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Nigeria's Oguta Lake

Oguta lake lies in the heart of Imo State in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. It is one of not only historical significance but also of Immense economic, social and touristic value to the people of Imo State Nigeria.  The lake was the marine base of the Biafra army during Nigeria’s civil war ( 1967-1970). This bluish brown water mass is the largest lake in South Western Nigeria and is one of the 11 Ramsar wetland sites in the country which makes it of both local and international importance (Ijeomah, Nwanegbo, & Umokoro,2015).

Being the second largest lake in the southern part of Nigeria, Oguta lake possesses enormous potential to tourism development including, but not limited to a large array of water sports (Isinkaye, & Emelue, 2015). The lake is approximately 12 km from the now-defunct Uli Airstrip in neighboring Anambra state, which was of significant historical importance to the Igbo tribe during the Nigerian Civil war for the landing of relief planes and supply of machinery (Nigeriaworld, 2019). It is of worth mentioning that General Odumegwu Ojukwu, the leader of the breakaway Biafra nation, commanded forces in Oguta against the Nigerian Army.

In ancient times, Oguta was of high economic benefit to Nigeria because of its connection with river Niger, thus making it a channel for transport of goods, especially yams, fish and palm oil products (Agorua, 2015). Oguta Lake currently serves as a transportation channel for local indigenes who use their canoes as a means of connecting farm produce with markets. Oguta lake’s fame is not as a result of its economic significance but also its tourism potential. Several tourists have expressed delight at the beauty of Oguta lake, which indicates that the lake has something valuable to contribute to Nigeria’s tourism industry.

 “We had arrived at the waterfront, it was beautiful I must say and underutilized". There were canoes and speed boats available at a different price range.

“The boat operator was really nice; he took us to a point that looks like a confluence. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.” Says Itoro, a tourist who, but for her one-year mandatory National Youth Service posting to Imo state, may never have experienced the beauty of Oguta lake.  However, in the same breath, Itoro could not help but express her disappointment at how desolate and mismanaged, the lake had become.

The bluish brown waters which do not mix made the experience very thrilling and exciting but also a little bit scary she noted. The lack of safety measures poses hazards to visitors was a huge concern as safety. We got back to the calm of the resort but it was largely an empty, bar area closed and dusty, nothing to say it was functional and it was very sad because I could imagine what it would be if it were alive.  …Above all, I loved the place and wished it could be better, Tourism is Imo state still has a long way to go. The private and public sector could contribute towards state tourism and it will add to revenue generation too”.

That is the contrast of Oguta lake – a beauty to behold yet a dilemma to be fixed. The solution to this dilemma, however, seems elusive even though not too far away

A resident of the area believes that Oguta lake can be developed to enjoy the dividends of its uniqueness. He says

“The lake is a natural wonder with both brown and blue color that don’t mix, which is itself a natural beauty to behold, why should we not develop it and enjoy the dividends?”

 The natural question to be answered is who is responsible for the development of the lake? The lake is managed by the Imo State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Owerri (Ijeomah and Okoli, 2016). However, reports from locals in the community point to neglect of the lake by the government, weak infrastructural development, lack of awareness to create tourist inflows, weak social amenities around the lack and the accompanying facilities, poor transportation systems and little community involvement of nearby communities in tourism development (Ijeomah and Okoli, 2016).  

The community expressed their displeasure noting that a great deal of negligence on the part of the government is a major cause of the poor state of development. They believe that the lake will fare better off if private companies invest and manage the lake.

In their own words “government has no business doing business but to create an enabling environment for tourism to thrive by providing security for lives and property which will help attract tourists with proper awareness”.

Asides from using the beauty of the lake for tourism, Myths surrounding the lake can be used in developing cultural education, awareness generation and can also be used as study sites for a wide range of social science disciplines including history to learn about culture, teach, document this vital information. Myth has it that the lake is home to a deity that is worshipped by villagers, which is known to give wealth, especially to women. The people of Oguta claim that during the civil war, the deity was responsible for the protection of the people of Oguta by sinking all the Nigerian Army’s boats intending to launch attacks on the people of the town during the Nigerian-Biafra war (Okwusa et, al. 2015). The ecological benefits of the myths are also interwoven into conservation and allowing the fishery of the lake to replenish itself by employing the taboos such as closing the lake to fishing which itself is a traditional method of conservation

The Manatee and the endangered bird species - endangered Sclater's guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri) has been sighted on the lake. This ordinarily should be a source of attraction for tourists. Sadly, there have been reports of killings of manatees for food to meet the daily protein requirements of locals. The Manatee is a large aquatic animal that can grow up to 13 foot and weigh up to 590 kg, has large ecotourism potentials for further development have been repeatedly hunted for its dietary value. Coupled with this is the high level of overfishing, which calls for regulation. Sadly, the lake also serves as a discharge channel for sewage and also a source of water supply for the municipalities which could have adverse effects on the water quality, turbidity and other aesthetic values of the lake.

Individuals living around the lake noted that the way forward is to” make the lake more attractive to visitors”. This can be achieved by the creation of water sports such as kayaking, boat rides, canoe rides which can be actively driven through local community participation. Currently, there are few private boat operators who can be boosted by government support

There is also the need for the Imo state tourism board to partner with tour operators to help attract tourists. Currently, the major method of awareness is by word of mouth. Noting the lakes two color distinct features, there should be buzz created to attract not only local tourists but international tourists. In addition, the myth of the goddess of the lake can be used as a market strategy to promote tourism. Furthermore, there should be consensus for tour companies showcasing tourism potentials through Instagram and Twitter. Conservation projects can also be developed around the sea cow, developed through public and private partnerships to create educational awareness for conservation and attract tourists. The communities will love to be part of the tourism developmental processes that can be developed through the development of infrastructures such as good connectivity in the form of bridges, security of lives and property and more awareness.


Isinkaye, M.O. and Emelue, H.U., 2015. Natural radioactivity measurements and evaluation of radiological hazards in sediment of Oguta Lake, South East Nigeria. Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences, 8(3), pp.459-469.

Ijeomah, H.M., Nwanegbo, O.C. and Umokoro, O., 2015. Assessment of tourist attractions in Okomu National Park and Oguta Lake Eco-destinations of Nigeria. PAT, 11(2), pp.219-239.


Interview with Itoro Uforo travel blog

Okwuosa, L.N., Onah, N.G., Nwaoga, C.T. and Uroko, F.C., 2017. The disappearing Mammy Water myth and the crisis of values in Oguta, South Eastern Nigeria. HTS Theological Studies, 73(3), pp.1-8.

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