•Overgrown with weed, flyover now home to lunatics, reptiles, human excrement
By Job Osazuwa
It is a pathetic sight. From every part of the facility, heaps of refuse and human excrement stare at you, even as a substantial stretch has been taken over by weed and grass. It is the pedestrian bridge by the gate of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo.
The pedestrian bridge stands right opposite the LASU main gate on the busy Lagos-Badagry Expressway. But it no longer serves the purpose for which it was built. It has become a refuse dump and public toilet. Indeed, those that built it will weep if they ever get to see what the flyover has metamorphosed to.
It was gathered that the structure was constructed by the military to meet the yearnings of the students. The need for it became urgent due to the busy nature of the international route linking Lagos to Benin Republic and other West African countries. And when the bridge was inaugurated, the joy of the residents of the area and the students was massive. They were happy that the accidents that hitherto occurred on that stretch of the highway would become a thing of the past.
However, that ecstasy has for long disappeared, as the narrative has adversely changed.
To say that the bridge is an eyesore would be stating the obvious. It has been abandoned for years, and weed, faeces and all manner of refuse have found a new abode in every space on the flyover. A horrendous stench welcomes anyone who wishes to have a closer view of the public facility.
As the reporter moved to climb the bridge, many traders and students around the place warned him against taking an such action.
In fact, many of the students seemed to have forgotten that the facility was actually a pedestrian bridge. Many of them told the reporter that the flyover had collapsed. But, contrary to the students’ assertions, the bridge was standing strong, though was abandoned for lack of maintenance.
Crossing between life and death
There is hardly a month that passes without someone getting knocked down by a vehicle or motorcycle as they dash across the busy Lagos-Badagry expressway. Lives have been lost, with many lucky victims still nursing injuries. Despite calls to the authorities to clean up the bridge, nothing has been done.
A female student of LASU was knocked down by a vehicle in May this year. She survived the accident, but has been left with injuries.
A commercial motorbike operator, Tayo Gbenga, said the bridge was a necessity in that area.
“Accidents happen here every time, especially during rush hours. Some people crossing the road are not careful enough but when accidents happen, sympathisers blame the driver or okada rider,” he said.
Abandoned by saner men and women, a lunatic has now appropriated the facility for himself. When the reporter visited, the mad man had made a small home for himself amid the refuse. The reporter learnt that the man goes out during the day for his daily bread and returns in the evening to sleep.
Haven for street urchins
Underneath, the abandoned bridge also serves the needs of some idle youths. The reporter observed some old mattresses at the spot, and one of the youths confirmed that a number of youths actually slept under the bridge.
“Nobody comes here to disturb us because the security people at the university work 24 hours daily. But some bad persons who come here to smoke Indian hemp have given all of us bad names. People see us as thieves, but we do genuine work picking scrap and reselling them. If the bridge wasn’t abandoned, maybe we would not be sleeping here,” he said.
His colleague, Zayanu Murtala, said many people in the area had fought him for attempting to prevent them from dumping refuse on the bridge. He showed the reporter a scar on his face, which he claimed to have sustained while fighting with someone who wanted to climb the bridge and defecate there. He, however, said he was ready to work with the government to clear the mess and make the bridge usable.
LASU staff, students worried
Mr. Fapohunda, who works at LASU, told the reporter that university students have always avoided the bridge, noting that it might be because the place wasn’t beautified when it was built. He urged the government to revisit the project and give it a facelift.
A 200 level student of Theatre Arts and Music, Oluwadare Michael, argued that irregular use of the bridge was why people were defecating and dumping refuse there.
“I’m sure the bridge was built for the students but we are always in a haste to go in and out of the campus without bothering to make use of the pedestrian bridge,” he said.
Timeleyin Adeosun, a student of the English Department, described the condition of the bridge as pathetic. He blamed government for not putting measures in place to ensure that the bridge was constantly maintained.
Mrs. Nwachukwu Deborah, who sells roasted maize immediately after the bridge, said it was unfortunate that nobody was doing anything to improve the condition of the structure.
In her words: “Innocent souls are lost on a daily basis at this LASU gate. Students are always the victims because they are often careless. There was one that was hit by a motorcycle last year. The student had earphones in his ears and didn’t hear us when we were shouting and warning him to run from the oncoming motorcycle. His leg was broken in the accident.”
Lack of maintenance culture
A businessman who resides in the Iba area of the state close to the university, Mr. Godwin Ugbesa, regretted that the lack of a good maintenance culture in the country was the reason such facilities get abandoned.
“To get that bridge cleaned up and put to effective use will not cost more than a million naira. However, the people also need a reorientation on how to carefully handle public property. We live in a society where people see public infrastructure as government property. If we can all agree and accept that those facilities belong to all of us, the story will change for the better,” he said.