Insight

Sango-Ojodu-Abiodun Expressway: Agony of people who lost homes to abandoned road

When the Ogun State Government moved to the Oke Aro, Lambe, Alagbole, Akute areas with the promise of building the Sango-Ojodu-Abiodun Expressway, not a few were over themselves with joy with the hope of a new lease of life. Even when many had to give up their homes for the road’s right of way, they were comforted that it is a sacrifice that will bring relief with time. But, shortly after, the road was abandoned and many of those who lost properties were not compensated. ADEYINKA ADENIJI visited the area and spoke with some former landlords and residents

Residents groan

Residents and commuters of communities in and around Ifo constituency 2, of Ogun State, have perennially nursed a sense of neglect and marginalisation over the dilapidated state of roads in their localities, and they, for the umpteenth time, have sent a Save our Soul (SOS) messages to the incumbent regime under Prince Dapo Abiodun. For the over 20 years of the experience of the Fourth Republic, inhabitants of towns and villages covered and served by the uncompleted 32km Ojodu – Berger – Agbado – Sango Ota Expressway, all within Ifo-2 State constituency, have always mourned their mobility challenges as they alternate in and out of their communities, whether in search of knowledge, healthcare, leisure or daily bread. Commonly, a larger chunk of the total area is referred to as Agbado, due largely to the prominence of a part of it that plays host to a Train Station – newly dubbed, “Lateef Jakande Train Terminus.” Other parts of the state covered by this road include Oke Aro, Lambe, Alagbole, Akute and Berger where it terminates. Anyhow, the largely rural areas are not in any way different from other Nigerian constituencies where constituents are left with no option but to assume the basic responsibilities of the government like power supply; waste disposal and management; provision of potable water, among others. All of these they sometimes achieve individually or through communal efforts. Nonetheless, certain capital-intensive projects also within government responsibility were abandoned or deserted, for which governments have advanced various reasons including but not limited to paucity of funds, were found to have equally been overlooked by inhabitants who suffer shortage in infrastructure. Such infrastructural gaps are rather left unattended to by dwellers of such communities, who are directly affected by the lifestifling agonies of living in suffering, not because they are satisfied with the degenerated state of those infrastructure and the attendant hardship it brings upon them; but, inevitably because the tasks required in terms of cost can only be borne by the Federal Government. Even administrations at state levels are left helpless in terms of capacity to spearhead the execution of certain projects and prefer to cry to the Federal Government due to cost implications or abandon them while the people continue to suffer the continued degradation of those infrastructures occasioned, over the period, by the impact of various factors like weather, climate and human interaction. Where federal agencies fail to or delay in performing their responsibility, state governments, out of responsiveness and prioritisation of the welfare of the people are known to have taken the bull by the horn in some cases to bridge the gap of shortage of essential infrastructural amenities like road construction, erosion control, reclamation and or sand filling, where appropriate e.t.c.

Corporate bodies lack capacity to intervene

Rural communities also get succour from domiciled corporate entities that undertake state obligations through corporate social responsibility (CSR). But, the Agbado-Akute axis of the state is unfortunately a dry zone where there are hardly any industries located with the capacity to undertake largescale endeavours like the highway projects in discussion. Hence, wails from Agbado Opeilu, Okearo, Lambe, and Akute residents, of neglect and abandonment by the government are ‘intra vires’, genuine and a product of bottledup exasperation occasioned by complications daily experienced as a result of the deplorable state of the roads. The people say their distress, like others anywhere in the country, boils down to the negligibly paltry or non-existent government presence in terms of dividends of their unwavering support for successive regimes. They whimper under a stifling economy occasioned by the lack of access to the area. The roads had practically become impassable and commuters and motorists count their losses in transportation and repair costs of vehicles and inaccessibility to their homes, which sometimes become lit, especially during the rains. One road user and commercial tricyclist, who chose to be identified as Ola said their tricycles, popularly called ‘keke” depreciate faster than their counterparts in other parts of the state and neighbouring Lagos, owing to the horrible state of the highway. Ola says many riders had left the Agbado axis for Agege, Ojokoro and other tout-invested parts of Lagos with relatively motorable roads. According to him, not only riders and motorists are deserting the Ifo-2 state constituency settlements for other places; residents, both homeowners and tenants have joined in the frustrationinspired exodus out of the locality.

Businesses closing down

The lack of motorable roads had cut Agbado residents off civilization. As artisans; welders and almost every technician and other powerdependent tradesmen have all been suffocated out of the area, not only due to the perennial power outage that has plagued the area over the years, but also because the communities are no longer accessible and potential customers have all left for neighbouring Lagos State.

A section of residents who spoke with New Telegraph recollected how pacifying undertakings by former Governor Gbenga Daniel’s administration on the road proved to be what they are – a palliative – lasting only a few months before being washed off forcing people back to square one. Therefore, the wave of solace felt when the former governor’s attempt at fulfilling his electoral promises to the people of the area, albeit with a second-rate touch, through road rehabilitation regrettably lasted, but for a while. And presently, a check on the roads reveals there are no signs of any work done on some parts of the road in the last 30 years – especially portions between Ijoko and Oke Aro area. A shop owner in the area, Joseph Kolawole, said: “Even when Gbenga Daniel rehabilitated it, the asphalt washed off within a few months and since then, we have not seen anything.” Consequently, the official commencement of the construction of the 32km Akute – Agbado – Sango-Ota road, by erstwhile Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration, was thought by many dwellers of the constituency and commuters alike, as the capacity to placate their suspicions and sufficiently serve as a recompense for their frustrations over the years. Expectedly, the inauguration of the proposed highway was applauded by constituents and commuters alike.

Though not without some pains, many structures; residential and commercial were demolished to pave way for a standard highway, with an ample corridor created where it runs parallel to the railway lines between Abgbado and Ogba’yo. But alas!, the newly found love between the government and her citizenry was short-lived as the Amosun-led government soon abandoned the road work and, his successor, Prince Dapo Abiodun has not visited the area, despite the sobs and the cries of the people, since he assumed office on May 29, 2019. The road from Sango-Ota to Ojodu Abiodun is in a state of total disrepair and observers now say that commuting in and around Agbado may never see a more nightmarish state than it is presently. Regrettably, though not unexpected, motorists and residents are now daily confronted by the hassles of navigating the numerous failed portions of the road and the alternative equally depolrable in-town streets. Their woes had become compounded. They lament the economic retardation of the area caused by the non-completion of the highway and the wrecking effects of rat runs within the community to which motorists had resulted when the road practically became unusable. Any visitor to the area struggle with the reality of their experience and wonders what on earth could have caused such reckless abandoning of a road as important as the highway for such a long time and in such a precarious state in Ogun State, particularly as the road borders the nation’s commercial nerve centre – Lagos State Similarly, visitors to and from villages and towns such as Agbado, Ope-Ilu, Oluwo, Itoki, Lemonde, Abule, Robiyan, Matogun Ishagatedo, Kajola, Ibaragun, Orudu, Ogba Iyo, Arepo, Gas Line, Lisa, Adiyan, Giwa, Oke-Aro, Matogun, Lambe, Abule-Ekun, Tipper, Oniyanrin, Akute Ajuwon, Alagbole, Ojodu and Agbado Crossing, among others covered by the proposed highway, have stories to tell about the worsened state of lives of dwellers of these parts of the Gateway state.

Even visitors are alarmed

Oyo State-based Madam Esther Adebisi was departing Matogun where she had gone to see one of her children when New Telegraph reporters encountered her. Her children all work in Lagos State and are typically busy during weekdays. Grandma Adebisi lamented the dilapidated state of roads that lead to Matogun,her first child’s residence and bemoaned her inability to visit the homes of two others who live in not too distant Alimosho and neighbouring Ado Odo Ota Local Governments of Lagos and Ogun states respectively. “The roads are terrible. They are beyond discussion now, worse than when I came last year September. I need to avoid using these Ogun State roads too often, for the sake of my health. “Because of the worst condition of the road, I couldn’t see my grandkids at Meiran and Oju Ore, I ought to have gone to see them, but it is tedious navigating the terrible and unnecessary long journey. My strength cannot carry out such a task. When next I come to Ikeja, I will see them,” she concluded, adding that it is easier to move within Lagos than Ogun State. Other residents who spoke to New Telegraph, including traditional rulers, landlords, shop owners, residents, transporters and regular commuters all lamented the state of the road. In their lamentation, they all expressed frustrations at the untoward economic hardship brought upon the area and its inhabitants owing to the deplorable state of the road, occasioned by long years of official neglect and complicated by the rainy season. Among respondents are some former landlords, rendered homeless after their houses were demolished to make way for the road construction by former Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led state government, some nine years ago.

Former house owners bemoan lack of compensation by government

In separate interactions with New Telegraph, the people unanimously lamented the poor state of the road and their non-compensation for demolished properties, despite government promises and various futile efforts by them. While agreeing that some other affected homeowners were compensated, those who spoke with our correspondent said they were frustrated out of any hope of getting the Ogun State government to honour her promises to compensate them for their properties. Consequently, the shock of losing all that they have laboured for resulted in hypertension in many of them. Some of the affected landlords who hitherto cater to their family needs suddenly became double tragedies to them. Their families were then left with twin calamities of bedridden breadwinners and homelessness. Many who were lucky to survive the shock arising from the demolition operations of November 2013 told bitter and tear-provoking tales of how a government in which they reposed great confidence turn around and became their albatross. One of them, 78-year-old Pa Israel Olushola Osholaja narrated how he and other victims of government demolition visited Abeokuta to no avail in their bid to have the government redeem its promise of compensation for demolishing their properties. “At one time, we were begging in the neighbourhood for transport fare to the Abeokuta state secretariat from here. “My self and other victims became weary when we finished the little donations we got from people in our efforts at getting the government to fulfill their promises.” The Octogenarian who was then close to tears eventually betrayed emotions as he concluded narrating his ordeals, “they demolished my two units storey building and 9 shops…everything I worked for in my hay days.” Another victim of government bulldozers, who coincidentally came on a visit to Pa Israel and gave his name as Sadiku, a 65-year old also recounted his ordeal. As he spoke, one could detect Pa Sadiku striving hard to hold back his tears, even as the retiree expressed unwillingness to comment about his loss. Not satisfied, the New Telegraph reporter probed further, assuring him of the possibility of attracting the attention of the present regime to the roads through a report. But the old man appears to have seen it all with reporters’ interviews over the years. “You know many reporters have been here? Do you know how many reporters we have invited by ourselves to come to see this place and write about it? He asked discountenancing the reporter’s bait. Regardless, he continued, “we laboured in vain and have also suffered in vain because the government is irresponsible. I’d prefer we leave it at that”, said the man with tears now rolling down the plains of his cheeks. “Ha!, he exclaimed. “I saw hell!!! “If not for this old man here, (pointing to Pa Osholaja) I would have died. “No money, no food, no nothing! My children are all scattered and their mother left me because I had nothing left after they destroyed my only house.” He said as he looked away from the reporter, picking his teeth in what looked like a sign of his retirement to fate. “Ope Ilu road. I don’t want to talk about it because it makes me cry. “They demolished our houses and many of us died as a result. “Some returned to their villages in Oyo, Osun and others, empty-handed,” Said Pa Sadiku “I had to give up on anything called government when they announced on one of our visits with this Baba, (pointing in the direction of Pa Osholaja) that those who have more than one house demolished should expect compensation for only one. It was at that point I knew there was no hope with the government,” He said as he made to leave Pa Osholajas, in what appeared for him as a spoilt day. Sadly, for other affected residents, not seeing the bridge project materialise, after losing their life investments to it, is the agony that will live with them for the rest of their lives. They query the logic behind the demolitions, which claimed the lives of some of them when of course, the government was not sure to complete the project. According to them, the death of every single landlord who died when their properties were demolished remains in futility, for as long as the road remains abandoned and the successive regime carries on in utter neglect of their responsibility. The traditional ruler of Oke Giwa village, a section of the abandoned under-construction highway, where a magnificent flyover is also abandoned midway, High Chief Tajudeen Akintunde Agbeniga while speaking with our correspondent, said, the road was a narrow single-carriage road used by all as they benefited from the economic bustling of the popular neighbouring Agbado market, which steadily enhanced commercial activities in other adjourning communities. According to Baale Agbeniga, the sanguinity with which they received the news of an express road and a flyover in their locality, even when it was going to cost them some of their properties soon turned into agony. The traditional ruler blamed former Governor Ibikunle Amosun for “destroying the road for nothing”, while also saying that the current regime under Prince Dapo Abiodun has neither helped matters. “Help us beg them, please. This place has now become like an unfruitful desert. “Our town was better off before he brought the bridge.” The traditional ruler said, contrary to announcements by the then Amosun-led government that those who lost properties to the road construction had been compensated, only a few of them were compensated, while numerous others got nothing in return. The traditional leader also added that the abandoned bridge construction is now a den of criminals. According to him, all sorts of criminals now hibernate under the bridge to perpetrate atrocities like rape, robbery and other vices common to most Lagos ‘under bridges’ of horror, concluding that, “the bridge is now more of a curse than the blessing it was originally expected to be.” Also commenting on the abandoned bridge, a community leader and the Akingboye of Agbado land, who simply identified himself as Chief Thompson, recollected when he came to Agbado some decades ago. “The place was nice and business was moving well…though narrow, then, it was serving everybody well. “But, sometime around November 2012, former Governor Amosun started the gigantic project and promised to complete it within 18 months. “But nine years later, you can see what this place has become. We’ve been everywhere to get their attention, all to no avail. “Agonizingly, every stratum of human endeavour is affected by the south-diving economic indices in areas affected by the reproachable condition of the underdeveloped Sango-Ojodu Abiodun expressway. “Social life is gone, many schools and churches have also moved because the road has become impassable and the places are no longer accessible.” Continuing, Chief Akingboye said as he pointed at the abandoned Agbado flyover, one of the five involved in the highway,” this is meant to be a major road, now look at it, not even “Aboki shoe shines” come here any longer. Only criminals and hoodlums from Agege, Oshodi and other notorious Lagos bridges are now relocating to this place.” He said, corroborating the Baale. “They attack, rape and rob under that bridge now. They (criminals) killed somebody here some time ago. Because of his laptop, an innocent man was going to work around 5:30 am. I think he resisted the criminals who wanted to rob him of his laptop computer. “Despite all our pleas, through the CDCs and CDA’s, Governor Dapo Abiodun has not been here for once since he became governor. They have not done well. “The only time anybody will see our representatives is when it’s a day before electioneering campaign rallies and the last time was at night,” concluded the Orlu, Imo State-born Thompson. Efforts at reaching the lawmaker representing the Ifo-2 state constituency at the Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Ganiyu Oyedeji proved abortively, SMS and WhatsApp messages sent to his line were yet to be read as of press time.

Government

assures Interestingly, in what appears as a timely, sensitive pre-empting of public pulse among commuters and residents of towns and villages along the uncompleted Sango-Opeilu-Agbado- Ojodu Abiodun highway project, the Ogun State government has risen to the occasion, as work is set to commence at the road project site in the last quarter of the year. This is as the State’s Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Waheed Odushile, revealed in an exclusive chat, with New Telegraph Correspondent, that contractors will return to site in the last quarter of the year.

The 32-kilometre road, which traverses villages like Itoki Abule, Agbado, Oke-Aro, Giwa, Lambe, Akute, and Lambe, among others, had become impassable after a long period of abandonment. According to the Commissioner, the road was one of those projects abandoned by previous administration.

“Not just one, as long as such projects will be to the benefit of the people and lead to the economic advancement of the people.” He also explained that the delay in completing the road project was due to paucity of funds, for which reason the government has decided to break the work into phases, with priority on those parts that fall along the Lagos-Ogun border corridor.

“The priority now is on those roads that connect us directly to Lagos. All those border roads are the ones we are concentrating on for now,” concluding that the government cannot complete all projects at once. “The government has done some evaluation of the road and we have broken it into phases and that also includes about five bridges.” He also declared that some parts of the road will be completed “before the end of our first term.” While stressing the regime’s desire to complete all projects because the governor recognises the place of rural development in achieving its cardinal program of bringing individual prosperity to the people, he added that; “we believe that such infrastructure is one of the enablers of creating prosperity for the people.” Odushile said the government will shop for funds to complete the road, despite being capital intensive. “If we have enough funds, we can complete everything. “So, by the time contractors return to the site, of course, everybody will see them.”

 

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