By Job Osazuwa
Residents of Ayetoro, Binukonu, Lafenwa, Egbejoda and Itele-Awori communities in Ado-Odo Ota Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State, on October 18, marched through the streets. They wanted Governor Abiodun Dapo and the Federal Government to fix their dilapidated roads.
Displaying different placards and singing solidarity songs, the people, old and young, lamented that they have suffered too many years of neglect by successive governments. They said that the peaceful demonstration became urgent, particularly as their businesses and other means of livelihood continued to suffer setback.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read, “Itele Awori land no longer cassava or banana plantation”; “We have endured years of suffering and smiling”; “Governor Abiodun come to our rescue”; “We are part of Ogun State”; “We need good roads in our community”; “Our children go through pains going to school” and “We are now afraid of every rainy season.”
Many residents have been involved in motorcycle accidents sustaining varying degrees of injuries in the process. Most car owners are said to have permanently parked their vehicles for the fear of putting it on the road. There is hardly a day passes without commercial buses plying the route visiting a mechanic workshop.
Business owners and artisans in the area are gnashing their teeth due to low patronage, no thanks to the failed roads. It was gathered that many businesses relocated to Lagos. Landlords are also complaining because tenants are packing out in droves while no new ones are interested in renting the vacant apartments.
Transport fare are persistently hiked by the few commercial vehicle and motorcycle operators who still brave the odds to ply the routes leading to Lafenwa and the neighbouring communities.
The operator of the motorcycle that the reporter boarded from Obasanjo in Ota to Lafenwa, Mojeed Ahmed, lamented: “This is what these communities have been passing through for so many years. It looks as if the government is not aware that people are living in this area.
“Passengers will be complaining that we charge too much forgetting that we are also suffering the pain. If the road is okay, our motorcycles will last longer and serve us better. A journey of 10 minutes now take us more than 50 minutes to complete it due to the bad roads. What we used to charge for N100 now goes for between N250 and N300.
“Whenever there is heavy rain, most of the bikes will close for the day and go home because the flood on the road can cover the bike. But any rider that is able to risk it can charge any amount. It is a very bad experience.”
Vice Chairman, Ado-Odo Ota Community Development Committee (CDC), Prince Olatunji Onaolapo, said the affected communities spent N4 million in 2019 and N8 million in 2020 to provide palliatives on the roads: “The roads have been neglected by state government over the last 10 years. The deplorable roads linking Ayobo in Lagos State and Ota in Ogun, spread across Itele, Ayetoro, Binukonu and Egbejoda, spanning over 40 kilometres.”
He said about 90 per cent of the residents of the area were clamouring and calling on National Boundary Adjustment Commission to cede the communities to Lagos if Ogun State Government was not ready to provide them good roads and other basic amenities: “Majority of people living in the communities are working in Lagos. They have to go through the dilapidated roads that best pass for death traps everyday.”
He said Lagos was magnanimous enough, during the administration of Akinwunmi Ambode, to come to the rescue of the communities by constructing a link bridge. Before the intervention, residents were always trapped and cut off from Lagos for days by flood whenever there was heavy rain.
Onaolapo claimed that every rainy season compounds their woes as most of the roads become impassable: “Most of the roads have dividend into various points, as there are no well-constructed gutters to contain the heavy flood. Most of our residents have abandoned their homes for Lagos, as erosion from the heavy floods had their houses submerged.
“In the past, we wrote several letters to the authorities to come to our aid. Up till this moment, no presence of any of the governments has been felt concerning our roads. The Federal Government can also come to our rescue through its Ecological Funds because there is a federal road connecting Lafenwa and Ota.
“We pay our Value Added Tax (VAT) and levies regularly, yet we get nothing in return. Many people have sustained injuries on commercial motorcycles that ply the bad routes.
“Many landlords have put up their houses for sale due to the sufferings that we are passing through. It is sad that despite what the government is generating from our area, we are left to continue to suffer this level of hardship.”
Vice chairperson, Binukonu ACDC Itele-Awori, Mrs Oluwadara Kehinde said: “Only motorcycles can pass these roads. In most cases, the motorcyclists have to manoeuvre through the inner roads to get to their destinations. Yet, every journey is a risk for us here. You need to see how children swim through the flood every morning to schools. There was a time we were using canoes to cross from our community to the side of Lagos.
“I have fallen from commercial motorcycles up to three times and sustained injuries. I still have the scars on my legs. I witnessed another accident this morning and this is how it has been since 2007 that I came to this area. Pregnancies have been terminated on the road. Limps and arms have been broken on the road.
“We have been levying ourselves every year to maintain the roads to an extent, but everyone is tired of contributions all the time. The bad roads have affected the prices of goods in our community. It is just we are living in hell here.”
Youth leader, Lafenwa Itele-Awori, Rosin Babatunde Afaope, said his people were already frustrated having waited for government’s intervention for years without seeing it coming soon: “We have a major petrol filling station here at Lafenwa, but for days now, the truck bringing in petrol got stuck at Cele Bus Stop. We go to Lagos State using motorbike to fill our cylinders for cooking gas. The trucks bringing gas for the stations here have since stopped coming because of the bad roads.
“The last time we received government’s intervention was during the administration of Gbenga Daniel in 2007. We have a federal road from Ota to Itele and down to MOPOL junction, which is like an eyesore. Therefore, we are calling on the federal and state governments to come and wipe away our tears by fixing these roads.”