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Ogun-Lagos boundary residents lament neglect, underdevelopment, poor amenities

Daily Trust on Sunday in this report examines the plight of Lagos-Ogun boundary communities and how the lack of development has affected livelihood in various…

Daily Trust on Sunday in this report examines the plight of Lagos-Ogun boundary communities and how the lack of development has affected livelihood in various Ogun communities bordering the nation’s commercial nerve centre in Lagos.

“If we were given the option of choosing to be in Lagos State or Ogun, we would not hesitate to choose the former. Unfortunately, Ogun will still count us to be part of the state although we don’t feel the presence of government here,” a resident of Olambe, a border community in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, located between the state and Lagos said, lamenting the neglect, underdevelopment and inequality the people are suffering.

Right from border areas, the spectacles of inequality are visible as the roads are in a terrible condition and economic and social activities are impaired.

From Akute, Ajuwon, Alagbole, Oke-Aro, Agbado, Lambe, Ayobo, among other communities bordering Lagos State, cries of marginalisation, underdevelopment and lack of government presence have been the order of the day.

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Although majority of them earn their living in Lagos as civil servants, businessmen or artisans, high cost of rents has prompted them to settle in Ogun State, where rents are relatively cheaper.

For instance, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Lagos, including places like Ojodu, Ikeja, Agege, among others, is between N1.2million to N2million, according to the Nigerian Property Centre. So, areas like Ikeja GRA, Magodo, Ogudu GRA, among other highbrow places in Lagos metropolis, are definitely not for an average civil servant earning a minimum wage or a struggling businessman. For instance, a two-bedroom flat in Ikeja GRA costs between N7m to N8m.

So residents of the Lagos-Ogun boundary communities have been driven to their present locations, not by their own making but the economic conditions they have found themselves in.

Mrs Funmi Oguntade, a resident of Lambe, said her husband worked with the Lagos State Government and managed to build a three-bedroom apartment, where the family lives after relocating from Oregun. She said they bought the land in 2006 at N350,000 because land in Lagos was too costly. Our correspondent learnt that while a plot of land at Lambe is now between N3m to N5m, a half plot goes for N20m in Ojodu, Lagos.

“Everything here is wrong; you can’t see any development around. You can’t get Uber or Bolt around here. Many things you take for granted in Lagos are totally absent here. People don’t come here. We are totally neglected. You can’t see any supermarket here; what you see are mini shops and their items are very expensive,” she lamented.

Mrs Oguntade also lamented that the political class neglected them; hence many amenities taken for granted in Lagos are lacking in the neighbouring communities under the jurisdiction of Ogun State.

Lambe is just one out of many Ogun communities bordering Lagos State, with visible sights of underdevelopment.

Navigating the Akute-Alagbole-Ajuwon axis from Ojodu in Lagos, visitors will better appreciate the plight of the residents. While part of Ojodu falls under Lagos, another significant portion of the community belongs to Ogun State and is controlled by Ifo Local Government, which collects taxes on a daily basis. Here, bad roads stare residents in the face.

From Akute bridge, after Yakoyo, also in Ogun State, the construction of a 42-kilometer Sango-Ojodu-Akute-Alagbole highway in Ifo and Ado-Odo/Ota local government areas, which has been abandoned for over a decade, has worsened the plight of residents.

Similarly, the Ajuwon-Akute road is a deathtrap, forcing motorists and residents of the area to abandon their vehicles and rely on public transportation.

When our correspondent visited Ajuwon, many vehicles were seen struggling to navigate the rough terrain. From Akute-Ajuwon and Alagbole-Ajuwon, potholes and ditches fill everywhere. In fact, many vehicles got trapped several times at Ajuwon bus stop owing to the deplorable state of the road, which residents said had denied them many opportunities.

But the situation is not the case in the neighbouring Lagos State, where majority ply their trade, so they feel dejected, scorned and neglected by the Ogun State Government.

Residents of the area lamented that the Ogun State Government had been concentrating development in Abeokuta the capital while neglecting border communities. The state government, however, denied the allegation.

Lagos-Ogun Joint Commission fails to take off after 2 years

On May 2021, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and his Ogun counterpart, Dapo Abiodun, signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Lagos-Ogun Joint Commission.

Part of the MoU was to empower Lagos State to build roads and other infrastructure inside Ogun State territory.

Governor Sanwo-Olu said, “The joint memorandum of understanding is a sustainable development agenda under which Lagos and Ogun states will combine resources to meet our present socio-economic needs and prepare for the future.

“We have nothing to lose but a lot to gain by synergising efforts with Ogun State in the areas of infrastructural development (boundary town roads, waterworks, mass transportation), as well as revenue and taxation (including PAYE remittances, and boundary town revenue management and collection).”

Other areas the MoU will address include trade and investment, resolution of boundary disputes, security, including intelligence sharing and gathering, environmental and physical planning activities, including urban renewal, emergency and disaster management, inland waterways management and traffic management, and agriculture, food security.

Sanwo-Olu said a joint committee would be established “that will implement the terms of the MoU” pending the approval of Lagos and Ogun states Houses of Assembly.

The establishment of the commission has lingered for the past two years, dashing the hope and expectations of the affected residents of Lagos-Ogun communities. Findings by our correspondent in both Lagos and Ogun Houses of Assembly indicate that both states are yet to send a bill to give legal backing to the MoU.

This is partly why nothing has been achieved in terms of advancing development in Ogun communities bordering Lagos.

Bad roads still litter the borderline communities, social amenities are barely in existent; and residents said this had taken a toll on their socio-economic standing compared to their neighbours in Lagos.

Checks by our correspondent showed that apart from the major Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Lagos State has fixed the network of roads in its domain, leaving those that fall under Ogun untouched.

In April 2018, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos commissioned 21 boundary roads, including Ikola road with Odo Obasanjo Bridge – 6.4km (from Ipaja/Command to Ilo River); Ogunseye Road—1.75km (from Ajasa/Command to Ikola Road); Oko Filling Road – 1.5km (from AIT to Ilo River).

Others were Osenatu Ilo road – 620m (from Ibari Road to Ilo River); Amikanle road – 3.1km (from AIT to Ogunseye Road); Aina Aladi Road – 1.9km (from AIT to Ilo River) and Aiyetoro road with a bridge- 1.4km (from New Market/Ishefun Road intersection to Ilo River).

Musili Ojo, a resident of Ajuwon said, “The major problem we have here is the state of our roads. We can’t go out with our vehicles again because the roads have become unmotorable. It is even worse when it rains. Many people who have their cars can’t even take them out because of the state of the roads. If the roads are in good condition, it would help to improve our standard of living.

“You will never see things like this in Lagos State. Again, we don’t have social amenities around here. I know that majority of our problems will be solved if the roads are in good condition.

“In the entire Ajuwon, we have just one health centre, and it can’t even do many cases.

“This road has been like this for years. We have been filling it on our own as a community but we can’t do much at our level. We usually fill the ditches with stones and sandbags.”

Our correspondent reports that as at 2012, the population of Akute and Ajuwon was about 150,000 but it has quadrupled as more people have relocate to Lagos. For instance, Ajuwon alone has three development centres, with each of them having 40 community development associations. Each development centre is estimated to have 10,000 residents, translating to about 400,000.

Also speaking, Anthony Ojedele,  who works at Ajuwon but lives at Lambe, said life in Lagos-Ogun neighbouring communities was tough.

He said, “We don’t feel the presence of the government. Our roads are bad. And there are no hospitals. Government only comes around during electioneering, and after which they are nowhere to be found. The situation here is very bad.

“Our businesses have been paralysed because of the state of infrastructure. We spend so much bringing our food items from Lagos to this place because of bad roads. This is why things are expensive here.”

From Ajuwon to Akute bus stop, navigating the terrain on a motorcycle was a bumpy ride. Many vehicles were seen struggling in the flooded ditches. The motorcycles, popularly known as okada, were not finding it seamless to move.

At Akute, the abandoned bridge construction, which forms part of the Ojodu-Alagbole-Akute-Ijoko road, which has been under construction for the past 10 years, remains a source of concern for residents and visitors.

Alhaji Adam Hamza, who lives at Number 3, Faleye Street, Akute, Ogun State, said the bridge had been abandoned for too long, adding that the state of infrastructure, especially roads, is disincentive to setting up businesses in this part of the state.

He said many people relied on okada as a means of transportation in the communities because the roads are not motorable.

“For instance, I built my house inside Matogun (after Lambe) but I am planning to sell it because I can’t live there. Similarly, we don’t have a hospital, we only have one health centre which caters for the children. God forbid, if an elderly person breaks down, there is nowhere to go to.

“But the major challenge is this road, which has been like this for the past 12 years. It has only been promises. They only did some remedial works, fixed Ishasi road to Berger, but we are still pleading with the government to complete the abandoned project.

“We say this place (Akute) is part of Ogun State but it is like an extension of Lagos. But roads in Lagos metropolis are not like this,” he said.

Hamza, who is a transporter, said the government was generating huge revenue in taxes in Lagos-Ogun border communities through the sale of tickets for okada riders and other transporters.

While there are no available data for the number of okada riders operating in the neighbouring communities, our correspondent gathered that each rider pays N1,000 levy every day.

According to Hamza, the recent unrest by okada riders in Akute, Ajuwon and Lambe was triggered by an attempt to jack up the levy to N1,500. He said that in the whole of Ogun State there were no fewer than 100,000 okada riders, with almost half of them operating within Lagos-Ogun borders.

He confirmed that out of the N1,000 levy paid by each okada rider, N300 goes to the government in Abeokuta because they sell the tickets to the unions, which in turn sell to the okada riders according to zones and units.

It is estimated that millions of naira is generated on a daily basis from the sale of tickets.

“Some of us (transporters) belong to the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and some are members of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). And our ticket is daily. Yellow bus drivers pay N500 daily. So government cannot claim that they are not generating any money here,” the resident added.

And from Akute to Lambe, it was another sorry sight to behold. With the population explosion on that axis, residents said development in the area had been through communal efforts.

Giving an overview of the population of Akute-Ajuwon-Alagbole and Lambe, the chairman, Area Community Development Centre, Lambe, Comrade Abdulganiyu Omolade, said there were 43 Area Community Development Centres (ACDCs), with each of them having as much as 40,000 people, which translate to 1,720,000.

He said Lambe community had lost hope in the government fixing the road leading to the area. He said that through communal efforts the community had been grading the road with interlocks, but lamented that the arrangement could not last because of the magnitude of works to be done.

On health, he said the community established its own health centre, which the government currently manages.

“Here, it is like we are working for the government; and they would come here to make promises every four years, distribute exercise books, matches and N20,000 for those who are lucky, and once the election is over, they disappear.”

‘LG system non-existent’

Ifo and Ado-Odo Ota local government areas are the two councils under which the various border communities fall. But residents said they did not know whether the local government councils existed.

The ACDC chairman said the situation with the local governments was worse than imagined.

Our correspondent reports that Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area, according to the 2022 population estimate, has 896,700 people while Ifo Local Government is 917,000 as of 2022.

According to the August 2023 disbursement by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), 20 Ogun local government areas got N5.4billion for July. Out of this, Ifo Local Government was allocated N443.8m while Ado-Odo Ota got N449.4m.

The CDC chairman said local governments could not undertake any successful infrastructural project despite the millions of naira allocated to them on a monthly basis.

“Surprisingly, the number of taxes we pay here is uncountable. All the shops you see around here pay different levies, and you now wonder where the money goes,” he added.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that each shop owner pays between N1,500 and N5,000 annually as personal income tax to local government and the state government. Some shop owners interviewed also said they paid between N1,000 and N1,500 to the local government.

The absence of records of those working in Lagos and living in Ogun State was said to have made it difficult to organise the tax structure. Normally, those working in Lagos but live in Ogun are supposed to be remitting their tax to the state they reside.

But a resident of Lambe working in Lagos State as a civil servant told our correspondent that he paid his tax to the Lagos State Government because the two states had not really sit down to harmonise and work together.

Mrs Mary Adekoya, an architect/resident of the area and an executive member of the CDC in Lambe, said the stress of living in the area was taking a toll on the health of residents. She said women and children were the most vulnerable.

She said, “Every amenity you see here was through the efforts of the community. Women and children can’t access quality health care. Our socio-economic life is threatened. We struggle very hard to survive because we don’t feel the presence of the government,” she said.

She said many of the children stood the risk of being denied education but the community took it upon itself to not only build a school but set up a skills acquisition centre to empower the youth in order to prevent them from going into crime.

A visit to Oke-Aro, Matogun and Agbado communities, all under Ifo Local Government Area, further revealed the difficulty of residents in carrying out daily activities due to the condition of the roads. The Agbado/Oke-Aro road is currently only accessible by ‘okada’ and Keke (tricycles).

During a visit to Agbado community, it was observed that the flyover bridge, which has been under construction for years, has been abandoned. Road users have also started plying the bridge in its incomplete state.

Also, a visit to Oke-Aro and Matogun communities revealed that some parts of the road almost divided into two as a result of erosion.

A resident of Oke-Aro community, Tony Odinigwe, while sharing his experience  in Ogun State and working in Lagos, said the Oke-Aro/Matogun road had been in a very bad state for years, which has affected him both physically and psychologically.

He said, “Imagine having to leave home early enough to avoid getting to the office late due to the bad state of our road, which takes hours to navigate to town.

“During days of heavy downpour, my heart beats. It is either I’ll be prepared to trek home or pay extra for the ‘okada’ riders to take me home. Even at that, my safety isn’t guaranteed because we could plunge in a ditch.”

Another resident of Oke-Aro community, Amos Achusi, described the state of the road as horrific.

“The road is a perfect sight to describe the level of corruptive leadership structure present in the state as it has not been attended to for over 15 years.

“Our family moved over to settle down in Arolmabo area of Oke-aro in 2005, and since then, the state of the road has been from bad to worse. It has claimed lives and contributed to the increase of faulty vehicles, shutdown of businesses and reduction in the quality of living of the people who settled there,” he said.

Before the present Lagos State governor assumed office, his predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode, commissioned a network of 21 roads in boundary communities. One of the roads was Ayobo, linking Aiyetoro.

Ambode was said to have made an attempt to fix the road beyond the Lagos axis but the Ogun State government didn’t approve it, according to members of the community who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday.

However, both states denied this and said they were working together.

When our correspondent visited Aiyetoro community, it was discovered that the state government had commenced the construction of the road. It was learnt that the road construction started before the 2023 elections, but residents said work on the project had been slow, without a definite date of completion.

Alhaja Bola Lawal, a resident of Ayobo said, “They keep assuring us that this road will be completed.”

‘No public school’

Alhaja Bola, who said she had been living in the Aiyetoro for over a decade, said government’s presence in the community was zero.

“In the whole of this place, the only public school we have is in Itele, after Lafenwa. So we send our children to public schools in Ayobo, Iyana Ipaja and Ipaja in Lagos.

“Also, we don’t have a hospital. The road we are talking about is just one out of many issues we are facing here, but it is number one. We don’t pray it rains any day because once that happens we would not be able to move around. We need hospitals,” she said.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the establishment of a joint commission for both states was expected to be a game changer but no effect has been given to it. And both Lagos and Ogun governments have not been forthcoming in explaining why the joint commission has not started working.

The Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to the Ogun State governor, Kayode Akinmade, denied that the administration neglected the people living in the Lagos-Ogun border communities, saying all the roads were receiving attention.

He said, “Anyone saying the area had been abandoned is economical with the truth. We are 10 months away from the 2023 elections and construction works are ongoing in those areas.

“The governor promised to spread development across the 20 local governments in the state. He will not develop any at the expense of others. He is managing the lean resources at the disposal of the state and needs the public’s understanding.”

However, he did not respond to our correspondent’s inquiry on why the commission has not taken off.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, said the commission was alive and working. According to him, Ogun, being the only neighbouring state Lagos has, it is natural for the two states to work together.

Although many of the roads linking the two states are in deplorable condition, Omotosho said many of the roads had been fixed.

He said, “They are the only neighbours we have. We are doing a lot together in the area of infrastructure. Almost all the roads that connect Lagos and Ogun have been fixed. Also, in the area of water, Adiyan Waterworks that we are banking on to help us with the supply of water to Lagos is in Ogun State. Recently, we issued a cheque of N200million to be able to have the right of way for the pipes we are laying in Adiyan. So, we are doing a lot together under that commission.”

Commenting on the issue, a public affairs analyst, Comrade Achike Chude, said the two governors must demonstrate political will to make the commission work, describing the gesture as a welcome idea.

“We need this kind of synergy to be able to get a lot of things done as the two states share borders. It is about political will on both sides. It is about the governors committing themselves to this and working assiduously to achieve it. All they need is to pass information to their subordinates.

“What is the outcome of that MoU they signed two years ago? We can’t see it, and that is why we are having this conversation. Lagos should be the dominant partner; it is the richest in Nigeria,” he said.

He also said Ogun should leverage on its closeness to Lagos and the exodus of companies out of Lagos to provide the enabling environment for them to operate.

 

This report was facilitated by the Africa Centre for Development Journalism (ACDJ) as part of its 2023 Inequalities Reporting Fellowship, supported by MacArthur Foundation through the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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