Unlike Ogun and Osun states, Oyo State is not particularly known for its large water areas. Of course, Oyo State has dams and water bodies scattered around but compared to its bordering states that received their names from rivers, one can say the water areas are not as magnified in Oyo.
Nonetheless, somewhere in Oyo State, a portage business has been thriving for years, depending solely on a water body which passes through Eleyele, Ibadan. Situated close to the Eleyele Water Cooperation is a place that could easily pass as a tourism centre. But, for years, it has served only as a means of essential transportation.
A replica of the road transportation business practised across Nigeria, able-to-do individuals purchase canoes and employ “sailors” who do the work of transporting people across the river and to other places of choice.
Every day, they take about 30 trips to communities like Lane 4, Oba Ado, Apete, Alaakuta and Across. They move people, goods and products from one of such places to another. Dwellers in this community, of course, are not so secluded as they have other means of land transportation, but for workers and students who have businesses on the other side of the river, the canoes are a better choice.
One of the sailors, who identified himself as a ‘Jboy’ explained how he and many others were employed by canoe owners and get paid monthly in return for their services.
He further stated that for N50 to N100, depending on distance, passengers get to cross the river. However, tourists pay more to explore the river for a longer time. He explained that the water body is quite large, and there are ports at each community where they drop off and pick up passengers every day.
As he noted, Eleyele waterside is one of those ports, and passengers going to different locations can be found sitting and waiting for more passengers to complete the canoe of 15 passengers.
Interestingly, petty businesses have found their way to the ‘garage’, sprouting to sell different edibles and render services. The port secretary, Samuel, who coordinates payment, also chipped in the fact that people of all age groups come to the canoe port for transportation, therefore needing the services. For them, the canoe was faster than going extra miles around the river to reach their destination on land.
One of the petty businesses which have been depending on the river is the sale of fish caught overnight. Because the river is surprisingly clean and free of plastic waste and the sort as would have been expected of a river so frequently used by humans, fingerlings and even big fishes have been surviving in the water. “Fish sellers catch the fish and take it up the roadside for sale. Some other time, they kill it here if there’s anyone interested in buying,” Iya Eko, one of the traders, explained.
Is The Location Viable As A State Business Venture?
A state’s sources of revenue cannot be too much as the income can be used to solve many of the pressing needs of citizens. This is what Muizz Akintola, a tourist who visited the port and boarded a canoe with friends for the experience, commented on.
He mentioned the potential of the waterside to turn into a larger venture since Oyo State lacks the waterside and beaches which can be found in Lagos.
This led to a conversation with Hon. Ademola Azeem Ige, the Special Adviser to the Oyo State Government on Tourism and Culture. The Special Adviser said that the waterside is an expo tourism project that the state plans to develop soon. “There has been a call for investors, and we have seen some reliable investors. But we are still doing some paperwork. In the nearest future, that place will be developed, and we’ll be using it to drive the economy of the state.”
For now, groups and private tourism companies organise paid trips to the waterside for short-term cruises.
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