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Presence of ballot boxes, absence of democratic dividends, case of Ogun-Lagos border communities

Presence of ballot boxes, absence of democratic dividends, case of Ogun-Lagos border communities

Alagbole-Akute, Agbado-Ijaiye, Akute-Ajuwon, Matogun-Olambe and environs are communities in the Lagos-Ogun border region. To access those communities, you can enter through Ajuwon, Berger, Iju-Ishaga, and Ijaiye-Ojokoro areas of Lagos State. The journey to one of the communities (Akute-Olambe) began on a wet day in September. Travellers were beginning to doubt the rurality of the border communities as the road network from Iju-Ishaga to Ajuwon was quite smooth but full of settlements marred by poor housing. 

“Oga you go soon deh hear am now,” the driver notified us in pidgin English when we got to Cele Busstop. He was trying to tell me that we have come to the end of a smooth road.

The driver, Chuks Ibe, used to be a resident of one of the communities. He understood the terrain and the routes to take.

The road linking Ajuwon to either Alagbole or Olambe was bumpy but according to Chuks, it was not as bad as the one linking Akute to Olambe, Olambe to Okearo, or Okearo to Matogun ㅡ roads we eventually accessed. Residents of these communities jokingly say that the state of the roads can abort a young foetus.

One of our first respondents was a trader in Akute, Florence. She said the roads linking these communities were death traps and more hardship was faced by commuters whenever there was rainfall.

“These roads are too bad for vehicles or bikes to use. I reside in Matogun. It is a problem for me to go home when the rain begins. Apart from that, transport fares will immediately increase at the slightest gathering of clouds.”

Another resident and okada rider, Kamoru Hasan, lamented the state of the road. He said the hardship the road poses to commuters was not just faced by travellers but by okada and commercial vehicles plying the routes.

“I spend more on repairing my Okada on this road. We have to increase the cost of transport to make up for the long route we’ll take to escape some unmotorable parts of the road. If not for this road, Akute to Matogun or Olambe isn’t far. There will be no need to suffer if we have a good road here,” Hasan said.

Adding to these, DAILY TIMES spoke to the Chairman, Adiyan-Alausa Area Community Development Council, Dr. J.B. Adesola. “The state of the road across my CDC is terrible. People almost lost their lives recently when a tanker filled with PMS tumbled due to the state of the bad road and emptied its content,” he said

Abandoned bridge construction in Akute

A Matogun resident, Tayo Adekoya, recounted his ordeal on the roads in the dry and rainy season. He said he would have relocated if not for financial constraints.  

“I can’t go out wearing white or black. Both in the rainy and dry season. If it’s the rainy season, mud water will stain my clothes and shoes before I get to Okearo, if it’s dry season, dust will disfigure your clothes and face before you reach Berger or Okearo.”

These border communities are under Ifo Local Government. Ifo is the most populated local government in Ogun State with 539170 (2006 census) residents nesting across these communities. Numerous residents of Matogun, Akute, Olambe and Okearo communities decry the state of the roads due to the lack of political will and government neglect.

Kunle Ademiluyi, a resident of Olambe community, said he doesn’t think the government knows the communities exists. He also lamented his inability to move out of the community stating that it only gets worse year after year.

Another resident that resides in the Okearo community, Ganiyu Deji, said the people in power are only concerned with harvesting votes in the communities when election beckons. 

The state of roads in this area has made thousands of people migrate from these communities out of frustration and disappointment. Those who haven’t are restricted by funds or other constraints.

A former resident of Matogun-Okearo community – who prefers to remain anonymous – attested to this: “I had to move out of my own house because the state of the area became unbearable for me. The place is like a different world entirely”.   

We tracked down another former resident of the region, Mr Adetula, who now resides in the Iju-Ishaga area. “I had to sell some of my landed properties to relocate here. You can’t live long if you keep plying those roads or keep living there,” he told this reporter.

A road in Olambe-Akute community

Government Intervention, Abandoned Project and Recycled Promises

DAILY TIMES found out that the rehabilitation of the road linking Alagbole to Ijoko and environs started under the Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration (he also doubles as the current senator representing the senatorial district). However, the construction work on the road was allegedly abandoned due to the lack of funds. This was against the former governor’s promise in March 2017 when he said no project he started will be abandoned when his tenure elapses.

The roads are now worse than when the project hasn’t started as drainage dug and abandoned by construction engineers are getting filled with garbage and refuse. And building materials, iron rods and concrete are wearing out as the abandonment persists. 

“They should have left this road for us. We know how we used to manage it. Starting the work and abandoning it is unfair. It has done more harm than good.” A commercial motor driver, Emmnauel, said.

Adding to that, DAILY TIMES also found out that a Contract/Project Review Committee was set up by the current APC administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun to review contracts and projects awarded between 2009 and 2019 (Gbenga Daniel and Ibikunke Amosun administrations). The committee reported that a total of N218.380bn will be required to complete all abandoned projects across the state.   

In January 2019 when the then APC candidate (now governor) – Dapo Abiodun – came to solicit for people’s votes, he assured the people that his election will mark an end to the dark days of neglect in the areas and opening up of rural areas across the state. More than a year in office, the people of these Lagos-Ogun border communities are still waiting in limbo for the governor to fulfill his campaign promises.

“I was here when the governor came. He spoke to us at Olambe market. It’s painful that nothing has been done. I hope he fulfills his promise before he leaves office. This suffering is too much” A resident of Olambe lamented.

Most recently, in September 2020, the governor reiterated his commitment to fulfilling those promises but left out the most affected communities in his list of beneficiaries – residents residing along/in Okearo-Matogun, Agbado-Ishashi-Orudu and Matogun-Olambe communities will have to wait (for only God knows when) to see a motorable road.

Okearo-Agbado Road

In July 2020, the governor also claimed that contractors have resumed work on the abandoned roads in the communities but the claims are seen to be false as workers are yet to resume on the sites across these communities.  

DAILY TIMES visited the site of the construction to retrieve the name and details of the contractor(s) in charge of the project but nothing was found as cogent details have been erased from the board. A request email was sent to the government’s official email address but no response came forth. The phone numbers on the government’s website were unreachable too.   

Unreachable Senator, Same Stories

DAILY TIMES reached out to the three legislators representing the communities to ascertain the plans they have to reduce the suffering of their constituents. As of the time of filing this report, the senator representing Ogun West, Ibikunle Amosun, is yet to respond to our calls, messages and email.

The Member of the House of Representative for Ifo/Ewekoro federal constituency, Hon. Ibrahim Isiaka responded to our call through his assistant, Cecil. However, documents and feedback received revealed that nothing is currently being done on the state of the roads in the area.

The Ogun State House of Representative for Ifo II constituency, Hon. Oyedeji Ganiyu Alani, promptly responded to our call. He said he has been pushing the motion on the floor of the house. He also added that the governor has promised him that no abandoned project will be left unfinished when he leaves office.

He said, “Many thanks for the feedback. Please note that on the floor of the house, I regularly call the attention of the executive governor to our mirage of problems in this area. The executive governor has assured us that no project by the last administration will be abandoned. Let us continue to pray for the peace and security of our state.”

More Than the Cry for Good Roads

The pressing needs of these Lagos-Ogun border communities are beyond the cry for a good road. The public schools and primary healthcare are nothing to be proud of. Many of the community schools available lean on the help of the CDC. From power to education, motorable roads to healthcare, the people have had to fend for themselves. Because of these, no robust economic development that connotes urbanity can be found in these communities.

An angry resident of the Matogun-Olambe area, Adeagbo Joseph, voiced out: “There is nothing the government is providing for us here. We buy our electric poles and transformers. We pay exorbitant amounts at private schools for our children. We have to travel far to get sound healthcare for an illness as little as malaria. We fix our roads and develop these places by ourselves. What really is the role of the government? All they do is harvest our votes and disappear. Shame on them!”

We checked some of the schools in these communities. Efforts to speak to the person in charge of the public primary and secondary schools in Matogun was futile. It appears that they are under strict orders not to talk to anyone about the state of the schools. However, DAILY TIMES was able to get pictures of the deplorable state of the schools.

Okearo primary healthcare center

We also took a stop at the public primary healthcare centre in Okearo and Ajuwon. The state of the place is not just inhabitable for the sick; it can complicate health issues for patients.  It was untidy, small and haggard.

Mrs. Adeoso, the matron of the Okearo primary healthcare center, spoke to us about the efforts being made in sustaining the health centre and the challenges they currently face.

“We receive drugs from the local government but it is never enough. Only the HIS from Ikeja have helped to put this place in shape as you see. We can only admit a maximum of three persons at once. This place is too small for the kind of work we do here. We only handle minor cases here and antenatal related issues.”

Adding to these, she spoke about the needs of the health center and the state of the roads.

“We need to be moved to a new location that will be able to accommodate us. We need a power generating set to be able to work smoothly and solve ventilation issues. We need beds, chairs and kore drugs. I live around this Matogun road. That road is not it at all. Government seriously need to come to our aid in this area,” she said.

Efforts to speak to the Matron in charge of Ajuwon Primary Healthcare Center was met with strong resistance as they claimed that only on the orders of the Local Government can the reporter be allowed into the premises.

CDC and Other Frontline Helpers

Due to the neglect of these communities, homeowners are compulsorily tasked with the enormous responsibilities of making life comfortable for themselves. At various communities are clusters of associations referred to as the Community Development Council (CDC) to bring together Landlords to provide a united front that can attend to the pressing needs of these communities. CDCs are in full operation to do what the government has failed to do. But no matter the efforts of CDCs, they can never take on the kind of capital projects needed to end the misery of the residents. 

The youth leader of the Matogun Area Community Development Council, Olusoji Olowu, lamented about the road and basic amenities, stating that the community has been witnessing an influx of people for over 100 years of the existence of the community but no political will to develop the communities.

“Community members have been the ones closing the gap. They are the ones that provided cables and poles for their electricity including contributing to get a transformer. We regularly task ourselves to contribute collectively and individually to patch up the road.”

In addition, he said, “The Matogun-Okearo road is managed by three CDCs to alleviate the pains and suffering of the road users. On countless occasions, we have written letters and petitioned the government for intervention but nothing has been seen. There is little to what we can do”

The Campaign for Democratic and Community Rights (CDCR) has also been at the forefront of helping residents of these communities fight for their democratic rights. This group, set up in 2017 by the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to help the grassroots fight for their democratic right and dividends.

Speaking to the coordinator of the group in these border communities, Mr. Ayomide Amuludun, on what the group has done so far and the response they have received.

Ayomide said: “Residents of these areas have suffered for too long. No good road. No hospital. No electricity. We have been writing to the Ogun State government yet no avail. The only time we get a swift but empty response from them is when elections are near. They come during those times to patch up a few roads in exchange for votes. They know the way to this place. They have just chosen to ignore us. We recently wrote to the executive governor and all political stakeholders in the month of July 2020 toward the completion of the abandoned road projects. We have now launched an online petition against them.”

He also said the government has no excuse for financial constraints to their actions. 

“We can’t say Ogun doesn’t have the financial capacity to fix these roads, school and healthcare facilities. This region has not been forgotten. They know this place and their actions are intentional.”

The outpour of people from Lagos state into these communities has made it the best choice for anyone seeking a community closest to Lagos. If all their challenges are addressed, there is no limit to the economic value they’ll bring to the table.

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Augustine Aminu

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