By Bose Adelaja
For   years, Igando New Town in Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Authority and Olayemi-Asipa in Ipaja-Ayobo Local Council Development Authority were only 365 metres apart. But in spite of the  short distance separating them, people in these two areas found it difficult visiting each other. The reason for this  was the swamp  that lies between the two communities.

he wooden toll-bridge at Pako, Igando New Town.Photo by Bunmi Azeez

Since there was no access bridge linking the two areas at any point along the stretch of the swamp, residents of these communities had no choice but  to go through the circuitous route via Egbeda and Ipaja before they could gain access to their adjoining areas.

Apart from its nearness to Igando and Abule-Egba, Olayemi- Ashipa is a stone throw from Itele, Ayetoro and Oju-Ore in Ogun State. Ordinarily its location places on a vantage position to become a key   local government in Lagos State. But that has not been the case because of the deplorable condition of the roads there. As a result residents are left to suffer untold hardship before they could access their neighbouring communities. This is unlike Igando residents whose major road is currently under rehabilitation.

With government failing to  provide a link road for Igando New Town and Olayemi-Ashipa, help had come from unexpected quarters. This was courtesy of an Igando resident and indigene of Ondo State, Chief Oladipo Omojolowo who seemingly emerged from the blues to construct a wooden bridge which has provided a link between Igando and Ipaja-Ayobo.

The bridge which many refer to as ‘’Pako bridge’‘ is 365 metres long and 23 feet widewith the capacity to accommodate about 3.5 tonnes of load with two giant gates at each entrance of the toll which operates between 5am and 11.30pm on daily basis.

It was constructed to link Sekoni Way and Sanni Thomas Street that leads to Lanre Bus-stop along the Igando-Isheri road. Since the bridge was constructed and opened for public use,  movement has been easier to and from Igando and Olayemi-Ashipa, while development is on the increase in the communities. The toll-bridge also enjoys busy vehicular and human traffic that keep the about 50 staff working there constantly on their toes.

When Vanguard Metro visited the place last weekend, both human and vehicular activities were in full swing with  pedestrians paying a toll  of N20; tricycles, N50 while cars and other larger motor vehicles paid N200.

Majority of residents in the areas have nothing but priase for  the initiator of the project Dr.  Omojolowo who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Road Link Ventures Limited. But a few dissenting voices complained  about the toll being charged which they perceived as not  affordable to them.

Speaking with Vanguard Metro about   the vision that gave rise to the toll-bridge that cost him N54 million, Omojolowo had this to say: “I have lived in this community when it was a forest, and swamp had hindered us from accessing one another. We could hear one another when we talk but we could not visit one another until we pass through Iyana-Ipaja.

In my village in Ilaje Igbo Egunrin in Ondo State, people live in wooden houses on top of rivers. With this in mind, I knew it was possible to construct the wooden bridge in order to alleviate the suffering of my people. Iron wood was used which endures pressure in water. It is called Aromiyo in my dialect.  This place was a forest before I settled down here. Recently, I went out of my way to grade it from Lanre bus-stop to the toll gate,” he said.

On the mixed feeling about the affordability of the toll, he said: “The amount is cheap considering the stress residents usually went through before the bridge was constructed. We spend a minimum of N50,000 on maintenance on weekly basis.
Although Omojolowo refused to comment on  the risk factor surrounding the bridge and whether it is insured, he was quick to assure that users of the bridge are quite safe.  ‘’Ah! God will not allow accidents on the toll-bridge,’‘ he told this reporter, brimming over with confidence.

He said he was able to secure approval from the Igando-Ikotun LCDA  before embarking on the project. Not only this, when some land speculators refused to release a portion of the land bordering the swamp for the project, he had to buy the entire space of about ten acres of land before he was able to secure approval from the land speculators.

Omojolowo also said some uniformed officials  initially resisted paying  toll fee but changed their stance after due explanation.
Former Igando new town CDA chairman, Oluwole Akinwunmi said of the bridge: “It saves us the stress of a long drive as  it provides a link to LASU-IBA road as well as Ipaja-Ayobo”.

A resident who simply gave his name as Engineer Olusegun also said:  “The amount charged cannot be compared with the advantage derived from it”. A car owner and resident of Olorunsola Madam Olajide Buki concurs, saying: ”The toll-bridge is a fast link to Igando and it reduces stress”.

However, some motorists Madam Tinuola Ayimoro, Uche Odinaka and Godwin Omole said the toll is exorbitant,’‘Some people cannot afford it, imagine if the place is owned by the government, the amount would have been subsidised. Apart from this, we don’t think the place is insured, what happens if accident occurs. The man is trying his best but the government should awake to its responsibilities,’‘ they chorused.


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