By Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
RESIDENTS of Alonge Island, Ikupodo, Iba Local Council Development Area, Lagos, are scared over the safety of their children as they go to and return from school.
The cause of their anxiety is the anticipated rise in the level of water in the canal that surrounds the island, which they fear might overflow and submerge the makeshift footbridge that gives them access to Obadore community road. The road links Obadore to the LASU-Isheri road, a dual carriageway that eased the once hectic traffic situation people used to experience on that axis of Lagos. The smooth asphalt road constructed in 2010 has now made a trip from Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda, Igando, Iba to Iyana-Oba and the Lagos State University (LASU), a pleasant ride. The construction of the road also solved the menace of armed robbery and the abduction of unfortunate people transiting through the area on commercial motorcycles for ritual purposes, both of which used to occur regularly on that road in the evening before the dual carriageway was constructed by China Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CCECC, and further made safe with the provision of streetlights.
Alonge Island is hemmed-in on one side by Obadore and on the other side by Ijagemo, Isaja and Ijegun. It is noteworthy that petroleum products pipelines run through Ijagemo and Ijegun to the PPMC (Petroleum Products Marketing Company) depot at Ejigbo. Until recently when soldiers were posted to the place, Ijagemo was a hotbed for pipeline vandalism.
The problem that has put the residents of Alonge community on tenterhooks is the fact that the canal which surrounds Alonge was blocked to facilitate the building of a bridge at Obadore during the construction of LASU-Isheri road. All through the period construction work lasted there was a long dry season and the effect of the blockage of the canal was not felt as the level of water in it remained low. Channels were provided under the bridge by CCECC for passage of water.
Then starting from 2012, Lagos began to experience torrential rainfall and that was when the problem now threatening school children began to manifest in Alonge.
An ex-officio member of the executive body of the community association, Jerome Okogie, told Sunday Sun reporter who visited the area: “The place used to be a very dry land until the government began to dredge the canal. Flood surged into the island.
Under the bridge at Obadore, the channel was blocked by CCECC. Therefore water could not freely pass through as in the past before construction work started on the road. The huge volume of water cannot pass through the openings left by the Chinese under the bridge. The water simply flows back and makes the level of water in the canal to rise and flood Alonge island, every year.
“We do not have any road that leads into the community. The accessibility we have is a makeshift footbridge from the end of Community road, Obadore. Absence of a road connecting our area to LASU-Isheri road is a major crippling problem that has greatly retarded development in the area. Our children have to walk on the footbridge to get to their schools in Obadore. Several times they had fallen into the canal each time they mistakenly stepped on a bad point. When the floodwater in the canal rises, it spreads into our community up to knee level and the thighs in some places closest to the edge of the canal. It drives us from our homes.”
An elderly woman, who supplies sand and gravel to people building homes in the community, Deaconess Adeyemi, known in the area as Iya-Olu Sand Supplier chipped in: “Suffering dey here oo. During the rainy season, you cannot stay here. It floods as if the ocean surges into the area.”
Prompted to express her feeling about living in Alonge, Ayo Adeyemi, a commercial school student said: “Living in this place is depressing. There is no road, what we have is a bush path that takes us to the edge of the canal and then we have to cross it on the footbridge to get to Obadore side. From there commercial motorcyclists take us to Obadore junction on the LASU-Isheri road, to board vehicles to our destination.”
One resident who will never forget the morning she fell down on the footbridge on April 9, 2016 is Mrs Grace Agbaosi, a food seller.
Recalling what happened to her on that day, she said: “I was going to my shop about 6am. I was walking on the footbridge when one of the planks broke as I stepped on it. I fell into the canal.”
As she fell, the jagged edge of a plank sticking out from the bed of the canal tore through her leg, leaving a hideous, horrible wound.
All the food she prepared and was taking to her shop for sale emptied into the canal. Her blood splattered on the footbridge. Fortunately for her, rescue came immediately as she screamed in agony.
“The government should come to our rescue and build a concrete bridge across the canal and also construct the road from Obadore to Alonge and Ijagemo. This is the way people have been falling in this place,” Agbaosi said.
Another leader in the community, who is in the Lagos State Civil Service, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that people in the community feel cut off by the canal that goes round the island with a swamp between Alonge and Ijagemo.
He added: “During the rainy season, the flooding is so serious that people sometimes have to abandon their homes and move deeper into the area to stay with benevolent neighbours for a day or two, to allow the flood water recede.”
With no road leading into the community, housing development in the area has been severely retarded given the prohibitive cost of moving building materials to building sites. When sand is supplied to a builder, it costs between N15000 to N35000 to pack the sand to the site in bagfuls by labourers engaged for this purpose, who use discarded cement bags to carry it to the site. The farther the site is from the end of community road, where the sand is tipped, the higher the fee charged.
“If government constructs this road, it will be easy for us to move sand and gravel to our building sites at a cheaper rate. We have written letters to the chairman of Iba LCDA without getting any response. I am sure that the current chairman does not even know that we exist. We are appealing to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to remember us. We are Lagosians and we voted for him. If the government builds the bridge, development and building of residential accommodation in this community will take off. Building a bridge across the canal will greatly help our children to safely get to our homes.
“We all suffered to get our PVCs. We are all ardent supporters of the APC and voted for the party during the election. We all went out to queue under the sun on election days to vote for APC. Why are we being neglected? The government should not wait until our children coming back from school drown in the canal before it will build the bridge. We are appealing to Governor Ambode to build the bridge and the road to connect Alonge and Ijagemo to Obadore,” Okogie said. On his part, Chukwudi Okafor, a fashion designer appealed to Governor Ambode to include Alonge in the ‘Light Up Lagos’ project of the government: “From Igando to Obadore, when you are coming back at night, from work or your business place, you enjoy the beautiful sight of streetlight on the LASU-Isheri road. But once the person alights at Obadore and heads inwards towards Alonge Island and Ijagemo, the joy evaporates because darkness welcomes you. It is a depressing sight. “As the day grows into evening and night falls, the thought of the blackout in Alonge and the dangers of crossing the canal on the walkway is a discouragement to go home. But a person must brace up and head home because you cannot run away from your home.
“Sometimes, you have to contend with the snakes that crawl onto the top of the footbridge from the canal. Imagine children coming from school and having a snake block their way. Just as the government has lit up Obadore, it should extend the dividend of democracy to people in Alonge, Ijagemo and Isaja.”
Recall the disaster that happened during the Ikeja bomb blast when hundreds drowned in the Oke-Afa canal as people surged from Oshodi and Mafoluku into Ajao Estate, trying to cross the canal to get to Oke-Afa, in the face of sustained explosion of bombs at the cantonment.
In the event of a major emergency that would necessitate the people in Alonge to move enmass towards Obadore, Okogie expressed the fear that a situation like that could re-enact the Oke-Afa disaster, in the absence of a road and bridge being built in Alonge/ Ijagemo area. “Each time I walk on the footbridge and remember what happened during that bomb blast incident in 2001, I get very worried because that kind of thing can happen again if all the people suddenly need to escape enmass. The footbridge cannot take all of us. You will see that people will be pushed into the canal as everybody would be struggling to get out.
The thought of that possibility really worries me,” Okogie said, shaking his head.
“When Babatunde Fashola was the governor of Lagos State, he visited Ijagemo and also came to our side. He saw the problem and promised that the government would build a road to connect us with Obadore. We were all happy. But the government did not fulfill that promise until he left office. It is the same APC that is in control of Lagos State. That is why we are appealing again to Governor Ambode to consider our plight and fulfill the promise that Fashola made to us.”