Villagers consecrates age-long Lake Efi fishing festival to reverence God
Govt promises to tap festival’s rich possibilities

By Emem Idio

SABAGREIA—THE Izon-speaking riverine community, Sabagreia, is situated at a point where River Nun branches out into a major tributary, the Igbedi Creek, in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State. But what attracts other Bayelsans and residents from neighbouring Rivers and Delta states to the waterside locality, formerly known as Bolouseibokrogha, which translated literally means ‘a town where no evil/wicked person would settle’ is the Lake Efi fishing festival.

White traders who could not uncomplicatedly pronounce the name corrupted Sagbegreia to Seibokorogha.

Monarch goes down memory lane: The paramount ruler (Amanaowei) of Sagbagreia, His Highness, Dr. Bokumo Orukari, (Kala X), who traced the origin of the festival to the Lake Efi, told NDV: “Life at that time was centred on the idol Efi. Consequently, the determination of the times of fishing festivals was subject to the dictates of the oracles of Efi and other common deities. Sagbareia and Lake Efi are inseparable Siamese twins because you cannot talk of one without the other. The founding and establishment of Sabagreia derives from the discovery of Lake Efi.

Boat regatta

Battle of fire: “Lake Efi was discovered by Chief Ukiriki (Okereke), an illustrious son of Kalama community during one of his hunting expeditions. As he was admiring the beauty of this vast lake, another man from a neighbouring community, Gbarain clan, also emerged on the scene and there was an argument as to the ownership of the lake. They finally agreed that the first person to kindle a fire at the lakeside would be the owner.

“The other man ran to his nearby village to collect firewood while Chief Ukiriki pondered on how he would access his community to enable him kindle fire at the lakeside. At that time, various communities that now constitute Sabagreia were scattered at Dabapou, along the Igbedi Creek, which leads to Amassoma. It was, therefore, obvious that the Gbarain man would assemble a bon fire even before Chief Ukiriki would get to his home, down the Igbedi Creek.

“So, after the Gbarain man left for nearby home, Chief Ukiriki assembled dried sticks and leaves, pointed his dane gun at the heap and ignited fire. By the time the Gbarain man returned, there was already a huge fire, so he conceded defeat of Lake Efi to Chief Ukiriki. It was after this episode that the people of Kalama decided to come out of Dapou, along Igbedi Creek and founded a new settlement on the east of River Nun called “Bolouseibokorogha-ama, which means ‘a town where no evil/wicked people would settle’. This name eventually metamorphosed into Sabagreia by the colonial traders. who could not pronounce the original name.”

From darkness to light

He explained that  the festival usually celebrated annually was jettisoned at a time in preference for longer intervals of nine, seven and five years due to the huge financial implications.

His Highness Orukari said, “owing to this constraint, when the fullness of time came, the people and owners of Lake Efi, renounced idolatry and handed the lake over to the Almighty God. Due to the rich stock of various species of aquatic life, the Lake Efi fishing festival, which attracts participants and visitors from all neighbouring clans in the state as well as those in Rivers and Delta states, usually begins with several cultural activities and climax on the third day. The fishermen and women camp by the lake shores all through the three days.”

“The last festival in 2013 was the first time it was conducted with new modifications and alterations to reflect the rededication of the festival to Almighty God. For instance, the first catch of the festival which was formerly presented to the chief priest of Efi is now presented to the special guests of honour.”

Tourism potentials unexploited: Orukari, however, regretted that the tourism potentials of the festival have not been fully exploited and dreamed of a time when the beautiful sleepy aquatic game reserve would be a place to reckon with.

“You have all seen this beautiful, sleepy aquatic game reserve with yet untapped vast tourism potentials lying waste in the jungle of the 21st century Bayelsa State. Beyond the communal fishing festival, I see Lake Efi becoming a modern film village with the rich canopy of dense tropical rain forest that could produce the Tarzan films of the yester years. Beyond the fishing festival, I see Lake Efi developing into an international tourist centre,” he enthused.

Sky is the limit— Govt

The 2017 edition, which took place from May 27-30, this year, was well attended, drawing dignitaries and tourists from far and wide. The governor of Bayelsa State represented by the Commissioner for Tourism Development, Mrs. Irene Ebiere-Musah, formally declared the three-day event open.

She stated that the state government was fully aware of the economic importance of Lake Efi fishing festival, assuring that the government was poised to provide all that is necessary to make the festival draw tourists from all over the world.

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