Lagosians weather Yuletide anxieties, crimes, disasters
•We are ready to make this Yuletide incidents-free for law-abiding Lagos citizens —Police
IT is another Yuletide in Lagos, just like in every other part of the globe. Interestingly, the period is often characterised by disasters and high crime rate, particularly in the state, owing to many of its residents’ inordinate quest for money to celebrate the season in grand style.
The fears among many residents are palpable and this is not unconnected with their past experiences during the period.
Until the last few years, bank robbery cases in December used to be more than those of other months of the year. The state government and the police have, however, done something in that direction as there has not been any single major bank robbery in any part of the state in the last four years or thereabouts. But in spite of this, many believe that it is not yet uhuru as far as securing the state of aquatic saplendour is concerned. For instance, pipeline vandalism seems to have come to stay in the state.
On December 19, 2018, scores of residents of Abule Egba were rendered homeless as vandals ruptured the pipeline in the area. Three people lost their lives to a pipeline explosion in the Baruwa area of Ipaja.
The period is associated with street carnivals and other forms of social engagements, some of which are used by hoodlums and cult members to settle scores. A few days ago, two people were killed as hoodlums hiding under the name of transport union groups clashed in the Surulere area of the state. They used the opportunity of the clash to loot shops rob innocent residents that were caught in the melee. There have been incidents of gas explosion, fallen tankers and containers as residents prepare for Christmas and the New Year celebrations.
A resident of the state who gave his name simply as Alhaji Raheem, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, said: “People are always very eager to celebrate the New Year in a big way. Christmas is for the Christians but New Year is for everybody. It is that time of the year when you want to show your achievements for the past year. It is also a period a lot of people want to play catch-up. Many people who believe they have not made a significant showing in the past months either strive to do something significant within a short period of time or cut corners,” he stated. Raheem added: “In the past, there used to be high crime rate not just in Lagos but all over the country. The rate of accidents increased because people tend to be less careful in their bid to meet targets. It is all about desperation.”
Our ordeals –Victims of Lagos disasters
An auto dealer, James Adeosun, who lost about 20 vehicles valued at about N90 million to the December 19 2018 pipeline explosion in the Abule Egba area, described the experience as one that he would never forget. Adeosun said not only has he been living in debt since the incident but he had also found it difficult to get his life back business-wise.
“It is exactly a year today and I have not recovered from the horrible occurrence. All efforts to reach people at the high offices to get help have proved abortive. All government agencies I tried to contact have all turned deaf ears to my plea. As we speak, I am barely surviving. I had to change my children from their former school. I have relinquished my business space due to lack of financial ability to keep it. I am still hoping that help will come someday. Please help me reach out to well meaning-Nigerians. I need help,” Adeosun said.
Oko-Baba fire victims lament
Barely two months after the Oko-Baba fire outbreak which destroyed machineries and home appliances worth millions of naira, victims of the inferno are still battling with the aftermath of the firestorm which rendered many of them homeless and penniless.
According to the head of Oko-Baba community, Chief Musbau Junaid, many of the over 4,000 residents that were affected by the fire are now jobless.
Kemi Adebayo lost all her groceries and two fridges to the fire. The mother of two disclosed that she was left with indebtedness and the sight of the ruins that were once her shop. “It has been a month and a week since the fire incident but echoes of it still vibrate in my heart. I am indebted to many wholesalers and I am left with nothing. My groceries, two freezers and cartons of varieties of beverages were all destroyed in the fire. I am struggling to pay my debts. I am at a crossroads as to what I can venture into in the New Year but I am counting on God for His mercy. The loss is one too many. I am, therefore, pleading with the Lagos state government to be of assistance to us because we are suffering,” she said.
On his assessment of the fire incident as regards how it affected the victims, a resident of Oko-Baba community, Shehu Lawal, told Saturday Tribune that some of the victims have rebuilt their shanties while some of them still squat with friends. Lawal said the fire disaster started around noon when many of the dwellers were away. There was no one in sight to put out the fire before it spread, he said. “The fire disaster started around 12 p.m. when most of the residents had gone to work, therefore, majority of them lost everything. Those working at the mill couldn’t help themselves either. They lost machines and personal properties to the fire. Many of them have been unable to rebuild their houses ever since. Some bought planks on credit to reconstruct their houses but others with no access to credit facilities have remained homeless. In a nutshell, majority of them are in debt,” Lawal said.
He urged the state government to, as a matter of urgency, relocate traders and residents at the plank market to the facility provided for them in Ejirin, Ikorodu, Lagos. “The government should do what the military did under Colonel Buba Marwa’s administration in Lagos State. This is not the first time things like these would be happening. They should acquire the land and provide funds for inhabitants to build decent structures. Or the government can resettle them in a safer and conducive accommodation.”
While appealing to Governor Sanwo-Olu to establish a firefighting station in the community, Chief Junaid, who expressed gratitude to God that no life was lost, said lives of the victims have not been the same since the incident. He said: “We thank God that no life was lost but the properties that were lost to the fire were unquantifiable. All the milling machines amounting to millions of naira were burnt, not to talk of properties that belonged to individual workers at the mill. Some of the workers living in the market had all their home appliances and other properties destroyed by the fire. Many grocery stores, canteens and sport viewing centres were all destroyed. In fact, properties that were damaged were massive.”
According to the community leader, Oko-Baba plank market is a community on its own with about 4,000 residents. It is unfortunate that they had all their properties and businesses burnt in the inferno. Consequent to the fire, life has not been the same for them as many of them now reside anywhere the night falls on them and are even jobless because their major source of livelihood was destroyed in the fire. If not for the timely intervention of the Lagos State firefighters, the damage could have been more than this. Although fire incidents could happen anywhere and at any time, they are rampant at the wood market because of the nature of their trade. We have to continue praying to God because He is the absolute protector.
“Apart from this, the Lagos State government needs to come to our aid. Residents and traders in Oko-Baba are tax payers and they perform their constitutional duties during elections. We should not be neglected, especially at this trying period. The victims should be assisted; they cannot bear the losses alone. Some of them have been homeless since the incident; they sleep in the open with their children. They lost everything to the fire.
Why tenants remain inside distressed buildings in Lagos –Traders
Meanwhile, a trader on the Lagos Island who witnessed the demolition of two distressed buildings on Bangbose Street has revealed why tenants defied warnings to vacate buildings before their demolition. The trader, Mr Fatai Aribigbe, said: “Many of the people living inside those buildings had no other place to go to due to lack of finance. I know some of them who are married men but come to us traders to beg for support most times. Some will come to you and say their families have not eaten since morning. So, when those buildings became marked for demolition, we knew some of the tenants won’t leave. The building on No. 52 even had its roof removed, yet these people refused to vacate the building. It was when the ‘caterpillars’ from the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) arrived in the street that many started picking their belongings and their children and leaving the building.”
In a chat with Saturday Tribune on the increase in emergency cases in the State, Doyin Olawunmi, a trader at the Liverpool under-bridge market in Apapa warned against further boat mishaps due to an increase in the number of passengers patronising boats operating without life jackets for the passengers. “Many boats now leave this Liverpool jetty without insisting on passengers wearing life jackets. The Yuletide is here and the number of people using water to connect Ikorodu and other areas is increasing. I am afraid that very soon, there might be another boat mishap except the authorities do something about people not wearing life jackets. Many boats now leave here without some passengers putting on life jackets. I think the number of passengers available these days is more than the number of available life jackets. The government has to wade in to ensure another fatal incident does not occur.”
We are ready –Police
The image maker of the state police command, Bala Elkana, in an interview with Saturday Tribune on the preparedness of the police in the state to battle criminality during the Christmas and New Year periods, said: “We are fully prepared not just for the Christmas and New Year celebration but beyond the periods. We have made deployment as part of the ‘ember months’ operation order. We have looked at areas where there are needs for such. We have added to that of traffic, knowing that we are going to have more people in the state. All the efforts that we have put in traffic, you are very much aware. We have also intensified patrol and surveillance across the state to make the roads and highways safe for travellers. We have made deployment in marketplaces and recreation centres because people are already patronising them.
“Our special strike force on social miscreants is taking the battle to the miscreants so as to put the heat on them because quite a number of them want to reap where they did not sow. We are putting the heat on the miscreants so that they won’t have the opportunity to strike. We have made some arrests. That enforcement will continue beyond the period.”
On street carnivals and parties, the Lagos police spokesman said: “There are some areas that I am aware of where all forms of carnivals have been put on hold by the local authorities because of security concerns but definitely, we have made deployments all over. Those who will conduct themselves within the ambit of the law will definitely have the cover of the police.”
Another resident who pleaded for anonymity said following the fire disaster, criminals have turned the plank market into their hideout. He urged the state government to urgently do a clean-up of the area and resettle affected victims. “Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu needs to urgently resettle victims of Oko-Baba fire outbreak. Many of them have become homeless. They are daily exposed to the activities of the criminals that have taken advantage of the incident to perpetrate atrocious acts. Children walk around in the midst of criminals that smoke Indian hemp by the lagoon. In fact, I will suggest that the entire land space be turned into a ferry station. This will serve as a means of income for the government and a means of employment for residents. Let the government relocate traders and residents in the affected community because failure to do this will amount to courting another fire incident,” the resident stated.