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Meet the first man to build a Bore Hole in Nigeria- Candido Da Rocha

todayApril 23, 2021 2

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There is a popular saying in Yoruba that if someone is rich, they will ask him- “Se o lowo ju Da Rocha ni?” Meaning- “Is he richer than Da Rocha?” Such was the rate at which this man was rich in his own time.

Da Rocha was born in 1860 to Joao Esan Da Rocha, a former slave, who returned to Nigeria from Brazil to start a business empire.

Da Rocha Jr. attended the popular CMS Grammar School in Lagos where he was the head boy and a friend to late Herbert Macaulay, who was also his school mate. he had vested interest in business and was proficient in the Portuguese and Ilesha language.

Reportedly The Nigeria’s first millionaire, Candido Da Rocha was reputed to be sending his dirty clothes to Britain for laundry.

Candido Da Rocha sunk the first borehole in Nigeria – a technology that was strange to the people of the time. It was widely rumoured at the time that he had a mermaid in his Water House compound conjuring water for him because of the consistent flow of water, which he was selling to Lagosians.

As a result of the booming water business, he obtained licence from the colonial administration and so he laid water pipes from Iju to Surulere, other parts of Lagos Island, Yaba, Ebute Metta and other areas where there were high demand of pipe borne water. He was said to have lived in his house and operated the Iju water works that served the whole of Lagos in the 1920s. The colonial administrators were said to be paying Da Rocha for the supply of water to Lagos Colony. In addition to the first bore hole, his house also had the first water fountain. 

He made so much money from his water business such that he became very rich that the government had to take it over from him. His other businesses included money lending which he did with two other rich men, J H Doherty and Sedu Williams, who together started a bank named the Lagos Native bank. He also went into fishery business, gold business and also opened a restaurant.

As regards to his family life, Da Rocha live almost his adulthood alone as he was never formally married to a woman whether traditionally, in court or in the church despite being a Catholic. He had two sons and four daughters from three women though. He was said to be very hard to live with.

Describing Da Rocha’s generosity, his 90-year-old granddaughter said, “when people came to him, crying, requesting for financial assistance; from the balcony, he would ask how much they needed, he would then throw down the money to them.

Though there was no Limousine nor Royce Rolls then, Da Rocha was said to have moved around in his luxury horse drawn carriage, the type that no one, including the colonial merchants could afford.

His houses are the famous Water House at Kakawa Street and the other one is on 4, Tinubu Street both on Lagos Island.

Candido Esan Da Rocha died on 11th march, 1959 and was buried at Ikoyi Cemetery.

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