Parents, pupils in Mile 2 groan as shipping firm, barge jetty take over school complex
Pupils, parents, staff and management of Mile 2 School complex in Amuwo-Odofin Local Council are currently unhappy with the Lagos State government. This is because bonded terminals and barge jetties have practically taken over sections of the school complex and surrounding spaces, which is constituting grave security concern. And though critical stakeholders have tried to draw the attention of relevant authorities to their plight, the state government seems unperturbed by the inconvenience the situation has brought about and is not forthcoming with any tangible solution to the problem.
The school complex houses eight secondary schools – Imoye High and Junior Schools, Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools, Amuwo Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools and Amuwo Odofin Junior and Senior High Schools.
Pointing out the fact that the encroachment on the school complex spaces violates the state’s physical law and building code, concerned parents wondered why the state government endorsed the action. The irony of the whole matter, as stated by the aggrieved parents, is that the more they complained, the more the companies encroaching on the school premises are emboldened, carrying on their intrusion with impunity. They wonder if protection of property and lives is no longer one of the cardinal agenda of government.
When in March 2020, the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences chased away those illegally occupying a section of the already re-occupied land, which houses the school sport field and farmland, teachers, parents and pupils had heaved a huge sigh of relief. However, two months after the state government reclaimed the section of the school complex ‘colonised’ by miscreants, the parcel of land was taken over by an Italian shipping line, Grimaldi.
It was gathered that the shipping firm bought the land and turned it into a bonded terminal. Another source, however, stated that it was leased, as the shipping company wanted to buy the entire complex, demanding the relocation of the schools and pupils. It was learnt that fear of a backlash of outright selling of the entire complex had informed the permit to take over a section of the school. What has become worrisome to stakeholders, however, is the fact that about 60 per cent of the land has now been taken over, leaving the eight schools with mere 40 per cent.
Before the Environmental Taskforce cleared the spot in March 2020, the land was partitioned among miscreants, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA). Prior to the ejection, operatives of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences had given the occupants a seven-day ultimatum. And on the night the ultimatum elapsed, the then chairman of the agency, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, led the enforcement team in an over-night exercise to remove all illegal structures comprising shanties, mechanic workshops, containarised kiosks and commercial bus garages that were still standing, as some of the occupants had pulled down their structures and moved away their items.
Then, Egbeyemi claimed that the removal was due to numerous complaints and petitions by residents, particularly management of the public schools within the school complex to the effect that criminal elements had turned the area into hideouts/spots for carrying out nefarious activities, thereby making the environment unpleasant for learning.
Some days after the illegal occupants were ejected, however, roofing sheets were used to make a barricade around a section of the school complex, especially as the taskforce demolished a large section of the central fence of the school complex. But barely two weeks after the place was barricaded, over 50 containers were brought in to form a barricade around a section of the land within the school complex. All this was done when the school was not in session, due to COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdown.
If the schools were in session, the students would have been unable to gain access to the school premises through the main gate, as the containers were placed to form a circle. The students would have needed alternative gates to access their schools, as the containers were placed in such a way that the gates to each of the schools were inaccessible. It was also gathered that the task force that undertook the evacuation exercise was sponsored with the aim of making the parcel of land available for the shipping company.
With the takeover of that section of the school complex, the central access gate to the four schools became blocked, while three of the schools would need alternative gates to enter their schools. New access gates were later created for Imoye Junior and Senior High Schools and Amuwo-Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools. But to access their schools, pupils and teachers of Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools have to either go through Imoye Junior and High Schools and Amuwo-Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools.
That was the awkward situation that confronted the pupils upon resumption. Seeing the stress the pupils and staff were going through, the parents of the affected schools swung into action through petitioning the government, which never responded. Coincidentally, this was happening just after the explosion at Abule-Ado, where Governor Sanwo-Olu strongly condemned Ijegun residents and landowners for giving out lands to people that used them for projects other than was officially planned, especially when such could endanger lives.
The stakeholders were particularly alarmed as encroachment grew to another section of the school complex, thereby blocking permanently the alternative access gate provided for Amuwo-Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools. With this development, pupils of Amuwo-Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools, Odofin Junior and Senior Secondary Schools and Imoye Junior and Senior High Schools now share one access gate. The implication is that all the pupils coming from Festac, Mazamaza and a section of Mile 2 estates would now have to trek long distances compared to the past, when they could easily access their school premises through their own access gates.
Aside this, containers are piled on one another and if per chance there was an error and the pupils are around, the impending calamity is best imagined. Residents are also concerned, as they said the bonded terminal and barge jetties clustered around the schools could compound the traffic gridlock on the Alakija-Mile 2 axis. They said the conversion of plots of land within Mile 2 into bonded terminals and jetties through the canal to Apapa has increased the number of articulated vehicle on that route, with many of these trucks obstructing other road users.
A column on the service lane from Alakija to Mile 2 has been permanently converted into a parking lot by trucks and tankers, leaving other motorists with only the second column.
Also, students and teachers said the access gate to Amuwo Odofin Junior and Senior High School is usually blocked by trucks. A staff of the school told The Guardian that there was a near-fatal accident recently, when a truck lost control during the closing hours. Fortunately, another stationed truck halted its movement with no casualty recorded.
The staff explained that after several complaints, the shipping company agreed to provide another alternative gate by the Lagos Water Corporation Office, which shares a fence with the school. It is, however, often besieged by trucks and commercial buses too. He said though the alternative gate has not been provided, the section of land within the school has been taken over, and the structure on that section of land pulled down.
He said though the shipping company promised to compensate by building a new structure for the school, when the new building is completed, there would be little or no space for the pupils to actively participate in sports and farming.
A student in one of the schools, Abidemi Oyetola, said the government is being inconsiderate to have given the school land to the companies, describing the stress she and her friends experience daily, while trekking longer distance to get to school and return home.
“I am really not happy about it, and I wonder why government would do something like that without considering the plight of students. We had planned to protest against the take over, but we were warned by one of our teachers, who told us that though the protest was justified, government could take action that could jeopardise our education.
“If I had money, I would just be taking bike to school, but I cannot tell my parents to give me money for that. They cannot afford that additional burden,” Oyetola said.
Chairman, Parents Forum, Amuwo-Odofin High School, Alhaji Olabode Keshiro, said for the pupils to be accessing their schools through the gate with the containerised trucks clustering the access road is too risky and put their lives in danger.
He said: “I don’t understand how government would allow such activity very close to the school premises. We do not pray for anything negative, but school children could be playing around the school complex and stray to the fence and per chance a container shifted, probably because it was not well placed, it could fall into their school and surely pupils could get injured, if the school is in session. And all efforts and appeals to get government to reason otherwise have not yielded result.
“At the several meetings, we pointed out both the security and safety implications to government representatives, but nothing came out of it.”
We have had discussions with three Tutor General/ Permanent Secretaries in the district in the last two years, when the issue started. When it appeared there was a green light, something would come up that would move the TG/PS out of the district and another persons would be sent and discussions would start all over again.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Gboyega Akosile said that the happenings in the area at the moment have nothing to do with the governor. But as a responsible and responsive government with passion for the delivery of greater good for Lagos residents, relevant authorities will undertake a critical assessment of the place.