Potholes, potholes everywhere you go!

Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)
By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

LIVING in Lagos can be as stressful as living in a war zone; the weather is constantly humid, traffic is hellish, living conditions are horrid, roads are terribly bad and the government appears to be ‘indifferent’. In the last few weeks, the combined problem of traffic logjam and insecurity across the state have made many Lagosians wondered aloud what is going wrong with their beloved Centre of Excellence.
A latest survey conducted by leading research institute, NOIPolls, revealed that severe traffic gridlock and heightened crime rate have now become the major sources of concern to the residents of Nigeria’s commercial capital, since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office in May 2015.
Predictably, the latter (heightened crime rate) exists because of the precarious situation of the former (severe traffic gridlock), which regrettably have been blamed on the lukewarm attitude to work by the state’s traffic regulatory personnel and hideous potholes littering many of the major artery roads in the state.

Creek Road, Apapa

Creek Road, Apapa

Lagos has elevated the definition of potholes. They are no longer small openings carved out on its roads by rainfall and lack of drainage but are alternatively death traps, that an unsuspecting motorist can pay dearly for.
These potholes, mostly on federal roads, have widened into craters and usually cause unnecessary traffic gridlocks. In some cases, car owners have to visit mechanics after a trip or two on these roads. More so, it has become an eyesore to Nigeria, the nation’s former political capital.
Lagos is encircled by dreadful roads on all fronts. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is perennially a motorist’s nightmare; Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway is caving in under pressure and influx of citizens to the fringes of Lagos; Lagos-Badagry Expressway is taking forever to remodel and expand; too much has been written and said about the deplorable but busy Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; and the situation remains the same with Ikorodu-Sagamu Expressway.

Wharf Road, Apapa

Wharf Road, Apapa

At a time, former governor and now member of President Buhari’s cabinet as a minister, Babatunde Fashola, had relentlessy told the world how the Federal Government has over the years neglected Lagos and why a special status needed to be granted.
It is no longer fruitless to play politics with Lagos. Concrete action must now be taken to arrest the rot, which is threatening the economy of Nigeria’s biggest cash cow after oil. If taken as a country on its own, Lagos would be among the largest economies in Africa. According to a recent Economist report, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos exceeds that of Kenya, East Africa’s beefiest economy.
All these have made life miserable for Lagosians. There is an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. As a result of the traffic, many have missed business engagements, while those gainfully engaged have lost productive man-hours to the traffic.

The worries do not end there, as every person behind the wheels are weary of daredevil robbers clutching dangerous weapons in the bid to disposes motorists of money, phones and valuables. And these men of the underworld have found a new hobby in plying their trade during traffic. They are so brazen they don’t need the cover of darkness anymore.
All these are enough to stress out even the calmest soul, and sometimes most people who are stressed out don’t even know it until it’s too late.
Little wonder then Lagos was listed as one of the least livable cities in the world alongside Pakistan, Harare in Zimbabwe and Dhaka in Bangladesh by a study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking, which rated 140 cities in the areas of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Inspite of this, it is an irony of sorts that the city of Lagos still attracts visitors in their hundreds daily.

• Federal Ministry of Works keeps mum

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

WHEN The Guardian contacted a deputy Director, in the Federal Ministry of Works, Mr. Godwin Eke, for comment on the bad state of the road, he directed the reporter to contact the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Works in Abuja, on the ground that he is not allowed to speak to the press.
When reminded that he has been talking to the Press in the past on the parking of trucks and petrol tankers constituted nuisance on the highway, Eke, who is in charge of Section I of the Federal Highway said it was in the past and not now.
Minister-designate and former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, had last year, said a good number of federal roads in the state were in a state of disrepair, pointing out that the situation would have been worse if his administration had not intervened on some of them, adding that he spent over N50 billion of tax-payers money to fix federal roads without getting any refund, despite acknowledgement by the Federal Government.
“We intervened in federal roads because they would disrupt economic activities if we leave them in a state of disrepair. One can imagine the economic impact of watching Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to be completely unmotorable. We can’t just watch these roads to rot away because we feel the pains.”

• Quick Facts

• Lagos has 117 federal roads.
• Length of state roads is 328.
• Length of local government roads is 6,415.

• Length of federal roads in Lagos is 719.2km.
• Length of trunk routes is 646.2km.
• Length of secondary routes is 73km.


Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)


It’s 60 years of restoring sight, hope to the visually impaired

By Tope Templer Olaiya
It is sixty diamond years of giving vision to the blind at the Nigeria Society for the Blind Vocational Training Centre in Oshodi.
Nothing is worse than going blind but watching students with their long white cane poring every square inch of the now familiar grounds of the vocational centre with renewed enthusiasm makes one wonder what might have been for the young energetic future leaders, who fate has let to face a solitary world of darkness.
Tucked away behind the serenity of Command Secondary School and NAFRC Army Barracks, Oshodi, the Nigeria Society for the Blind (NSB) for six decades, which was founded by a group of compassionate and spirited Nigerians and expartiates, has been training and rehabilitating the visually impaired to give them hope, succor and a sense of belonging in a society that has subjected them to a life of begging, or worse, locked up at home at the mercy of family members.
In the words of the chairman, Mrs. Biola Agbaje, “since inception, we have trained over 2,000 students who are either gainfully employed or are being useful to themselves. We train them first to be able to move around on their own and we teach them to read and write in Braille.


Creative Director, Verdant Zeal Marketing Communications Ltd, Mr. Dipo Adesida (left); Chairman, Nigerian Society for the Blind (NSB), Mrs. Biola Agbaje; Vice Chairman, Asiwaju Fola Osibo and Council Member, Mrs. Arit Tunde-Imoyo at a press briefing to mark the 60th anniversary of the Society.

“Once you teach a person to read and write, teach them to move on their own, then life has become almost normal. This is in addition to developing their skills for handcraft like typing, telephone switchboard operation, computer operation, tie and dye, basket weaving and carpet making,” she said.

It is a remarkable feat that the NSB has continued with these rehabilitation activities since inception without any subvention from either the state or federal government.

The society is today governed by a three-member Trustees namely Ambassador Aduke Alakija (Life President); Chief E.O. Akinsete (1st Vice Life President) and Mrs. Ebun Onabanjo (2nd Vice Life President). There are 18 Executive Council members, who all serve voluntarily in various committees to chart the path for the society through regular meetings.

gallery4From an old workshop building donated in 1955 for the take-off of the rehabilitation programme, the NSB has through the support of philanthropists, corporate organisations and religious bodies developed a training complex consisting of a new state-of-the-art workshop, library complex housing a computer school and a Braille press, an ultra-modern digital recording musical studio open for public patronage, block of classrooms, an administrative block and residential accommodation for teaching staff and students.

Some of the activities lined up to celebrate 60 years of the society include a seminar on Living With Blindness at Muson Centre on March 19, Open Day at the centre on April 10 and 11, May Ball Dinner and Dance at Muson Centre on May 25 and a grand finale ceremony on November 28.

Acting as One-Day Chairman of a local council, Boluwatife becomes new poster for street children

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

Wonder, it is said never ends; and this was repeated in Lagos when Olanusi Boluwatife, a 14-year-old orphan picked up at Okomala in Oshodi and sent to the Special Correctional Centre for Boys in Oregun, emerged from a Spelling Bee competition to become a one-day chairman of a local council in Lagos.
   He had strode in unannounced on March 17 into the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa neatly dressed in his school uniform for the annual Spelling Bee competition that would produce the One-Day Governor of Lagos State. There was no reason for any of the children to be spotlighted since it was a gathering of champions, with participants emerging winners and runners-up of a similar contest at their various local councils.
   Unknown to many, Boluwatife was not one of the also-rans among the five pupils selected to represent Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), but had, in fact, emerged winner of the Spelling Bee competition at the local government level. Not one to flaunt his stuff, he maintained his unassuming calmness until the results were announced and he emerged third in the primary school category.
   From that moment on, he became the cynosure of all eyes alongside Master Olabanji Edun of Army Children Senior Secondary School in Onigbongbo LCDA, who won the fierce intellectual contest to automatically become the next One-Day governor of Lagos State.
   While Edun awaits his day in the sun to act as governor of Lagos for 24 hours, Boluwatife, last weekend, got his reward as the One-Day Chairman of Onigbongbo LCDA. Though young, now he is old enough to understand the popular axiom that success has many parents but failure is an orphan.
   Expectedly, he was swarmed on all sides by parents, council workers, well-wishers and officials of the Office of Youth and Social Development, which oversees the Special Correctional Centre for Boys.

ImageChairman, Onigbongbo LCDA, Babatunde Oke (left) handing over to the One-Day Chairman, Olanusi Boluwatife… last Friday

A brief ceremony was held at the council secretariat, where the chairman, Hon. Babatunde Oke, temporarily handed over power to Boluwatife. This was followed by scheduled visits made by Boluwatife and his entourage to Galaxy Television, Honeywell Noodles, and palace of the Awise of Onigbongboland, Oba Muniru Olatunji Yusuf, among other locations of interest.
   For the hundreds of citizens, who came to receive the One-Day Chairman, they were regaled by the tale of the boy who ran away from home and later found his way to Oshodi, where he integrated himself with other street urchins in Okomala.
   With the honour he has brought to himself and his school, there is a frantic search to locate his paternal grandmother. According to the boy, he doesn’t know his parents. “All I remember is that my parents fought and my father took me to my grandmother’s place in Mowe area of Ogun State,” he told The Guardian.
   Recounting his street life experience, Boluwatife said he ran away from his grandmother’s home after committing an offence. As a street boy, life has been very tough and brutish. He was forced to fend for himself and be street smart to avoid being caught in some dirty pranks.
   However, his life changed when the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials combed the area and picked him with others.
   He said:  “Life on the street was difficult. Before I could eat, I would work as a factory worker where they produce sachet water. I had gone from one home to another but today, the centre has changed me.”
   Boluwatife, who desires to go to any good university for higher learning wants to be a footballer and a film actor.
  He implored other street children to return home. At the moment, he is learning screen processing with special attention on photography at the vocational training centre located inside the school.
   Special Adviser, Office of Youth and Social Development, Dr. Dolapo Badru, said Boluwatife’s case is a success story of street boys. “He was rescued at Oshodi on the streets in 2013. There was a talent out there about to be lost but now rescued and his life has changed. If we don’t do it, we won’t know he is talented. He is an orphan, thrown out by the father’s family. He is a brilliant boy. His case is the success story of those boys on the street.
   “Ours was just to take care of him. The court put him under government to care for him. His studies go on as he attends classes and trade acquisition training. Some children find themselves in situation they can’t control. When parents are not alive, those that take care of the children abuse them but it is the responsibility of government to intervene by rescuing them from the streets and placing them in our facility,” he said.
ImagePermanent Secretary, Office of Youth and Social Development, Dr. Adesegun Oshinyimika (left); Boluwatife and Special Adviser to the governor on Youth and Social Development, Dr. Dolapo Badru at a reception for Boluwatife

 Expressing his delight on the boy’s performance at the competition, Principal, Special Correctional Centre for Boys, Mr. Oluwatoyin Kotun, said parents should show love to their children for them to maximize their potential. “Every child has his own talent. It is just for parents to identify it. Many children have potentials but they lack parental care, love and support.
   “At the centre, we give them psychosocial therapy, which helps to identify potentials in them. Other children at the centre are also doing well. We have always been participating in this competition every year and preparing hard for it. We are happy our efforts have been rewarded. This is the first time a student has brought honour to our school, which is good for us because of the problem of poor public perception.
   “Children in the school are tainted with a wrong perception by members of the public. It is not all of them that committed crime. Some of the children are in the facility because they are going through abuse, some of them are orphans, who lack care and protection, and some are street children because their parents were fighting over their custody. So, the perception that all of them are hardened criminals and can’t be reformed is incorrect,” he said.
   “There is hope for the street children. When you wear the toga of a street child, there is no hope, but when you take off the toga, there is hope. A child that wants to learn will definitely progress in life,” Badru said, adding that as part of efforts to empower youths in the state, the Office of Youth and Social Development in the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Social Development has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 7up Bottling Company Plc to train some of the youths in many fields. He said that after graduation, those who do well would be employed in the company. The training runs between six to 12 months.
   “Presently, 22 youths are undergoing training in fleet management, engineering, production as well as various fields in which 7up operates. If the youths excel in the pilot case, there is tendency that the company can employ them. If the company is encouraged with their performance, it will make them to do more in the area of training.”
   He added that the ministry does a lot of skill acquisition for youths in the state and there is a short-term course in hairdressing, baking, shoemaking and other areas.

Mother of all gridlocks

Hell as multiple crashes lock down Lagos roads
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor and Abdulwaheed Usamah

Stranded motorists in Lagos today (June 6, 2013)

Stranded motorists in Lagos today (June 6, 2013)

IT was like an apocalyptic scene yesterday on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway after a ghastly accident, which occurred between Ikeja Along and Ile-Zik bus-stop locked down the heart of Lagos for many hours and left thousands of Lagosians stranded.
At least, two people lost their lives on the ever-busy Lagos Abeokuta Expressway when a trailer carrying a container crushed the driver of Eko Meat Van and his aide to death.
Eyewitness said six other injured victims were immediately taken to the hospital for treatment.
An eyewitness, who simply gave his name as Samuel, said the truck conveying a 20-feet container rammed into the Eko meat van when some policemen attached to the Rapid Respond Squad were chasing a commercial motorcycle plying the proscribed highway.
“I think the driver of the truck did not want to kill the Okada man. As he struggled to avoid running into the meat van, he lost control, swerved to the pavement and fell on the meat van. The driver and his assistant died on the spot,” he said.

Scene of the accident

Scene of the accident

Speaking on the incident, the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations, Lagos, Mr. Tunde Shobulo, said he was not briefed that his men were chasing the Okada rider when the accident occurred.
His account of what happened was, however, different. According to him, the van was driving against traffic and crashed into the oncoming truck whose driver lost control, given the heavy load it was carrying.
The accident brought traffic to a standstill around Ikeja, Iyana Ipaja, Agege and Oshodi. According to other eyewitnesses, the collision involving three vehicles, including a fully loaded articulated truck, was caused by an Okada rider, who was trying to evade arrest from policemen at the scene of the accident. One of them told The Guardian that the policemen sped away immediately it happened in a white RRS Hilux with the inscription number 333.
For over seven hours, it was a hellish experience for motorists with the eight-lane expressway blocked on both lanes. 18-wheelers, fuel tankers and sedans, wedged bumper-to-bumper in both directions.

Curses and horn blasts pierced the exhaust-choked air. Brakes screeched as vehicles inched forward and cars rocked violently back and front at little intervals of movement.
It was the mother of all gridlocks, a spiraling effect, which left all the bus-stops along the route crowded with thousands of commuters, while stranded passengers decided to help themselves on foot by trekking long distances to their destination.
With the restriction on activities of motorcycles on the highways, which effectively banned Okada on the route, the only alternative left for commuters, which was to ply the trains, was also hitched, as the rail line passing through Ile-Zik was obstructed by the accident. This also shut down the trains from operating for most part of yesterday.
While the incident at the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway hampered movement in and around Ikeja, a string of multiple accidents in other parts of Lagos led to an emergency situation on almost all major roads in the state.

Stranded commuters at the bus stop

Stranded commuters at the bus stop

An accident involving a truck at Magboro junction going towards Ibafo on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway caused heavy traffic on the busy highway, which stretched to Arepo and Berger on both sides of the express. Also, another accident occurred at Ijora Olopa under bridge that locked down traffic along the axis.
It wasn’t until 4pm when a crane was used to remove the fallen truck that traffic eased at the Ile-Zik bus-stop, but the respite was only for a while on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway as the daily traffic buildup of motorists returning from work heightened the gridlock, which extended to Agege-Mushin motor-road.