By Eno-Abasi Sunday
|A container being offloaded along Bello Street|
Up to 20 years ago, Papa Ajao Estate, a sprawling residential area that borders the Isolo Industrial Estate, and Matori Industrial Layout, used to be a very quiet, serene, peaceful neighbourhood in the Mushin Local Council of Lagos State.
In its prime, the area was besotted by many as a result of its centrality, which enabled them to commute to many parts of the state with ease, as well as its nearness to many important destinations, including both the domestic/international wings of the Murtala Mohammed Airports; Jibowu and Oshodi transportation hubs, markets, hospitals, and tertiary institutions, including the Isolo Campus of the Lagos State Polytechnic.
The ease with which its residents accessed Ikeja, the state capital, Lagos Island, and sundry locations in the Island, made it a choice spot for many public and private sector operators.
But today, the area, which some residents likened to “European Quarters” of old, has lost that pristine ambience, serenity, peace, and quietude. Not only has the original layout been bastardised, but it is also on the verge of being swallowed up by the ubiquitous and ever-expanding Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market, which before now, occupied just a fringe part of the neighbourhood. No thanks to the activities of businessmen who are buying up property and converting them to either shop, mechanic workshops, parking stores, or warehouses.
Once in a while, petty thieves and neighbourhood cultists also take turns to unleash their share of a nuisance to the consternation of the residents.
The failure of the Mushin Local Council authorities to effectively and diligently enforce sanitation and environmental laws, has also ensured that amenities, especially roads and road furniture are constantly defaced, or broken down by artisans and businessmen, who pay scant heed to the maintenance of facilities put in place by the government.
When artisans are not blocking or defacing roads, which they have turned to mechanics workshops, articulated vehicles, trucks and sundry heavy-duty vehicles are snaking around the neighbourhood constituting traffic snarls en route to delivering goods to the warehouses that are springing up by the day. Expectedly, the rising number of articulated trucks in the area also contributes its quota to fast-tracking the destruction of roads in the area.
Accessing the estate through Isolo Road, that is, from Iyana Isolo Bus Stop has now become a Herculean task because of the very bad state of the road, especially under the Isolo bridge.
For nearly five years, getting into the estate from Akinwunmi Street, off Five Stars Bus Stop, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway used to be something akin to having a bumpy ride on a tiger’s tail. But that became history after the state government completed the abandoned Akinwunmi Street, last year.
But unfortunately, the completion of the road project has come with a fresh challenge, at the instance of the local council. For most of the day, mechanics, electricians, spray painters and sundry artisans display swaths of cars on both sides of the road, which they have converted to a massive mechanic workshop. They claim to pay N500 (per vehicle) to the local council to use the road as parking space.
Whatever space that is left after four rows of vehicles have been lined up, is taken over by traders, who display their wares leaving pedestrians, and motorists little room to navigate.
Despite the tight corner, which they have boxed road users to, the artisans and traders’ fury know no bounds if any of the cars, or wares are destroyed, as the motorists meander through the sea of cars and displayed wares.
On Ladipo Road, the situation is no different as whatever portion that is not serving as a mechanic workshop, serves as a paid parking lot.
Venturing further into the estate, other roads are beginning to suffer this ugly fate. Some of the worst affected roads in this regard are Alhaji Amusa, Bello, Ojekunle, Olakunle, Olanibi, Osoro Way, Sadiku, Akinbayode, Dada, Matori/Ladipo, and Awanatu streets, among others.
Nearly half of Alhaji Amusa Street has been closed to vehicular traffic for a while now as a result of the traders’ action, and that of the artisans.
In the last two years, six warehouses have sprouted up within a five-minute walk in the area. The latest two are located on Akinbayode Street, with one right on the premises of the defunct Suzan Martins School, Olakunle Street, one warehouse, same as Dada Street, while two warehouses recently opened along Olanibi Street.
Bello Street, another important street in the area is a pain in the neck for motorists due to the activities of traders, artisans, and owners of warehouses.
The activities of SPGM Warehouse, 56, Bello Street are particularly worrisome, and a great source of concern to road users. Since opening for business, the facility has constituted a menace with articulated vehicles, serviceable and non-serviceable vehicles always parked at the precinct of the outfit thereby causing motorists serious nightmare at the very tight corner, which leads to Akinwunmi Street.
Because of the chaos that is always happening there, including trucks breaking down, some motorists always make a detour to cut out the troubled spot whenever they are compelled to access the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway through that flank. Those conversant with the area venture into Yusuff Street, get into Oshikolu, then Oloje and eventually back to Bello Street, just by Akinwunmi Street.
Another outfit that is causing chaos through its activities along Bello Street is Ugo Iyke BMW Ltd, located at 38, Bello Street/Adeolu Street. Regularly, between four and five sports utility vehicles are parked in front of the outfit causing problems for motorists that are either negotiating to enter, or come out of Adeolu Street, or continue on Bello Street. Since the outfit opened for business less than three years ago, the situation at that end has got increasingly bad.
Akinbayode Street used to be peaceful and orderly in the day, and at night, but the emergence of a hotel and two warehouses within 100 metres apart, it now attracts many people to the area daily. Container-bearing articulated vehicles routinely drive in to empty their contents. Consequently, trucks waiting to be hired to ferry goods to different locations across the state, have now turned parts of the street, and the adjoining Sadiku Street to truck parks.
While this happens, officials of the local council turn a blind eye to the menace and ignore the indiscriminate parking of vehicles by these truck drivers. Conversely, they feast on private car owners, who commit the same traffic offence. Only the ones that part with bribes are let off the hook.
Over the years, the state government has displayed a sufficient lack of determination to decisively address the madness, which street traders, including some at the Ladipo Auto Spare Part Market, have continually exhibited. But despite making these promises, the impact has been less visible. This failure on the part of the government has emboldened the traders to constitute a law unto themselves, while residents of the area, including other road users, bear the brunt year-in, year-out.
Many years ago, Pastor Friday Omofuma longed to live in the estate because it was “usually calm, quiet, peaceable and devoid of activities of area boys, and sundry elements that constitute a nuisance in some residential areas.”
Now a landlord in the area, he lamented that the story is changing for the worse.
“I’ve been living around this area for over 20 years. Before now, it was very peaceful, and never witnessed anything close to what we are witnessing. Now the market is spreading fast and consuming parts of the residential area. There are very many parking stores and warehouses springing up here and there. Consequently, the presence of trailers and trucks has become inevitable. The entire area and streets within it have now lost that serenity while all sorts of criminality are being committed,” he lamented.
The Secretary of Omoleran Landlords and Tenants Association, Oluwatosin Owomoyela, who has been residing in the area for 17 years, is bothered by the loss of serenity and the increased level of nuisance in the area presently.
“I’ve been living in Papa Ajao for 17 years. From what was on the ground in the past and from my experience since I arrived here, this area used to be a beautiful, predominantly residential area, which you could describe as European Quarters because it was very quiet, peaceful, and very habitable. It was that kind of settlement. But in the last five to 10 years, the story has changed as a good number of houses have been rented, or sold to traders and other businessmen, who have in turn converted them to either parking stores, mechanic workshops/sheds, or warehouses. This our street, Omoleran would have been turned into something else if not for the very strong tenants and landlords association that we have. Unfortunately, you cannot sleep with your two eyes closed as ongoing activities have become a nightmare to the residents.
Owomoyela, who said the association is operating under, and in conjunction with Oluwalapa Community Development Association, in explaining efforts to make sanity return to the area said: “We have written several petitions/letters to the state police command, through the area command here, telling them about the problems that we are facing. For instance, there is a hotel that opened up in the neighborhood a few years ago. When it was being built, the association expressed its fears to the police, which played it down. But by the time the hotel was fully opened, prostitutes were marauding everywhere, and all the promises that the police gave us when we confronted them with fresh worries have come to naught. But we are still living with these challenges, even though they (police) come around from time to time to raid bad boys that congregate around the place smoking. Again, a few days after arrests are made, the suspects that were taken away are back in the streets.
On dangers posed by the increasing number of strange faces and activities of prostitutes in the area, the scribe said: “Let us start from the angle of the effects that they have on our children. Children are exposed to what they are not supposed to see as these women just flaunt everything recklessly, if you know what I mean. You also see that apart from everything now being in the open, some men who come to patronise them are also busy smoking cigarettes and Indian hemp publicly. Doing this while the prostitutes go about half-clad is not a good sight for children that are still in their tender ages, especially given the fact that there are schools here. Now, coming to even adult residents, there are up to five times that we’ve had to challenge these prostitutes and their patrons when they encroach into our street with their bad behaviour. We will continue to move against them until they respect the fact that we have the right not to have our senses of decency assaulted.”
Having already severally written to the police, the association, the scribe said would not hesitate to take its complaint to Alausa should matters continue the way that they are.
Said he: “We believe that once we’ve laid our complaints before the police, which is an agency of government, it should be treated expeditiously. That notwithstanding, we are thinking about going to Alausa to lay a formal complaint about all these things that are happening here. Unfortunately, such a serene, quiet, and peaceful environment has been turned into a lousy marketplace where the safety of residents is no longer guaranteed. As an association, we are doing our little bit to ensure that sanity reigns here. We have secured entrances to our street and there are two paid security guards providing service. Whenever we have any issue, we still reach out to the police for assistance, and in fairness to them, most of the time they do come around and restore sanity.
Even though Ajani Abusuga, another resident agrees with Owomoyela that their erstwhile European Quarters is being gradually replaced with a troubled estate, he stressed that landlords in the area have a major role to play in stemming the tide.
“What we are facing is a clear case of paradise lost, especially now that the market is spreading fast and consuming parts of the residential area. But landlords in the area have a role to play in returning sanity to the area. And that is by not selling their property to the highest bidder, who would convert them to business centres.
You would agree with me that this is a tough call to make at this time. The government also should take steps to rein in these traders that have no regard for constituted authorities. If the place was originally designed to be a residential area, the further incursion of the market should be discouraged,” he said.
He insisted that at the rate things are going, “the entire area could be swallowed up by the market sooner or later. Because of the high rate of rural-urban drift many hitherto quiet neighbourhoods are going to become busier and noisier as small and big businesses continue to open up. Rising poverty is also forcing many to sell off inherited property among others.”
Abisuga, however, stressed that it was high time that Mushin Local Council diligently enforced environmental and sanitation laws to stem the excesses of errant businessmen and artisans, whom he said would take over every available space and run down every available facility if they are not called to order, or made to pay for what they have destroyed.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Mushin Local Council, Mrs. Funmi Bunmi Mefful, who claimed to be one week in the office said she was yet to be briefed on efforts put in place to return sanity to the area.
She promised to contact the council chair and get back to The Guardian on issues raised, including how much the council was realising from the indiscriminate parking of vehicles, as well as why its officials harass private car owners and ignore erring truck drivers in the area. Until press time, she never reverted.
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