•We can’t access our homes, offices, landlords, tenants lament
By Charles Adegbite
It was designed as a decent environment to live and do business in. But today, take a trip down to the Balogun area of Lagos Island, in Lagos Island Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State, and you’ll be amazed at what you see. Walk down to a street like Gbajumo and others in the vicinity, and you will be shocked at how the place has been turned to a ghetto. The proximity of these streets to Broad Street and other areas in the commercial nerve centre of a state that prides itself as Centre of Excellence in Nigeria is what actually makes the entire thing so disgusting.
At Gbajumo Street, for instance, are magnificent-looking three and four storey buildings surrounded by several skyscrapers. But you cannot access the street with either a bicycle or motorbike.
You will really have to struggle as an individual to walk in. Reason? Petty traders have besieged the place with their kiosks and shanties of various types that they placed on the tarred roads. They leave no space for even a motorbike to enter the street. They sell their goods there daily without minding how the occupants and residents of those buildings will enter their houses and offices.
Now, the place has become a slum. The drainages are full and could not be evacuated. The septic tanks are full but no refuse disposal vehicle and faeces evacuators can enter the street. Right now, the entire place is in a messy state. The landlords are seriously agonising while most of the tenants have vacated the place to get accommodation elsewhere.
One of the landlords, Mr. Koyi Olusola Jokotola, who spoke to Daily Sun on the ugly situation there, said the trauma the residents are passing through is simply indescribable.
“I made frantic efforts to see Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola when he was the governor of Lagos State to get his attention. In 2013, we had a problem in rehabilitating this place and we couldn’t move in because we could not access the place as a result of the way the traders blocked the whole place. We even made efforts to see the LCDA chairman and we were told that there were some powers behind the allocation of the roads to petty traders. But no one told us who those powers were,” he said.
It was gathered that officials of the LCDA, who allegedly permitted the traders to build their cubicles on the roads do come regularly to collect levies from them. That has further emboldened the traders.
One of the traders who spoke to Daily Sun, one Mallam Abdullahi said he had no business with any landlord or residents of the place as long as the local council authorities had recognised them by collecting money from them. Another trader, who simply identified himself as Yahaya said, “Walahi, nobody or landlord can send me away from this place as long as government has not said it is wrong for us to sell our goods,” he said.
While narrating the ordeal of residents, Mr. Jokotola said: “Sometime in 2013, there was a fire outbreak at Sunny Adewale Street, behind Gbajumo Street. When fire fighters came and they could not enter the street, they became helpless. But thank God that there were some men around who helped arrest the situation. Sometime in 2014, we had a similar experience. Thank God our people were around to quickly put out the fire.”
It was gathered that after the then Governor Fashola commissioned the Oluwole Shopping Mall in Balogun, a lot of traders, who occupied business apartments in those buildings in Gbajumo just vacated the place to get better business apartments at Oluwole. Their complaints, according to our residents, were the inability to bring goods they purchased for sale into their warehouses and shops because vehicles could not get access to the street. And since the water system does not function, tenants could not use the toilets.
Shedding more light on the problems. Jokotola noted: “Apart from the inability of the tenants to bring in their goods, and the inability of those who want to buy goods to come in, when there were serious roof leakages, we could not repair. Essential things like sand, water, cement, wood could not be brought in, since vehicles couldn’t reach the place. When the sewage was full, sewage evacuators could not get access to the place. And there are several other problems.”
Mr. Jokotola disclosed that Gov.
Fashola’s wife once came to the area, and the landlords went there to see her to inform her of their plight. He said the landlords were denied access to Mrs. Fashola. He pointed out that they had complained several times to the government about their plight without getting any response.
He added that the houses were already getting dilapidated and could not be repaired. Consequently the tenants are moving out while the local government officials keep coming to get the annual tax they collect on the houses, he noted.
According to him, the problem started about five years ago when all the LCDAs were created. Prior to that, when the Lagos Island Local Government Council was in charge, the roads were better maintained and supervised. Mr. Jokotola lamented that when the residents made drastic efforts to repair the buildings a few years ago, some street toughies, known as area boys, ordered them to stop unless they could pay N1.5million. He said when the landlords went to the local council and asked for police protection, they were told to go and pay those area boys if they don’t want to be disturbed.
Alhaji Dehinde, another resident who spoke to Daily Sun on the matter, decried the insensitivity of the Lagos Island LCDA towards house owners and residents in the area. “They use greed and force to generate revenue at all cost. But the funniest thing is that they still collect taxes from owners of these houses without bothering about the social contract that exists between the government and the people they govern.”
The reporter was told that whenever the then Governor Fashola was coming to the area for official assignment, the LCDA authorities made him pass through Martins Street, which means that he would not have to see the rot at Gbajumo Street. The residents alleged that the local council authorities did it in such a way that they blocked all vehicles from coming in through that direction and ensured that the governor and his entourage never plied the right way that could expose him to those streets whose roads have been converted to market.
Efforts by Daily Sun to speak with the Executive Secretary of the Lagos Island Local Council Development Area were frustrated. Officials in the Information Unit of the council informed the reporter that the council boss did not like talking to journalists and prevented the reporter from reaching him. One Mr. Alaka, who eventually promised to send the phone number of the council boss to the reporter, never did. Alaka also did not return repeated calls, neither did he answer many text messages.
The house owners are now living in fear daily. They observe that the possibility of a devastating fire outbreak is real, as fire trucks would have no means of accessing the area.
“But why should the government wait for a preventable disaster to happen before they begin to set up panels of enquiry and start looking for solutions to prevent a recurrence after lives and property have been lost when they could have prevented it from happening?”
That question by Alhaji Dehinde is still waiting for an answer.