.How once noble mass housing scheme turns slums across Lago
BY ’TUNDE THOMAS, VINCENT KALU and LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU
AMONG other things, Jakande estates which dots many parts of Lagos State, remain one of the legacies of the first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Lateef Jakande. The estates were conceived as a solution to the perennial housing and accommodation problems in the acclaimed Centre of Excellence.
With this political masterstroke, the former governor’s name was etched in gold in the hearts of residents of the state, and he became a reference point among his peers on how to address the housing needs of the people. There was euphoria following the allotment of the estates in 1983 through balloting to lucky winners. To Lagos residents, good times had started to roll in as some winners moved into the flats while others rented theirs out.
The estates were beautiful and the environments serene, well planned with internal access roads well tarred, to complement the luxuriating colours of paints on the blocks of flats, each owned by different landlords.
Like many things Nigerian, these estates located in Oke-Afa, Iba, Meiran, Abesan, Mile Two, Lekki and others, are in distress and sorry state, with broken structures and deterioration of the environment. They are dirty, unkempt, squalid. In a sane clime, they are not fit for human habitation.
The excitement that greeted the arrival of the estates has waned and the value of the buildings and flats has depreciated abysmally because of the failure of the owners /landlords to maintain them. Rather than live happily in a once coveted estates, the residents now live in squalor.
The roads in these estates are bad with many overtaken by weeds to the extent that Okada riders find it difficult to even meander through. Take the estate at Oke-Afa, Isolo for instance, the rainy and dry seasons present considerable challenge to residents of the estate. During the rains, the entrance to the estate is usually flooded, creating hardship for pedestrians and motorists. Even roadside offices and shops are not spared from the chaos.
During the dry season, clouds of dust envelop shops on the streets. The blocks of flats behind the shops also get their share of the dust.
Amaka Nworji, a resident narrated her ordeal to Saturday Sun on the deplorable state of the road in the estate. According to her, she almost lost her legs in an accident along NEPA bus stop. She said: “it is an unforgettable day, the rain had just stopped, I was on my way from work when I decided to board an Okada. On getting to NEPA bus stop, there was a pool of water on the road. The rider wanted to circumvent it, but unknowingly, an on-coming car on high speed was trying to do the same thing. The rider jumped off the bike to save his life and all of us were thrown into the drainage close by”.
Another noticeable feature in every block of flats in the estates is the prevalence of shanties; makeshift homes beside the main buildings. Almost every block has makeshift shops, creating a kind of eyesore. It’s difficult to imagine if there is any regard to town planning and building regulations. Small-time traders, shop owners, schools, clinics and other small offices dominate every part of the estate, especially the roadsides.
One of the makeshifts adjacent to a dumpsite at Ile Iwe junction, is owned by one Riliwan. Saturday Sun gathered that Riliwan has been living there for a number of years, and it is alleged that the house has become a regatta for weed smokers.
When one of our reporters approached Riliwan’s house, the person that came out of the room was holding a wrap of Indian hemp. The reporter quickly asked him if he could offer him assistance because he was stranded. “You are lucky they didn’t suspect you, you would have had yourself to blame. All effort to evict them has been flawed. They are feared and dangerous,” a resident of the estate stated.
At Mile 2, House 56 is in shambles. It has no roof over it. There are cracks all over the walls, yet people live on the ground floor. The entrance to the stairs was locked with chain and padlock.
Saturday Sun gathered that the local government had ordered the occupants to vacate the house but they have remained adamant.
“The government had told them to leave the house but they don’t want to. The house, as you see may collapse at anytime; I hope they realize the danger they are exposing themselves to. They’ll be held responsible for anything that happens to them,” a neighbour said.
Although the Mile 2 estate still has good road network, the central sewage system has collapsed leaving residents to alternative measures, including discharging waste into the open drainage system. This, according to Hon. Ariyibi Olayiwola Ayodeji, the immediate past counsellor of the ward, makes the estate to ooze with putrid odour sometimes.
“The major problem we are having is the sewage system. Our sewage is bad. The original design was to pass it through the central sewage system, but it is not working. It has been bad for years, which forced many people to device their own means of discharging their waste. Some people pass it into the drainage.
“I have lived in the area for over 30 years. I was not born here but I grew up here. Compared to the past, this place is a shadow of itself now. Compare to the way it was when we came here, there has been a lot of reversal.
“One of the problems in the estate is that it is not fenced. The estate is close to Mile 2, one of the biggest bus stops in Lagos; imagine living close to a garage in an unfenced apartment. The people are exposed to crime and criminal activities.
“Another problem in the area is the indiscriminate erection of containers. These containers deface the estate. There is a complex made available for business but the people left it and started to erect shops in front of the buildings. These containers also block the house numbering and ventilation.”
Jakande Estate in Meiran is relatively far better than other estates. It has however, become a shadow of its former architectural showpiece. According to the residents, when the estate was new in the 80s, it was referred to as Small London. Many people sought accommodation in the estate.
But today, the story has changed. The estate is fast fading. Many of the flats have not been painted over the years, while some individuals have taken it upon themselves to paint their flats, thus showcasing conflicting or rioting colours on the blocks of flats. The road network in the estate is in bad condition and open sewages are common sights.
Apart from this, a big ram market has been established close to the gate of the estate. The ram market is not only an eyesore but has become a threat to smooth flow of traffic in and outside the estate.
Unlike before when there was a central water supply system, individual flats now have to sink boreholes or look for alternative avenues to source for water.
A resident of the estate, and who is also a member of the estate residents association, Alhaji Fatai Tolani lamented that their small London had become a jungle.
“It is sad that our problems today are multifarious. Meiran Estate was the ultimate place to live in, in those days. But that was then. Today, we are faced with a lot of problems. It is like everybody to his tent. Even, officials of the LSDPC that are supposed to be our landlords and responsible for provision of certain amenities are hardly seen again. Unlike before, today, everybody is on his own.
“It is sad that today, people have thrown caution to the wind. All manners of structures are springing up in the estate. Some residents now have mini-poultry attached to their flats. You also have noise pollution coming from the mosques and churches in the estate”, he said, adding that “on the issue of security, we arranged to hire a private outfit but at times, the job often overwhelm them.”
In Jakande Estate, Iba, most of the buildings are begging for renovation. The roads are in terrible shape. Those living on the ground floors are confronted daily with spilled sewage from collapsed septic tanks. There is no public water supply, so, residents sink boreholes and install overhead water tanks. Some of them, shabbily constructed and erected dot the estate. As if it was a rule, every block has containers, which are either shops or offices, and they contribute largely to deface the estate.
A resident, who is a retiree told Saturday Sun that he has lived there for over 35 years when the estate was a place to behold, but now it has turned to a slum.
“Take a walk around the estate, you would pity the people living here especially, those on the ground floor. Here was a reclaimed and marshy area, so any septic tank that is built with blocks collapsed in less than 12 months, and that is the problem here. Most of the tanks have collapsed and you have sewage spillage everywhere.
“ For every block, there are six landlords, and most of them are not living here. So, for the landlords to come together to address or fix the septic tanks is a big challenge. They abandoned it to the tenants, who also are not ready to come together to fix it. It is a case of what belongs to everybody belongs to nobody.”
The wall paint has been washed away, and has not been retouched after the first painting was done in 1983. Some people who care now go out of their ways to have their flats repainted. Thus, in a block of six flats, you can have six different colours of paints.
The open spaces reserved for recreation have been taken over by churches and mosques with the attendant noise pollution.