.
However, the absence of social amenities, chief of which is electricity, has immensely retarded the growth of the area, and by implication become an embarrassing clog in the wheel of progress of a community abounding in great resources, both natural and man-made.
In its bid to step up the development of Epe, indigenes of the community have at several fora government and individually organized fora, clamoured for an improved government presence in the area, which they posit would reposition the growth and development opportunities of the communities in the area.
With projects like the Lekki Free Trade Zone, and a proposed airport lined up for the area, the effect is yet to rub off or reflect on the indigenes or communities in the area, as basic amenities like electricity supply remains a nightmare for the people.
It is against the backdrop of the absence of some of these amenities that informed the evolution of such social clubs and non-governmental groups like the Epe Club back in 1974, which on itself aims to work towards the economic empowerment and repositioning of the communities in the area.
The recently celebrated anniversary of the club therefore provided that much-needed platform to re-strategize growth plans and commitment towards the region of the Lagos.
While delivering a paper at the celebration titled: ‘Economic Status and Viability of Epe,’ the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), Professor John Oladapo Obafunwa who was a guest lecturer at the event highlighted the challenges and prospects of the community. He believes with the natural endowments especially the availability of water and the setting up of Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ), Epe in no distance time would experience a boom.
The Professor who is also an indigene of the community identified the following factors as economic viability of Epe. They include LFTZ, Estate Development, Education, Tourism, Agriculture, Transportation and Electricity generation.
While commenting on Lekki Free Trade Zone, the lecturer explained that apart from the various industrial revolution expected at the Zone, there would be multiple accessibility through road networks to the community. He added that there is capability of establishing sea port at the area “to ease traffic movement from various parts of the state to the Zone.”
In addition, the VC who noted that the discovery of crude oil in the area has also served as an impetus to economic buoyancy of Epe, quickly added that the residents should brace up for the inherent challenges that would come along with oil exploration. He reminded the audience that the business magnate, Aliko Dangote has shown interest in setting up an oil refinery which he believes will serve as additional job opportunity to the sons and daughters of the community.
Furthermore, Professor Obafunwa explained that an increase in population will require additional education. The lecturer however disclosed that LASU has initiated move to have pre-degree science as a way of encouraging more admission especially indigene students. He said: “We are hoping to admit at least 800 students in the pre-degree science. We are in the process of resource assessment from National University Commission (NUC). By the time we have an increase in students’ population it will contribute to economic viability of the environment.”
He also noted that there are two local governments associated with the community which are Epe and Ibeju-Lekki, saying the projecting population density is 445 for the latter and 202 for the former. He added that two major markets in the community are Olowu and Ayeitoro. The contribution of Olowu to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to the council is 30 percent while Ayietoro has 65 percent as stated by the university don.
The lecturer however told the audience that for the potential of Epe to be realizable, the major obstacle to scale through would have to do with the provision of adequate power supply. In his words, “I have come here (Epe) a couple of times and what I see is total darkness with its environmental pollution because of usage of generating sets.”
Professor Obafunwa stated that the success of Epe would be made to fruition if electricity is adequately attended to, maintaining that power supply currently is comatose.
Earlier, in his welcome address, President of the Club, Chief Lanre Razak listed some of the achievements of the club since existence, including; acquisition of two plots of land, construction of the Club House, construction of the Club restaurant, acquisition of 20 KVA generator and construction of perimeter fence.
Others achievements are; increase in membership drive from 20 to 120, award of bursary to indigent of tertiary institution students of Epe Division, appointment of all Oba’s in Epe Division as Grand patrons and patrons of the Club and intervention in the resolution of communal dispute within Epe Division among others.
“Notwithstanding the achievements and feats recorded by the club in past years, I assure you that the club will not relent in its selfless effort at ensuring the sustenance of the enduring heritage and legacies of the founding fathers, but will also continue to strive for the continued growth and well being of its members and Epe Division,” said Razak.
In interview with journalists, Razaq recalled that there had been an unhealthy rivalry between Ijebu Epe and Eko Epe which according to him, the Club has successfully addressed. He said, “two major ethnic nationalities that were not too friendly in living together. You can’t expect progress in a place where there is no peace and unity. Unlike when you had a club for Ijebu Epe known as AEP and the one for Eko Epe Club known as Ogunmude lake club. We are now having Epe Club embracing everybody. It is a source of unifying force for the community.”
Also speaking with journalists some of the beneficiaries of the bursary award, including a student from Lagos State University (LASU), Balogun Kolawole who is studying Biology Education appreciated the club for the laudable gesture, saying it would serve as a relief in his education pursuit, while Omojole Kafayat from the Ekiti State University studying Education Management said the money received would be used to complete her school fees.