“Mr Salami is a farmer, he lives in Sapele.”
The sentence above from the primary school “reader” by Macmillan (I think) is probably how many Nigerians my age first heard about Sapele. For me growing up, it was where grandpa and grandma lived.
Situated in Delta State, Sapele is one of the towns along the path of the River Ethiope; although at this point of the river, you no longer get the clear blue waters that the Ethiope has in Obiaruku and Abraka.
The town used to be known for timber, rubber and palm oil and you can still find pockets of these industries in the town today (maybe not rubber though).
African Timber and Plywood (AT&P) company was the biggest player in town. They basically had a monopoly of the timber industry and they built several of the colonial buildings you can find in the town today. Its yard has several colonial buildings many in impeccable state and some quite rundown. The problem is to let you view them, they want you to apply in writing stating why you want to view the buildings. Nigeria!
The AT&P road which almost runs parallel to the River Ethiope has many colonial buildings along it. Years ago, the state government offered the buildings up for sale, so they are now almost all in private hands. Thankfully some have been converted to hotels and sadly some have been pulled down or are about to be pulled down. This area is part of Sapele’s GRA and does have a lot of colonial buildings (getting access to them though is another matter).
The timber industry is still growing strong probably with a lot of illegal logging. If you’re interested in the process, you can find them on the banks of the Ethiope at the end of the town.
- The Sapele Athletic Club is said to be the oldest of its kind in Nigeria, older than the Ikoyi Club in Lagos.
- The British force for the Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897 is said to have started their journey from the shores of the River Ethiope in Sapele.
Should you visit? Hard for me to say. My mum was born in Sapele and I’m a sentimental being. You might feel different if you do not have some of the same attachments I have to the place. It is a hard sell for me to be honest.