Artisans, customers still shun Ondo modern mechanic village four years after

The Ondo State government, in its bid to make Akure one of the best capital cities in the country, relocated mechanics to a specialised location for them to ply their trade, but the artisans have abandoned the mechanic village. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI visited the huge facility to assess the situation there.

As part of its novel approach towards urban renewal and to turn Akure, the capital of Ondo State to a real mega-city with a befitting status of a state capital, the Ondo State government, some four years ago, embarked on certain activities to change the face of some towns and cities across the Sunshine State.

The activities, apart from the rehabilitation and dualisation of some existing major roads across the state, also involved the development of an ultra-modern international auto market, a mechanic village, a neighbourhood market and shopping complex.

This development led to the movement of mechanics off the streets of Akure and they were relocated to a modern mechanic village where they could carry out their businesses in conducive and hygienic environment.

Some four years after the relocation of these mechanics, some of the workshops occupied by them have been deserted while most of the mechanics have relocated back to the town, citing low or no patronage as the main reason for vacating the modern mechanic village put in place by the state government.

The mechanic village, situated along Ondo Road in the capital city of Akure, is made up of 200 shops with each cubicle having ramps, pits and an area designated for an office or changing room. The village is expected to accommodate at least 600 artisans but is having less than 100.

There are about five sections within the village including a mechanic workshop, electrical and air conditioning section, panel beating, spray painting, car wash and spare parts sections, while the roads are constructed with interlocking paving stones.

Chairman of the mechanic village, Kehinde Ajewole, said that the enthusiasm that heralded the opening of the mechanic outlet at inception was short-lived within the first year of its inauguration. He said more than 80 per cent of the occupants of the workshop had left the compound disappointedly

According to him, there was low patronage. “We endured for the first six months and many of the mechanics resolved to go back to their former workshops because most customers complained about the new place being at the outskirts of the town and far off.

“Many of the mechanics have turned the Mojere spare parts market to another mechanic village and many customers prefer to visit that market where they will find mechanics who will fix their cars on the spot,” he said.

He said apart from the low patronage being experienced at the modern mechanic workshop, the rent was not encouraging his men. He said, “The state officials demanded N18,000 but we proposed N5,000 due to low sales; we sit all day here and we maintain the compound  ourselves.”

Ajewole said despite the low patronage the occupants of the mechanic village were paying through their nose to maintain and service some of the utilities at the workshop.

He said there had been power outage at the village since 2014. “The officials of BEDC had long ago disconnected our source of power after asking us to be paying N150,000 monthly as service charge aside the normal monthly billing. This place is always in darkness and we felt our goods are not secured and we have to engage the services of night guards.”

Also speaking, the secretary of the mechanic village, Femi Oluwanimoroti, said the irony of it all was that the state government, despite relocating the mechanics to the village, never patronised them at all. He also lamented the low sales which had forced many of the mechanics out of the place.

“State government should patronise us too. They relocated us here with a promise to collaborate with us, but we never felt the impact for a day, he said.

Oluwanimoroti also noted that most of the essential facilities to enhance their job promised by the state government had not yet been installed till date.

He said: “We appreciate the gesture of the state government, but this place is a wilderness, a dry land and most mechanics are moving out day in day out. Government can make this place attractive by putting in place facilities that would attract customers.”

He noted that the diagnostic centre built within the mechanic complex was without necessary equipment, while noting that some spray painters have to visit a modern spraying booth within the town to get their work done.

He said: “They can put in place all these facilities to attract customers and even other mechanics and technicians will be willing to come here, than for us to be going out to work. And I am assuring you that our people will always be willing and ready to pay for these services.”

He, however, noted that the mechanic village could be effective if only government could enforce all road mechanics to comply with the movement to the mechanic village when he said, “only government can make this place function very well. Aside the installation of modern equipment, mechanics should be forced to move to this village. What really should be done is enforcement.”

The state commissioner for Housing and Urban Development , Dr. Bade Omoloja, said the officials of the ministry recently held a meeting with the mechanics at the village to iron out the rent issue, and that they have reached an agreement on how much the artisans would be paying to the state government coffers.

The commissioner insisted that most of the mechanics complied with government’s directive to move to the mechanic village saying: “The mechanics never moved to their old workshops and there was strict compliance with the government directives.”

He was, however, elusive in commenting on the state of amenities at the mechanic village as he did not answer most of the questions on the state of facilities at the workshops.

One of the customers who spoke with Nigerian Tribune, Dr. Michael Adewuyu, described the mechanic village, which is sited on 1.3 hectares of land, as one of the best initiatives of the current administration in the state.

He said the village was well planned and structured, but noted  that the state government needed to monitor and maintain the utilities at the village in order to realise the purpose it was meant to fulfil.