Burden of living in Ijora Badia

 

W

hile some people  pray and rejoice for the rainy season, the residents of Ijora Badia dread the season as it means temporary eviction notice from their homes.

The living condition of the residents on streets like Olodan, Olojowun, Makojunola, Mosadolorun, Ayedetola, Oladihun amongst others in Ijora Badia are actually subhuman.

There are no motorable roads leading to these streets, hence the impossibility of conveying basic needs such as portable water and waste disposal trucks.

 

 

Walking through the streets, it is a sorry sight to see fellow humans cohabiting with dirt, insects, reptiles and rodents. The swampy streets of Ijora have been erroneously filled with over two feet depth worth of dirt to create a solid ground for the residents to tread upon. This doesn’t count as anything as the rain still defiles their feeble attempt at creating a pathway, forcing itself into their homes.

 

 

Many of the houses are made of wood, only few are made of blocks. The residents have also perfected the skill of hopping from stones to stones, planks to planks as staircase to their destinations. They arrange stones and bags of cement filled with sand in strategic positions in the dirty water and hop on them in and out of their houses.

Walking through the streets of Ijora, the children who are very much at home with their environment were seen playing in the black, smelling canal water . Their playing grounds are on the heaps of dirt. Although, it seemed the residents have made peace with their environment and have decided to go about their daily activities as though all is well, they still carry the scars of horrific experiences of living in the area.

 

 

At the sight of New Telegraph’s presence, they were more than eager to voice their displeasure and the traumas living in such community have caused them.

 

 

Mrs Nofisat Ojifini was at the verge of tears as she narrated how she had to pack up her property and run with her children to her father’s house anytime the rain comes. In her one-room apartment, the bed was specially constructed to be raised very high above the ground, the two-seater chair and small sized fridge was mounted on a 4feet high bench all in a bid to prevent the rain from damaging them. To sit on the chair, one needs a stool to serve as a step to get to the chair.

Sitting with her children on the bare cemented floor of their one room apartment, Ojifini said that she is tired of running helter-skelter with her children in search of temporary accommodation.

 

 

She lamented that they are being terrorised by mosquitoes and some weird looking creatures that creep out from the water into their homes.

 

 

Their houses are built with little or no spaces apart and are generously hoisted on filth. When the rain comes, the residents flee to neighboring communities like Orile, Amukoko and Mosafunejo to squat with friends or families.

The water, in a bid to flow into the damaged system-5-Canal, forces itself into their houses and would not dry up until two days after and that is if another rain does not follow up almost immediately.

 

 

There is a thick smell of filth engulfing the environment as churches and mosques were seen at almost every turn. The community can be said to be overpopulated, many of the residents live in one room apartments, and people who live in two-bedroom apartments are seen as the “well-to-do” among them.

A widow, Mrs. Vivian Iretekhai, who owns a small grinding shop on Olojowon Street told New Telegraph that she was struggling with her meager income to train her children in school.

 

 

“My first child is already serving while the other is in still in the university, she said”.

On the rough unpainted walls of her shop are the lines of where the last rain covered, almost half of the small room. She explained that, “the last rain that fell made me carry my grinding machine to the junction. I stayed there for three days. When  I came back, another rain fell. I had to run back. Just a little rain and everywhere will be flooded.

 

 

“I am always treating malaria and typhoid. There is a green insect-like animal that comes out of the water. It moves like earthworm and once it touches your body, it sucks your blood. When you come out of the water, your leg becomes white as if you just walked through ashes. Unless you use clean water, soap and sponge to scrub it, it won’t go away. Sometimes, the water is salty; you will see many dead earthworms floating on it. Other times, it just the type that itches so bad.

“I live in Orile. I just rented this shop for business. The machine I use for grinding yam flour (Elubo) has been parked in a safe place; I don’t want the rain to spoil it. So, I no longer grind yam flour and other dried foods. When I bought the grinding machine, it was N50, 000 but now it sells for N100,000 plus,” she said.

 

 

Ijora Badia is well known as one of the major slums in Lagos that has a high rate of vices. It is a common sight to see young boys idle, puffing cigarettes at every corner of the streets when they should be working or in school. These young boys engage in street fights as sport betting and a decoy to steal amongst other atrocities they perpetuate; although, nothing new about this practice of theirs, it’s part of their lifestyles.

 

New Telegraph discovered that these boys form gangs in their street of residence and declare themselves opponents with another street and engage in fierce battle which could sometimes lead to loss of lives.

Speaking to Mr. James Ugwuanyi, a resident, he said that poverty is a huge factor in the vices in the community. He explained that some of the families in the area could barely afford three-square-meal a day. Consequently, these could lead their children to engage in anything that will put food on their tables.

 

 

“The younger boys start out by serving as errand boys to the older ones for peanuts. Before you know it, the younger ones are hardened and they go out to become gang leaders and the cycle just keeps playing over and over again. There are lots of bright destinies which have been swallowed up in this community,” he revealed.

 

 

Teenage mothers are not a rare sight in the community at all. Some of them strap babies to their backs while dragging another by the hand. Oluchi Vincent, a teenage mother and resident of Mosadolorun street, said that she is tired of living in the community.

“The government should please come to our rescue. We are dying here. When I dress up and go out, people will think I’m coming from one posh place like Ajah or Victoria Island. They won’t know that I’m coming out of dirty water. Malaria drug is now like food to us because not one week passes by without one of us treating malaria.”

 

 

On close examination of Vincent’s baby, there were red swollen bites on his body. She complained that the things on her baby’s body are from the water. She  added that she was always treating one ailment or the other for the boy who is barely a-year -old.

Titilayo David, who lives in a make shift plank house with six other family members says if the government are ready to work on the canal, they are willing to cooperate and move out. The floor was covered with pieces of worn out rug of different colours; the house is just beside the canal and there is no provision for a toilet. They  throw their feaces into the canal alongside other wastes. The stench oozing out from the canal into their house leaves one to wonder how they have survived in such condition. Mrs David said that malaria is the disease they suffer most.

 

 

Cecilia Oguntunde, also a resident, said anytime she gets ill, she treats herself by going to a “chemist” to get treated even though   there is a Primary Health Centre available.

 

 

She added: “I just go to treat myself with my money not because there is a primary health care. I have never really been ill to an extent that requires going to a hospital.”

 

 

Mrs Funmilayo Nosiru told New Telegraph of how her activities were brought to a halt by the rain, adding that it means a forced holiday for her children as they cannot go to school. She emphasised that are no schools close by and the ones that are close are private schools which she can’t afford. She added that whenever it rains, the water gets as far as her stomach length and the water itches so bad at times she feels like pulling out her skin.

 

 

Explaining that her case is that of the available being the desirable, she said: “Many landlords have ran away from this environment leaving behind their houses. I also desire to leave the moment I have enough money to do so.

 

 

“Malaria is the sickness we suffer most in this area. Every day, I take my child to the hospital because of malaria. For  over 13 years that I have been living here, there have not been any substantial efforts from the government to help better this place,” she lamented.

Most of the people living very close to the canal on plank constructed houses are landlords, who claim that if they abandon their lands because of the canal, some other people will claim it.

 

 

Omowumi James, a seamstress, expressed her doubt saying that, “people have always been coming to ask us questions and to snap pictures and still, we haven’t seen any improvement. They have always been promising and failing us.”

Showing her feet to New Telegraph, she said the water smells so bad and after walking in it, they start having sores on their legs.

 

 

She added that the Primary Health Centre is functional and that is where she goes when she falls ill.

 

 

The Vice Principal of Hope Model College on Olojowon Street, Mr Korede Tunde, told New Telegraph that, one of the major reasons they experience flooding is because of the System-5-canal, which is not properly channeled. “The filth in the canal prevents the water from flowing. The flood gets to our school when it rains. The primary school, St Francis, that was formerly behind us has been forced to move out because of the floods.

 

 

“The last time the canal was cleared was in the first tenure of former Governor Babatunde Fashola. The canal was just cleared and nothing more. This place was not always like this but with the cancelation of the monthly environmental exercise, it gave the people more guts to continue throwing their dirt into the canal, then starts filling up and when it rains, there is no channel for it to flow through. So, it has to force itself into peoples’ houses and shops. The people have a share of the blame but the government has the larger share. Dropping  the blame game, the government just needs to construct the roads on this Ijora Badia axis and channel the canal to flow smoothly into the lagoon. Once this is done, getting the people to comply with government’s directives on waste disposal wouldn’t be a big deal and even if it does, the government can always sanction or fine defaulters.” He said.

 

 

Speaking with the Baale of the community, Chief T.A Igbalaiye, Baale Olojowun Oke Oja, he explained that the System-5-canal which is the major problem of the community is a Lagos State government project. He said that series of reports have been written to the government.

 

 

“The canal has been like this for a very long time. The fault is also from our people because anytime a little rain drops, they bring out their dirt for the rain to flush away and it ends up coming back to them.

“If there was continuity of projects in the government, the System-5-canal would have been completed.”

He finally appealed to the current government to come to the rescue of his people.

All efforts to reach to the local government chairman proved abortive, as at the time of report.

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