Lagos Communities Where Wooden Bridges Are Still In Use
CONSTRUCTION of roads, bridges and other infrastructure for community use at the local, state and federal levels ought to be the exclusive responsibility of the government. But sometimes, when government is unable to fulfill its side of the social contract, the responsibility falls on operators in the private sector to intervene in the form of company social responsibility to the host community. But when that too fails, the responsibility usually falls heavily on the people to seek self-help.
Sometimes also, government partners with the private sector to provide infrastructure. Such efforts, usually, are to be paid for by the people. For instance, when the Lekki-Epe Road was constructed through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programme, to ensure that the investor recoup their investment the road had to be tolled.
There are communities in Lagos State that are yet to benefit from government’s development programmes. Such communities often take to self-help. They embark on road projects and build bridges to link communities. One of such projects is located in Lanre area of Igando. The wooden Omojowolo Bridge links Lanre in Igando to Ayobo area, both communities under Alimosho Local Government and is used by vehicles and pedestrians.
Some metres away from there is another wooden bridge, but constructed for pedestrians only. This is also linked to another section of Igando to Ayobo, though it is longer, but not as wide as the one in Lanre.
Another bridge is located at Boundary area and sited behind the Boundary Market in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government. The bridge, which used to be wooden, is now iron, links the market to Liverpool Area, under Apapa Local Government. There is also a wooden bridge located in ECN bus stop, Ajegunle. The bridge is on Shogbesan lane of Ezeagu Street. These two bridges, located in Boundary and ECN, are for pedestrians.
In each of these locations, the people who constructed the bridges not only saw the failure of government in providing infrastructure for the citizens, they also noticed opportunities that could be tapped for both economic good and humanity sake. So, rather than lament the inability of government to construct a bridge, they decided to put up one, though not for free, as passersby had to pay a toll to use them.
Jumoke Hamzat has been living in Igando in the last eight years. According to her, the first day she needed to make use of the bridge, she was surprised, wondering why she had to pay a levy, when she was asked to. She was then informed that the bridge was built by a private person and not the government, who did not do it for charity, but as a business investment and needed to get back his money.
This, she said, made her not to have a choice, but to pay grudgingly that day and at any other time she had to make use of the bridge. She disclosed that many of the residents are not happy paying the fees. This, she said, was why on many occasions, during phone in programmes, especially on Bond FM, residents of the area call in to ask government to come to the aid of the community by constructing an alternative bridge.
Aisah Adejobi, a sales girl, lives in Igando, and daily walks through the bridge to easily link Ayobo, where she works. For her, paying the toll daily has been a lot of inconvenience because it eats deep into her paltry salary.
According to her, her monthly take home pay as a sales girl is N6,000. And daily she pays N60, on the six times a week that she needed to be at her duty post.
She added that there had been several promises from the government, especially during elections to erect a new bridge that will be toll free. She however observed that once elections were over, nobody cared, whether local or state governments, to fulfill the promise to the people.
Adejobi also noted that the foot of the bridges gets murky during rainy season, making commuting across the bridge discomforting whenever it rains.
“During rainy season, cars and bikes find it extremely difficult driving through. This is why in the coming elections, I will not vote. They are all liars that promise but never fulfill them. There had been several promises by government to put up a new bridge but it has never been kept.”
Nextor Ahagu is a trader who lives in Ikotun, but daily use the Omojowolo Bridge to get to Ayobo, where his shop is located. Ahagu noted that those who constructed the bridges should be commended as commuting through the alternative routes are far more expensive.
According to him, if the bridge was not available then he would need to take a bus to Amule for N100, take another bus from there to Egbeda also at N100 before taking a bus to Ikotun, which also requires paying another N100. He said that apart from higher cost, it takes a longer time going through the alternative route.
Ahagu, however, stated that paying the toll daily is a huge burden that would be taken off him and other residents if government constructs and takes over control of the bridge at no cost to the people.
For him, the non-construction of the bridge for about 10 years after it was erected by a private individual shows that government does not care about the people living in those areas.
He maintained that it is not just about the bridge as government had completely abandoned those living within the area in terms of provision of infrastructure.
He said having a wooden bridge of that magnitude in Lagos is a thing of shame, as it does not befit the claim of Lagos being the Centre of Excellence.
Joel Chuks and Emma Ebuka are students of God’s Will Secondary School, Igando. They are Senior Secondary School Two students and daily had to pay N50 to make use of the bridge when going and returning from school.
According to them, they are usually not happy anytime they have to part with N50 in the morning when going to school. They are however more pained paying the levy, when their parents refuse to give them the extra N50 outside the money meant for their lunch.
They said when this happens, they had to bear the brunt and part with something from the money meant for their lunch to be able to pay the toll and cross the bridge.
Also speaking, Mrs. Tosin Olorunfemi said daily payment of the toll eats into her income too. She wondered why government had not intervened by constructing a modern bridge for the community.
“We are not in a village that we are still using a wooden bridge of this nature to ferry people and vehicles across a swampy area. Government needs to do something about this.”
She however commended Road Link Ventures, the managers of the bridges for coming to their rescue. According to her, the bridge has helped to open up the area, allowing more persons to move into the community, which has promoted development.
She is concerned that the persons, who constructed the bridges had made enough money managing the bridges and rather than bring down the toll, it is being jerked up. She claimed the managers of the bridges realised not less than N150,000 daily from the levies paid by users.
Olorunfemi pleaded with the state government to come to the aid of residents of the communities using the bridges.
A Keke Maruwa rider at Lanre Bus Stop, along the Egbeda-LASU Road, disclosed that each rider pays N800 daily to make use of the bridge. It was also learnt that a motorcycle rider pays N50 for each trip, while each passenger on the motorcycle pays N30 like any other pedestrian.
However, residents of Ago and Jakande areas that make use of the Fasehun Bridge are excited and happy about the construction of the bridge though they noted that it was an example of government not living up to its responsibilities.
For instance, Engineer Wale Ojeyemi, who owns a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) said he pays N400 for the two trips he makes daily.
According to him, he has been paying the toll happily because the stress, time and resources lost to making use of the alternative route cannot be compared with the N400 he pays daily.
This, to him, is why he would continue to pray and bless Fasehun for constructing the bridge. He maintained that it is a shame on the part of government that it waited for an individual to construct a bridge of that nature to open up the two communities.
He enjoined other Nigerians who see infrastructure deficit gap within their environment to please intervene to ease the stress off the populace.
Also, Mrs. Ada Chukwu said that daily, she takes either a walk or a drive across the bridge and she is happy because it saves her a lot of time that would have been wasted in traffic if she were to go through the Oke-afa Bridge.
Chukwu further said that because it was a private individual, who constructed it, she was not surprised that it was tolled because the investment made needed to be recovered, besides the money to maintain the bridge.
She said it was also lack of planning that made the government not to see the construction of the bridge as a project to embark on before a private person came to intervene.
“This is because how much will a bridge across this canal cost, especially when the service it is going to provide is evaluated. Do you know the trouble people go through making use of the Oke-afa Bridge?” she queried.
Dr. Fredrick Fasheun erected the bridge that link Ago to Jakande Estate in Ejigbo. According to him, he constructed the bridge to ease the stress many residents of the two communities and adjoining areas go through whenever they need to travel across each other’s communities.
“When I got here in the 70s, it was all jungle and sparsely populated. With development, the place became heavily populated and the more populated it became; the more the suffering people were exposed to. And I felt concerned then, because the function of government is to provide convenience and comfort for the people.
“Unfortunately, it is the other way round. Those who are in government enjoy the best comfort and convenience to the detriment of the people being governed. And I saw this and also noticed the suffering of the people in moving from this area to Jakande, Ejigbo and Ikotun. There was only one connecting link: this road through Oke-afa, and you need to experience the heavy traffic on this road and Oke-afa.”
He said it was to lessen the suffering of the people that prompted him, especially when government was not going to do anything about it.
He added: “I believe that government can do a little and then the people themselves should contribute to alleviate the suffering, that was why I intervened.”
On how long it took him to move to site after conceiving to idea, he said he thought and studied the situation of things for about two years, including the sufferings of the people and what it will take to solve that problem.
“I made appeals to a few friends, who did not feel concerned, but I was determined to do it. I got in touch with the local government, a stumbling block was even put on my way, that government cannot allow me to do such a project.
“And I said government will not allow me to provide comfort for the people and I went on regardless. I was however, very happy that a traditional ruler, the Osolo of Isolo, came to thank me after the project was completed.”
Fasheun revealed that when the projected started, other well meaning Nigerians and residents living in the neighbourhood also felt concerned and were willing to support to ensure the project got completed.
“But I shouldered it myself and I thank God it was completed. People appreciated it and I am yet to see anybody, who criticised or spoke against it.”
Asked to put a figure to the project, the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) Founder said because he did not budget for the project, there was no documentation of the expenditure.
“I am not a rich person, only rich people make budget, but I was determined to do it inch by inch. And you know God is a listener; God listens to the poor man’s prayer. I was determined because what was needed at that stage was determination to see it through.
“I was determined, nobody forced me to go into it and I was not ready to create any discomfort for anybody, if anything, I wanted to make life easier for them.
“And God, in His infinite mercies must have looked down on what was being planned and every prayer we said, He granted and the project was completed about two years ago.”
He disclosed that it took about 11 months to complete the project, noting that it probably would have taken longer if he was not committed.
“Fortunately, the workers felt concerned too, so they contributed their own quota. And I will not downgrade their contributions because it mattered a lot to the completion of the project. They were eager to finish as much as I was. At times, they wrote off some fund, because they saw that I was not doing it for myself.
“And that changed my attitude about Nigerians because when you challenge Nigerians, they rise to the occasion. It is just that those in power have not been challenging us to good causes. Nigerians are very responsive when it comes to communal causes.
Speaking on the challenges he faced, he said though he would not want to mention names, but some said it was their area of jurisdiction and he needed some permission.
“What they wanted me to present, there was no way I could present it because I do not go to offices to beg. And if I am doing anything on behalf of the people, I do not think I should beg; it is government’s responsibility to provide those facilities and when it fails to do that, I do not think they should put a stumbling block on the path of those who chose to be altruistic.
“Occasionally, I had to put in OPC to prevent them from disturbing the workers. So, OPC played a major role, Policemen came and of course Policemen and OPC do not see eye to eye, but they too saw that I was providing a useful service to the community. Every morning, they will come in to supervise the workers and stand by them to make sure the detractors do not have their way.”
Fasheun said that he takes maintenance seriously. “If you get there now, certain things are being removed and replaced. We were interested in comfort and convenience. So you should not do anything that will endanger the lives of the people.
“I go there virtually every week to see what is going on and I will drive through to notice any shortcoming and give the necessary instructions. And for about two years now that we have been in operation, we have not had any accident. So we thank God.”
He also disclosed that the little fund generated from the toll is judiciously expended on maintenance.
On whether he got any commendation from the government after completing the project, he said, “We took on government responsibility and when you do that, government in this country do not know how to say thank you. And that is one of the factors killing patriotism.
“Many of our people wait to see what they can get, but that is not the way to be patriotic. You do not wait until you get anything from it. Make the comfort of the people your target. What you get by way of people’s gratitude is good enough. Government should do more to encourage Nigerians, they are nice-natured people and patriotic.
“Government thinks it can do it alone, it cannot; the community contribution is important. Government does not encourage Nigerians to provide public service. Even if government was going to challenge me for not obtaining all the necessary papers before embarking on such a project, when we completed that project and they saw the usefulness of that project, nothing stops even the local council saying, we have noticed your contribution, we thank you for providing this, as it has eased the people’s suffering.
“There is a place they call Akesan, which is linking an area in Lagos to Ogun state. The communities, about 12, came with their Baale, to appeal to me to provide similar service and we thank God, we are on that. Government cannot do it all alone, but government should find a way of encouraging those who are good-natured to provide community service.
“It is vital and crucial, nobody is appealing to the good senses of Nigerians, and there are many good Nigerians quietly willing to do something for the community. If you do not appeal to the senses of the people, they keep their money.”
To arrive at the toll to be paid, he said there was a study of tolls in various communities where such projects are in existence before concluding on what to be charge.
Several attempts to speak with the managers of the two bridges in Igando did not yield fruits. When The Guardian visited Road Link Ventures office, the secretary-cum-personal assistant to the company’s chairman asked that the reporter call back a day later to book a date with the chairman. For almost two weeks now, it has not been possible to interview the chairman as his PA kept giving one excuse or the other.