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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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.