Residents groan, livelihood lost
It was a horrific sight on Wednesday, the 10th of March 2021, when the Ogun State Government, in a commando style, stormed the Denro-Ishashi Road in Ifo Local Government Area of the state with fully armed riot policemen and soldiers alongside bulldozers and other heavy construction equipments.
The mission of the invading force was to carry out a supervised demolition of structures deemed to be obstructing the right of way of a new road project in the area, despite lack of any meaningful resistance from residents, who embarked on self demolition of some of the structures before the fateful Wednesday.
The almost five kilometres road, originating from Adugboluja Police Station, Ojodu Abiodun on the fringes of Ojo Berger, and traversing Oluwakemi, Island Heritage Estate (Madonna), Denro, Ishashi, Pipeline and all the way to the ever busy Akute Bus Stop, had been a nightmare for residents of the areas.
On a yearly basis, residents say the road becomes impassable for upwards of two to three months because of a failed bridge constructed over one of the tributaries of River Ogun that connects Kara on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, during which the water overflows, making human and vehicular traffic impossible.
According to residents, the overflowing water, coupled with terrible stretch of the road from beginning to the end, made development of the areas to witness stunted growth, making lives difficult and the movement of goods a harrowing experience.
Accounts by residents, however, said the road was not like that initially but because of a badly handled construction carried out by the administration of former Governor, Gbenga Daniel.
“The road was as smooth as you can think of when it was newly constructed under Gbenga Daniel. We were happy and elated that finally we have a good road passing through the neighbourhood. The construction of the road led to new developments, as people started flocking to the area, buying plots of land and started developing them in earnest.
“Our joy and the new found development of the area however was short lived as just under one rainy season, the entire road was washed away, making the road worse than it was before construction. To make matters worse, the bridge construction, caved in, leading to overflowing of the water. We went through hell, with some people losing their lives while trying to wade through the water, whose depth times can cover a full grown man,” said a chief in the area.
For residents, who fought hard to attract the attention of the Ogun State government to reconstruct the road, it was a great relief when the state government awarded the contract for it. For many, their years of agitations for government attention finally paid off.
In a chat with newsmen, Mr. Tunde Sosina, a management consultant and property owner in one of the estates dotting the area, said they were elated when the contractors finally moved to sight to begin work.
“It is only those who have lived in this area for years that can really appreciate the gesture of the Dapo Abiodun led administration in Ogun State for embarking on the reconstruction presently going on. Though we had our reservations initially on the genuineness of the contract and the commitment of the state government, but it is fast becoming real that in no distant future, we shall be having a good road that will make life easy for us.
“When I first bought my land here, people upgraded me for buying land inside the bush. For them, it was a waste of money as development may never catch up with the area. This is despite the fact that the estate I built and stay till now is less than five minutes to the popular Ojodu Berger Bus Stop, from where you can connect any part of Lagos with ease. So for me, it’s a great relief that we now potentially have a good road that will hasten the development of the area”, Sosina said.
Despite the enthusiasm that greeted the reconstruction of the road initially, the events of Wednesday have left many property and business owners in the area with sorrow and gnashing of teeth.
From pulling down whole buildings to destruction of multiple stores and potentially folding up thriving businesses, residents are now faced with development with pains.
Recounting his ordeal while speaking to newsmen, a prophet and businessman, who would not want his name mentioned, said he has lost more than 20 shops and substantial part of three buildings to the road construction.
“I am one of those most affected by the current construction, as I have lost over 20 shops and substantial parts of three buildings. These include a row of seven shops that were all occupied just before Heritage Island Estate, a plaza consisting of 12 shops at Ishashi and others at Kara.
“What is most painful is that when markings were done initially, some of the shops were thought to be safe, with only the extensions in front affected. However, they came on Wednesday, they marked the buildings again and wrote REMOVE. For me, it was like a dream. All the shops are gone as I am talking to you and nobody is talking about compensation”, the Prophet said, in obvious confusion.
In what many residents consider a smart devilish move, the Ogun State Town Planning Authority before the Wednesday operation, had embarked on a different marking on all the buildings along the stretch of the road. The markings indicated that they were all illegal structures, despite many of them having approved plans.
This, the residents interpreted to be a clever way of evading the payment of compensation to those whose properties were affected.
Nick Anyanwu, another property owner in the area, in a chat with newsmen, however, believes that the move by the state government to dodge payment of compensation to those with genuine papers and approved plans is not proper.
According to him, government must appreciate the fact that it is the right of these property owners to be compensated for the loss of their investments and since there is no infringement on their part, government must find a way to mitigate their losses.
“Governance must have a human face and no development can be said to be real development if those for whom it is meant to serve become worse for it in the process. It said that some properties along the road maybe illegal but there is no way all of them can be illegal. I am aware that a whole lot of these properties have approved plans, so marking them as illegal to avoid payment of compensation is actually a heartless move.
“I will appeal to the state government to look more closely into this and do the needful. We appreciate the efforts of Governor Abiodun at making the reconstruction of the road a reality but the pains it has brought with it can also be mitigated. It will interest you to know that from the Adugboluja Police Station up to Aketu, you can hardly find any shop still standing. Businesses have been affected. Commerce has been brought to zero and the lives of the people affected may take time to stabilise”, Anyanwu said.
A restaurant operator, simply referred to as Mama Dami has been lost in thought on what her next move would be after the building housing her restaurant was demolished.
Her restaurant, one of the few places one can eat local Yoruba dishes in the area, was one of the happening places, as it adjourns a bar that has become popular and the toast of the area for young men and women, who find it ideal for their relaxation and watch the Premier League football. For Mama Dami, business was indeed booming and the prospects looking up for good. This optimistic projection has however given way for despair, uncertainty and gloomy future.
In a chat with newsmen, Mama Dami said the least expected had happened to her, as she had zeroed her mind that it was only the extension she did outside the restaurant that would be affected.
“What we were told initially was that it was points they marked that would be affected. We, on our own, removed the extension outside, as it was obvious from the marking that it would be affected. So, we were confident that we had done what needed to be done. But on Wednesday, they came with fully armed riot policemen and soldiers. It was God that saved my equipment, furniture and foodstuffs that had been stocked. They would have demolished the building on them. The same thing goes for my neighbours.
“The question now is where do I want to go? This is where I have my customer base and I can tell you that you cannot get any shop around here any longer because they have all been brought down. Going to another neighbourhood will mean starting all over again. For how long will I do that?”, Mama Dami asked.