…As Amosun embarks on massive road expansion
From Moshood Adebayo, Abeokuta
It was a mixture of sadness and joy as Ogun State government began the demolition of buildings, markets, worship centres and shopping malls for its city expansion and urbanization of Abeokuta, the state capital. Also, many of the dead and buried in the city are to change address as more than 50 corpses would be exhumed and re-buried elsewhere.
The demolition is a fall-out of the government’s resolve to construct 12 roads across the state. Areas affected by the road expansion project include Enuga/Ago-Ika, Adedotun, Mokola, Ita Elega. Others are the popular Post-Office area of the state capital, Panseke, Onikolobo, Omida, Itoku and Sapon markets, Ago-Oko, Ijemo and other parts of Abeokuta. As bulldozers pulled down structures in the Post-Office area, many residents commended the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun for giving Abeokuta a facelift.
However, others including the major opposition political party in the state, the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), condemned the exercise saying that it would take the state backwards. Already, the state government has earmarked N10billion for compensation of house owners whose buildings or structures would be demolished in the road expansion projects across the state. The state commissioner for Works, Mr. Olalekan Adegbite, during the demolition exercise last Sunday at Panseke area of the state capital reiterated government’s commitment to the provision of infrastructure for all-round development of the state.
Adegbite expressed delight at the level of compliance by the affected landlords and shop owners as well as traders at the major markets in the state capital. His words: “The compensation is large; all over the state it is in excess of N10 billion but it depends on the house and how it is affected by the demolition because it only fences were affected in some places. “We created the model to avoid doubt and it has actually encouraged our people. People are complying on their own; they have started removing their valuables.” Governor Amosun who also supervised the demolition exercise, said that he was happy with the level of compliance by those whose properties were affected in the demolition exercise.
Addressing the affected residents of the state, the governor assured that adequate compensation would be paid to those affected by the exercise. He said that the state government would also extend helping hands to shop owners to enable them relocate to other areas. The governor told the people that the government would build modern shopping malls across the affected areas. He said: “In the next one year, you will not even recognize this place again. We thank everybody particularly the property owners. We cannot have any development without a bit of pain but the outcome will be to the benefit of everybody. “We cannot continue to live as if we are 100 years behind other states. Some of these roads have been the same since I was a young boy. We need to put in place, new roads, modern shops and shopping complexes.
When we finish the new shopping complex, all those that are affected will be the first to benefit. “I feel very proud that I am from Ogun State. Most of you have complied and we are happy that you showed understanding on this project. All we are doing is to make you and generations to come happy. Please note that your interest is ours too. We need your understanding and cooperation at this time. We shall provide alternatives and make-up shops for you to sell during festive season and I also promise that I will send Christmas gifts to you all here. “The new markets will be ready soon and I promise you on my honour that you people will be considered before anybody. Please bear with us for now”, the governor said.
Market women and landlords whose buildings have been marked for demolition surprised many people as they sang praises of the governor and urged him to keep to his words to execute the projects and pay the compensations without further delay. Meanwhile, it has been estimated that no fewer than 50 corpses would be re-buried because their gravesites were affected in the road expansion exercise across the state capital. It was gathered that the corpses that were buried about 30 years ago, are located in Sapon, Ago-Ika, Adedotun, Sapon, Itoko and Ilugun areas of the state metropolis.
Although most of the families whose deceased members were affected commended the developmental efforts of the state government, they nonetheless appealed to the governor to assist them in the re-burial process which they said, would involve some rituals. A 38-year-old businessman in the state capital, Mr Kehinde Bankole, told journalists that his family was hard hit because they would re-bury more than eight corpses due to the road expansion project. He said that the family would be happy if the state could assist owners of the corpses too. His words: “Only someone who is not in his or her right senses would fault what Amosun is doing, but beyond that, the state government should pay compensations to the affected people as early as possible.
“I am convinced that the government will pay. It paid the people of Totoro/Sokori when the area was demolished. But time is important here because those who have been rendered homeless cannot wait for too long. They need to move elsewhere now and that is why the government must come in.” Another resident, Mr. Adisa Orisunmade who must re-bury his father who was buried 25years ago in Ago-Ika area of the state capital lauded the state government for the road expansion project. “I am not particularly disturbed by the demolition of our family house, but what pains most is the re-burial of my father.
Before he died 25 years ago, he left words that he should not be buried in the village; hence we brought his remains to Abeokuta for burial.” Orisunmade however lamented that his siblings and the entire family had no option than to return their father’s body to the village where he died. “In Yorubaland, re-burial which involves exhuming corpses is not an easy thing. We were told that we have to undertake some rituals or else, we are in trouble. What has happened to us is double jeopardy; we are losing our ancestral homes as well as exhuming the body of our father for re-burial.” Mr Ismail Gbemisola who also spoke with journalists, said that his family would relocate four corpses from Sapon to Orile Ilugun in Odeda Local Government Area of the state for re-burial. Like the previous speakers, he said that, “some rituals must first be performed before anyone could move a corpse, otherwise the whole area would be in serious trouble.”
In a related development, the first motor bridge in Abeokuta will soon be ready. This is coming barely 36 years after it became a state capital. The multi-million naira bridge in the capital of the state created on February 3, 1976, is part of the on-going facelift by the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The bridge located in Ibara, the commercial nerve centre of Abeokuta, adds to the beauty of the six-lane carriage way stretching from Ibara through Sokori to Totoro, that was completed by the current state government to mark its first year in office. Similarly, the first-ever pedestrian bridge in the state capital at Ita-Eko, Sokori area of the state capital is near completion. The Chinese Construction Engineering Corporation handling the bridge project said that it would be handed over to the state government before the end of the year.
Governor Amosun during an inspection, said that excellent road network was a prerequisite for economic development adding that no economic development could take place in any state with dilapidated road network. His words: “Our plan is to fix the poor road network in the state and make them motorable. We are building new ones. “Durability is also a major consideration for the roads we construct. This is why we have included proper channelization and drainage system in all our road designs. We want to stimulate economic activities and ensure growth and development of the state.” H
owever, the PPN which is the major opposition political party in the state, described the road expansion project and the consequent demolition of houses and other structures across the state as, “unnecessary, inhumane, barbaric and a means of wasting tax payers resources.” In a statement issued by its Director of Organization, Mr Deji Kalejaiye, the party said it was illogical for a government to spend billions of naira on compensation while workers were owed salaries and other infrastructure requiring government’s attention are ignored.
“A cursory look at Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s Ogun Standard agenda indicates that it is not only unfriendly, but also inhumane and wasteful in nature. Some of the intended expanded roads are very unnecessary.” Kalejaiye said the Folagbade/ Ibadan roads in Ijebu Ode that are already six lanes and the Akarigbo road in Sagamu did not need further expansion saying “it is another mission to destroy, as several banks, petrol stations and a cemetery will be affected.”