Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
When one hears people say Opako Border in Ogun State, one may think it is a new border post between Nigeria and the neighbouring Republic of Benin. The “border” on the lips of the people, particularly, those residing along Panseke-Adigbe-Opako-Obada route in Abeokuta metropolis, is the temporary demarcation caused by the on-going reconstruction of Opako culvert bridge.
The bridge, totally washed away by flood, connected Obada to Adigbe-Panseke axis. At the outset of the damage done to the bridge by the flood in June, palliative measure was taken so that motorists could still ply the road. But when it became clear that the structure would not hold for long and could cause irreparable damage, the road from Obada end was closed to vehicular traffic, while the bridge was totally pulled down, to give way for the construction of bigger and stronger one.
To this end, however, commuting on the road became impossible and this led to the demarcation and creation of Opako border. Residents of Obada and environs, who usually plied the route to and fro, made a detour by travelling through a longer Brewery-Olomoore-Ita-Oshin-Aro axis, along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Determined to make do with the situation, however, commercial motorists and motorcyclists plying Panseke-Adigbe-Opako-Obada route, devised a means of transporting their passengers. They divided the route into two, using Opako bridge under construction as their demarcation and border.
A section of the commercial motorists and motorcyclists voted to ply Panseke to Opako, while the other section at the other side of the “border” chose to ply between Obada and Opako.
Meanwhile, a makeshift gangway has been constructed on the stream to serve as a connecting route for passengers. In essence, a passenger traveling from Panseke to Obada, will board a vehicle or motorcycle and alight at the “border”, and cross to the other side of the demarcation to board another vehicle or bike to take him or her to Obada.
Food vendors, recharge card sellers, POS operators and others who engage in sundry businesses, have now relocated to the “border.” A visit by Daily Sun to the location revealed that people residing around the area have taken advantage of the on-going construction by bringing their businesses to the location.
A food vendor was sighted selling food to commercial drivers and motorcyclists as well as passengers. One of them, Elegbede Motunrayo, told our correspondent that business has been good since the “border” was temporary created.
She explained that she had to leave her shop located somewhere around Opako, to take advantage of the huge human and vehicular activities at the location.
Elegbede, who said though she wanted the construction to finish as quickly as possible, selling food at the location has really given a boom to her daily income. She added that with the resumption of schools, her sales will double and more money be made.
A recharge card seller, Bidemi Oloko, disclosed that her shop was at Alowonle, but relocated to the “border” to up her sales. She added that since she found a spot, she has been able to sell more recharge cards than she used to sell while at her shop.
For Adeoye Oluwole, a POS operator, “Opako border” has been a blessing in disguise. According to him, the traffic to his container, which he brought to the location, had quadrupled. He added that passengers who ply the route and need cash urgently patronise him on regular basis, noting such has increased not only his commission on transactions but his rating by the bank he represents.
When asked whether he wished that the work on the bridge to be finished on time, Adeoye, who sighed and smiled wryly, simply said in vernacular “E je kaa je die si…” meaning (Let the work tarry a while so that we can eat more).
A commercial driver, Akeem Taiwo, said though most of his colleagues found the situation a bit tasking, they have since adjusted. He disclosed that their daily incomes have been reduced as a result of the on-going reconstruction of the Opako bridge:
“To say the truth, it has not been easy for us as drivers. Our daily incomes have been reduced by the construction that has divided this route into two. Normally, passengers traveling on Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway, who usually dropped at Obada Junction enroute Opako-Adigbe-Panseke, now go straight to Ita Oshin. That is a great revenue loss for us.
“This particular spot has been turned into a temporary border where a passenger alight, then cross to the other side to board a connecting vehicle. This side (Opako) is nicknamed “Benin” by the people, while the other side is called “Nigeria”. And just an archetype of a normal border, commercial activities here are booming as a mini market has been created by the people.”
While lauding the government for expediting work on the bridge, Akeem, pleaded that the road from Alowonle to Panseke should also be considered for rehabilitation.
Another driver, Okeowo Sogbehinde, said people have taken the advantage of the on-going construction by selling things around the place. He urged government to complete the road in record time so that normalcy can return to the area.
A commercial motorcyclist, Tunde Hassan, said the reconstruction has not stopped him from making his daily money. He and his colleagues have since discovered a way of carrying their passengers across the ‘border’, if they are ready to pay additional fare.
He, however, said he could not say whether the work should be done with on time or not, declaring, “business has been good since the bridge collapsed.”
For Awolu Ibrahim, another commercial motorcyclist, his income has been affected by the construction. He said many motorcyclists have joined those of them initially plying the route because of the volume of people and attraction of making more money. He, however, appealed to government to complete the bridge on time and put an end to the temporary demarcation at Opako.
A pub and car wash centre owner at the location, Yomi Orekoya, lamented that his business has been shut down since June and suffered as a result of the demarcation. He explained that the reconstruction and expansion of the bridge became imperative in the face of the devastating damages done by flood to nearby structures, including his pub.
He disclosed that he spent over a million naira on construction of embarkment measuring 12 metres, to mitigate the effect of the perennial flooding of his place. He advised that Opako River, should be connected to the embarkment and channelled down the stream into the Ogun River. He expressed optimism that the project will be completed as scheduled, urging government to also fix the Panseke-Alowonle axis of the road.
A passenger, Abiodun Dunmininu, bemoaned the stress passengers, traveling from Panseke to Obada, go through everyday. She said though the transport fare has remained the same in spite of the demarcation, she pleaded with the contractor handling the project to double up because of the expected human traffic as schools resumed.
On the ‘border’ cognomen, Dunmininu, said the name was just coined by the people to paint the vivid picture of what the reconstruction of the bridge has turned Opako into.