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.”

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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.

Agonizing wait for commissioning of Ejigbo-Ajao Estate Link Bridge

By Tope Templer Olaiya

AFTER much agitations spanning decades, the long-suffering residents of Isolo, Ejigbo, Isheri-Osun, Ikotun, Abaranje, Igando, Idimu, Ijegun and beyond heaved a sigh of relief when the Lagos State government awarded contract for the Ajao Estate-Oke Afa link bridge to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in November 2011.

   The Oke-Afa community benefitted from the 2002 Ikeja cantonment bomb-blast disaster with construction of the bridge to pass over the Oke-Afa canal, even though it took the government nine years the accomplished that after the promise was first made in 2003 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the tragedy.

   With few months short of the stipulated period of 18 months, the 2.1km dual-lane road, which starts from the NNPC depot at Ejigbo and ends at Chivita Avenue, Ajao Estate, was completed two months ago with modern-day road furniture, which included covered drainage on both lanes, a walkway for pedestrians, road barrier and streetlights.

   On completion of the project in September this year, the road was unofficially opened for public use even as the contractor waited on the state for the project handover and commissioning. 

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However, though the road was only partially opened for test running, it was praise galore for the governor for shunning resistance from some quarters to make the project a reality.

   Residents felt reduced pressure on the agonizing Isolo-Ejigbo-Ikotun traffic, as commuting from that axis of the state to mainland Lagos was smooth sailing.

   But at the peak of the residents’ joy an incident spoilt the fun.

   An accident on the yet-to-be-commissioned road, which broke the leg of a pedestrian, forced CCECC to abruptly shut the bridge and allowed only pedestrians to use the facility, forcing road users to endure the excruciating traffic on the busy Isolo-Jakande Estate road.

   After the incident, there were some readjustment to the project design as Oke-Afa residents and a group, Nigerians Unite For Road Safety (NUFORSA) pushed for more user-friendly road infrastructure like pedestrian crossing and speed bumps to protect the anticipated high pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the densely populated community.

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Faced with a new challenge, efforts are on to make sure critical road furniture, particularly road signage, are completed before the facility is ready for use. Some roads have already been designated one-way route and the directional signs are expected to make traffic diversion in Ajao Estate easier for motorists.

   The project supervisor, the state Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, explaining why the commissioning of the link bridge is delayed, told The Guardian that after the accident, there were agitations by the communities – Ajao Estate and Oke-Afa – on the need for safety of road users. This resulted in the postponement of the commissioning to ensure all safety facilities are in place.

   “To avoid the situation that occurred at the Lekki-Epe expressway recently, where a truck killed some pupils and residents in the area requested for a pedestrian bridge, we decided to redesign the Ajao Estate-Ejigbo link bridge by first sending a memo to the Ministry of Transport to inspect the road and come up with possible recommendation,” an official of the ministry said.

   According to him, the project redesigning would be completed before the end of November or if there is delay, it would be first week of December,” he pledged. 

Jakande Estates:Lofty Idea Crippled By Neglect

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

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“I HAVE been their pastor for several years and I know them on a personal level. They were more than wonderful people; very nice, intelligent and friendly. They relate well with everybody; but the major problem was their mum. She was so protective of the girls and made sure they are always locked indoors because of the sudden death of their father few years ago.

“Despite consistent counseling, she always made the children feel they have spiritual enemies, especially among neighbours, which was why she failed to heed the warning of her flat-mates that the building was about to collapse.”

This was how Pastor Joseph Adebamowo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, described the death of two sisters, Toyin and Bukky Coker, after their building – Block M20, Jakande Housing Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos – collapsed in the early hours of Wednesday. Their mother, Mrs. Coker, who was pulled out of the rubble unconscious and was immediately rushed to the hospital, is already well and stable, according to hospital sources at the estate’s health centre.

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The building, Block M20, according to eyewitnesses, started showing cracks and signs of sinking over a year ago. Occupants in Flats 2 and 4 managed to escape barely minutes before the building collapsed. Tenants in Flats 2 and 6 had reportedly moved out some months ago, only for the owner of Flat 2 to lease the flat out to new occupants.

After the incident, youths in the area began a rescue mission. Mrs. Coker in her unconscious state was said to be the first to be brought out from the debris at about 3am and was immediately rushed to the estate PHC. Bukola’s body, in her nightgown, was reportedly brought out at about 5am, while that of Toyin came an hour later, stone dead.

THE collapse of the two-storey building at Isolo has raised calls for urgent structural weakness test to be carried out on the housing estates in Oke-Afa, Ipaja, Epe, Lekki, Iba and Agege built over three decades ago. Some of the buildings had become structurally defective. The communal nature of ownership and the relax supervision by estate owners had compromised the maintenance of the buildings.

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However, president of the Jakande Estate Residents’ Association, Oke-Afa, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Olabanji Taiwo, said there were defects in the construction of the building. “After the building collapsed, we noticed that the foundation was very poor, 8mm of blocks was used for the decking and the mixture of sand and cement was nothing to write home about.

“It is unfortunate we have to lose two promising children, but we are baffled with the antics of the Lagos State Building and Control Agency (LASBCA), the agency set up to build and manage these buildings. They promised to be here today (Friday) to conduct integrity test on the buildings, but we were told the test has been rescheduled to next week Wednesday.

“Our position remains that any building that fails the test would have to go, while those that pass the test would remain. But those affected will have to be relocated because the building was sold to them by government.

“The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) was supposed to be with us at the meeting on Wednesday when this incident happened but unfortunately, another building collapsed at Dolphin Estate that same day.

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“If it was a private building that collapsed, everybody would have rained curses on the developer, but what becomes of the property built and supervised by government with the multitude of qualified engineers that approved this building. We want our people to be relocated and given another building because this place was sold to them outrightly.

“They sent a text message to cancel the appointment, how are we sure they are coming on Wednesday? The governor must swing into action and wade into this matter. It must not be left for the civil servants to handle alone because we don’t understand them anymore.”

Chairman of the affected zone, Benson Nwandoko, told The Guardian that the affected occupants had written three letters to the government agency for over a year to be relocated. “Up till the building collapsed, there was no response,” he said.

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THE low-cost housing estates was a fallout of the 1978 campaign tour of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, first executive governor of Lagos State during which he encountered the squalor and poverty many people lived in then. He discovered that most people within the low-income bracket did not have access to comfortable houses.

Deeply touched by this, Jakande on assumption of office in 1979 initiated a housing policy meant to take care of those who ordinarily would have been unable to build their own houses, particularly the civil servants. By 1980, the first of the housing estates in 16 locations was commissioned at Amuwo-Odofin. Each of the estates was a community of high-rise buildings made up of two and three bedroom flats.

Three decades after, this gesture has been abused and the vision that brought it into existence appears to have petered out. A visit to the estates will make one weep. The picture that confronts one is that of total decay, dilapidation and complete neglect. The estates are fast becoming slums with many of its residents, most of whom are retirees, now finding it difficult to maintain them.

Cracks are very visible, plastering failing, and roofs are leaking. Flooding in these estates has done enormous damage to the buildings, especially in some parts of Isolo and Agege. Dirt, filth, acute shortages of basic social amenities and infrastructural decay has crept in on the once vibrant estates.

Not even the residents’ decision to form associations with a view to tackling maintenance challenges could provide enduring answer to the degradation of the estates. Some residents’ association even partner with private firms to renovate or ‘reno-paint’ the structures, but that still seems far from the expected solutions.

ImagePHOTOS: AREWA EMMANUEL

According to a resident of Oke-Afa estate, Ademola Ogunwale, the present state of the Jakande estates is a shame to the occupants. “It is a total affront to the legacy of an administration whose leader is still alive. They look more like a refugee camps than an estate. Government cannot be held responsible for this.

“When my mum bought this place, we did a lot of work and fixed so many things before moving in. It was an outright purchase and once the keys have been handed over to you, the new owner is in charge of maintenance. Occupants should be blamed for the eyesore those houses have become.

“The state government can intervene by repairing the roads in the estates but the onus is on the occupants of the units to come together and give a facelift to the houses. They owe this duty to the elder statesman who bequeathed the estates as a legacy for posterity,” he said.