Concerns as Lagos mechanics take over roadsides, streets
Before now, the Lagos State Government established mechanic villages around the metropolis to guard against indiscriminate siting of workshops along the streets, open spaces and roadsides.
The Guardian learnt that the mechanic villages in 1981 were more organised under the Bola Tinubu administration, with a promise to provide the needed infrastructure that will make mechanics operate in the villages.
However, allegations of government takeover of some of these villages and lack of infrastructure have made mechanics return to streets and roadsides, thereby constituting nuisance on roads that government spent lots of money to fix.
This penchant for mechanics to abandon their workshops for roadsides and open spaces in parts of Lagos metropolis has become a source of worry to many residents because of their negative impacts.
Apart from major streets, this growing trend had spilled over to the newly constructed Apapa- Oshodi Expressway, with the service lane at Toyota Bus Stop, now a major convergence for mechanics.
An Isolo resident, Udochi Michael said the action has not only narrowed the road, it makes a dangerous impact on the road as oil wastes and other items are dumped on the road.
Michael wondered what happened to mechanic villages established by Lagos State government of our mechanic villages during the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande administration and why mechanics were allowed to operate unhindered at undesignated places.
But the Federal Controller of Works, Lagos, Mr. Olukayode Popoola, told The Guardian that the ministry had embarked on several enforcements to clear the mechanics, only for them to come back after some time.
He lamented that the activities of mechanics and drivers of articulated vehicles, who have turned the newly constructed expressway into a park is destroying the good work of the government, amidst scarce resources.
Popoola stressed that the ministry will continue to do its best but said it lacks the resources to do that constantly because of a lot of mobilisation is required to keep mechanic and trucks away from service lanes and roadsides.
On the return of mechanics on roads, an executive member of the Aswani mechanic village, said the infrastructure to make some of the villages to function optimally are not in place.
He said: “You can also take a look at the village by yourself. Is this how a mechanic village should look like? No roads, some clients are even afraid to drive their car down here for fear of getting stuck or risk bursting their tyres and exhaust pipes, because of the deplorable state of the road.
“The government is not doing anything for us at all. In a civilised country, you will find everything you want in a standard mechanic village, but here in Aswani, government has abandoned us.
“You cannot blame mechanics for operating on roadsides, because if the government has played their own part by making everything available at mechanics villages, then they can think of arresting and prosecuting anyone found on the roadside or street.”
But Kunle Akinbolagbe, a mechanic who operates along a street in Oshodi said: “To get a shop at the mechanic village is too expensive coupled with the fact that you have to know someone before you are able to secure a space.
“Not only that, almost all the time, you will be asked as a shop owner to pay levies. Sometimes, the task force will just come and harass them, making unnecessary demands and if you fail to provide what they want, they begin to frustrate you.”
A panel beater, Olamuyiwa Taofeek, also complained about witch-hunting as reasons they don’t stay together in mechanic villages.
He said: “To get a shop in a mechanic village is not only difficulty, if you’re getting more jobs than your neighbours, they begin to hate you; they can even go as far as killing you with charms.
An official of Lagos State Government, told The Guardian in confidence, that it is difficult to curb activities of these mechanics.
The officer complained of lack of political will to dislodge mechanics from the roadsides and the encroachment on mechanic villages by real estate developers as among reasons for the continued rise in numbers of mechanics on the streets.
He said: “Most times, it is because of lack of enforcement. If we received complaints about them, we normally dislodge them, we have a department but that is in isolated cases, isolated in the sense that we have so many of them springing up everywhere and if you don’t carry armed policemen, you can’t confront them.
That is why I said it is not going to be easy. For instance, if they convert a public place to a workshop and the news gets to us, we engage the services of the Task Force to move them out.
“Even the mechanic villages given to them are taken over, you know that land is priceless and the mechanics are usually allocated a big parcel of land, so sometimes the Omoniles usually dislodge them.
“The policy of getting mechanics in a village is supposed to be in force, but the practicability of it is another thing. The mechanics, under the aegis of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), usually have problems with land in Lagos, the reason being that land is so scarce and anybody who sees land will always develop interest and will want to chase them out. That’s why you see many of them in the street and roadside.”
Recall that members of NATA, Lagos chapter, recently protested the forceful seizure of mechanic villages across the state and converting them for personal use or gain.
The workers, who staged a protest to Lagos House of Assembly, called on the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to save them from hardship and stop his cabinet members from selling their yards and workshops.