Burying the ghosts of January 27 bomb blast 14 years after

Chi Limited constructs road project in Ajao Estate
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Metro Editor
Today marks the 14th year since the January 27, 2002 bomb blast occurred that rocked the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos. The history was horrendous in the chequered history of Lagos and the entire nation.
As the bombs exploded, the city was thrown into confusion. Every part of the metropolis felt the pangs of the explosion. The farther away one was from the site, the more it appeared the blast was happening next door.
It was like an apocalyptic scene on that Black Sunday 14 years ago. At about 5:15pm, triggered by a fire outbreak in the nearby Mammy Market, high caliber bombs stored in the armoury of the cantonment began to detonate. There were loud explosions in quick successions. Thousands became homeless after fleeing from their homes; many others lost their means of livelihood. The restless city of Lagos suddenly went to sleep.
However, the most horrific consequence was the human casualties that resulted from the disaster. Till date, no one knows the exact number of persons that lost their lives, though no fewer than 1,000 people drowned and perished in the Oke-Afa canal concealed by water hyacinth, while attempting to escape the uncertain calamity.

Cenotaph for victims of January 27 bomb blast

Cenotaph for victims of January 27 bomb blast

At long last after several years of waiting, victims of the bomb blast have not died in vain. First they got a befitting well-managed cenotaph built at the mass burial site, then the street adjoining the canal was renamed January 27, a Primary Healthcare Centre in Ejigbo was named January 27 and in honour of the victims, a link bridge connecting Ejigbo to Ajao Estate was built and also named January 27 as a fitting acknowledgment of the sacrifices of those who died, to keep their memories in perpetuity.

The ghosts of the tragedy were finally buried and Ajao Estate never remained the same. The once quiet estate lost its serenity to the flowing traffic from Ejigbo, Ikotun, Ijegun, Isolo up to Iba, Ojo and other parts of Lagos, shortening travel time to Airport Road and Oshodi. The estate was not ready for the influx of motorists plying through the area. No sooner was the link bridge constructed before major access roads began to pave way to constant pressure.

Chi Limited, a fast-moving consumer goods company that provides products in the diary, beverages and snacks sectors, came to the rescue of its host community by constructing one of the hitherto most dilapidated roads within the estate which had been a nightmare to motorists and had reduced the positive impact the bridges were meant to engender.

The newly constructed road in Ajao Estate

The newly constructed road in Ajao Estate

The construction of Ati Okoye Street, which gulped several millions of Naira from design to completion, is a laudable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative that has brought huge relief to thousands of road users. The project, built to modern standard approved by the Lagos State government under strict supervision by its Engineers, is equipped with solid drainage, pedestrian walkway and streetlights.

Apart from this new construction, Chi Limited has gone further to rehabilitate the main access road inwards the bridges coming from Asa Afariogun Street through Eleganza junction down to Chivita Avenue as well as part of Ajibade Babatola so there is a ring of good, motorable road in that part of the estate.

Commenting on the company’s efforts and plans, the Executive Director, Mr. Jerome Shogbon said the company decided to take up the project in response to the needs of the community. “As a responsible company, we embarked on this quality construction work in furtherance of our CSR gestures within our host community and in keeping with our public avowment to partner with the state government by constructing the road to complement the Ajao Estate-Ejigbo link bridges which were commissioned by former Governor Fashola exactly two years ago.

“The road will definitely shorten travel time by more than 50 per cent. As can be seen on site at present, contractors are still busy erecting electricity poles as the plan is to have the whole area well lit with streetlights to be powered from our power plant which runs on gas 24 hours.”

Chi

Narrating the ordeals faced before executing the project, the company’s Head of Administration, Mr. Oyekanmi Onagbola, said accessing the Right of Way (RoW) posed some problems. “To do community work is difficult, people don’t understand you. The community is the biggest beneficiary of this project, yet they posed the biggest obstacle while work was on.

“For example, they installed two gates at different ends of the street, which had to be demolished for the road work to get done. But they resisted stiffly before the contractors could demolish and do their work to government’s specification. Same problem we had with them at the final stage of the construction when final coat of asphalt was to be applied and there was need to close the road for 48 hours.”

The road was constructed by a Lebanese firm, Al-Mansur Construction Company.

 

Burying the ghosts of January 27 bomb blast

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Oke-Afa… Living with the revolt of Okada riders

• Fear hangs in the air after four hours of police/motorcycle operators gun battle
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
A week after residents of Oke-Afa, in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) survived a violent riot by commercial motorcycle riders, believed to be Chadians, resulting in hours of gun battle between policemen and Okada riders, residents of the area have appealed to Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, to rescue them from the menace of Okada riders and street traders at the January 27 Bridge linking Ejigbo to Ajao Estate.
In a statement jointly signed by several Community Development Associations (CDAs), which included Ilamose CDA, Peace Estate CDA, January 27 CDA, Ilamose Canal CDA and Oriade CDA, they are calling on the state government to intervene in regulating the activities of the commercial motorcycle riders in the area.
“We appreciate and understand that some commercial motorcycle operators are genuine in their task to be responsible people, but we want to be able to identify them and also limit their numbers for ease of operation and identification. We also want to see visible government intervention through the ministry of transportation in the operation of these operators who have converted our streets, drive ways, properties into bus parks, okada parks, keke parks and constituting serious nuisance value and security risk to our lives and properties,” the statement said.

Okada operators riding against traffic on January 27 (Canoe) Bridge,

Okada operators riding against traffic on January 27 (Canoe) Bridge

Making the observation that about 95 per cent of the commercial motorcycles operating in Oke-Afa and Ajao Estate do not have vehicle licence and can be easy tool for criminal activities, the CDAs want action to be taken on the illegal street market activities, which is causing traffic gridlock on the newly commissioned bridge.
“Also, there is a clear threat to the upsurge of the canal, which will ultimately threaten properties along the canal through the indiscriminate dumping of waste by the traders. We will appreciate if a team of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) taskforce can carry out a holistic removal of these actors. We suspect the shanti houses at the bank of the canal by Aarester school harbour men of the underworld and their weapons. A visit to this place will reveal serious criminal activities.”
Apart from the menace of the Okada riders, so many businesses thrive on the bridge daily as petty traders see the location as a hub due to the influx of human and vehicular traffic. Traders display their wares on the bridge and line the road every evening, which include pepper, bread, fairly used clothes, shoes, and rechargeable lights to the admiration of passersby.

The house that came under siege

The house that came under siege

Seventy-two hours after Tuesday, August 12 incident, there were tell-tale signs of a community under siege. The worst hit was a single-storey building at No. 33, Kudirat Adenekan Street, where the Okada riders had converted into a park. The violent riot against the police had began over claims of extortion within and around Kudirat Adenekan, January 27 bridge, Chivita Avenue all in Ejigbo and Isolo LCDAs.
According to an eyewitness, many of the rioters were not Hausas because he is fluent in the language but what he heard the okada riders, in their hundreds saying, were not Hausa language. “They must be Chadians who took to the streets. They, in a violent rage, resisted the police and destroyed their vehicles. They police called for reinforcement and that was when the shooting spree began with the arrival of two police vans,” he said.
After more than three hours, the combined police team was resisted and they retreated from the scene. Thereafter, the band of okada riders took over the whole stretch of the road in exuberant jubilation at repelling the policemen when another incident lead to another shooting splurge.

One of the cars destroyed by the protesters

One of the cars destroyed by the protesters

While the hostility lasted, the road was shutdown by the protesters, preventing motorists from plying it at the Ejigbo and Ajao Estate end. Incidentally, a resident, Uche Ikeobi, living in the area, dared the odds and ventured out. Unfortunately, he ran into a mob that was still chanting victory songs and knocked down one of them.
Uche was immediately pounced on by the mob, unleashing mayhem on the young man, who broke away through the help of onlookers, but not without serious life-threatening injuries. He was pursued and the rioters attacked the property where the man escaped into. The young man in turn brought out his father’s dane gun and started shooting at his pursuers, which left three people seriously injured.
This incensed the mob, who began to destroy everything in sight, including three vehicles damaged beyond recognition. They broke loose the main entrance, took down doors leading to different apartments in search of the driver, looted valuables and threatened to kill the young man until the eventual arrival of Ejigbo DPO and some of his men, who whisked the man away.
While they were leaving, the mob continued to throw stones and other dangerous object towards the vehicle, leaving one policeman seriously injured. Not satisfied, the mob returned to the property and continued with their threat to burn down the house when members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) intervened to broker a truce and calm frayed nerves.

A daily rowdy evening at the Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge

A daily rowdy evening at the Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge

Since Tuesday’s incident, it has been brazen acts of impunity displayed by the operators of motorcycles and tricycles. With the gloves off, residents have since been living with fear while such tendencies such as parking on the bridge and trading on the roads leading to the bridge have gone unchallenged.
An occupant of the house that was under siege, Mr. John Odi, said he has never witnessed such barefaced resistance to armed men in his life. “I have always believed a man’s resistance is weakened when he is confronting a gun but what I saw last week is difficult to explain.
“Some youths, majorly from the north, were raising all manner of weapons, planks, iron, stones and whatever they could lay their hands on to challenge policemen who were firing gunshots to discard the protesters. But the more they were firing, the more the boys were getting agitated. I went back in to avoid being hit by a stray bullet when five minutes later I saw my landlord’s son throwing stones back into the crowd.

Aja2 “We had to lock ourselves inside the toilet and we heard gunshots for more than two hours. They entered the compound and started smashing everything in sight. The cars parked in the compound, including mine were completely destroyed.”
Another occupant told The Guardian that his children are yet to recover from the trauma of the incident. “My children have been extremely traumatised. Each day, they beg me to move them out of the house and since last week, I have been taking them with me to the office, as they can’t stand being left at home. I am seriously considering relocating from this area,” he said.

Compensation calls reecho at 12th bomb blast memorial

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

At long last, victims of the January 27, 2002 bomb blast have not died in vain, particularly for the hundreds that drowned at the Oke-Afa canal while trying to escape the thunderous sounds of explosive device that horrific Sunday.

   First, they got a befitting well-managed cenotaph built at the mass burial site, then the street adjoining the canal was renamed January 27.

   Every year since the catastrophic disaster, markets around the Jakande/Oke-Afa axis are shut on January 27, while families of victims congregate to pray for the repose of the souls of their lost ones.

   During the 10th anniversary in 2012, Lagos State government responded to calls for compensation and handed cheques of N250,000 each to 70 surviving victims.

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Kudirat Adenekan Street, Oke-Afa, Ejigbo… road leading to the newly constructed January 27 Bridge, linking Ejigbo to Ajao Estate.

Also, a healthcare centre built by Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), which initially bore the name of the governor, Babatunde Fashola, was renamed January 27 Health Centre when the governor commissioned the facility for use.  

   The ceiling came at the 12th memorial on Monday when a much-needed link bridge connecting Ejigbo to Ajao Estate was named January 27. It was a fitting acknowledgement of the sacrifices of those who perished at the spot, as it would keep their memories in perpetuity.

   Monday’s commissioning of the January 27 two bridges and four roads, however, did not put an end to clamour for compensation by some of the victim’s relatives.

   Nurudeen Oyegbemi, who led the Ikeja bomb blast victims to the venue of the commissioning, said the state government left out 84 people when it handed out cheques during the 10th memorial.

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Some relatives of the bomb blast victims awaiting the arrival of Governor Fashola to stage a protest over compensation issues

   “The state government has the full list of victims numbering 154, which was published in the national dailies when the incident happened. We did not just assemble ourselves to defraud government. It would be unfair to leave out 84 of us. What the governor has done is heart warming, but the exercise should be completed,” he said.

   Oyegbemi took a swipe at the Federal Government for abandoning their responsibility to families of victims 12 years after. “It’s sad that the Federal Government, who should take all responsibility for the disaster, has abandoned us to our fate.

   “In 2003, they set up a committee, headed by then Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Ufot Ekatte, to look into our matter. We were attended to at the former House of Assembly complex at Race Course, Onikan. Since then, we have not heard from them. Several letters have been written to concerned ministries in Abuja with no response.”

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Embattled traditional ruler of Ejigbo, the Ojon of Ejigbo, Oba Moruf Ojoola (left), making his first public appearance since the story of the three women tortured for stealing pepper at Ejigbo Central Market broke. With him is the Osolo of Isolo, Oba Kabiru Agbabiaka at the commissioning of the January 27 Bridge

In his address at the commissioning to traditional rulers, community leaders, politicians, party stalwarts, residents and corporate citizens, which included the Ojon of Ejigbo, Oba Moruf Ojoola; Osolo of Isolo, Oba Kabiru Agbabiaka; and managing director of Chi Limited, Roy Deepanjan, Fashola said he was willing to bring closure to the issue of compensation for victims’ families.

   “I still hear that there are issues of compensation. As willing as we have been to pay compensation to survivals of victims, there is no amount of compensation we pay that can bring back the lives we have lost. You must assist us in a way that helps us to verify who the real beneficiaries of compensation are and we cannot have compensation every anniversary.

   “I am ready to pay compensation to anybody we may have missed out, but you must give us a very clear basis for verification so we can put a closure to it.”

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Governor Fashola giving his address before the commissioning

The governor berated the Federal Government for failing in its duties and causing the avoidable death 12 years ago. “It was because a national government led by the PDP failed to do its duties. It was their responsibility to manage bombs and the military.

   “Since then, they have pretended as if nothing was wrong. But the Lagos State government responded by rebuilding the schools and hospital damaged in Ikeja cantonment. That is not our responsibility but the people who suffer and live in this community are our responsibility.

   “In the same vein, my predecessor promised that a bridge would be built to link the two communities; I have come here to fulfill that promise. We not only now have a bridge; we have two bridges and four roads.

   “The reason you have two bridges is because there were houses on the alignment and instead of demolishing the houses to build one bridge, we decided to redesign the project to preserve your properties. It cost a little more but it shows the character of our government that unless there is no other way, we will not touch your houses.”

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Mass burial site… Final resting place of the bomb blast victims

Fashola used the occasion to address the issue of lingering Iyana Ejigbo road repair. “Our contractors are on that road. The problem, which the Commissioner of Works has briefed me, is finding a major drainage solution that if we do not solve and we attempt to do the road, it would not last. Be patient with us,” he pleaded.

Posers Over Death Of Baby In A Creche

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

Late Osezua


THE death of nine-month-old Abunene Osezua Emmanuel last week Monday at Masters Ville Children School crèche is not only giving parents of the boy great anguish but also raising questions as to the cause of death in the hands of care-givers at the school located at No 11, Asa Afariogun Street, Ajao Estate, Lagos.

On the morning of November 12 at about 7.00 am, late Abunene, who according to his parents, was in good state of health was handed over to a staff of the crèche. At about 10:05am on the same day, a call was put through to the boy’s mother by the head teacher that young Abunene had been rushed to the hospital. But on arrival at the Faith City Hospital, located few metres from the school on the same street, the mother was informed by doctors that the boy was brought in dead.

While the school authorities say the boy was being fed when he choked and efforts were thereafter made to take him to the nearest hospital, father of the deceased, Mr. Abunene Anthony, is accusing Masters Ville of malicious murder of his son, who doctors confirmed was brought in dead to the hospital.

In a tear-soaked voice, Anthony told The Guardian that his son is suspected to have died from overdose of sleeping pills given to the boy. “Immediately after the incident happened, I was reliably informed by a neighbour who withdrew her daughter from the same crèche when she discovered they usually give children brought to the school sleeping tablets to make them sleep off until when they are ready to be collected.
“This is why I have decided not to let sleeping dogs lie and I am taking this matter to court. Though I have hastily buried my son, I am fighting this course because other people’s children are at risk and children are taken to daycare centres everyday of the week. If the negligent actions of care-givers are not checked, only God knows who next would be victim of their improper acts. Instead of the proprietor of the school to show remorse, they are busy looking for the best lawyers to defend them.”

IN a petition sent to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, a copy of which was obtained by The Guardian at the weekend, Anthony is requesting that justice be done and the perpetrators of the death of his son be brought to book. “We don’t want this matter to be swept under the carpet. This is why we are requesting that the school be closed down pending when investigations and trial of the case in court is concluded and they are judged competent to run a school.

“We also request that the owner of Master Ville School and the staff on duty on November 12, 2012, namely Mrs. Dauda and Mrs. Ijere be arrested and charged for the murder of our son in order to ensure that justice prevails in this case,” the statement read.

When The Guardian visited the Ajao Estate Police Command at the weekend, the DPO confirmed the arrest and detention of the proprietress and care-giver who was on duty on the day the incident occurred, but investigations gathered revealed that the proprietress was later released on health grounds.

Okada Riders Nab Forex Thieves, Share Loot

By MARCEL MBAMALU
IT took the intervention of the men and officers of the Ajao Estate, Isolo police station to save two foreign Exchange (forex) fraudsters from being clubbed to death by okada riders at the weekend.

The suspects, who arrived in a Honda Accord saloon car, at the Haji Camp Burea de Change located near NA Bust Stop, along the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, had allegedly defrauded an operator of the sum of N1.550,000 after handing him fake $10,000 bills.

The operator reportedly raised the alarm when the suspects sped off immediately the money (the Naira equivalent) was handed over to them, prompting Okada riders within the area to initiate a chase that ended up along the streets of Ajao Estate.

Confused and decelerated by the labyrinth of bad roads around the Estate, the thieves were eventually cornered and beaten to pulp by hundreds of okada riders and residents, before being rescued and taken into custody by a patrol team of the Ajao Estate Police Station.

MOB ACTION: The two Forex thieves getting some beating by passers-by.

Not even the several gunshots from the patrol team could disperse the people, who were bent on taking out their anger on the two middle-aged men. The okada riders, who inflicted serious damage on the car, also scrambled for and helped themselves with an undisclosed amount removed from the car.

The mob followed the suspects to the police station insisting on getting jungle justice until a series of gunshots kept them in check.

At the police station, one of the suspects, who gave his name as Shedrack, denied the allegation, saying he was a genuine customer but decided to run for dear life after the operator branded him a thief.

The operator (name withheld) said the fraud was a recurring event at the Hajj Camp Burea de Change.