May 14 2012
By Kenechukwu Ezeonyejiaku and Olabisi Adebayo
ABOUT 7.30p.m. two months ago, Mrs. Titilayo Edema was passing through the Marine Beach area on her way home when two young men emerged from behind a kiosk under the flyover, brandishing a knife and an iron rod.
Frightened beyond her wits, she begged them to take whatever it was they wanted and not hurt her.
Quickly, they took her earrings and wristwatch, the shoes on her feet, the shawl around her neck, her handset and the handbag in which she kept the N25,000.00 her husband sent from Abuja earlier in the day.
About that same period too, officials of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment and its Works and Physical Development counterpart, on routine inspection of the Marine Beach under-bridge and its environs, were alarmed at what they saw.
Squatters had literally turned the spaces under the flyover into squalid homes where sanitation did not matter.
Traders and truck drivers had used the surrounding neighbourhood as their parks and social miscreants found the area a haven from which to harass passers-by, attacking and robbing them of their valuables, sometimes maiming them if they resisted.
The traffic jam in the area was among the worst in the Lagos metropolis on account of the illegal parking by tanker and delivery-truck drivers
According to the spokesman of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment, Fola Adeyemi, “ But very important too was the fact that the fire from the cooking by the drivers, traders and squatters and misuse of the flyover support-pillars, several of which had developed deep cracks, posed such severe threat to the flyover itself and Lagosians that something had to be done.”
What followed was a meeting of stakeholders that included the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment as well as the Federal Ministry of Works on the right of way on the Federal roads and bridges, which revoked whatever contracts under which all sorts of groups had taken over spaces beneath the flyovers in Lagos metropolis.
Speaking during an inspection of the area on Wednesday, the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello said the revocation had paved the way for the Lagos State government to restore Apapa’s lost glory.
“Apapa should be a place of business and commerce and not a haven for miscreants and discord caused by tanker and truck drivers who have taken over all the places.
“If Apapa should fail, Nigeria’s economy has failed. We should not forget that this is Nigeria’s number one and busiest port.”
He said the time had come to put an end to all those nightmares and also put in place sustainable measures to maintain the great stride achieved in the last few days.
“The bridges were constructed by the Federal Government and invariably, it owns the spaces under them.
“Over the years, some people have claimed that they were given concessions to build under those bridges or use those places as truck parks, which they collect tolls from. The impact of their activities to these bridges and the degradation to the environment coupled with its effect on the economic activity of the area is massive which everybody can attest to.
“The Lagos State government with support from the Federal Government has decided to put an end to it and reclaim, beautify and sustain it like we did in Oshodi and other places.
The Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa who was present during the inspection also said that there was need to decongest Apapa and make it accessible for people to move in, take their goods and move out freely.
According to him, “Apapa can be described as the cash cow of the country. After the revenue from oil, the next is from VAT and seaports.
“How this revenue is generated is by vehicles moving in and out freely and if this is hindered, Apapa is crippled and the economy will suffer.”
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