Tarkwa Bay Island, a slum community in Iru/Victoria Island Local Council Development Area of Lagos, is lacking in virtually everything due to government neglect. Peter Uzoho who visited the community, reports
Tarkwa Bay is among the communities under Iru/Victoria Island Local
Council Development Area of Lagos State. Tarkwa Bay Island, is one of the many voiceless, underserved and neglected riverine communities in Lagos State. With
over 100 years of existence, it is an ancient community made up of six villages, namely Tarkwa Bay, Okun Ayo, Agbagbo, Ebute-oko, Store, and Ogogoro, generally referred to as Atlas Cove communities. The community is made up of people from different tribes in Nigeria and foreigners, and the common language of communication among the people is Yoruba, Pidgin and English. Most of the dwellers in the community are predominantly fishermen, coconut farmers, petty traders, boat drivers, chandlers and tour guides. However, there are few, who work or do their businesses at the uptown of the state.
Over time, Tarkwa Bay has transformed into a shanty town due to rural-urban migration and lack of government presence. Tarkwa Bay, a community of hundreds of thousands of people is faced with plethora of challenges. There is no road for movement of the residents and visitors in and out of the community.
Access to the community is only done through the water ways, starting from Mekwe jetty, near Bony Camp, on Lagos Island, using boats and ferries. Ninety per cent of the inhabitants live in shacks made of woods and fairly-used zincs. Only a minute per cent live in old block houses built by ancient European sailors and slave merchants who sojourned there in the early days.
There is no market in Tarkwa Bay. To buy anything, they have to pay between N200 and N300 as fare to transport them to the upland. Although, there are small shops in the community where some essential household items are sold and bought, the cost of these items are so expensive for them, thus making the cost of living in the community very high. Ironically, Tarkwa Bay is surrounded by water but there is no good water to drink. There is no single borehole to give water to the people.
Large number of the community depend on water from the river for their consumption, while few that can afford it go for sachet or table water. There are no teachers in the primary and secondary schools in the community. The senior secondary school section in the community can only boast of six teachers against over 16 subjects offered in the school. The health of the people is on a daily basis threatened by inadequate and lack of prompt healthcare delivery.
The Primary Health Centre in the community only stands as mere structure- there is no doctor and no nurse to attend to the health needs of the residents, thus forcing sick members to resort to seeking medical assistance at chemist shops in the community. Throughout the history of Tarkwa Bay, there has never been a flash of light from electric power source. There is no sign of electric pole anywhere around the community. Even when the community plays host to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that has its jetty very close to the community, the body has never deemed it necessary to assist in connecting them to the power grid. This further makes life in the community more difficult. They have to buy petrol to fill their generators before they can use power.
The case of the community is a true reflection of the ‘use and dump’ practice of politicians in the country who only remember such communities during elections. As election comes, they defile all odds just to get in touch with them. They will strip themselves of their ego, smartly lower themselves to the level of these communities and gain their votes, and the rest becomes history. “During election they will remember us,” Chief Olatunji Maxwell, Baale of the community told THISDAY. According to him, politicians would take boats to the community to campaign and make promises which they would not fulfill in the end. “After election nobody will see them again. Nobody will hear from them again.
Even to send somebody on their behalf they will not do it. All the promises they made were never fulfilled at the end of the day,” he lamented. “We made them to be where they are today. If any of them had 50 votes during election I can say that 45 is from this community,” he added. According to him, the standard of education in the schools in his community is far below standard, saying “that is not what we want for our children.” Maxwell pointed out that efforts made by the community to let government come to their aid could not yield any result.
“Transportation from our community to the city is also a problem for us. We’ve been begging the government to help us in this regard but we’ve not seen anything.” For Mr. Bernie Boco, the Community Development Chairman of Tarkwa Bay, it is highly unbelievable that government can be so insensitive to their plight even when they claim to be servants of the common man. He wondered why the community that is “just a stone throw away from the Lagos megacity” don’t seem to have any impact from the state government.
Lamenting on the state of things at the Primary Health Centre in the community, Boco said “When you go there you won’t see any doctor. You won’t see any nurse. People get ill and there will be no one to attend to them,” he said. One other challenge faced by the community is lack of drainage system which results to flood whenever it rains heavily. “When it rains everywhere will be flooded and the whole community will go on rampage,” he noted. The CDA chairman revealed that the beach which the community was using as a source of revenue which was helping them to do some developmental budgets in the community has been take away from them by the state government. “Since they took it from us we have not seen any impact from them on our community,” he said.
“They know us during election and after election they forget about us. We see them every four years. So as usual, we’re waiting for them again in 2019,” said the Chairman of Boat Owners and Drivers Association in Tarkwa Bay Mr. Egapi Godwin; who has resigned to fate. According to Godwin, high rate of youth unemployment also adds to their woes. “We have a lot of graduates from this community that are unemployed. We have many graduates here that have been frustrated into boat driving. So for our youths, unemployment has been the major challenge.
“You go out there, study and graduate and you return here jobless. It should not be so. We’re the host community of the NNPC but they don’t employ our people in the organisation. We have youths that have one hand work or the other like welders and the likes, but they’re not working in NNPC that is in our land. Why should they blame the youths for indulging in pipeline vandalism when they’re not engaged in any way.
“There are even many youths here who do not have any form of skill. So I believe government can create skills acquisition programme for them so that they can have a reliable source of livelihood,” he said. Also commenting on the high cost of living in the community occasioned by transportation challenge, Godwin noted “In fact, life here is hell. Everything here is sold at an exorbitant rate.”