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By the mid-19th century, Sapele was established as a trading village, occasionally visited by Europeans. In 1891, the British government established a vice-consulate at Sapele. The population grew to 33,638 by 1952, including people from many Nigerian tribes.
Today, the city has one of Nigeria's major ports. Its industries include the processing of timber, rubber, and palm oil, as well as furniture, tamarind balm and footwear manufacturing. As of 1995, its population was 135,800. And as of 2005/2006, the population of this advancing city is 142,652. Sapele was one of African biggest timber producer.
- David Defiagbon, Olympic boxing silver medalist
- Peter Dedevbo , Nigerian U20- Women's National team Head Coach
- Olusoji Fasuba, top sprinter
- Ola Rotimi, playwright
- Blessing Okagbare, Top Athlete
- Kefee, gospel singer and composer
- Endurance Ojokolo, Top Athlete
- Eromo Egbejule, Nigerian journalist
- Akpoyibo.I.Collins,top Athlete
Chief J. E. Ovbije, A prominent business man
- Rev. L. O. Ovbije, An ordained Preacher, Author, Investor and Educator
- Chief Asagba[Warrant Chief/an Okpe Chief]was the son of Chief Ojegba
- Chief Omarin [an Okpe Chief]was the son of Etajeme
- Encarta entry for Sapele
- Adogbeji Salubi, "The Origins of Sapele Township", Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Dec. 1960, pp. 115-135.