Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC) is one of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) foremost conservation project site. Located on the renowned Lekki Peninsula, LCC covers a land area of 78 hectare. Administratively, LCC is situated in Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State.
How LCC Started
The establishment of LCC was born out of NCF’s relentless commitment to conservation of Nigeria’s vast natural resources. This commitment was heightened by the presence of its National Secretariat in Lagos, thus warranting the need have a conservation project site within Lagos metropolis that will serve as biodiversity conservation icon and environment education centre. This laudable concept could have come at no better time going by the daily degradation of the city’s remaining natural environment fragments due to ceaseless urbanisation; thus, making LCC one of the few natural environment relics within the city.
To move the idea of conservation project off ground, three potential areas were surveyed in 1987 by NCF technical team in partnership with the defunct Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative. Thereafter, Lekki area was selected to establish the demonstration site for the conservation project. Locating the conservation project on Lekki Peninsula informed the name of the project – Lekki Conservation Centre.
As Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh says “conservation without money is conversation.”The task of sourcing a suitable site for conservation project was not an end in itself as significant financial resources was require to acquire the 78 hectares of land. This daunting task may not have been possible save for the generous financial support of the two old giants, Gulf Oil Company (Nigeria) Limited and Chevron Oil Company (Nigeria) Limited. The two oil giant that later merged into one formidable entity, Chevron Nigeria Limited has been LCC’s benefactor from inception till date.
True to the dream of NCF, the LCC Complex foundation pillar – plaque of LCC was unveiled on 18 February 1989 by the President of WWF, HRH, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the southern end of the LCC land area. Also present at the memorable occasion were the Governor of Lagos State, Brigadier Gen. Raji Rasaki; founder and President of NCF, late Chief S. L. Edu; Dr. A. P. Leventis and other distinguish guests.
The proposed location of the LCC Complex was later shifted to the northern side beside the expressway to facilitate tourists and visitors’ easy access to the Centre. The LCC Complex was officially opened on the 18th of May 1990. The change in location of the LCC Complex from the southern part to the northern part of the Centre’s land area could not have been better as the Complex overlooks the expressway. It is almost impossible for passersby not to have a second look at the ingenious architectural design of the LCC Complex well laced with breathe taking greenery.
The Purpose of LCC
LCC was solely established to serve as a conservation icon of Nigeria’s southwest coastal mangrove resources and an information centre for environmental education and awareness raising. Over the years, visiting students from various academic cadres have been able to learn through their visit to LCC practical steps to conserving our God given natural resources. LCC is also an environmental education resource centre to non-educated and semi literate visitors. The compelling flora and fauna resources enclosed within the LCC, no doubt inspires a desire to support the course of conservation in the hearts and minds of the visitors. “how can I support NCF’s conservation programme”, “I never imagine there is a place like this” or “I must bring my family…colleagues here” are some of the remarks commonly heard from tourists that visits LCC.
Key achievement over the years
Over 3 million tourists of more than 100 nationals have visited LCC since inception. Most of NCF’s School Conservation Clubs were established following the impact of students/teachers’ visit to the Centre. It will suffice to say that LCC has achieved, and it is still achieving the goal of educating the public both young and old on the need to conserve natural resources. The various tiers of government are not left out from paradigm shift from infallible conservation lessons learnt from visiting the Centre.
Thus, NCF is always invited by government environmental agency to play a role in meetings where sensitive decision will be made on environmental management both at State and Federal level. In addition, different State Governments have approached NCF to provide technical assistance to manage their biodiversity hotspots – forest reserve, game reserve and game sanctuary.
Some of the important dignitaries that visited the Centre in the last few years including Chief Emeka Anyaoku, President WWF and former Commonwealth Secretary General; Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi; Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, to mention a few.
LCC is managed by a Project Manager who is ably supported by Education Officers, Wildlife Officers and Auxiliary staff. Aside the permanent project staff, some NCF staff such as Account Officer and Technical Programme Department (TPD) staff play secondary role in LCC management.
LCC 78 hectare land area is craftily divided into two sections: LCC Complex and the nature reserve. The LCC Complex comprises of striking multi-purpose Rotunda surrounded by four office blocks. The office blocks contain project staff offices, gift shop, canteen and the drivers’ office. The facilities of the LCC Complex area were expanded in 1998 with the construction of the National Secretariat at the rear of LCC Complex.
The nature reserve traverses a mosaic of vegetation types, namely: secondary forest, swamp forest and Savanna grassland. One notably impact of conserving the LCC land area over the years is the significant growth of the secondary forest since the Centre was acquired. In 1998, one can view 100m into the secondary forest through the windows in Technical Programmes Department. But today, the distant view distance has been reduced to as less as 5m sequel to the commendable growth of the secondary forest.
A trail boardwalk was constructed in 1992 to the enrich tourists/visitors view of the vast resources of the nature reserve which is encapsulated on a mangrove terrain. The trail stretches a length of 2 Km. some of the side attractions along the trail are swamp outlook, bird hide, rest stops and the tree house.
The swamp outlook affords tourists, especially nature lovers’ mouth watering opportunity of sitting back to beyond aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem interaction. On the other hand, the bird hide enables avid bird watchers snipe at unaware avifauna that are wading through the pool overlooked by the hide or foraging within the vicinity. The tree house is one of the most fascinating features one can ever come across in an ecotourism zone. The tree house, stylishly seated on a stout dawadawa tree (Pakia biglobossa) rises above 25m. A well protected ladder is ruggedly mounted behind the tree to enable nature enthusiasts reach to tree house to savour the panoramic view of the tree canopy. The rest stops as the name implies serve as rest points and picnic site for small groups of visitors. They are located at about 250m apart on the nature trail boardwalk.
At the end of trail boardwalk seats the nation station. The nation station is a recreation island in the middle of a forest. It has a semi-enclosed block structure containing the indoor picnic facilities and conveniences. The outdoor has outdoor game facilities mostly for children.
The New Nature Trail Boardwalk
The initial trail boardwalk constructed in 1990 for easy access into the nature reserve was designed to last a period of 5 years. In 1997, the trail underwent a substantial maintenance. This was supported with minor maintenance from time to time. A major maintenance took place in 2002 to boost the shell life of the trail. All these maintenance activities lasted till 2006 when the trail began to fall apart. The uncompromising call for rebirth was not devoid of huge financial demand.
Attempts to outsource support to reconstruct the trail boardwalk proved abortive. Chevron the sole benefactor was later approach. The call was promptly attended to like the cry of a baby in the ears of the nursing mother. A sum of N40.8m was donated by Chevron to reconstruct the trail.
The reconstruct took a year from start to finish. A new construction concept was introduced to one of the loops of the trail. Rather than using the traditional wood only style, the wooden boardwalk was suspended on a metal framework.
LCC is evolving a new phase of education and recreational activities to strengthen the existing management approach. The developments will contribute immensely to the Centre both structurally and in the style of operation.
Some of the notable developmental activities that will be put in place include: introducing school education programme which will be aired on TV. The aim of the school programme is to show the younger generation how to contribute to natural resources management and to also imbibe in them the culture of conservation. The programme will feature a renowned conservationists, naturalists or celebrity depending on the tag of the event e.g. a date with Nike Batik, learn the skill of nature photography with Kelechi Amadi-Obi, the art of bee keeping with Temidayo Osinubi and so on.
Another programme of its kind is organising periodic social events such as two aside (i.e. couples outing), I love my family (i.e. family outing), tête-à-tête (i.e. friends outing), man and nature, work out (i.e. exercise session), buddies let’s talk (i.e. CEOs casual outing), festive season specials – Easter, Christmas, sallah, children’s’ day etc. These social events will take place in LCC for limited number of participants. It is expected that these events will enable participants enjoy nature and also relieve themselves of typical Lagos life pressure – leaving home before dawn to return after dusk, working Monday to sometimes Sunday.