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Deluge Knocking at the Door

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Who is to blame for Lagos returning to a dirty megalopolis?

There are roads in Lagos State that care has forgotten for more than two decades.

February announces the arrival of the wet season in southern Nigeria though now dry in Lagos. Someone said jokingly that God had a reason for creating the type of human beings in Lagos who though were dirty, yet were spared the many plagues that ravaged mankind.

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Ebola, Lassa fever and Zika are the present scourges spreading through dirty zones of the tropics. The authorities at all levels in Lagos do not seem to grasp the need for their prevention. Not when one finds blocked drains and overgrown fields that abound in Lagos. The National Stadium, Surulere, is a receptacle of filth and neglect. In old Lagos, cleanliness was next to godliness. The health authorities at the three levels of government were very active. Even as recent as the period of military rule under Buba Marwa, Lagos was relatively clean. He had taste and was innovative and so kept agents of city pollution at bay. He regulated the activities of touts and street traders considered to be the two main agents of environmental indiscipline by ensuring that they operated off the highways but only at motor parks and markets.

Babatunde Fashola followed Marwa’s fashion. Perhaps, he was committed as an indigene to disclaim dirtiness as his native city’s other name, though not as creative as Marwa. There is a road called Agbado road in Iju-Ishaga that was reconstructed by Marwa 18 years ago. It has not been maintained once since he left Lagos 16 and a half years past. The deep gutters have now become shallow and the walls are falling to the pressure of neglect. Weeds grow in them. That road is a testimony to the foresight and ability of Marwa or else with the heavy traffic, it would have become another Lagos- Ibadan Expressway by now. It was a bad spot 20 years ago. That road was reconstructed by Marwa with direct labour under his supervision. Who were the miracle workers Marwa used? They were “area boys”, drug addicts, rehabilitated alcoholics and other rascals he brought under his thumb.

They built roads and public houses in Lagos and they became enforcers of good conduct. Some of them were engineers, technologists, graduates and school leavers who became delinquents, both male and female. The Agege-Iju urban highway is another road being denigrated by street hawkers and touts. Though nothing of its workmanship is to be commended because of the shoddy job of the contractors, lack of maintenance is the present cause of its deterioration. There are more than 50 broken slabs across the gutters on both sides of the road from Agege to Iju. Those are the spots, traders and squatters now empty their trash. “Danfo” drivers and vulcanizers use them also as refuse dumps. The touts, for example, have created five unauthorised motor parks at open spaces meant for other activities on the Iju-Ifako stretch of the highway. Nobody seems to be in charge of regulating Lagos. Fashola tried to restore order to the streets but that culture seems to have expired with his departure. Motorcyclists defy the law on helmet and roads which they should not ply. There are women cleaning Iju road, but what of the drains. Before the recent civil rule, council workers cleared weeds from public places and cleaned the drains. Sanitary attendants sprayed drains and places likely to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and germs with insecticides. Those were employees of the health authorities at different levels. What do the councils in Lagos now show for the huge allocation of funds to them? They are not felt in any aspect of municipal function nowadays.

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