Kelechi, 21, who had just resumed at the University of Lagos, Akoka, had gone to the community on her friend’s recommendations to search for accommodation. Coming in through Ilaje bus stop she found herself stuck in the middle of a pond, a large pool of murky water that has taken over the street. All around her, the street was partly submerged and the bike man insisted he’d not go any further to avoid the briny water damaging his motorcycle. She had urged him to go further a few meters. The bike tumbled and both riders found themselves thrown into the murky water.
For Kelechi, the eye-opening experience became clearer when she saw residents pumping water out of their homes and trying to salvage their valuables. Certain parts of the neighbourhood––Ogunleye, Oduoya and Lateef Fagbemi––were submerged.
As she stood there sopping wet, she learnt further that although the situation was exacerbated during the rainy season, flood is a ubiquitous occurrence in the community. So, in just a few minutes, she’d experienced a comprehensive introduction to the hell of a living condition at Bariga Ilaje, a community whose population consists of a large number of students due to its proximity to the university.
The bane of Bariga
One of the residents who spoke with Saturday Sun, Mrs Oluchi Ogbunubi, insisted that the road into the community has been in such an appalling condition for a very long time and has negatively affected businesses of local traders.
“People cannot come and buy from me because of this pool of water. They find it difficult to dip their legs into the dirty water. They’d rather go elsewhere”, she lamented.
Ogbunubi, who has been living there since the past 13 years, attributed the flood to a stagnant canal at Ogunleye Street. “During the rainy or dry season, the flood doesn’t cease,” she stated. “The road has become the gutter. If they channel the water into the canal, we won’t be so bothered; it is the lack of proper drainage that redirected the water to the road.”
Another resident, Mrs Ugo, claimed the government is aware of the situation, recalling visits by government officials and engineers before and after the last general elections. The team reportedly recorded videos and measured the length of the road. “Even the press wrote a lot of things about it but nothing has been done,” she said.
An agitated hairstylist with a salon on Odukoya Street had arrived in the morning with her apprentices only to find a flooded shop and had to devote the rest of the day to clearing the water and salvaging her belongings.
“Anytime it rains heavily, it is always like that,” she wailed. “This gutter in front of my shop was covered by water to the extent that you hardly know where to step on.”
The salon owner, who identified herself as Mrs Joy, railed: “There are many shops on this street that have packed up because of the flood. Owners abandoned their shops and went elsewhere to pay rent for new shops because the goods they kept in the shops were damaged by water. All the shops here used to be opened; but now, only three of us are left on this row. Does it show that we have leaders?”
Gloria Akuma, a foodstuff trader avowed that residents frequently move out of their apartments in less than a year of arriving in the neighbourhood, leaving their rents with house owners who do not refund them.
What’s worse, despite the condition of the road, rent rates in the community is not any cheaper compared to other parts of Lagos. “For two-bedroom apartments, the rent is within the range of N250, 000 to N 300, 000,” she said.
She further detailed her suffering: “When I go out to Oyingbo to buy stuff, I’m meant to stop at Pako bus stop but the motorcyclists at Pako would refuse to bring me home because they don’t want the water to destroy their bikes. So, what I do is, board a bus to Ilaje and take a bike from Ilaje to Lateef Fagbemi Street down there, then I continue my journey home on foot, bearing my load on my head.”
The nightmare in Ijagemo
In Ijagemo, a suburb of Iba Local Council Development Area, lack of access road is forcing homeowners to abandon their houses to live in rented apartments in other areas. Some went as far as selling their property.
When Saturday Sun visited the area, inhabitants were seen trooping in and out of the neighbourhood in a single file on a wooden bridge constructed over a murky lake, the bridge so fragile any motorcyclist who attempts riding on it risks a certain fall. Therefore, all forms of vehicular transportation terminate at Oju Odo (river bank) where the wooden bridge starts. Car owners in the community have resorted to parking their vehicles at a checkpoint mounted by soldiers in Oju Odo where they pay N100 or N200 for safekeeping.
The residents vented their frustrations when interviewed.
Wilson Bamidele, a tricycle driver, blamed politicians for their predicament. “During the last election, the councillors came to Ijagemo for a campaign and their vehicles got stuck right there in the water. Would they say they do not know about this road or about what people are passing through?” he raged.
Another tricycle rider, Mr Uchenna Oriaku, complained that the bad road was responsible for constant repairs of his vehicle which consume a chunk of his daily wage. He also grumbled about his inability to take his tricycle home which cost him additional N200 daily as security toll.
Due to unavailability of secondary schools in the densely-populated area, students also share in the daily hardship. Ayomide Mustapha, a 15-year-old student of Ijegun Grammar school revealed she and her peers trek from their houses to Oju-Odo before they board a tricycle.
“This road discourages me from going to school every morning. We usually arrive at school late and we are always punished for lateness. In the morning, a lot of people move out of the area for their various places of work so the few tricycles and motorcycles that go to Ijegun are usually scarce because they are not enough. Usually, we sit on each other’s laps because we cannot afford to pay for two seats,” she narrated.
The situation at Ijagemo has created dislocations in most families.
For instance, Ayo Gabriel, a young graduate, said: “I miss work a lot because the income cannot even cover the cost of transportation and the stress. My dad doesn’t come home for three, four months. We go out to his place for our feeding allowance. I am fed up.”
Adebisi Olaiya, a 50-year-old automobile engineer is presently fed up with the situation. After his wife and children refused to stay with him in his house, he was forced to rent an apartment for them in Igando.
“After we moved to our own house here, my wife’s everyday complaints became unbearable, even the children’s attitude was not encouraging at all. They just wanted to move away at all cost and I had to respect their wishes, but I can’t abandon the house I built with my sweat and money and then go and live in a rented apartment. My children come visiting only during the dry season and I am okay with that.”
He also doesn’t sleep in his house all the time.
As a ‘very’ social person, he occasionally gets drunk at social outings and would rather pass the night in town to avert the calamity of falling off the wooden bridge on his way home.
Others, like Adebisi Olaiya, had even more agonizing experience. “As soon as the rain started on July 7, the bridge was quickly submerged in water. So we were using our feet to trace the wooden bridge, unfortunately, a rusted nail entered my feet. Those that wanted to remove it thought it was a straight nail, so they were pulling and pulling whereas it was a bent nail. My foot was badly damaged. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t go to work, I spent three months at home. To even eat was tough because my wife doesn’t stay around. My neighbours were the ones that helped out. I had to get tetanus injection three times and each one was N2, 500,” he narrated.
Some suffered economic loss, like Agbelemo Awonigbelesofawo who earns a living as a disc jockey. “We only work during the dry season and it affects our income. Without a passable road, how do we move our equipment in and out of here? We are really hungry here,” he lamented.
Emmanuel Sullivan, a trader and an employee in a company in Oshodi, also bemoaned his fate. When it rains, traders find it difficult to go out for business and therefore lose business deals, he said.
“I leave my house at 4 am and gets back by 12:30 in the night, he stated, “I spend more than N500 to get back home and sometimes I am forced to trek half of the way whenever the cost of transportation is hiked by transporters,” he said.
Community leaders react
Comrade Ayodele, treasurer of CDA Oko-Obi, Ijagemo, a resident of the community since the past 15 years, declared to Saturday Sun: “I work in Apapa. I cannot stress myself unnecessarily, that’s why I’m at home today.”
He confirmed that the road had been in such a poor state for a long time. The non-indigene residents, he disclosed, had intermittently made contributions ranging, from N5, 000 to N15, 000, towards the upgrade of the road. “The government gave us stones and we were grateful, but we are calling on the government to help us because we are not capable of doing it ourselves,” he further said.
Yusuf Babalola, another resident (who declared bluntly, “We are suffering”) affirmed that “It is not as if the government is not aware of what we are passing through.”
According to him, “Our document is in Governor’s Office; we have written the Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff and others, but they complained that the expense is too much and above what government can presently finance.”
He further claimed that Gov. Fashola had wanted to fix the road, such that all the links would be active alongside the presence of a government estate in the area. He asserted that Gov. Ambode’s at the tail end of his tenure had also called for the review of Ijagemo’s file.
A youth leader who spoke on condition of anonymity further corroborated his views: “Gov. Fashola came here in 2012 and promised us that Hi-tech Construction Company that is in charge of the Isheri-Jakande road would come and fix this road after the completion of that one, but that didn’t happen. Gov. Ambode didn’t even come here.”
He claimed pictures of the bad road had been sent to Alausa alongside countless letters of plea to the government.
“Gov. Sanwo-Olu during his campaign promised that this road would be one of the first to be constructed once he gets into power, but till today, we haven’t seen anything,” he stated.
He ended his tirade with vehemence, threatening that the APC government would be voted out in the next election if nothing is done about the road.