Ikenna Ekwerike takes a look at life in Oshodi 17 months into the construction of the transport interchange by the Lagos State Government and its partners
Before June 2016 Oshodi was still Oshodi; the sea of heads swarming endlessly, pushing and trampling on stray feet, and the loud cursing that follows; the ubiquitous yellow-painted ‘danfo’ buses banded with black, lined haphazardly; the discordant sonorous voices of bus conductors calling out bus destinations to attract intending passengers; car horns blaring out impatiently to clear the way; and the often water-tight traffic congestion that had become very normal for regular commuters on that route; but all that is gone now.
Oshodi is currently on a journey to becoming a world class central business district being tastefully adorned with a magnificent transport interchange comprising three multi-storey bus terminals patterned after Victoria terminus, London.
Sadly, the popular Oshodi Main Market had to pay the price leading to a massive loss of means of livelihood for many. Although the government built alternative modern markets like the Resettlement Market and Abibat Mogaji Modern Market, popularly known as Kairo Market, but stalls in these markets could only be afforded by mainly those who already owned shops in the demolished old market and those persons accounted for less than 40 per cent of total traders in that market. A higher percentage of traders in the old Oshodi Market did not own stalls; they displayed their wares by the roadsides, occupied makeshift stalls on any available space, some were attaching with shop owners to whom they paid royalties and many more carried their wares around from one end of the market to the other.
Many of these latter classes of traders have been rendered jobless in the era of the Oshodi transport interchange. No alternative provision was made for them. They have been sent hopelessly packing from Oshodi, the refuge of the poor, forever. One of such traders is Valentine, who sells female jean trousers but still manages to find space on the floor, by the roadside towards the entrance of the Oshodi Road area to display his wares only in the evening hours. He decried the level of hardships that he had been going through since the demolition of Oshodi Market.
“You can see where some of us are staying to sell. I do not have the capacity to pay for a shop inside the new market. What some of us do now is hang around the market till evening, and then we come out here to hustle for survival. But unfortunately, business is very dull now compared to when they haven’t demolished the old market,” Valentine lamented.
Whereas the demolished market leaves tales of woes on the lips of many, the misadventure is, in fact, gain for the proprietors of ARENA Market in Oshodi, which many claim witnessed a massive influx of the displaced desperate traders from the old Oshodi Main Market. As a result of this, many of the traders in the new Resettlement Market and Kairo Market complain of low patronage. Their point is that these two markets that replaced the Oshodi Main Market are hidden and generally unknown to the public compared to ARENA which is strategically located and seems to pose less stress to customers who wish to access it.
Emma Ibe, a female shoes seller at the Resettlement Market said: “This construction really affected many people. Some people who used to hustle inside the old market, especially those who did not have shops have stopped business. Some traders moved into this new market, some moved to Alaba Market and many others moved to ARENA. But unfortunately, nothing is happening inside this market because people prefer now to go to ARENA instead of coming to meet us here.”
Another trader, David Okoro, whose shop is on Oshodi Road attributed the problem to the activities of commercial bus drivers and roadside sellers. He said that the bus drivers usually parked along the road, coupled with roadside traders and people patronising them, the road often becomes congested and difficult for customers to pass freely.
However, some categories of traders in the Resettlement Market are counting their blessings, especially Bukky Balogun, a beautician, who said business was booming. “Before government demolished that market this place was built but those of us who relocated earlier were not making any sales. Initially, people refused coming here. But since the demolition, people now come inside the market to patronise us. Some people still sell by the roadsides though,” Balogun noted.
Curiously, Lagosians and visitors alike have been wondering where those countless commercial buses that used to be in the 13 city and interstate parks in the old Oshodi have all disappeared to. This reporter observed that a number of them have relocated to streets in and around Oshodi. Okoro confirmed that “they’ve entered the streets; they park along the roads.”
Consequently, Balogun lamented that there is increased traffic congestion around areas like Church Street, Church Bus Stop, Arowojobe Street, Furniture Street, heading to Mafoluku, among others. “We arrive home late and come late to market as well. We spend much time on the road and the stress,” she said.
As it were, the Oshodi Market demolition appears to be a further blessing to landlords in the area, especially on Oshodi Road. It opened windows of opportunities for them to make extra cash from their properties. Tenants are being ejected from the houses to make room for a redesign of the buildings. While some of the buildings are being converted to outright shopping malls, some others are being remodelled to accommodate shops and houses simultaneously.
Indeed, Oshodi will continue to be a nightmare for road users until, hopefully, the transport interchange has been completed. People returning from the Island after the day’s activities and heading to Apapa, Mile 2, Ojo and Badagry face an uphill task making it across the Oshodi Flyover. The traffic jam which often starts shortly after Anthony Bus Stop and eases off around Charity Bus Stop keeps motorists and their passengers waiting for hours.
It is important to mention that the efforts of the Nigeria police and officers of the Lagos State Traffic management agency, LASTMA, help prevent the situation from getting chaotic. At least, the vehicles still crawl along. Motorists are seen maintaining their lanes.
Interestingly, the police have been seen to deploy drones to monitor traffic on the bridge. When the reporter went to find out if that would be sustained, his source told him that the drone was a special intervention and was used whenever a situation called for its deployment.
However, passengers are often left stranded and confused at Oshodi since many cannot easily locate where to board vehicles going their routes. Many have to trek miles, dodging the construction equipment and leaping over deep holes dug for pillars to get to the point where they could board a vehicle. The confusion is worse among visitors and new inhabitants who often fall into the hands of hoodlums as they wander helplessly along the road and around the streets. They get robbed of their belongings.
The Oshodi transport interchange construction which began in June 2016 was earlier scheduled to be completed in 15 months but it is now in its 17th month. When completed the infrastructure, which is first of its kind in Nigeria and probably sub-Saharan Africa, will take care of parking and passenger demand; address environmental nuisance, traffic congestion and organised transport system while promoting security.