Politicians Promised Us ‘Heaven’, Now They Have Abandoned Us, Residents Of Lagos Community Linked By Wooden Bridge Wail
Lanre Ogunmefun couldn’t stop grumbling as he throttled his rickety car towards the wooden bridge. In front of him lined dozens of other vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians waiting to also make use of the makeshift facility. The bridge is the only and shortest means to connect the part of Igando he lives and other areas within this Lagos community. It also serves as a link between the town and neighbouring localities like Ayobo and Ikotun. But accessing the wooden bridge is not free – users like Ogunmefun have to part with some money to be given the ‘green light’ to go.
“This is the third time I am passing through this place today and I have to pay another fare,” he murmured angrily as our correspondent approached him for a chat earlier in the week. “Even though this route is a faster way to get to wherever I am going from my house, it is taking a lot from us. If I am to calculate the amount I spend paying toll fare every day, it will surely be enough to do something tangible. But if our government were responsible enough, this type of thing wouldn’t be happening to citizens like us who pay tax,” he said before driving off to give way to others behind him.
Established by Road Link Ventures in response to government’s failure to complete the road connecting Igando New Town and Ayobo through Sanni Thomas and Ralph Uwadale streets respectively, the wooden bridge has been the cord joining both ends of the community and even neighbouring towns for several years. It has proved a big hit with residents and motorists hoping to escape traffic in the more popular routes.
To access the facility, pedestrians are charged N30 while commercial motorcyclists and buses pay N50 and N100 respectively. The fare for cars and other category of vehicles cost between N150 and N200 depending on the size.
According to findings by Saturday PUNCH, the situation had been like this for the past seven years when construction work allegedly stopped a few yards away from the canal running through some parts of Igando. Though three years ago, a section of the road was tarred up to the point where work stopped, most of the road is made up of red sand and granite stones. Nothing significant has taken place in the area in recent years, leaving residents and commuters along the axis at the mercy of the operator of the wooden bridge, who some of them claimed had the backing of government officials to continue to collect toll from them.
“I have gone to the local government secretariat on several occasions to find out why the road had been abandoned all these years but nobody there seems to be interested in my questions or even ready to say anything reasonable.
“I am one of those who first moved to this area and on several occasions before now, I had used my money to buy tippers of sand to fill parts of the road. It used to be very terrible in the past especially when it starts raining. I don’t know why they should construct a road and abandon it when it had got to the most important part. This is not fair to us,” a landlord on Sanni Thomas Street, who asked not to be named, said. His house is a few metres away from the wooden bridge and one of the worst hit when rainfall causes flooding in the area.
Mr. Siji Sekoni, another landlord in the community, told Saturday PUNCH that the non-completion of the road and the lack of a normal bridge was making daily movement within most parts of the area very tough for them.
He said except they pay to pass through the makeshift wooden bridge now in use, getting across to the other side of the community, which ordinarily shouldn’t last more than five minutes, usually takes longer.
“As far as I am concerned, this is the height of insensitivity on the part of government,” he said while speaking with our correspondent. “How can any responsible government abandon an important link road as this and be at peace? Rather than carrying out their responsibilities, they have allowed illegality to thrive before their very eyes.
“Though the wooden bridge has helped to provide temporary solution, for me, I don’t think this should make government not come back here to complete the road. It is causing a lot of suffering for people because it is not everybody that has the guts to go through the bridge,” he said.
A commercial motorcyclist, Hakeem Lawal, while speaking with Saturday PUNCH, said he and his colleagues have been spending a substantial part of their earnings on repairing their bikes because of the bad state of the link road.
According to him, a lot of passengers refuse to board their bikes once they let them know they were passing through the wooden bridge to connect other parts of the community. He said the situation was robbing them of the type of earnings they should be making on daily basis.
“The lack of a normal bridge to link this area to other parts of Igando and Ayobo is really affecting our business. Even though the wooden bridge has helped us a lot since the road was abandoned, we still cannot compare it to a concrete bridge.
“A lot of times, passengers don’t patronise us once they know that we are going to take them through the wooden bridge. Many of them are afraid that they could fall into the canal. It is really giving us concern mostly because we are not able to make the number of trips that we should in a day. We are therefore pleading with the state and local governments to do something about the situation as soon as possible,” he said.
A handful of vehicle owners and commercial motorcyclists, who also spoke with Saturday PUNCH, called for urgent intervention by appropriate authorities, saying the situation was causing a strain on their pockets. They accused successive administrations in the state and at the local government level of failing to keep to their promises of completing the road.
“For the kind of business I am doing, I pass this axis not less than eight times in a day. So if you calculate N200 by that number in a day, you’ll then see how much pain we contend with in this part of Lagos. Some of us pay taxes, why should we be subjected to this type of treatment by the people we elected into power?
“Over the years, politicians have promised to complete this road but the moment we vote for them and they are in office, they turn their backs on us. We are really not happy about the situation, in fact we feel cheated by people in government,” Effiong Bassey, a real estate agent, said.
Chairman of Road Link Ventures whose real name workers at the makeshift bridge refused to disclose, was said to be ill and away from his desk when our correspondent made enquiries. A lady told our correspondent that “the chairman is not available for comment” and that he was the only one, who could comment on any issues relating to the wooden bridge.
One male worker told our correspondent that but for the scarcity of solid woods; the bridge would have become a dual carriage link all the while. To confirm his claim, carpenters were seen fitting new planks on parts of the unfinished lane.
Officials at the Igando Local Government office refused to speak to Saturday PUNCH when approached for comments on why the road was yet to be completed and what arrangement they had in place for Road Link Ventures to operate the wooden bridge and collect toll. It was the same situation at Ayobo and Ikotun local council offices when our correspondent visited after being referred to those places by officials.
Calls placed to the mobile telephone number of the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, for clarification on the matter were unanswered while a text message also sent to him had yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report. -PUNCH