By Patrick Aigbokhan
In January 2012 the Governor Ibikunle Amosun administration indicated its resolve to construct a 35-kilometre road including two bridges and three fly-overs to link Sango through Ijoko, Agbado, Oke-Aro, Lambe, Akute, all in Ogun State and some parts of Ojodu, in Lagos.
The contract for the project was awarded to a Chinese company- Chinese Construction & Services Company (CCSC) by the Ogun state government.
The project proper started in late 2013 with mass demolition of structures identified as obstacles to free-flow of traffic. Houses were pulled down, make-shift stalls were brought down and new pathways were carved. At the time residents felt the project would be completed quickly. By June 2014 the fast-pace activity at the constructon site slowed down until it finally ground to a total halt, leaving the locals with only tales of woe.
During the removal of structures that were viewed as obstructions to free-flow of traffic, an aged man whose property along the Agbado-Ijoko road was knocked down, was said to have slumped and died as a result of shock. According to those who know him, construction of the building had cost him his whole life savings.
A source close to the deceased lamented their loss, blaming the state government for insensitivity.
In the course of this investigation it was observed that some residents who do not have alternatives still occupy some of the demolished buildings, thus exposing themselves to danger. Some of the buildings were seen half-standing, with their front views already pulled off. Others had walls still standing in parts of the buildings abut nothing in front.
Some of them admitted their ignorance but said they had no alternative, and will continue putting up with the situation till they find suitable options.
State government aloof
Though the Ogun state government had said that affected home owners with Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) will be compensated, findings show that the reverse is the case.
Speaking through Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. Adegbite Olamilekan, the state government had disclosed that payment cheques for some owners of some of the demolished structures were ready and even paid to some of them, those that agreed to speak to this reporter said the government had not paid a dime to anyone.
In the midst of the claims and counter claims, there are rising incidences of auto crashes on the road involving motorcycles, car owners and commuters. This is due to the very many bad portions. These have resulted to serious maiming and even deaths.
It was learnt for instance, that a woman with barely three month pregnant had miscarriage on a motorcycle ride which was very bumpy as the motorbike operator tried to manoeuvre the gallops, huge stones and debris on the road.
The victim described her case as ‘a saga that is not worth pondering on’.
“I have decided to let go since ‘the did had been done’ and there is nothing that can be done to bring back the dead baby”, she said.
A fatal auto crash involving a tricycle and a utility truck on a sloppy and badly- damaged part of the road around the Lambe and Giwa axis led to the death of a young fashion designer who until his death resided in Yewande area of Abule Osho town in Ogun state.
The truck was said to have rolled down the sloppy road and in the process, hit the lady who was walking on the pedestrian side of the road.
One of the most dangerous spots is the Olambe and Giwa road axis where three metal slabs were constructed over the temporary drainage. The slabs were at a point separated to create an open gap in between, which turned out to be a danger zone to users, especially motorcycles and tricycles.
At different points, motorists moving over the slabs would have to consciously move at a slow pace to avoid calamities that could escalate as a result of the open space on the slab.
A tricycle had at one time, fallen into the open space between the slabs with one of its rear tires and was stuck in the space between.
It took the aide of passers-by and other motorists to rescue the tricycle owner and pull the truck with four passengers in it.
The position of the state’s casualty-ridden roads was confirmed by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) when it reported that by 2014 no fewer than 234 people had lost their lives in 298 road accidents in Ogun from January to December, 2014.
The record includes cases of the abandoned road due to controversy, and the period within which the road project was abandoned till date.
Mr Adegoke Adetunji, the state’s Sector Commander of the FRSC, said that 984 people were injured from various accidents during the period.
Although Adetunji claimed that non-compliance of motorists with traffic rules were largely responsible for the accidents.
He however admitted that poor conditions of roads as well as speeding and dangerous driving were the major causes.
The Commander said that the command recorded a total of 94 road accidents from January to April, 2014 with 79 deaths and 348 people injured.
He also said that from May to August, the command recorded 81 road crashes leading to the death of 81 people and injuries on 263 people.
Adetunji said, “From September to December, we recorded 123 crashes, where 74 persons lost their lives and 373 injured.
“Road crashes reduced in 2014 due to the commission’s aggressive enlightenment programmes on road safety.
“When we discovered that drivers were not in good state of health, we referred them to qualified medical personnel.
“We also organised training for drivers once in a month; we worked on their psychology and let them know why they should drive safely.”
From the record of the FRSC, the period of the accidents coincides with the period during which the road project was abandoned and left to constitute a danger zone to the human lives.
The deteriorating state of the road had left many motorcyclists avoiding the galloping on the road to almost make the entrances and corridors of residential and office buildings, road side shops and stores their main drive ways.
A major argument of the agitated residents, passers-by and motorists plying the road is that the government of the state should have made arrangements for alternative routes for motorists and passers-by to save them the untold hardship usually encountered on the abandoned construction project.
Findings have revealed that some affected victims have been diagnosed of severe catarrh and nasal drop as well as eye defects as a result of the dusts raised from the abandoned road.
Some parts of the abandoned road have already become sites for refuse as unscrupulous persons usually dump their refuse under the cover of dark.
At the Odo-eran/Yakoyo axis of the Alagoble/Ojodu road, which forms a part of the long road under the construction, refuse could be observed, thereby constituting a threat to the health of passers-by and people residing within the axis.
Some of the residents, commuters and motorists complain of ill-health issues associated with inhaling of offensive and harmful odour from the portions of dump sites.
In some occasions, motorists who are residents within and outside the affected communities are stuck in traffic while leaving for or returning from their places of work. The traffic gridlock last upwards of four hours, leaving road users exhausted. A number of affected road users lament constant body and joint pains and headaches as a result of the situation. They also complained of the dangers of inhaling emissions from the silencers of heavy duty trucks, motorcycles and other automobiles during the heavy traffic gridlock.
The situation is worse during the rains when the entire stretch of the road is taken up by mud and cases of vehicles stuck at various section, thereby worsening the traffic.
Ikenna Ibeani, a commuter in a tricycle told this reporter that, “The situation of the road gets messy and unbearable during the rainy season as a result of its abandoned state. You hardly leave your house well dressed and looking neat and return same way. Rather, you would always return home as dirty as a pig.”
WHY THE ROAD IS IN SORRY STATE
Investigations into the reason for the abandonment of the road construction project indicated two possibilities: The funds may have been diverted to political campaigns or deliberately put on hold as part of strategy for the incumbent governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, to seek re-election citing unfinished projects.
It was learnt that the cost of constructing the road was in the excess of N59 billion.
Although, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the then Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, had said the project was based on a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) arrangement, the state government is said to be withholding its own contribution. The contractor financing the project is said to be considering tolls to recoup his investment.
As at the time of filling in this report, all efforts to speak with relevant agencies of the state proved abortive as one Engr. Shehu, Project Manager at the state’s Ministry of Works, on several occasions, shifted the appointment he fixed to speak on the issues.
He had also declined comments during phone conversations on the ongoing issue, claiming he is never stable in the office, but always on assignments to monitor one project site location or the other.
At the time of concluding this report, Shehu was contacted again, but claimed he was out of the state for another official assignment.
As this game continued, the plights of the people worsen.