Gurara Water Falls, one of the iconic natural wonders of Niger State is a site to behold with its natural water falls. Located in Bonu in the Gurara Local Government Area of the state, it begs for attention even as a handful of tourists still find its spectacular falls very attractive. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) visited the site and reports
In less than two hours’ drive from Abuja the nation’s capital, the Bamidele family arrived the beautiful natural wonders of Gurara Falls located in Gurara local government area of Niger State on the Minna-Suleja-Abuja highway.
The family had planned a surprise birthday show for little Jonah Bamidele, who just turned eight. The family had to endure the bumpy ride on the Abuja-Minna federal highway with its numerous pot holes to get to the sprawling natural beauty that sees water falls all year round.
Akin Bamidele, father of the celebrant told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the choice of Gurara Falls to mark his son’s birthday was informed by the need to expose his family to the beauty of Nigeria in spite the negatives that heralds the nation’s diversity.
“I wanted an experience for Jonah that he will never forget in a hurry, the Gurara Water Falls was my best choice for him. He is pretty happy with what he is seeing here but this place is a waste land and I am not impressed with the way and manner this beautiful place is left to rot,” Bamidele said.
The Bamideles are not the only disappointed visitors to the Gurara Water Falls as most of the visitors to the site told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the neglect of the site is a huge revenue loss to the state and the nation at large.
So far the number of visitors to the site is at a low level except for Sallah festivals that sees hundreds of youths visiting the place to catch fun. Apart from such occasions, the Gurara Falls is sparsely visited all year round.
Gurara Water Falls can be argued as the best wonderful falls in the entire landscape of Nigeria. This nature’s glamour has remained a pride for the people of Bonu, Niger State since 1745 even before modern day Nigeria was founded in 1914.
Today, this money spinning tourists’ site has remained in a sorry state, leaving the centuries-old water falls to only wink in the dark without enjoying the human admiration.
Consequently, the huge revenue that is supposed to accrue to the agrarian state is wasted and washed away by the running waters of Gurara.
Famous as the water falls is, it is another sad story of neglect and resources untapped. A recent visit by LEADERSHIP Weekend to the magnificent natural beauty leaves a sad taste in how revenues are lost due to lack of attention.
Arguably Nigeria’s premier falls, about 69 km from the Abuja, the nation’s capital, the waterfall spans about 300 meters across and drops 50 meters below. The beauty is a breath taking spectacle of Mother Nature.
Historians had it that Gurara Falls which originally had its source from Kachia local government in Kaduna State was reportedly discovered in 1745 by a Gwari hunter called Buba, as he was travelling from Zaria to hunt for animals.
The river joined River Niger at Dare near Abuja-Lokoja Bridge. Sources say it was named after two gods once worshipped by Gwari people: Gura and Rara.
Before the Europeans discovered it in 1925, the people of Bonu used to worship the falls, pray and make sacrifices to find solutions to their problems.
The Europeans saw the recreational value of the water falls, and discouraged the traditional worshiping activities for tourism.
The water falls is at the peak of its beauty between April and November, and at its lowest between January and March when the water is free of mud and swimming can be attempted at the base.
But with the potentials in Gurara, sadly, the place is in disarray, desolate and a shadow itself as the water falls only entertains the wildlife that occasionally passes by.
Apart from the few persons that visit the site at weekends, Gurara Water Falls is a ghost place enough to scare the strongest at heart.
Apart from the makeshift signage on the Suleja-Minna road, there is nothing to indicate the natural beauty a kilometre away.
The road to the fall is so isolated that there is no sign to show that one is heading towards the tourist site.
The Gurara Water Falls lies on a demarcated land of about 1, 105.37 hectares of land with no development.
For decades, the tourist site remained without a roof or shade for tourists apart from the natural vegetation of the area.
It took the effort of a private firm to erect a chalet that is in a dilapidating state as at the time LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the site.
It also constructed a viewing podium for tourists to catch a good view of the water falls.
The only seat at the site was a contribution from Sports Fisherman Club of Abuja, a German fishing group from Julius Berger Nigeria, a construction firm based in Abuja.
LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that tourists were so concerned that the beautiful site had been left unattended for long hence their little contribution.
To keep the place in operation, tour guides LEADERSHIP Weekend understands, use personal monies to maintain the place to keep them in business as they said, “We cannot afford to lose the small income we make from our visitors. We have to donate money to fix the natural staircase leading to the base of the falls. Tourists like going down to have a swim or experience boat ride at the base of the falls, we can’t deny them that opportunity.”
The site surprisingly, remained without electricity. The administration of former governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’azu Babangida, inaugurated the Gurara Water Falls Electrification Project on May 30, 2012.
But as at the time our correspondent visited the site, most of the infrastructure are in a bad shape. Although, staff of the Niger State ministry of Information and Culture seen at the entrance of the tourist site refused comment on development but the source we met told our correspondent that even with the presence of security personnel at the entrance to the site, security issues is still a worry to many.
“The insecurity in the area has also contributed to why this place is deserted by tourists. A few persons do come here especially schools on excursion trips but largely, the place is a ghost ground”, the source said.
It was understood that the government of Niger State plans to develop the site to international standards. An indigenous private developer has shown interest in partnering with the Niger State government.
While the state government has developed the road to the waterfall, the developer LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt plans to establish a park, conference centre, hotel, and restaurants around the falls.
Gurara Water Falls is one of the 48 wonder sites in Niger State with the potential to generate millions for the state but remained undeveloped.
For now, the Gurara River continue to fall 50 meters down the base to the admiration of birds and other wild animals.
This is in spite of the repairs of the Suleja-Minna road by the Niger State government which was hitherto a source of discouragement for many tourists from Abuja.
A hospitality expert, Nathaniel Gana based in Abuja told LEADERSHIP Weekend that Gurara Water Falls based on the current N500 gate fees per person can generate about N300, 000 daily if fully harnessed. This is aside restaurants, hotel and sports businesses.