Oshodi: A gradual return to filth, nuisance
OSHODI, no doubt, is one of the melting pots of Lagos. Apart from Ikeja, where the seat of power is situated, no part of the state, which otherwise is regarded as Nigeria’s ‘Centre of Excellence’ correctly gives first impression about the nation other than Oshodi.
From its infamy of blight to its notoriety for gridlocks and massive wastes on the streets, the sprawling community, shares border directly with Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), the nation’s first airport (domestic and international), and indeed, West Africa’s aviation hub. It has always been a huge burden for successive governments in Lagos State since the dark era of military rule to make the area a model community and gateway to the country.
Prior to the coming of democracy, Oshodi did not attract attention even though it tells visitors first story about Nigeria. After decades of outright neglect, the area has grown to become an urban centre where social deviants often harass residents and commuters almost unhindered.
Many commuters, either heading towards Ikeja via Agege Motor road or Isolo through Apapa-Oshodi expressway, are largely unwilling to go through Oshodi for fear of spending hours in gridlock, during which many lose their valuables to the social deviants, who, most times, come with dangerous weapons.
A good number of commuters would opt for a longer route to escape the menace of the miscreants, who daily pilfer and rob at Oshodi, especially from where the Lagos Traffic Management Authority office is situated or from BOC Gas at Charity bus stop and from NITEL Training School at Cappa, during odd hours.
Although, these realities are yet to substantially change, since 1999, successive governments have been working hard to transform the area to a hub that it is, thus being a connecting, converging and departure point for commuters, especially with the yet-to-be commissioned Oshodi Transport Interchange, a world class transport infrastructure that has become the cynosure of all eyes.
Amid the mounting challenges, the Bola Tinubu administration (1999 – 2007), came up with a template and unveiled the blueprint for the area. Though the succeeding administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola (2007 to 2015), perhaps could not vigorously pursue the vision throughout its tenure. Rather, the administration partially unlocked the intractable gridlock and improved public order. This earned the government public commendation, not only in the state, but also across the country.
With the deployment of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) brigade, state environmental sanitation unit, the Special Offences Unit (Task Force) and Rapid Response Squad (RRS), the government was able to provide a relative order in Oshodi throughout their tenure of eight years. However, this did not guarantee an antidote to the hydra-headed challenges, which became obvious before the tenure ended in 2015.
Like his predecessor, Akinwumi Ambode, conscious of Oshodi’s geo-strategic significance, not only to Lagos as one of Africa’s largest economy, but also to Nigeria and its image, was mindful of the city, which according to him, would largely depend on the ease of commuting from one part of the metropolis to the other.
With an unscheduled visit to the community shortly after he assumed office, particularly the road project embarked upon by the government on Brown Street, which was started by the Fashola administration, Ambode said the area truly depicts a true narrative of blight and oddity, adding that from street to street the community had become an eyesore. “I saw a lot of challenges in Oshodi. Right there, I decided we had to regenerate Oshodi without delay and put it on the world map,” he had said.
With these, he sped up the construction of Brown Street road project, and began construction of Oshodi Transport Interchange, valued at about $70 million, and Oshodi-Airport road, a 10-lane road project covering a distance of over five kilometres, which was commissioned before the expiration of his four years’ tenure.
According to Mrs Yetunde Onabule, a former Special Adviser to Ambode on Urban Development, the concept of the regeneration plan was premised on a three-pronged approach of urban renewal, environmental regeneration as well as transformation and security. She added that the new Oshodi Central Business District (CBD) would not only reduce crime in the area, but also go a long way to address the environmental nuisance locations and areas of confusion often associated with the area.
Onabule stated further that the plan when completed would boost intra-tourism by making the area a tourist destination and increase the economic value of the State, where business, travel and leisure activities would be conducted in a serene, secure, clean and orderly environment.
“This plan would see the total rebranding of the old Oshodi, thus turning Lagos into a befitting and an iconic international gateway to the rest of the world. It would also ensure an organised transport system that will ensure free flowing traffic,” she had said.Despite these monumental developments aimed at changing the narrative about Oshodi, the community has become a shadow of itself, as people from other parts of the city barely visit the area due to the return of dirts, social menace by miscreants such as regular attacks in traffic or when vehicles break down, which is also having a negative impact on businesses in the area.
Walking through the community everywhere is riddled with filth, as street trading has returned and in full swing on the roads that were once clean and serene, thereby changing the face of the area. The overwhelming dirts are not only eyesores, they have also started competing with commuters and motorists for right of way, with refuse covering major roads, making the neighbourhoods in the area untidy.
Daily, residents, business owners and commuters are forced to inhale the stench from urines and feces that are defecated by the street urchins and liter the open spaces beginning from BOC Gas at Charity bus stop through NIGALEX to Me CURE and NAFDAC.
The roadside traders are forced to co-habit with heaps of refuse and stench, which pose imminent danger of outbreak of diseases if nothing drastic is done to address the ugly situation.Speaking to The Guardian, a roadside shoe seller who gave his name as Temi, explained that the dirts and stench do not bother him anymore as he has learnt to overlook it. “I sell here in order to earn a living and in doing so I have gotten used to ignoring the dirts and the smell,” he said.
Adding, “To even get a space on this road you have to settle the Omo Oniles of the area. The fee ranges from N15,000 to N20,000 but because I know some of them I paid N5,000. After paying the amount I still tip them once in a while to make them happy. This is aside the N200 we pay daily. Thursday and Friday payments are meant for the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) brigade and Task Force. I may not make sales some days, but I have to part with the N200 payment. I know when the road is completed I will have to go somewhere else so that I can continue to sell my market.”
Corroborating this, another roadside vendor of sweets and biscuits, a female, explained that she usually sets up her wares around 12pm because that is when the task force that patrols the area will not accost her. “I can’t come in the morning because I will have to give the KAI money and I have to leave by 6pm in order to avoid them. They come twice daily and sometimes three times daily making business stressful for us,” she said.
A trader at the popular Brown Street business district, Mr. David Edochie, told The Guardian that Oshodi has not really deteriorated very badly as being hyped. He said, “It is just that the demand for infrastructural development have given rise to the situation we have. The ongoing road reconstruction on Oshodi-Apapa expressway has diminished the usage of that road in the recent time, thus increasing the volume of vehicular movement into Oshodi main streets, as people try to navigate to get to their destinations.”
“As you know, the more vehicular movement, the more human activities increase. So the demand for infrastructural development around Oshodi has made the environment to become heavy as it were. More people are moving down to Oshodi, and there is need for government to respond by raising capacity that will be able to manage the vehicular and human traffic in and around the area,” he added.
Edochie noted that the infrastructural decay in the country not just in Oshodi, have given rise to the challenges of high crime rate, filth and various social deviation in the society.
“Oshodi-Apapa expressway as I learnt was constructed around 1977, and the airport road was recently upgraded. If you know the population of Oshodi in 1977 and the population of the community today, you will understand that there has been a huge shift; the roads are over-stretched.
“I will implore the waste management authority (LAWMA) to double their efforts in ensuring that Oshodi and its environ is clean. As we all know, the LAWMA officials (highway managers they are called) that sweep the major highway do not have jurisdiction over the inner streets, hence the dirts we lit everywhere. We must also understand that the inner streets were not originally designed to carry the huge vehicular traffic like they are carrying today,” he stated.
Edochie further stated that everywhere in the community at the moment look messed up, he called on the state government to intervene and ensure that area is cleaned up in order to align with the objective of making Oshodi a model centre particularly with the Oshodi Transport Interchange.
But differing with Edochie’s view, Mr. Obiora Emenike, said it is now like living in hell to imagine that Oshodi, which is one of the best places to live on the mainland is now going back to its old self despite efforts by successive governments of the state to make it a model centre.
He said, “Everywhere is litered with dirts and money is being collected for environmental sanitation. As you walk down the street from Church Street or what we call Brown junction where you divert if you are coming from Mafoluku, Afariogun and Orile-Oshodi, to link Agege motor road if you do not want to follow Bolade junction, garbages line up the streets.”
“Lagos has become a dirty state. That is what refuse heaps have turned it to be. It is not just the heaps but also the air that goes with it. Everybody is breathing in polluted air because of the barrage of debris littered all over the place. Some of the refuse contain human excreta, so you can imagine what is going into our body system. Why are we meant to inhale the poison coming out of them? Why are we meant to live with such huge debris?” he queried.
Though Mr. Mark Okeme, a commuter lauded the efforts of the government, he said he is not impressed with the way and methods they are carrying out Osodi redesign plans. “Oshodi is not in a great condition. Right under the bridge you still see the social miscreants, most of them under age, smoking indian hemp with confidence and committing all sorts of crimes, not minding the presence of the law enforcement agents — the police, who are few steps away.”
“You can’t build a multi million naira structure beside the slums. You have to upgrade the area in order for it to fit or match what you are trying to achieve. “My biggest fear aside from dealing with the stench in this area is that of the little children I see around, especially within the age bracket of 13 to 16 years, who are not in school and have embraced a life of crime, smoking weed and becoming nuisances. The government cannot act as if they have achieved something great when they are basically considered as local champions.”
The Guardian on visits to Oshodi during the week observed that just like the street urchins, transporters, petty traders and commuters alike have also taken to defecating and urinating in public spaces. Under a clear signpost with warning against this, it was observed that people jettison the signpost and flaunt the rule.
A visit to a public toilet that is located just a few meters a away from NITEL training school, Cappa, and branded by Harpic, a popular toilet cleaning solution brand, the middle age man in charge of the place, who gave his name as Pepe, said there is need for government to enforce the kick against indiscipline law in Oshodi.
According to him, there is so much lawlessness in the area. He added that despite the standard of the convenience, which was built by Julius Berger during the Raji Fashola’s administration, most people, especially the social deviants, who lay about and sleep under the bridge at night don’t use the facility. Instead they prefer to short put at nearby bush along the railway or by the road at night.
“As you can see, this one has taken water to go defecate at the nearby bush across the railway. They defecate or urinate in areas not assigned for the purpose,” he told The Guardian, as they watched the deviant walked away. Commenting on the rising level of crime, Pepe said, “The boys in this area are very bitter and are ready to fight at a given opportunity. You can’t stare, look, smile or even walk in a certain way before you are categorised as being too friendly or too rude. Stealing and armed robbery are the norm around this area and the government is not paying any attention to the despair in this area.”
Though there is presence of security operatives within and around the community. The Guardian observed a stationed RRS armoured personnel carrier (APC) at the intersection that links to Oshodi-Apapa expressway and Mafoluku through the Post Office, coming from Agege motor road and just beside the gigantic OTI terminal two. This is aside another RRS patrol van stationed on the bridge as you ascend from Charity through NIGALEX, MeCure and NAFDAC inward Anthony-Oworoshoki road.
The menace of motorbike (Okada) riders is another nuisance being constituted in Oshodi. From Opay to Gokada and Maxi as well as informal bikes operators, they are easily spotted on both sides at the Cappa end of the Agege motor road. They brazenly occupy parts of the road to hustle for passengers even within the vicinity of the Police and LASTMA officials.
Commenting on the challenge of managing traffic in Oshodi, a LASTMA official who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that lack of enforcement of laws is the resultant effect of the nuisance in Oshodi. He sounded overwhelmed by the situation. “I have no problems in doing my job because I’m just supposed to control vehicular movement within the area. I can’t do everything and I can’t be everywhere at once,” he said.
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