Molly Kilete, Abuja The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has declared its readiness to deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to the Niger Delta region to secure oil and gas pipelines and other critical oil installations owned by Shell company in the country. The deployment of the UAVs, according to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal…
◗ Life in Ejigbo, Lagos most endangered community
You may have heard about the worst place on earth but where is the worst place in Lagos. What is the most endangered community in this megacity? Don’t try to argue it if someone tells you it is Ejigbo.
It needs no debating: if there were to be a prize set up for the worst place in Nigeria, this hellhole of a place would easily clinch it and nobody would dare raise an objection over it. Nobody would want to contest it.
It is said in time past, people used to pride themselves as living in Ejigbo, which then looked like one of the developed areas of Lagos metropolis. Not so, any more. With gullies, craters, potholes, washout roads dominating and disfiguring the landscape, the whole place now looks like a disaster area needing urgent government attention.
The circumference and curses of a community
If you are approaching the rowdy, densely populated Lagos suburb from the direction of Isolo or Cele Express/Oke Afa, the community starts from NNPC bus stop and goes down all the way to Ori-Oke before the Egbe long bridge before extending to Lafenwa Street. It occupies a total area of about 13 square km. The epileptic power supply is part of the socio-economic inequities that residents suffer on a daily staple, to which must be added: gullies, flood, and fear of pipeline explosion.
During the rainy season, the streets are filled with puddles of murky water. Erosion threatens the foundations of the houses. Some residents put their lives in danger by sleeping, breeding and feeding under the radiating waves of the power lines that ran over the houses. The children, oblivious of the danger, play around.
The menace starts from Ejigbo roundabout, the busy bus stop that looks to have been abandoned by contractors handling the road construction. The road on the right leading to the last bus stop is an eyesore. The centre of the double lane is covered with water, a mini-pool big enough to swallow a car. To pass the mini-pool point, motorists have to climb the pedestrian walkway on the side of the Globus Supermarket while those who are bold enough try to contend for space with commercial motorcyclists who have taken over the dry path of the bend.
Let the truth be told: the road is not suitable for any motorist to ply no matter how good and how durable their car is. The shop-owners singsong in the surroundings is pain and anguish. A business owner, who gave his name as John Ndukwu laments, in a chat with Saturday Sun, the deplorable and dreadful state of the roads. Spreading his arms in despair, Ndukwu said the dilapidated state of the road has affected his business, adding that he was, formerly, a proud owner of two shops on that stretch of the road but now its dilapidated state has forced him to lease out the other.
“Sales have dropped drastically and it has forced most of us to make some business decision that does not support the long-term plan of the business,” Ndukwu stated.
Ndukwu’s lamentation was based on the harrowing experiences of pedestrians, motorists and petty traders on that road. Those interviewed agree that the stress everybody goes through on that road, on daily basis, is enough to kill 100 times over.
“If things continue this way, it will affect people’s lifespan; in fact, one will be lucky to spend 60 years on earth,” a commercial bus driver who identified himself as Onyekachi lamented. “When we packed into this area in 2005, it was peaceful. The roads were tarred although we used to have flood and drainage problems. The government promised to help but it has been tissues of lies.”
Onyekachi who spoke with the reporter near Addide store located on the right side of the street remembered how one of his tenants had to pack out when he couldn’t take it anymore. “I had to accept to pay him some of his rent because his case was pathetic.”
Alluring life versus looming danger
From Ejigbo roundabout, the next bus stop is popularly called Powerline bus stop, but the street on which it is located is called Kayode Street. But it is the most dreaded because it is always overcrowded with human traffic.
The stress of bumpy ride on the one- lane road is further compounded by the selfishness of commercial motorists who occupy major part of it in their attempt to either drop or pick passengers. Lawlessness rules like a king here. Further up the road is a power line. The sound of the moving high voltage on the cables of the pylons reaching out into the sky is not audible from the beginning of the road maybe because it is always drowned by the surrounding noises of men and machines. But once you move up the street, say, about three blocks away, you would begin to hear the low hum. Yet some people sleep and wake up under it, raising the fear of residents living under it suffering from radiation-related cancer in future. Others have their shops, beer joints, brothels, carpentry workshops, etc, located under it.
Wanting to find out more, the reporter engaged a fair-complexioned lady called Nma Amanda who sells schoolbags at the beginning of the street in a discussion. Initially, he pretended to be haggling with her the price of one of the bags but he later changed the topic to getting a shop to sell ladies accessories. Amanda advised the reporter that the place is good for sale of standard accessories. Nevertheless, she was willing to give out the number of her house agent if the reporter can buy a schoolbag from her.
“The place is good for business, it is a popular bus stop and people are moving into the area. The shop is a hot cake; if you really need it, you can go for it. It is located in a good, strategic site,” she stated.
Located almost adjacent a celestial church, are red-light business joints where men and women go to unwind. The brown and green bungalows harbour sex workers of different shapes and sizes, pimps and ancillary staff who make a living from the booming sex trade going on there.
To feel the pulse of various levels of people living in the area, this reporter tried to chat up one of the sex hawkers called Tina. The talk took place against the backdrop of loud music blaring out from the loudspeakers around the shops making it difficult sometimes to hear each other. When at a point the reporter followed her into one of the rooms he could hear the hum of the electric power waves overhead.
Asked if she was not afraid of the hum, Tina shrugged her shoulders and said, matter-of-factly: “I am happy when I get outside runs. But here I sleep with one eye open because of the danger overhead, although the money we pay for rent is cheaper here when compared with other places.”
The unmitigated woes of residents
At the entrance of the brothel, this reporter noticed elongated gutter and a gully at the back! Thick, sturdy pieces of wood were placed across the gutter to act as makeshift bridge for users.
The celestial church mentioned earlier in this story also share in the terrestrial woes around: the reporter discovered that, like in the building after it, what was supposed to be the veranda of the house has been encroached by the ever-expanding and spreading erosion, making it practically impossible to put up a fence round the building.
“We have suffered a lot from this erosion,” Iya Dupe, one of the women the reporter encountered on the day of his visit, said. “It keeps on getting worse each year. There is no stopping this thing by any means and our government has not shown any serious concern about it.”
The grandmother who was trying to feed her granddaughter continued: “The number of people who fall inside this gutter every month is countless. If you miss a step, you fall. It has also stopped me from having visitors.”
In fact, the gully stretched from the beginning of the street to the very end before disappearing from people’s view somewhere on Adekoroye Street. You wonder what will happen when rainy season fully arrives this year, what with erosion turning up red topsoil that is supposed to be buried underneath the soil surface. On that street, the foundation of one of the houses can be seen dangerously exposed atop the ground. There is no need hiding the fact any longer: House Number 9 on Joe Ayika is on the verge of collapsing and, may, indeed do so when rainy season fully comes. The reporter’s verdict, from the look of things, is: it is dangerous sleeping under such roof.
On the same street is a gully that has made it difficult for people to walk across to their various homes. In revenge, perhaps, who knows, the residents turned it into a refuse dumpsite. According to one of the residents who does not what his name in print, the dumpsite has invariably contributed to their woes.
“How many persons can you fight?” the man queried rhetorically when you asked him what they are doing to get the people dumping refuse there to stop. “The people have turned a problem into a norm. If you try to tell them that dumping wastes here will only compound our problem they will see you as an interloper or a nosy poker,”
Another danger that the reporter noticed is that some of the houses are built close to NNPC pipelines. May God help the residents of Ejigbo if tomorrow any of the pipes bursts open either owing to the illegal crude oil siphoning activities of pipeline vandals or due to high-cooker pressure of the flowing crude underneath. The scenario that the aftermath of such tragedy will leave behind is better imagined than experienced.