Residents of Kirikiri town in Oriade Local Council Development Area of Lagos State are in dire strait. They cry day and night over the state of affairs in the area, which has continually given them sleepless night.
The residents believe that they are not better than the inmates of the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, as they claimed that the government has abandoned the area despite the huge revenue the community is generating for the government.
Kirikiri town has one major entrance and exit which was a bridge constructed in the ‘70s by the then military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo during the construction of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
During that period, it was learnt, a lighter terminal of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was built to assist the neighbouring Tin-Can Island Port, especially as the main port, the Port of Lagos Apapa Quay was getting very busy.
The Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, residents say, should be a blessing, not only to the residents, but also to all Lagosians, as it would create jobs and ensures that the economy of its location is improved.
But surprisingly, the residents told Sunday Sun, the Lighter Terminal is now a curse, saying that it has instead brought deaths, disasters, environmental degradation and today has made a huge prison of its location that residents can no longer freely go in and out of the residential area.
For instance, the main road into the town is blocked by container-laden trucks struggling to get into the Lighter Terminal to offload the containers, while the exit road out of the town is also blocked by both container-laden trucks and fuel tankers.
Fuel-laden tankers line up the bridge, in and out, beginning from Wednesday night till Saturday morning, which Sunday Sun learnt are the days scheduled by the tanker operators to lift fuel from the various tank farms lying at the bottom of the town.
A resident told Sunday Sun that the tank farms are like ticking time bomb, planted around the area, especially with no safety measures put in place to contain the eventual outbreak of fire or any disaster associated with petroleum products.
A resident, Mr Abiodun Olusanya pointing at the Nigerian Navy Ordnance Depot located not far from the area said, “as an imminent danger that does not require the kind of activities that take place here; that ordnance depot, if anything happens is enough to send Lagosians packing.
“Again look at the roads and all the things that happen from the foot of the bridge to the innermost part of the town, will you say that this is development or retrogression. We the residents are now locked up in our houses by container-laden trucks that are coming to the Lighter Terminal to do business.”
Recently, protesting residents, including women and youths, carried placards with different inscriptions indicating the bad state of the road and adjoining streets.
One of the protesting residents identified as Mr Fabian Makanju said that the gridlock caused by the bad roads within the Kirikiri community had led to the death of many residents.
For instance, he said a recent fire incident at the foot of the exit point of Kirikiri town which was caused by bad roads, and led to the fall of a petroleum-laden tanker that eventually sparked off a fire that consumed many property and lives, is an indication that order needs to be restored in the town.
In that incident alone, a resident of the community in pursuit of his daily bread was killed and several other residents had their cars trapped and reduced to ashes by the fire.
Another resident lamented that truck owners now block the roads to the detriment of other residents and business concerns in the community.
For instance, he said schools inside Kirikiri town and Comfort Oboh areas whose pupil and students are residing outside the area can no longer attend school, and if they do they are held up in traffic for several hours due to container trucks that have blocked the roads.
A school owner who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed bitterness that even the security agencies that were deployed to the area to control traffic and ensure sanity have joined in the melee and are making huge sum out of the truck drivers rather than create access for the residents to go out and come in.
The school proprietor lamented that the gridlock has depleted the population of the school, saying “take a look round, this is a primary school and this is 11:00a.m and these are just the few children who can make it to school today because two of our buses are still stuck in traffic.”
One of the protesting residents who was identified as Catherine Chidozie said: “This protest is long overdue. Some of our children can no longer go to school; the ones that go to school struggle to get there because their school buses no longer ply the routes due to the state of affairs in the area.
“We are suffering. About some months ago, a young boy lost his life. He had been sick and became unconscious, so his family decided to take him to Hilton Hospital in the Berger area. They were on the way when they ran into a gridlock caused by bad road. The boy died in the car.
“We want the road to be fixed. We want the trucks plying this road to be diverted to another route because they cause gridlock. Sometimes, we pass under the trucks to enter our houses. We want all these to stop.”
The story of people dying as a result of the massive gridlock, according to residents, is just one pathetic story out of many others.
One of them was that of a pregnant woman who was to deliver a baby and was being transported to the hospital she was using which was located outside the area.
She and her husband were held up in traffic for hours, as the container-laden trucks have blocked the entire space and vehicle coming in and out of the Comfort Oboh area could not have access.
Witnesses who told the story said that the woman decided to enter a nearby hospital and within five minutes of getting into the hospital, she gave birth to a baby boy.
The witnesses said, it could have been disastrous if she had continued to wait in the traffic as she and the unborn child would have been at risk,
Another resident, Mrs Josephine Gbadamosi, lamented over the untold hardship residents have to contend with living on the street.
“The condition of this road has become worse of late to the point that we sometimes contribute money to get sand to fill the bad portions. The shop owners around here have been the ones donating money to buy materials to fill the ditches, just to make the road passable because the state government has not done a thing here for years. Sometimes I even wonder if we have one. Each shop owner pays as much as N40,000, just to fill the potholes and clear the gutters. Because the gutters are not in good condition. I have fallen into this dirty water on so many occasions while on a bike,” she said.
The payment of fixing the road all by themselves is just because they wanted comfort even as they do not want the continuous death as a result of bad roads.
Residents say this prevailing comfort and joy were soon to be cut short by some oil firms which invaded the town with giant tank farms for storage of petroleum products.
This development was to turn their lives into a nightmare as residents could no longer sleep with their eyes closed, owing to the fear of explosion that could reduce the community into ashes.
A resident, Ugochukwu Martins, a middle-aged man, told Sunday Sun that, “what we fear most is the problem of explosion, the fear of fire. As you can see, the town has now been taken over by petroleum industry operators; if you drive downwards, towards the waterfront, you are bound to see lots of tank farms, where they store petrol and other petroleum products. If there is explosion, where do we run to? As you’re coming in, I’m sure you noticed that the only exit route, should there be disaster, is also loaded with petrol tankers and other trailers. So, if fire breaks out on one end, how do we escape?
Ugochukwu, reveals that, “Not too long ago, there was a fire explosion in one of the tank farms and you really need to be here to see the panic on our faces. It was like Armageddon, with everybody running for dear life, until God took control and the fire was put out.”
The story of Donatus Okonobo was not different from the other residents, but scary as he had exhibited frailty due to ill-health on a Sunday morning when he heard the shout of fire at a nearby tank farm.
He said immediately the shout of fire came he developed mild fever, but regained strength suddenly and became alert again.
He said: “We rushed out of our houses and ran away because nobody knew if the fire was from fuel.”
He said that he joined scores of other residents as they dashed towards the concrete-walled fence at the rear of the estate, the only exit at the back of the estate.
They returned to their homes hours later after the fire, which reportedly started in one of the diesel tanks, was brought under control.
“Nobody wanted to take chances. It was when we came back that we discovered it was diesel,” he said.
Another resident, Mr Michael Udoh, an industrialist, also agreed that the tank farms and the tankers constitute great nuisance to the community. “Do you know that sometimes we spend up to three hours trying to get out of this community? And it is the same thing when we’re coming back.”
Also Kosisochukwu Maduabuchukwu, a trader along Karimu Street, had dispatched a message to the state government, saying that the community has no good road, stating “that is the major lack we suffer, plus the gridlock caused usually by the fuel tankers and container bearing trucks.”
Maduabuchukwu and other residents told Sunday Sun that life is no longer enjoyable since the tank farms began operation. “We can no longer go about our lawful businesses peacefully since these tank farms began operation. They block access to our streets such that we can no longer move about with our cars as in the past. I now park my car at Mile 2 and in the morning when I am going to work I rush to Mile 2 to pick it. If I don’t do that, it’s impossible to move it out from here.”
The residents claimed that the companies located within the community, particularly the oil and gas outfits, had neglected the road and have failed in their corporate social responsibility.
They demanded that the companies abide by the decision of a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding entered between the Registered Trustees, Kirikiri Depot Owners Association and Chief Waidi Agunbiade Sunmonu, the Baale of Kirikiri Town, Dr Chris Onalo, Mrs Adedoyin Shonowo, Madam Mirinda Mosheshe, Chief Babalola Shabi who were acting jointly and severally for themselves as accredited representatives of the Kirikiri Community.
According to the MoU, it was agreed that the oil companies will ensure a day and night good traffic management at the location or Kirikiri community as appropriate by paying workers to control traffic.
It was also agreed that the companies would repair damaged culvert or pavement at Cardoso Street.
The oil companies seem not to be interested in this part of the agreement as heavy truck besiege Kirikiri Town every day in search of fuel, blocking the roads leading in and out of the town and endangering the lives of innocent residents.
They identified the companies trading in the community as Fatgbems Oil, Techno Oil, Sam Star Nigeria Limited, Bovas Oil, Chisco Energy, Best Staff Construction Company, Kam Wire Nigeria Limited, Bolingo Nigeria Limited, Ratel Engineering Limited, Bao Yao Nigeria Limited, Reynold Nigeria Limited, among others.
The representatives of the Kirikiri residents had petitioned the regulatory authorities, particularly the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Barrister Andrew Otokhina to mediate between the community and depot owners on the subject of the petition.
The memorandum reads in part: “In consideration of mutual covenants, stipulations and condition to be performed and observed herein by the parties, it is hereby agreed as follows;
“The parties otherwise referred to as Kirikiri stakeholders agree to co-exists as a community peacefully whether as resident or business concern in Kirikiri Town Apapa, Lagos;
“The Depot owners shall be allowed to carry out their businesses peacefully and properly without disturbance from the community.”
On the part of the Depot owners, it was learnt that an agreement was reached with the community to ensure good environmental practices or condition and general improvement of the Kirikiri community.