FEATURE ARTICLE

Babs AjayiSunday, March 23, 2014
Babsajayi@yahoo.com
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

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THE NEGLECT OF NEW TOWN OJOKORO IN IKORODU BY THE LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT

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ew Town Ojokoro in Owutu, Ikorodu, Lagos State, is home to more than two hundred thousand people. A growing community, New Town Ojokoro's growth dates back to 1992, but in nearly 22 years of the existence of this community it has seen no development from either the local or state government; it is neglected and left out of all development plans by the government, except where bills, fees, charges and taxes are concerned. The Lagos State Government has been sending land use charges/bills to the residents since 2011 or so, yet the government has no presence in the community and does not appear anxious to bring any form of development to the people of New Town Ojokoro despite the fact that there are myriads of services the government owe these people. The contract between the people and their government is to ensure that basic social services are provided and the people, on their part, see to it that they pay taxes and charges. The people of New Town Ojokoro are paying their taxes. Income taxes are deducted from their salaries, they pay fees and levies to the state and local governments, and they are also making efforts to help themselves. New Town Ojokoro is where it is today because of the self-help programs and efforts of the residents. But where are the local and state governments? It is at this stage that any community will expect government to step up and support New Town Ojokoro community's efforts and initiatives through the provision of roads, bridges and related social services. Community leaders in New Town Ojokoro have done very well in working hard to bring electricity to the neighbourhood and grading their red soil roads. They have also focused heavily on the bridge that leads into the area, which they have recently spent more than N4 million to improve and upgrade, but a bridge like the one in New Town Ojokoro require the involvement and support of the Lagos State government to enhance and upgrade.

But the Lagos State Government is not present in New Town Ojokoro and it does not look like the government wants to be present there. I am not so sure if Governor Fashola has ever heard about New Town Ojokoro. New Town Ojokoro is completely neglected by the Lagos State Government and the Ikorodu Local Government. Repeated visits, calls and contacts have been made with the government of Lagos State Government and the representatives of the area at the three levels of government, particularly Senator Gbenga Ashafa and Mrs. Abike Dabiri. Nothing has ever been heard about the representative of the area at the lagos State House of Assembly; he has remained absentee, overseas representative of the people. I am not sure what the function(s) of an elected political representative is if not to find the best way(s) to support his/her constituency and make their lives better, but the same cannot be said of Mr. Ashafa and Mrs. Dabiri. None of them has done anything to bring the situation of New Town Ojokoro to the attention of the Lagos State Government and the Ikorodu Local Government, and the government does not have the community on its raider, except where collection of funds is concerned.

The neighbourhood is big and ripe enough to have a primary and secondary schools. The only time the people of New Town Ojokoro see any agent of the state is when they bring charges and bills, and when they come to canvass for votes. How long do the senator, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the House Member representing the area, Abike Dabiri and the faceless member representing the area at the Lagos State House of Assembly expect the suffering, short-changed and hard-done people of New Town Ojokoro to continue to cast their votes for the neglect and underdevelopment of their area? How long, for how long more are they to continue to suffer depravity and in silence? The issue here demands immediate attention and the bridge needs urgent action that will also include a main road to be built from Owutu Road junction right into New Town Ojokoro. The government of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has a duty to ensure that no community is left behind and that the people of New Town Ojokoro have a good access road to their homes. Several previous efforts geared at improving the main road and the bridge were truncated by heavy rain downpours. The bridge has been washed away several times and this makes it a project that is way beyond the means of the community. It is shocking that the government has not been visible 22 years since the community took root, but all that has to change now.

I spoke to some home owners in New Town Ojokoro recently and they all expressed their disappointment and outrage at the neglect and hardship they are facing. One of them summed up the view of the Ojokoro community this way: "On the Land Use charge from Lagos State Government, I have been receiving about =N=28,000.00 Land Use Charge yearly since 2011 for me, the government has zero presence on the Ojokoro New Town community and therefore lacks moral justification to place the charge on me. For instance, the bridge leading into the community is being done with contributions by the residents. We sent several appeals to Lagos State government through the Local Government, through the ward Chairman of ACN, through Senator Ashafa and Abike Dabiri-Erewa to no avail. Till date, I have contributed 135,000.00 Naira towards the bridge project which has gulped about =N=4.0 million. By the grace of God, we hope to complete the project before middle of 2014. My 2014 cumulative land use charge bill is put at N112, 000.00 covering the 4 years over which I have not paid."

Many residents of New Town Ojokoro and residents of other new and not so new communities and neighbourhoods like this will continue to focus on finding ways to provide access roads and bridges for their areas, but they need the support of the government. These communities deserve to have basic amenities provided at the early stage of the development of their communities. At least roads ought to be built to connect new communities to the larger society and other communities nearby. What right and temerity has a government that is not providing amenities and not able to provide basic services to demand any tax or charge? The government of Lagos State use consultants to collect land use charge. These consultants do not even keep good record as they have failed in many instances to update the accounts of those who are paying and have not credited/acknowledged payments made by many houses. The record keeping is so bad and efforts to have the blunders corrected have never been taken seriously. This is very unacceptable and very frustrating. These are urgent issues and problems for Governor Fashola to address. The people of New Town Ojokoro will appreciate a visit from him and his visit should be followed immediately by action on the bridge linking them to Owutu Road.

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