By Ebun Sessou
Member, Lagos state house of assembly, David Setonji is representing Badagry II. In this interview, he bares his mind on how malaria kills Badagry residents constantly. He also speaks on how pupils trek 10 kilometers everyday to school. According to him, everything boils down to how Badagry has been neglected for so long among.Excerpts:
Findings on demolished buildings in Badagry?
We inspected a community called Atopomen. Earlier this year, the residents of the community protested to the Lagos Assembly on alleged demolition of their properties and destruction of their means of livelihood by the Nigeria police in concert with some other people. Even now, the police has commenced building their properties.
The people protested because they want justice over the issue. It was because of this that the House set up our ad-hoc committee and we decided to visit the place for first hand information.
We learnt this issue happened three years ago?
It is not a recent development.
What are you doing to placate your people?
I think, it was better for them to present the matter in a mature way and that is what they have done. There was a misunderstanding that the government has taken over their properties. Unknown to them, it was the Nigeria Police that was building for its workers, although, the land was allocated by the state.
Was the land allocated to Nigeria Police?
That is part of our investigation. There is need to know how they got the land. The residents alleged that the land occupied by the Nigeria Police is not the original place allocated to them by the state govern-ment. We are yet to find out the truth about the land dispute. We have been committed to get to the root of the problem, although the matter is already in court. We want peace in our communities and that is what will prevail.
Before your becoming a lawmaker, what did you do about it…?
There are challenges in the communities. But, before I crossed to this level, I have always been telling them not to take law into their hands. That, they should ensure they use all the legal means to vent their grievances instead of physical confrontation.
How do you intend to help your constituents reclaim their properties?
Unlike other states, Lagos State government is at the vanguard of fighting for the people. There is the office of public defender. So, it is wrong to say, the state government is taking over people’s properties. But, there are rules and regulations governing the society and anybody that goes against the law of the land will face the consequences. Lagos State government is not a lawless government. Although, some people take law into their hands which is against the law of the land.
Was the House aware of the demolition before it took place?
This is my first term in the assembly and the demolition occurred several years ago.
Are you saying there are no documents to that effect?
We have collated all the complaints but I don’t want to preempt the outcome of the ad-hoc committee.
How can Lagos prevent future occurrences?
The root of this issue can be traced to the land use decree. It has created problems in this nation. It does not take into consideration communities that have existed before the decree was formulated. And. until that area is resolved, we will not be free of communal clashes in respect to land ownership. This problem is not peculiar to Lagos alone. The law vested the land in the care of the Governor of the state.
Will you sponsor a bill to that effect?
In the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there are exclusive and concurrent lists. And until the land use decree is amended at the federal level there is nothing the state can possibly do.
That is a challenge for you I guess?
It’s the challenge of the National Assembly and they have to do something about it. They should find a way to resolve the negative effect of the land use decree. It is one law that is creating problems in respect to land in the country generally.
Badagry is said to be generally neglected?
There are plans for the people of Badagry. I’m a civil engineer by profession and that is why I am interested in road development. I am already working with the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure. Some roads are earmarked for construction already. I believe there are plans to uplift the standard of people in Badagry.
I will use this medium to reiterate that, private estate owners are to handle the construction of their roads themselves. Government has several demands in terms of road construction but the resources are limited. We are assured that in four years, Badagry will wear a new look.
What are your plans for the community?
Ours is to enact enabling laws that would help in alleviating the poverty of the people. We are appealing to the State Government to replicate what was done in Lekki in Badagry. Badagry has an advantage when it comes to tourism. In Nigeria, tourism has not been given its optimum priority. Tourism is the biggest industry all over the world, therefore an enabling environment should be provided for tourism to thrive.
Therefore, we are appealing to State Government to replicate the kind of infrastructure it has provided in Lekki, in Badagry to enable tourism to thrive. We are calling on the State Government to encourage contractors working on the Badagry expressway to speed up the project. I believe this project can be completed during the first four years of this administration.
There is so much unemployment in the state. We need development in Badagry and one aspect that can be employed is vocational training for youths. Badagry can be developed if government policies are directed towards it.
Challenges of school pupils in Badagry
There are some remote areas that pupils trek 10 kilometers to school. It is sad to know that, the number of government schools in Badagry are few. This is why pupils trek 10 kilometers to school. We want the state government to provide primary and secondary schools in our communities. I can give you the lists of schools we have in Badagry. Many school children are suffering because of this . For instance, between Morogbo and Oko-Afo, there is only one secondary school which is a distance of seven kilometers.
Children who live in Morogbo go to school in Oko-Afo. Many of such cases exist in Badagry. In Mowo axis, there is no secondary at all. It is either the children go to Ikoja or Agara before accessing a secondary school. The children risk their lives on the expressway everyday. The State Government through the Ministry of Education must do something in this regard. We need more primary and secondary schools.
Badagry is not a place to reckon with in terms of health. Primary health care is one area that needs attention. Badagry has a general hospital and no primary health centres. We need good health centres and affordable drugs in the villages. Mosquitoes kill our people in Badagry every second due to lack of drugs.