By Olabisi Olaleye
In many rural communities in Ogun State, these are certainly not the best of times. Many roads in the communities are impassable, and the residents are complaining.
Navigating through some of these roads, especially the Lafenwa-Itele-Ayetoro-Ojuore axis on daily basis is like passing through hell. The roads are in Ado-Odo Ota, the biggest local government area in Ogun State.
Each day, motorists and commutters groan on the road. It’s a regular occurrence for passengers and motorbike riders to fall into the murky waters perpetually domiciled on the roads. And vehicles that cannot withstand the waterlogged roads merely splutter and stop working, right in the middle of the pond. Many passengers have sustained injuries after falling into the muddy puddle on the road.
An angry resident told the reporter that while the current administration in Ogun State had done a good job by upgrading the cities, the suburbs that gave it the largest votes have remained forsaken and forgotten in the last six years. He said the people’s hopes were being dashed daily, noting that no one was sure if the rural communities would ever be remembered.
“Every year, scores of people die either through through road mishap or in infernos caused when fuel tankers fall on the road. Many homes and shops are burnt, causing huge losses running into millions,” he said.
Mrs Bintu Ajakaiye, who resides in Idi-Mangoro, in the Ojuore axis, explained the hardship thus: “Everyday, we keep suffering for no fault of ours. Just last week, a four-year-old girl and her heavily pregnant mother fell into that water that you are seeing there. The woman tried, she struggled, so that her daughter would not drown until some people went to assist them. They were not on the bike but were trying to avoid being hit by any commercial bike operator. The commercial bike riders are also avoiding the bad roads and the waterlogged areas.
“We campaigned seriously here.We for Governor Amosun. Why should he continue to see our suffering and will not alleviate it? Lagos is very close to this place. We can see how far it has gone with massive road re-construction. Yet Ogun is there snoring, doing nothing. Is Abeokuta the only place to construct bridges? Ogun State should wake up from its slumber,” she said.
Chairman, Itele Awori Area Community Development Committee (CDC), Prince Olatunji Onaolapo, said several incidents had been caused by the negligence on the part of the government, which he acused of failing to fix the craters and potholes on the roads. He noted: “We have been in this dilemma for long and if the roads are good, accidents and deaths would have been completely avoided. That is the basic truth. Our roads are not passable and there are several incidents that leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
“There was a pathetic incident in December last year when a school was razed down. Another happened in 2013 at Ayobo that claimed more than two lives. We only thank God that these incidents usually happened during the night, if not, all the students in that school would have been consumed in the inferno. This was because while the teachers were running to take care of the toddlers, anything could have happened. How many children will two teachers in a class of 12 toddlers save? More than 20 shops were gone too. We all know what that means if it happened during the day.
“Government should fix the roads so that it won’t be a regular occurrence. We have written several letters to the governor and commissioner, all to no avail. We want government to intervene and stop paying lip service on the pages of national dailies. We have deployed the use of mass media and hoping that the government will not look the other way.”
Onaolapo further said that a campaign was launched on December 17 last year by the residents. “We solicited private sponsorship to aid road repair temporarily, pending the time the governor would listen to the community. But the roads have gone bad again.
“All these roads are being fixed by the community. Even the roads constructed during the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel did not last up to four years because there was no drainage system. If there is a drainage system, there won’t be much problem. We spent the sum of N4.6 million on dredging, grading and extrication on the one at Ayietoro -Itele. We are starting another one by the grace of God, if our people are willing to support. Already, people are now weary because many businesses are on the verge of collapse because of lack of patronage due to the bad roads. Even electrification is being done by the community. We bought about 45 pieces of 500 KVA transformers. We are not seeing any government impact at all in this community. That is why we are appealing to Governor Amosun to remember us in this area,” he said.
Another resident, Alhaji Rafiu Quadri, who lost millions of goods in 2015 during an inferno, lamented that government failed in its responsibilities to the citizens, noting that if all the bad roads had been repaired, the incident that affecd him last year would have been completely avoided.
Chairman of Liberty Community Development Association (CDA), Alhaji Shuaib Ade Mohammed, also lamented that the roads had totally colapsed.
“We are appealing to the government to come to our assistance,” he pleaded. “Just three weeks ago, at the foot of the bridge that is like the boundary between Lagos and Ogun states, there was a heavy flood. No one – either human or vehicle – could pass through the place for almost 10 hours. And it was a Monday. Some people then started using canoes to ferry people to the other side. They charged N100 per person and only three people could be accommodated in that canoe. How long do we continue to smile and suffer? The country is quite hard but if necessary amenities are put in place, the shock and pains would have gone down considerably.”
However, when the reporter called at the Governor’s Office in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, to get the government’s response, she was told she had no prior appointment, and that the governor’s spokesperson was not available.
But an oficial, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to talk to the press, said the governor would fix the roads.
Said the official: “Nigerians are always impatient. Look at what he did here in Abeokuta. The budget has just been signed. The governor has plans to fix every bad road in the state, but where is the money? There are several projects in the pipeline but the money to execute these things has remained the big issue. As soon as money comes, the governor will fix the roads and the people will smile again.”
In Lagos, maritime workers, union leaders lock horns
By Tony Ogaga Erhariefe & Paul Erewuba
Recently, members of the Maritime Workers Union had a face-off with their leaders in Lagos. The aggrieved workers staged a rally where they called on the union executives to step aside.
The reporters learnt that in 2000, former Minister of Transportation, Ojo Maduekwe, dissolved the executive committee of the union, which was then led by Uzo Ukaumunna. That move resulted in the birth of a caretaker committee, which handed over to the Tony Irabor-led executive committee. Eight years after, Irabor handed over to Tony Nted. Nted’s tenure is due to end soon.
However, despite the unbroken transition, some unionists are calling for the return of Ukaumunna, 16 years after he left.
Jacob Ebegbone, one of the aggrieved unionists said: “Since 2000 when ex-Minister of Transport, Ojo Maduekwe, dissolved the duly elected executive committee of the Maritime Workers Union, many of us have been brutalised and laid off. We approached the law courts for justice and got three injunctions, restraining the union from holding elections. However, the union disobeyed the injunctions and held elections.
“Now that there is a new government in power, they are ready to listen to us. We want our authentic leader, Comrade Uzo Ukaumunna, to come back because when he was president general, we had no issues.
“We are tired of illegal union and slavery. After 10 years working as a registered dock worker, the terminal pay is N350,000 per person instead of N4.5 million, depending on your position. If you build a house without a proper foundation, can the house stand? No, that is the problem.”
Ibiloye David works with ENL, a terminal operator at the ports. He told the reporter: “They pushed me out three years ago because I was fighting for the rights of the workers. We have been suffering since 2000. Whenever we want to speak our minds, the union attacks us. How can a contractor become a union leader? It’s not possible because he can’t fight for the right of the workers. They are all contractors, yet they are claiming they are our union leaders. This union is affiliated to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and so, its executive cannot be dissolved by a word of mouth like the former minister did. It must be gazetted; there must be a white paper on it.”
President, Maritime Workers Union, Adeyanju Adewale, said, however, that the allegations were false. He spoke further: “We received a distress call that a group of workers were coming for a peaceful meeting at our secretariat and we alerted the security agents because we didn’t know who and who are coming for the peace meeting. Two days before they came, a letter was sent from the Committee of Human Rights, signed by one Professor Moris Fagnum.
“We wrote to them that our secretariat was not meant for such a meeting and besides, we don’t have problems with any of our workers. And in order for us not to witness a crisis, we sought and secured a court injunction against the meeting.”
Adeyanju accused Ukaumunna of attempting to destabilise the union and cause mayhem.
“People should not be looking for a crisis when there is none. Comrade Irabor took over from the caretaker committee that was set up by the Federal Government 16 years ago. It was headed by Justice Achinolu. It was the Federal Government that dissolved the Ukaumunna-led executive and there is a White Paper on that. Election was conducted and won by Onikuliase Irabo. Tony Nted took over from Comrade Onikuliase. Sixteen years have elapsed, so where are the court injunctions? Where is his executive?” Adeyanju asked rhetorically.
On allegations that members of the executives were also contractors, he said: “They can go to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and find out if I have a company. Like I told you, they are only out to cause confusion. I am part of them; I am a dockworker. God brought me to lead them and if I don’t lead them well, God will judge me. What belongs to them, we make sure we get it for them.”
He said he had done well by fighting for the workers’ welfare. “Before Tony Nted, dockworkers did not have any condition of service. They just hired us. We were all casual workers. There was nothing like terminal benefits. We succeeded in ending casualisation at the ports.
“As the president of the dockworkers, Comrade Tony Nted and I felt there was need for us to make sure our members were pensionable and have gratuity. Today every worker at the ports has terminal benefits.
“We sat down with the then managing director, Alhaji Abdulsalam, and we came up with a document which we called Minimum Standard for dockworkers. That was in 2008. So, if you are employed today as a fresh worker, you have your entitlements. We have three types of operations. They are Minimum Standard, Payment By Tonnage and Time Related Wages. The ENL workers fall under Payment by Tonnage.”
He also explained how the current crisis started: “Those protesting came to me that ENL, a terminal operator had been grounded because its contract was not renewed by the authorities. I said that I was not aware of any terminal operator being grounded by government, so I said that they should give me one or two days to sort it out.
I called the Human Resources Manager of ENL and he denied it. He forwarded the papers of the renewal of the contract for another five years to me. Then I called everybody and addressed all of them. While some accepted, others did not. They said that they wanted their money, that they had spent 10 years that they should pay them N10 million or N15 million. But I said, ‘this is not what your contract says. I cannot go against the NGIC agreement we had in 2008 that is binding on all stakeholders.’
“But they all said no; that since another terminal operator, APMT Terminal was able to pay its workers millions of naira, they should get the same thing. And I said ‘no, you cannot compare what happened in APMT with your own establishment.’ APMT employed those guys directly. They are permanent staff. They are not on tonnage.
“According to the agreement, if you are on tonnage, once you work for five years and above, you are entitled to N350, 000. It was the union that fought for that. This month we are going for another negotiation to review it upwards.”
The reporters were unable to reach some of the other personalities allegedly involved in the crisis by the time this report was filed.