• Commissioner of Environment, Wahab says ‘efforts to eject squatters will be sustained‘
By Oki Samson
To rehash its insistence that sanity is maintained on the Lagos-Badagry expressway axis of Lagos, the Lagos State Special Intervention Team led by Commander of Area F Police Division, ACP Bayo Suleiman was again on its enforcement drive last Sunday 24th September 2023. The move was a follow-up to the drive which commenced about a week ago which has seen great improvement around the Blue Rail Line and BRT corridors. The broken down trucks and trailers along the corridors have been removed, the junctions have been cleared giving the due right of way. Many residents of Mile 2, FESTAC, Iganmu and other communities along that corridor have praised Gov. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu for their new experience which they described to Trek Africa Newspaper as ‘a breath of fresh air’.
In this follow-up exercise
which took place amid the heavy rains that Lagos witnessed on Sunday 24th September 2023, the Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab was present on the trail alongside the Special Intervention Team comprising the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, and other relevant agencies.
ALAKIJA BRIDGE AND ITS ‘UNTOUCHABLES’
Just as Trek Africa Newspaper observed the last time about the nonchalant attitude of some Lagosians on their misuse of the Blue rail line and BRT corridor, this time around another major infrastructure investment is under severe mismanagement and is a disaster waiting to happen if something is not urgently done. This is the Alakija Bridge.
It was discovered that thousands of homeless and destitute have converted the entire stretch under the bridge to their home. Under the bridge, Trek Africa Newspaper can report that shanties, illegal structures, and markets have been built. You will find all manner of household items – water showers, pumping machines, tubs, chairs, tables, TV, radio, etc. – to make their stay right under the bridge comfortable. As if the illegal occupants have gotten government permit to construct flats and apartments there, they live rent-free!
To make matters worse, nefarious activities and social vices are happening there. Thievery, prostitution, drug abuse, name it happen there, it is even possible that arms and ammunition are stashed in those shanties. Some run brothels under the bridge, criminals mounted escape routes around there so that once they engage in traffic robbery during rush hours on the bridge, they will navigate under the bridge to evade apprehension. Those who steal have support of others living there, they cannot be punished or arrested. ‘The Untouchables’ of Alakija bridge have become a menace to residents of FESTAC and nearby communities.
Further, the reinforcement materials of the Alakija bridge are brazenly removed without fear of consequences. You will see some of the bridge pillars that irons have been chiseled out and the concrete around it taken off. If you go under Alakija bridge and request to buy ‘kasa’ – sand in Hausa language, it will be sold for you at N500 per cement sacks. Where is the sand gotten from, the Alakija bridge. The situation is so terrible that the bridge could cave in soon if the Lagos State Government does not step in with urgent repairwork.
Another important factor that Trek Africa Newspaper observed is that the illegal occupants have become so relaxed, unfazed, and care-free that as the Special Intervention Team led by ACP Bayo Suleiman worked, they just went about their regular duties considering the efforts of the team as ‘one of those government raids, they will soon go, they will be tired and leave us alone’. It seems there is a cabal in government, whether in federal or state, that is backing them up and fuelling their rash confidence. The people under Alakija bridge consider themselves ‘The Untouchables’. Gov. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu must act fast.
THE UNRELENTING EFFORTS OF ACP BAYO SULEIMAN
From one end to the other of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, ACP Bayo Suleiman would lead his team on foot enforcing sanity and compliance. He trekked with the enforcement team at several times while on the trip from Orile Iganmu to Iyana Iba to and fro for about three times to ensure that the people really complied with the enforcement. To the shock of the people who thought this enforcement drive is just a ‘usual government thing’, they will suddenly see Bayo Suleiman again after two hours compelling them to desist from their unwholesome activities. He warned them not to take the government for granted this time around.
LAGOS COMMISSIONER OF ENVIRONMENT, MR. TOKUNBO WAHAB ON THE ENFORCEMENT TRAIL
The Commissioner has reacted to the ongoing enforcement drive along the Lagos Badagry, which he described to Trek Africa Newspaper, as an international highway. He noted that the enforcement is imperative following the expiration of the one-month notice given by Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu to all street traders, squatters and occupiers of shanties and abandoned vehicles presently on the stretch of Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Orile-Iganmu to Iyana-Iba.
Accompanied by Permanent Secretary Office of Environmental Services, Dr. Gaji Omobolaji and his Counterpart in the Office of Drainage Services, Engr. Lekan Shodeinde and GM LASPARK, Toun Popoola, the Commissioner said he is moving round to ensure that the right-of-way is secured and illegal trading site and settlements along the corridor are pulled down. He particularly mentioned the illegal settlement at Agboju where squatters have built up shanties and have occupied government set backs, saying Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) would move in after the squatters have been removed to commence work on the beautification and landscaping of the whole stretch.
He explained that the right of way for the Lagos Badagry Expressway stands between 90 to 120 meters, therefore any structure that falls between will not be allowed to stand. He advised some recalcitrant occupiers of sheds and settlements under the bridge before Abule Oshun who are still staying put to move before the enforcement team moves in. He urged all commercial vehicle operators on that corridor to maintain their designated Parks, saying henceforth any vehicle seen picking or dropping passengers at undesignated bus stops along the road would be towed away and the owners prosecuted.
Wahab emphasized that the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu intends to restore the greenery and beautify the Lagos-Badagry Expressway corridor where illegal traders have encroached on the right-of-way. In his words: “the Special Intervention Team, is cleaning up the Lagos Badagry to rid of all environmental nuisances and black spots. The exercise would be sustained to ensure that ejected squatters do not return to rebuild these shanties”.
He restated his warning to street traders in different parts of the state that no area encroached upon would be left out of the clean up urging traders at Afolabi Ege Market, Iyana Iba to relocate within 7days as they are the causes of the man-made traffic bottlenecks along the axis.
The General Manager Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency LASPARK, Mrs. Adetoun Popoola and other directors from the ministry were also part of the inspection exercise.
PLEA TO GOVERNOR BABAJIDE SANWO-OLU
While we commend the efforts of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu for inaugurating the Special Intervention Team, the matters arising from Alakija bridge must be immediately looked into. The team should continue its efforts in other locations like Agege, Ijora, Ajah, etc.
Everybody under the Alakija bridge must be forcefully ejected not caring whose ox is gored. And repairs should begin immediately on the bridge. Alakija bridge must not cave in. Lagos should be saved from this impending disaster.