The mystery of Oguta Lake: where two rivers meet but do not mix

Vanessa Calys-Tagoe September 28, 2022
Oguta lake. Image via YouTube/Eboh Media

In Nigeria, West Africa is Oguta Lake, a lean “Finger Lake,” created when alluvium was used to dam the lower Njaba River. It is the biggest natural lake in Imo State, southeast Nigeria, and is located in the Niger Delta’s tropical rainforest. The Njaba River drainage basin and a portion of the River Niger floodplain are included in the area south of Onitsha that makes up Oguta Lake’s catchment area.

The lake is located near Oguta, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the point where the Ndoni and Orashi Rivers converge. From east to west, it is roughly eight kilometers (five miles) long and 2.5 kilometers (one and a half miles) wide. The main input to Oguta Lake is a stream from the Njaba River. The Awana, Utu, and Arashi are the remaining three tributaries. The southwesterly part of the Arashi River passes via Oguta Lake.

The lake serves as a source of water, fish, tourism, and a sewage outlet for the residents of the oil-rich Njaba River valley, including Oguta, Orsu, Mgbidi, Nkwesi, Osemotor, Nnebukwu, and Awa Awo-Omamma Akabo. The lake’s deity is called Uhamiri.

Oguta, Osemotor, Awo-omamma, and nearby towns became important commercial hubs of international trade, primarily for oil palm, due to the river route Njaba and Orashi via Oguta Lake to the ocean, going through Awo-omamma, Mgbidi, Oguta, Ndoni, Abonnema, and Degema. During the Nigerian Civil War, Oguta Lake also served as a base for the Biafran army’s marines.

The people of Oguta, Orsu, Nkwesi, and Awo greatly respect the lake. The lake is actually the Ogutaman’s sense of self and dignity. They use it to get their water. It provides them with 80% of their protein. A total of 2,403 full-time and 154 part-time fishermen have been seen working in the lake. The lake functions as a septic tank for residential sewage from metropolitan areas. The locals also dredge the lake to extract sand for use in the building sector. A 3-star hotel designed to draw visitors to Oguta is the Oguta Lake Motel with a tourist resort.

The two rivers are thought by the natives to symbolize man and wife, or masculine and female. Ogbuide, considered to be the female, is the green water. The male Urashi is the brown water.

According to accounts, they argued, and ever since then, their paths have diverged. Man and wife have evolved into deities and goddesses in modern times. On either side of the river, there are two separate shrines where worshipers can invoke them and make prayers. Worshipers are free to invoke either deity from either of the two shrines, and the dispute has no impact on places of worship. But not every location is covered by these liberties. Oguta is a popular destination even though it is tucked away in a region of Imo, and many visit each year.

You can find women on the bank washing laundry or selling anything from trinkets to dried fish on any given visit. People are constantly being transported to the other side on ferries while hauling everything from purses to farm products. There is what appears to be an abandoned 18-hole golf course not far from the lake. These kinds of characteristics are what set Oguta Lake apart. The mystery of the two rivers, their significance in the Biafran War, and many unsolved questions about their past still exist today as a new generation grows up around the lake. A bunker used by Biafran forces during the war can be seen there in the bushes if one gets closer to the course.

This blue and brown lake continues to be a wonder as there is none like that. The lake continues to attract tourists all over the world to admire and gaze at its wonder as well as listen to the many folktales surrounding its existence. 

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