Driving downward the 11.8km-long Third Mainland Bridge, reputed to be the longest in West Africa, the first port of call on the island is Obalende.
Obalende opens up into Ikoyi, Falomo, Bourdillon, Victoria Island and Lekki, places believed to be highbrow areas in the Lagos megacity. Under the bridge is the MacGregor canal dug by Sir William MacGregor, the governor of Lagos colony (1899 – 1904). The medical doctor, in his effort to combat the prevalent malaria in the region, constructed the canal to drain the swamps.
This canal used to be a passageway for canoes back and forth the Lagos lagoon and provided quite a good spot for fishing. But the story is not the same today, as New Telegraph observed that aquatic life is non-existent.
The water is stinking; piles of rubbish abundantly swim on the canal. Unfortunately, this ancient canal has even turned to emergency toilets for some members of the public. A disappointed Mr. Saheed, who has been around the canal for past 27 years, said that canoes used to pass the place into the lagoon but it has become impassable now due to garbage.
“The Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) is here. Their office is a stone’s throw away but they are after money, thereby deserting their regular activities,” he said. A parking attendant revealed that there used to be security men guarding the surroundings of the canal to prevent people from passing human waste and dumping refuse there but it is not the same again, and that explains why the entire place is littered with dirt.
“The area used to be very clean but when they started owing the security guards their wages, they left the work and have now become bus conductors.” Olawale Ajayi, a driver, corroborating the view of the parking attendant, stated that since there are no security guards at the canal any longer, it has become a free avenue for just anybody to do whatever they like and nobody can challenge them.
He pleaded with the government to engage them to take charge of the place stating in local parlance ‘Itesiwaju Eko l’o je wa l’ogun’. Another driver, Dauda Balogun, said that it was rather unfortunate and more unfortunate when the KAI officials who are supposed to monitor activities around the area are rather busy extorting traders.
“If you go on top of the bridge, you will notice excreta on the poles there as some people pass their waste directly from the top into the canal. People from far away and homeless people do these unsightly activities here despite that there is a public toilet inside the garage that they can pay to use.”
He debunked the allegations that drivers were culpable in the horrid state of the canal and its environs, stating that drivers have their homes where they retire to every night. He also urged the state government to empower and pay the drivers in the area to monitor the canal and its surroundings.
“That way, we will ensure that the area is clean again,” he said. People working and living around the area have become used to the smell and seeing the place like that and it poses no challenges of sorts to them.
One Iya Sheri as she is commonly addressed within the area, a roasted plantain seller, said: “It does not affect my health because I take my drugs regularly. On this side of the bridge, we do not throw refuse into the canal as you can see that the canal is shielded and even a door is there that we close every night to prevent anybody gaining access to the canal.
LAWMA cleans this place for us and the waste of plantain I sell are usually taken by people who rear animals. So, I don’t have any reason to litter this place.” Mr. Chibuzor, another trader who sells fried snacks-food like yam, bean-cake (akara), plantain, said that, “we do cover all our products here to prevent contamination.
I cannot say I like this condition but I have to protect my business. We pay money to LAWMA to carry our wastes here. It is the street urchins otherwise known as touts who dispose rubbish into the canal and task force usually come to dislodge them.
Another thing is that commuters throw plastics, nylon, takeaway packs and the likes outside the vehicle and the wind take them inside the canal.” Also, the sidewalks under the bridge have generally been taken over by hawkers, who sell wares and even obstruct movement of pedestrians on the streets.
The blaring of loudspeakers by CD and cassette sellers is quite unpleasant to the ears and eyes. Grace Okoro, a pedestrian, stated that she would like government to come and relocate the traders to a market.
“This is a major road. None of them can say this is the best they want, and it is certainly detrimental to their health.” When New Telegraph visited the KAI Zonal Head in Obalende, he stated that his men were on top of the game through the support of Governor Akinwumi Ambode.
He declined further questions claiming more information can only be obtained from the Head Office in Oshodi. Barr. David Olaitan Aransiola, the Sole Administrator of Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA said that he would not be in a very good position to say much on the issue. He stated: “I am just newly appointed and I am still meeting with the various heads of department to familiarise myself and get firsthand information on activities in the council before I can take my next line of action.”