By Bose Adelaja
TODAY marks a decade of the Oke-Afa disaster, an incident which was occasioned by bomb blasts at Ikeja military cantonment. The disaster led to a stampede that claimed many lives and others still missing till today. That fateful evening remains evergreen in the hearts of Nigerians especially Lagosians, more so for those whose relations were involved in the disaster.
A visit to Oke-Afa in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, LCDA during the yearly remembrance ceremony which has become an annual ritual, reveals that the burial site has been repainted and decorated by the Development Area.
Ten years ago, the victims were given various promises by the three tiers of government. The promises which centred on alleviating their sufferings have not been met till date. It was only the Federal Government that gave out relief packages ranging from N250,000 and N500,000 to the victims.
Those who lost their relations and were able to identify the corpses were given a paltry N500,000 while those whose relatives were missing got N250,000. This was all the Federal Government has done for the victims in the past decade.
On the part of the Lagos state government, it has been promises galore but none fulfilled. Most of the victims who spoke to Vanguard Metro alleged that the Lagos State Government received donations from international organisations, religious bodies, non governmental organisations and well meaning Nigerians in the diaspora but did not extend such donations to them.
The Lagos state government a few days to the 10th anniversary, allegedly invited some of the victims to pick up its own contribution but as at the time of this report, they were yet to be receive the gifts. The victims’ anger was directed more at the Local Government Area.
According to them, officials of the LGA has turned the annual remembrance ceremony into a money spinning event as the Oke-Afa Cenotaph where the victims were interred, is given a yearly face-lift while relatives of victims are left in the cold.
Having waited for the fulfillment of the promises for the past three yeas those who suffered losses during the disaster, are not forming groups to press home their demands and if the matter is not handled expeditiously, it could snowball into protests and demonstrations.
These victims are using every legitimate means to compel the government to redeem its promises to them. They have even gone to the extent of hiring the services of human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana.
The group’s leader, Mr. Olaniran Majekodunmi, 50. confirmed that it was only the Federal Government that gave them a relief package of N500,000 and N200,000 respectively for the two categories of victims. ‘’There was no compensation from the government apart from the relief package from the Federal Government.
All of them promised to get back to us which they never did. Many of us have died in the process and others are well stricken with age, yet the government is not doing anything. How long shall we continue to wait? The government does not want a protest march and yet they refuse to hearken to the plight of citizens. This is injustice to innocent citizens.’’ he lamented.
In an emotion- laden voice, one of the victims, Olunola Olaniyi 67, a retiree of Federal Ministry of Works said he was only given the sum of N250,000 by the Federal Government and that the state government was yet to donate anything. ‘’Can N250,000 buy a human being?
What pains me most is the agony of losing a loved one as a result of an avoidable mistake caused by the military men who could not manage information as at the time of that incident and the ill organised state of the country which led to the loss of our loved ones,’’ he said.
The government, according to residents of the neighbourhood, has been paying lip services to their promises of rehabilitating and providing infrastructure that will make the area habitable. Today, due to the poor state of infrastructures, Ejigbo and it environs record the worst traffic gridlock in Lagos State.
Some residents of Oke_Afa told VM that the area is also lagging behind in terms of providing efficient security. According to them, armed robbery incidents occur in the area on regular basis. ‘’We don’t have security in this area; bag snatchers, pick picketers, kidnappers and armed robbers are on the increase in this place, there is nothing anybody can do.
If you apprehend a robbery suspect and hand him over to the police, you will see him walking on the streets the next day,’’ s a trader, Madam Yetunde Kofoworola said.