Seven years after Bellview plane crash, Lisa community leaders cry out…
•Memorial arcade in decrepit state
•Plan to turn town into tourist centre abandoned
By FAITH OMORUYI
Prior to the October 22, 2005 Bellview Airlines crash which claimed 117 lives, Lisa Village was an unknown community in a remote part of Ifo Local Government area of Ogun State. It lacked motorable roads, government schools, electricity, telephone networks, health centre and even a police station.
In those days, just one Community High School served Lisa as well as its neighbouring villages, including Olayemi, Oyero, Okugbolu, Arugudu, Sonde, Alapandi, Demokula and Alagbaa, all together known as Ifesowapo community. After the crash, the federal government, under the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as the Ogun State government collaborated to build an arcade on the crash site in memory of the victims of the ill-fated flight. Promises were made to the villagers that development and social infrastructure would be built for them. It is almost seven years since the crash.
When Daily Sun visited the village recently, it was still a tortuous journey as the road leading to it was bad. There was also a terrible rain nearly making the road impassable. There is no commercial bus plying the route to Lisa. Therefore, from the closest town, Ijoko near Otta, the reporter took a bike.
The journey to Lisa lasted about an hour, as a heavy rain started before the bike could get to Ilasan, the next town after Ijoko. Both the reporter and the bike operator had to find a place to hide pending the end of the rain. The roads were muddy and filled with potholes in several places, but the motorcyclist expertly manoeuvred his way around. There is still no health centre, police station or government schools. The health centre and police station sighted by the reporter were still under construction.
When the reporter got to the arcade, its sign board that read Lisa Memorial Arcade was almost covered up by overgrown weeds that had nearly taken over the entire arcade itself. The marble on the graves was cracked in different places. The place simply looked abandoned and unkempt. On the origin of the town, the baale of Lisa, High Chief Nojeem Odugbemi explained that the inhabitants of Lisa originally migrated from Igbore, another part of Ogun State. He urged the federal and state governments to do something about the deplorable state of the arcade and the community as a whole.
He noted that he does his best for the town but more needs to be done by both governments. “The government needs to make the arcade better than the way it is now. The road to Ijoko is nothing to write home about. I have projects for Lisa Kingdom and its people but the government needs to add its own quota,” he said. He also explained that at the time the arcade was built, a piece of land of 2.7 hectares was acquired by the government for the purpose of putting up tourism facilities around the arcade. He regretted that the land is lying fallow without any useful purpose.
According to the Amona of Lisa and spokesperson for Lisa Development Association, Olayinka Adefunmiloye, the two security men working on the premises had not been paid their salaries for a long time.
He recalled that immediately after the plane crash, officials of both the federal and Ogun State governments visited the site and built the arcade in memory of the victims. He added that the road that leads to Lisa from Ijoko was also constructed and the state government promised to turn the arcade into a tourist centre by putting in place facilities that would make the community one of the most visited tourist centres in Nigeria. He lamented that as at today, the two governments have failed to fulfil their promises. His words: “Lisa, as a community, has suffered enough in the hands of past governments in Ogun state.
As you can see, there is no single government presence in Lisa apart from Lisa Memorial Arcade. “The community recorded a huge traffic of both local and international tourists in the early days of the incident, as people came from far and near to see the monument that was built at the spot where 117 people ended their lives in a plane crash. “The euphoria that greeted the arrival of the memorial arcade has since died down as the monument has been neglected by both the federal and Ogun state governments.
The arcade has since been taken over by weeds; the marble stone where names of the victims were written in their individual tombs have collapsed. “The annual memorial service which was instituted by the then government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in conjunction with the then Gateway Tourism Corporation in memory of the victims of the plane crash has been jettisoned since he left office,” he lamented. He urged that the road leading to Lisa be rehabilitated, noting that it is in a bad state.
“The community might be cut off from other communities if something urgent is not done to put the road in good shape,” he said. He noted that the Baale of Lisa has singlehandedly done projects in the town, adding that the traditional ruler has empowered many natives of the community, including helping the youths and market women in their various trades and giving scholarships to students.
The reporter saw that a building to be used as Lisa police station is being built opposite the Baale’s palace and is funded by the Baale himself. It was gathered that he also engineered the construction of the marketplace and the health centre. For the head of the market women in Lisa, Chief Mariam Olaonipekun, she called on the government to help them in building more stalls in the market place.
According to her, they have a large expanse of land that could be used to expand the market place. “We have all types of farm produce in the market. All we need is intervention from the state government. Government is trying, but it needs to do more. They should not forget us here.”
Another member of the market union, Mrs. Funlola Abijan wants the government to come to the aid of the town by developing the roads and the arcade. “If the government can collaborate with us, we would be very happy. We pray that companies and higher institutions are built here.
Some people have already bought land for tertiary institutions. This will open up our town.” For another indigene of the town, Isola Oreojiji who lives at Lisa’s Igbore Estate, better roads need to be constructed for the town and more power transformers given to them. “The government is trying but we are not seeing the effects. Lisa needs good roads, especially the road that leads from Lisa to Ijoko. Electricity could also bring development to us. Let them give us more transformers.