The New Roads from Hell

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The residents of Michael Ogun and Durojaiye Streets in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos, have called on the state government to come to their rescue as the contractor handling the road and drainage construction in the area goes about demolishing their homes, writes Clement Danhutor

There can be no argument as to the fact that Lagos State has witnessed tremendous transformation under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration even if it has not completely become the mega city that is the dream of the administration.
For the roads, the bridges, the schools, the security and transport systems and other infrastructural facilities, significant transformation so far provided by the administration has endeared it to residents as well as visitors.

While some communities in the state have felt the midas touch of the administration, thus making them to be so close to modernity, others appear to be far away from it.
However, one community which appears to be craving the state government’s attention in this regard, are residents of Michael Ogun/Durojaiye Streets in Surulere Local Government Area.

The reason for their cry for help is premised on the fact that they believe that there is the need by the state government to address a notice recently deposited to residents of the two streets by Surulere Local Government, which was dated January 19.

The notice, which was signed by one Engr. V.O. Hotonu, who is said to be attached to the Works and Infrastructure Department of the council, directed residents to comply within three days by removing all shanties, shops, containers and block works which have encroached into the right of way of Michael Ogun/Durojaiye Streets.

The letter with reference number “SLG/CE/W&H/2016/VOL.11/44” and titled: “Contravention and demolition notice”, reads: “You are hereby given three days notice to remove all shanties, shops, containers and block works which have encroached into the right of way of Michael Ogun/Durojaiye Streets.

“This is in line with the road construction which has commenced in earnest. You are, therefore, implored to comply as failure may attract stiffer measure being meted against you. Itesiwaju Eko lo je wa logun. Thanks for your understanding. Engr. V.O. Hotonu (Works and Infrastructure).”

According to the residents, the notice though with genuine intents, was “wrongly channelled” as it failed to address the precarious state of the estate’s roads, which houses in the two streets in the estate.

Irked by the seemingly unfavourable disposition of the council to their plight, the residents under the aegis of Obele Oniwala Estate Community Development Association (OOECDA), decided to take the bull by the horns by taking their complaints to the council.

In this regard, the association decided to write a letter to the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Bamidele Husseini, wherein they enumerated their plight to the council’s boss.
The letter entitled: “Re: Contract for the Construction of Durojaiye/Micahel Ogun Streets Awarded to Olag Nigeria Limited” and dated January 29 urged Husseini to review the contract in what they feared “may cause fatal and colossal damage to our health and well-being as these buildings are the only property that most of us rely on as our means of survival in life.”

The notice, which THISDAY obtained, reads: “We, the landlords and residents of Durojaiye Street, Obele Oniwala, Surulere write to humbly urge that you kindly use your good office to stop the above named contractor of Surulere Local Government from pulling down our buildings/walls in the guise of road construction. Our buildings/walls have been marked for demolition and the execution of this threat of demolition may cause may cause fatal and colossal damage to our health and well being as these buildings are the only property that most of us rely on as our means of survival in life.

“May we state ma, that in making this humble request, we are not antagonists of the state government’s development programmes. We are in fact ardent supporters of the state and local government programmes but this particular programme bothers on our continued existence. If executed, resultant loss we would suffer may cause stroke and even death for some of us.

“A careful inspection of our area/environment would reveal that we have not exceeded the pillars erected by the government and we have never experienced any form of flooding in our area. We therefore appeal to the contractor to utilise the existing space for the construction of drainage. Our septic tanks are constructed at the front of our buildings. If our fences are demolished, our lives and property shall be exposed to various types of peril/danger.”

Interestingly, all the residents of the two streets signed the letter, which was said to have been acknowledged by a member of staff in the chairperson’s office.

Dissatisfied by the silent response of Husseini, the residents decided to write the state Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Alhaji Musiliu Folami, letter signed by OOECDA’s Chairman, Alhaji M. A. Gafar and Secretary, Mr. Kelani Yusuf.
In the letter, the residents drew the attention of the commissioner to two issues which, they argued, concerns their lives. The letter was dated March 3 and was acknowledged by the office of the commissioner on March 29.

In the letter, the residents argued that: “relocating the existing electricity poles nearer our buildings would result in the high tension wire and in some cases the 50kV transformer lying almost directly on our roofs. The resultant effect is that waves emanating from this wire would be hazardous to our health and they could cause Cancer to us and our children.”
Secondly, they also pleaded that “the contractor should assist us in replacing our damaged fences destroyed and damaged in the course of this construction work.”

Remarkably, Ambode, the Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello; Chief of Staff to the governor, Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olawale Oluwo; Executive Secretary, Surulere Local Government Area and Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC), Mr. Balogun and the contractor (Olag Nigeria Limited) handling the project, Mr. Alade, were all copied with the letter.

Prior to this letter, the association had written a “Letter of Appreciation” dated March 22 to the Senior Special Assistant on Community Development, Alausa, Lagos, Alhaji Tajudeen quadri, wherein it thanked him for “you recent visit to community in respect of the ongoing road reconstruction.”

The letter went on to applaud the “state government programmes in modernising and rehabilitating of the state’s inner roads in fulfilment of its promise to the electorate”, but, however, pointed out what it described as a design flaw as regards the contractor’s plan to move the high tension carrying electricity poles into our properties.

The association further added that “any move (even an inch) from their existing position will pose as an imminent danger to us and our children considering the fact that some of these poles do carry oil filled transformers with fuses that could explode at any time, besides some small current that constantly are emitted by the 11KVA high tension wires.”
While the aforementioned letters were expected to reinvigorate hope, the residents still felt that the expected response was not enough to assuage them of the huge set back which the project would cost the streets in question.

In furtherance to this agitation, the residents of Durojaiye held a meeting with Hon. Desmond Elliot, where the issue of fence removals, power disruption and construction of drainage for over two months was discussed. The meeting, which was held on February 5 at 11am was held at No. 36, Durojaiye Street, Obele-Oniwala, Surulere.
But as the dilly-dallying continued, most residents spoken to explained that the project was not in the best interest of the community.

For instance, a resident, Mr. Olanrewaju Ayodeji, who spoke with THISDAY, said: “I am personally displeased and very unhappy with the way the Lagos State Government and Surulere Local Government Area are going about the road construction on our street. Road construction is generally a sign of development which also brings relief to its beneficiaries and this is usually welcomed. But reverse is the case with the road construction on Durojaiye Street, Obele in Surulere.

“It has rather brought sadness, displeasure, hardship, discomfort and endanger the life of residents. It has exposed us to night robbery, which is becoming rampart and the danger and hazards of high tension electricity which will now be placed directly over our roofs far less than the recommended and acceptable distance.

“We are therefore, appealing to all appropriate authorities and relevant quarters and the state government to hear our cry for help to stop this dastardly act by some people who are only concerned about their financial gains and not the well-being of Durojaiye Street residents.”
Similarly, another resident, who craved for anonymity, described the exercise as unacceptable.

Speaking also, a resident on Durojaiye Street, Tina Asabi, said: “The ongoing road/drainage construction on Durojaiye Street is an exercise which would have been much appreciated in more needy areas, as our road only needed to be patched. The decisions to move the electricity pole an inch near our homes is like sentencing us to death.”

Corroborating Asabi’s position, Mr. Oshodi Olalekan, a resident of the area, expressed misgiving over the ongoing project, stressing that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) failed to consider some other aspects needed to execute the project satisfactorily.

He said: “The road construction and drainage rehabilitation by the state government is people-oriented as the intention is noble. However, the execution of the project is flawed because the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not enough as it failed to take the electricity poles and high tension cables into consideration. The specifications should have been adapted to suit the environment. We are talking about inner roads in an estate. The ideal thing would have been to rehabilitate the existing infrastructure in relation to the size of the roads within the estate.

“If the above highlights were taken into consideration, safety of lives and property would have been sustained and the good intention of the state government would have been enhanced, especially in the light of the dwindling revenue allocation to the state.”
However, efforts to get Husseini comment on the issue proved abortive while efforts to get competent staff in the council react also did not yield result. They all declined to make comments.