Following Tribune report, Oyo govt commence reconstruction of 60-yr-old Ofiki bridge

•Aare Ofiki lauds govt for intervention

When 60-year-old Ofiki bridge on Budo Aare road in Ofiki community, Atisbo South Local Council Development Area of Oyo State, collapsed on Sunday, October 21, 2018, throwing about 40 communities into travail and cutting them off from neighbouring communities in Itesiwaju and Atisbo local government areas, the whole area went into shock as they were isolated in their domain until government, at that time, had to create other routes to create access for the people.

The Ofiki River, a major part of Ofiki town and other 40 other communities had a bridge which sits atop the river and had, for over six decades, provided access for residents in these communities to link other parts of the state. This was why it was a major loss for the communities when the bridge collapsed.

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Aside the fact that about four people got trapped under the debris when it collapsed, the only means available for the residents to move out of the community in their search for daily bread, whether to the farm or market as an agrarian community was truncated. And the route created by the government in the bush as spearheaded by the chairman, Atisbo South Local Council Development Area, Olusola Ogundeji, was a palliative that had its shortcomings as the people had to walk through the bush and take longer routes to their destinations.

When the Nigerian Tribune reported the issues then, about four people were still trapped under the debris of the bridge with no hope of their corpses being recovered and the people of Ofiki were skeptical that they would be remembered for years, especially since they did not know what would happen during the elections.

Scenes around the bridge

At the time, nothing could be done about excavating or removing corpses because according to Ogundeji at the time of the incident, “We have gone to the collapsed bridge and we are making effort to recover the corpses. But the slabs of the bridge are so heavy and cannot be moved. All efforts to bring in excavators have been futile at the moment because they won’t get there; they will sink. We have invited the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA); it has come to conduct on-site inspection of the bridge. Government is very interested in the welfare of the people, so we are working on it. SEMA cannot evacuate because only an excavator can help and there is no way it can get to that place now. There is nothing that can be done about the bridge at the moment until the water level reduces.”

And for months, the people suffered that fate following the collapse of the bridge, which was described as one with great historical value and background, estimated to be about 60 years old, having been constructed in 1958 based on communal efforts.

Speaking on the collapsed bridge then, the Aare of Ofikiland, Oba Adeoye Gbenga Adigun, stated that the collapsed bridge was built during the reign of his grandfather, Oba Adewoyin Titilola Alabi, the Aare of Ofikiland between 1958 and 1961 with £22 contributed by farmers as royalty and as special levy.

He had added that: “the Ofiki Bridge also serves as a link road to Ogun/Osun River basin farmlands granted to the Federal Government by my immediate predecessor, Oba Tijani Olaribigbe,  the Aare of Ofiki, in 1982. It is also the only bridge through which the farmers pass to access health care facilities and security. This collapse has affected so many communities: indigenes, artisans, traders, transporters, Fulani cattle traders, miners, farmers and everyone living within this community. We are all adversely affected, with this ugly development, the socioeconomic life of my people will face a downward turn.”

Ogundeji had attributed the collapse to structural failure associated with age, adding that “the bridge was constructed about 60 years ago and I think what happened was that it got worn out, expired or outlived its strength.”

But the suffering of the people is over as the state government, under the leadership of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, lived up to its words that immediately the terrain ceases to be waterlogged, it will swing into action. Work is already ongoing to reconstruct a new bridge and Oba Adigun could not hide his joy at the development.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, the Aare Ofiki expressed his joy that the government did not forget the people of his community and did not go back on its words in helping to reconstruct the bridge, adding that the confidence the people of Ofiki reposed in Governor Ajimobi remains unshaken as he has continued to prove that he has the welfare of the people at heart.

“I am grateful to Governor Abiola Ajimobi for his concern and kind approval for the immediate reconstruction of the Ofiki Bridge. On behalf of the people of Ofikiland, I thank him sincerely for not abandoning us to our fate on the bridge. I cannot but say thank you also to a illustrious daughter of Oke Ogun, Chief Hannah Olawunmi Ogunesan, for her role in ensuring the case of the bridge is visited on time.

“Our appreciation will not be complete if we do not mention Chief Olusola Ogundeji, the chairman of our LCDA and his counterpart, Wasiu Owolabi, chairman of Atisbo Local Government; the two never left us and were always concerned about how the people are coping with the situation.

Oba Adigun, the Aare of Ofiki

“Also, I say thank you to the members of the House of Assembly that did oversight of the bridge, and the Oke Ogun Obas Forum led by the Aseyin of Iseyin, we are grateful because people were wonderful to us even during our troubled times,” the Aare Ofiki stated.

Nigerian Tribune reports that he atmosphere around Ofikiland and its environs is that of excitement and hope that they will soon be able to take their normal route and move around without the stress of the past few months.

Indeed, the commencement of work on the site on Sunday, May 5, 2019 was the dawn of a new era to the people who, after seven months, had stopped expecting that the government will remember them especially in view of the transition coming up. It is a period of celebration that the collapsed bridge, the only link the community has to the outside world and it is the only hope as well as route for farmers and traders in the community is coming up again.

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