Many years ago when the Oshodi area of Lagos, perhaps the busiest area, had rowdiness, as its twin brother, it was like a daredevil zone. It served as an abode for rogues, petty thieves and perhaps robbers.
On such times, no one in his/her right senses was bold to go there except they have to pass through to their destinations. Notoriety is the appropriate word to describe the myth surrounding Oshodi then.
Luckily and suddenly, a government came into existence, punctured, and made useless the myth. That was the regime of the former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola(SAN) who restored sanity and orderliness to Oshodi. The area shone in beauty and splendour of discipline and peace to residents and passersby.
Armed security men with stationed armoured tanks were placed on 24-hour surveillance in Oshodi. The presence of police officers scared any mischief making intentions away from Oshodi zone. Hence, Lagosians and Lagos residents began passing through Oshodi without fear of being molested or robbed. No more traffic jams or fear of being held up in a-three to four hour senseless traffic snarl in that area.
In short, Oshodi regained its lost glory of sanity and everyone was happy. Gradually, in recent time, Oshodi seems to be going back to its vomit! It’s fast becoming the shadow of its old self!
Area boys, otherwise known as street urchins are returning in mass, pocket thieves are becoming brazen with their actions while petty traders are gaining confidence by the day.
In large numbers, they move closer to the main road competing with motorists and almost choking passersby with their wares. Now, fear is beginning to take over passersby and residents around the area as crime is taking a very visible presence especially under the Oshodi Bridge.
It has become a haven for the famous rugged and dangerous area boys of that area. People now pass through with utmost caution- their hearts in their mouths!
Daytime under this bridgeit is a beehive of activities. It is also the official stance and shield for both inter and intra states transporters. While transporters for inter-states are busy with bells in their hands beckoning for passengers, those of intra-states are shouting on top of their voices calling different destinations for passengers.
As that drama is going on, the roadside traders are also shouting or hitting a gong for passersby to look their side for possible patronage. On one hand as well, some members of the road transport workers are also busy chatting with their women or themselves.
Food vendors hawking and shouting out the food they are selling with the exact match to go with it, “Buy bread and make tea. Buy beans and eat with bread,” e.t.c. Also, on parade under this bridge are young men and women going up and down begging for money to eat or asking passersby to give them jobs where possible. Surprisingly though, there is some degree of organisation and discipline among the transporters under the bridge.
The commercial buses are well arranged. While sitting down to observe them, a lady cried back to the transporters that she forgot her purse containing some money. The head of the intra-state transport asked her if she could identify the bus she boarded, the lady answered yes. He asked her to wait a little, after some time, he took her round the buses and she identified the bus but the purse was missing. He told her to calm down.
Not too long, they brought the conductor to him, who initially denied. After two slaps, he owned up and produced the purse but about N5,000 was already gone. After she left, the conductor was subjected to discipline for not depositing the purse to their lost and found corner and also for taking out of the money.
Shortly after that drama, men of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) arrived, causing panic among the traders. They ran helter-skelter. For Mrs. Sherifat Adams, it is a usual routine among them.
“That is why we don’t bring out all of our goods at a time, so that when they come suddenly like that, we will be able to salvage all of our goods. Their disturbance is becoming unbearable for us.
They came anytime they wish and seize many goods from us. How much market are we selling?” She lamented. Adams also complained about the present situation in Lagos saying, “Lagos residents are passing through a lot.
There is no adequate food, shelter and money does not have value anymore like in the 1990s when one can manage N5,000.” Sherifat however pleaded with the government to leave the market women alone as they are also struggling to earn a living for their family.
But Wunmi Ezra, a hawker, under the bridge, alleged that all of them, including the transporters do pay some money to the KAI officials but it seems greediness is taking better part of them. “We pay N200 every Environmental day to KAI. There are plenty challenges we are facing selling under the bridge.
Different officers come here unexpected and start packing our goods while we struggle to run for our lives. During this period, many sellers get hurt, while some of their goods were carted away by the officers most especially the KAI officials. Abdullah Raheem, a driver said they are hopeless and can only hope government will find solution to end it. “We fight for ourselves. When any officer come, we run fighting for our lives. All Raheem can relay to New Telegraph is their style with whoever refused to play ball.
“They came, arrest and sentence anyone caught to one year imprisonment because we don’t have the power to stop them. It was unfair. Even if the government gave them the power to do so; they have to know how they make use of it. If an innocent person died in that process, the blood will be on them and its might be their children or grandchildren who will suffer it,” he revealed. Malik Farouk said: “We are really suffering here; we are only here to fight for our lives. There is nothing we can do expect to fight and struggle on how to survive.”
He urged the government who has everything in its capacity to assist them in alleviating their sufferings. “The government should be able to pay the widow, old and homeless children salary every month, as it is done in some developed world. Going by this, it is going to reduce the rate of unemployment and homeless children on the streets and under bridges.”
When New Telegraph went to the office of the KAI, the PRO was not available but a staff who pleaded anonymity after initial intimidation, said it’s a normal thing for them to harass the traders off that zone.
He said the Oshodi under bridge is not supposed to be their place. On the issue of collecting bribe from the traders and transporters, he said it is a gift and not bribe, “Because, gifts or no gift, bribe or no bribe, we will still carry out our duty,” he said.