BY EBUN SESSOU
Juliana, a resident of Epe area of Lagos like any other trader who stuttles from a far distance to the Lagos Island for the daily business will have to pay more moving for the daily activities.
The fares that used to be N400 from Epe to CMS is now N2,000 no thanks to the Lekki toll that was constructed by Lagos State Government and Lekki Concession Company, LCC, just as the new no-subsidy regime on Petrol excerbated the problem.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, Juliana didn’t mince words as she shares her ugly experiences on a daily basis especially since the commencement of the toll.
According to her, “a common man on the street can longer enjoy anything in this country. Since the commencement of toll, life has been miserable. Now, everything has been compounded by the subsidy. Ï can no longer go out at my desired time because of the traffic to the toll gate.
It is annoying that one can be held in the traffic for over two hours, even after paying such a high fare. Another problem is the fact that commercial drivers have increased their fares by 300 percent thereby making the masses bear the brunt of the toll and the removal of subsidy.
According to her, “this hardship is becoming unbearable for the residents of this area because the road that was meant to be a service oriented project has suddenly become a thorn in the flesh. For a man to go for proper shopping, he needs to get to Obalende, Sura, Apongbo, Balogun areas of Lagos Island. She wonders how the students will cope since there is no single higher institution in the whole of the three local government areas of Eti-Osa, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.
“If the common man should fall sick, he is at the risk of dying because there is no Health centre in any of these areas. The nearest which is General Hospital is on Broad street in Lagos, the one that is next to it is at Ikeja.
The only thing you find are dispensaries, local hospitals, midwives, etc, she cried. The only way is to pass through this toll to deliver at the Island Maternity if you don’t want to die. If the common man has any case in court, he has to go to Igbosere because there is no single court in any of these areas.
From Epe which is about 59 kilometres away from the Lekki, you have to come and file your case in Lagos. The Lagos State government didn’t provide adequate facilities to the people they are demanding a lot from. There is no water, security and no other roads linking other villages within the city.”
A farmer who prefers anonymity said that since the commencement of the toll, prices of goods and services have gone up.
“I have decided that after today, I will not go out. The only thing is to go from one house to the other to beg for my daily bread. I am aged and I believe people will help me. What Lagos State and the federal government have done is inhuman especially for the aged people in the community”, he added.
Lamenting on the issue, counsel to Lekki residents, Barr. Ebun Adegboruwa said the traffic situation is better for now because of those who have travelled for the yuletide, adding that by the middle of January, the process will not stand.
I just discovered that they took a loan from African Development Bank Group, ADB. They gave them conditions which include that they are going to build alternative routes with its name and that the kilometre must be completed as they go along. As they are constructing the main roads, the alternative routes must be done alongside and that they are to build linkages with those alternatives.
The ADB terms include rehabilitation and widening of the first 23km and rehabilitation of the last 26.5km of the 49.5km Lekki to Epe expressway on the Lekki corridor in Lagos City; building of a new ramp at Falomo junction; building of new foot bridges along the right of way; building of the first 6km of the coastal road which itself is contingent on the construction of the coastal defences by Lagos State Government; rehabilitation/building of 10 inter-connecting roads between the expressway and the coastal road.
“I have done lots of investigations and presently, LCC engineers only certify that 6 kilometres of this road have been completed which was for Falomo. So, the bank said since it is the 6 kilometre you have done, also do 6 kilometre of the coastal roads and build about ten linkages to them. Unfortunately, Oniru Estate is not part of the coastal roads.
And the coastal road is dual carriage way not less than 5 kilometre and I don’t know why government should be deceiving us. The Oniru Estate is privately owned by individuals. They have a private beach, a market and everything belongs to them privately including roads. Anybody who owns land owns everything on it and that is what the law says.
“It is a misconception on the part of Lagos State government or Lekki Concession company, LCC to conclude that because people living within the Lekki axis are affluent, they can afford to pay the toll whereas there are other locations in Lagos where affluent people are located . For instance, there are the Banana Island and Parkview Estate, Ikoyi and where the Former Governor of Lagos State is staying. That is Magodo, Ikeja GRA. The rich are spread all over Lagos.
There is nowhere there is concentration of the affluent. So, it is a faulty premise to bandy the argument that the toll is targeted at the rich. On your way to Epe, you will find not less than 135 indigenous communities, the masses, farmers, fishermen, cattle rearers and jobless people in the lower cadre that have to use this road.
From Lekki Phase 1 area, there is Itedo community that is populated by illiterates; Ikate, Ilasan, Jakande, Ologolo, Ajiran, Ajah, Okun-Ajah, Ajiwe, Ilaje, Sangatedo, Awoyaya and Lakowe. All these areas are populated with women and children who have need to use the road and the tolling doesn’t recognize a car owner and a market woman.
“All you need is to pay either directly or indirectly. Since, the commencement of the toll, bus owners have increased their fares as much as 30 to 35 percent. So, either you have your car and pay directly or indirectly through commercial drivers. You also pay indirectly through the things that you buy in the market. You can also pay indirectly as a tenant because the landlord who is paying toll and add the cost. So, it is a wrong idea and that is why we say this government is discriminatory against us.
There are poor and rich people in other parts of Lagos who are not paying toll. Whatever standard is applicable to some people in Lagos should be applicable in other parts. This investment is wrongly targeted because the person who built the road himself, Alhaji Lateef Jakande didn’t have the idea of extortion by way of tolling.
He constructed the road free. He took the land from the indigenes and government acquired the land for the purpose of public infrastructure which is road construction and the road was built. This is a dual carriage way and it has lasted for thirty years, so anyone who is coming to add a single lane has no justification for doing so,” he lamented.