The rapid growth of towns along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway axis has thrown up slums that have now become a source of concern to residents and the government
When in May 2004, Patrick Iyamah, a businessman, was evicted by his landlord from his residence in Ketu, Lagos State, he was distraught. He realised that searching for a new accommodation was not only tasking, but required a huge financial outlay, which he did not have. While ruminating on the step to take, a friend told him about some private estates springing up along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and encouraged him to acquire a plot of land to build a house for himself, instead of renting another apartment. Iyamah laughed off his friend’s suggestion because he had no money for such a big project. His friend pressed on and eventually bought a plot of land for Iyamah on loan, and even went ahead to supply some blocks to enable him start the foundation of the building. Today, Iyamah is a proud owner of a four-bedroom apartment at Arepo, Ogun State, and he is eternally grateful to his friend.
Just like Iyamah, many residents of Lagos, driven by high rents, are vacating rented apartments in Lagos to build their houses in Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Mowe, Ayetoro and Isheri all along the Lagos-Ibadan axis. Private developers soon cashed in on this trend to establish estates, which are sold to interested buyers upon completion. Media organisations, banks and other private companies have similarly established their presence on the axis by building both offices and residential quarters for their staff.
The rapid growth of Arepo, Mowe, Magboro in particular has become a source of concern to many residents. There are genuine fears that the towns will in no time become slums due to absence of a master plan and government presence in the emerging towns. Consequently many structures are erected without proper planning, a process that may turn the towns into slums if not checked.
The experience of Isaac Durosinmi, a staff of one of the new generation banks, depicts the squalor in Ibafo town, often described as the new Lekki by private estate developers. His office had just established a branch at Ibafo along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, and he had to relocate to the town. But shortly after building a three-bedroom apartment in the area, he realised that getting to work and back home was a herculean task because the major roads in the town are dilapidated, making movement very difficult. Due to lack of proper drainage system, the town is constantly flooded, and so many shanty structures litter the area. “I am always uncomfortable anytime I pass through the area, especially at night. How do you determine who your neighbours are, and when you try to interact with them, they see you as an oppressor, trying to show off,” he explained.
Durosinmi, like many residents of Ibafo and other towns along the Lagos/Ibadan axis, is afraid that the area is gradually becoming a slum, and its residents could become victims of diseases and adverse conditions. A slum, says Joseph Eneighose, barrister and chairman, Community Development Association, CDA, Magboro, situated in Obafemi Owode-Egba Local Government area, Ogun State, at its simplest form, “is a heavily populated urban area characterised by substandard housing and squalor.” According to him, all slums have a common denominator, which is deprivation. Citing Magboro as an example, the barrister who is also property consultant, said the CDA in the area, was trying all in its powers to stop the gradual process of the area becoming a slum. “You know when you call a place a slum, it means water provision is nothing to write home about, sanitation is appalling, roads are not passable, electricity unavailable and so we have to provide all of these for ourselves,” he explained.
Recalling how he started living in Magboro, Eneighose said he got to know about the town through a pastor friend of his. “Before then, I had been looking for a place to start a production firm, and after living all my life in Lagos Island, I wanted a place on the expressway for easy access to Lagos and neighouring towns,” he said. He eventually bought two plots of land in Magboro, becoming one of the earliest inhabitants of the area, outside the original landowners. As more people came in, there was need to expand the road network, and provide basic infrastructure, but the residents had to provide the infrastructure for themselves through self-help. “We eventually become our own government, providing basic infrastructure to be as comfortable as we can, but our efforts could not be compared to what the government ordinarily should be providing,” the CDA chairman told the magazine.
Self-help has now become the fad in provision of basic amenities by residents of virtually all the towns along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Although Ogun State government owns as much as 80 per cent of the land along the road, there is little or no government presence in the area. Those who are fortunate to build in towns along the axis depend on CDAs to provide basic infrastructure.
Residents of a sprawling Journalists’ Estate at Arepo that came into being in 2003, under the leadership of Funke Fadugba, the then chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalist, Lagos State Council, have also had to provide their own electricity, water, schools, hospitals and several other facilities that make for habitable dwelling. “When we moved to Arepo, the area was a forest. There was no road into the area, and the villagers were far from civilisation. Our coming brought development to the area, and today, Arepo is no longer a rustic village, but a city of its own,” says Fadugba. But she was quick to add that the development achieved in the town was through self-help, with government only assisting in constructing the main road that leads to the estate, as well as provision of transformer. “As for educational and health facilities, the residents had to provide these for themselves. At the moment, we have close to 13 schools and three hospitals in the estate, all privately owned. The only government primary school in Arepo is an eyesore,” she said.
With the coming of the Journalists’ Estate, many other private estates sprang up in Arepo, opening up the town in the process. Femi Oludayo-Akowe, a property consultant, gave an insight into the rapid growth of the town. “Many people are attracted to this area and one of the reasons is the fact that one can get a plot of land for as little as N3 million and as high as N10 million, but that is a far cry to what obtains in Lagos. Where can you get such in Lagos?” asked Oludayo-Akowe. He also observed that many businesses are moving into Arepo and other towns along the Lagos/Ibadan axis where they can get vast expanse of land for expansion.
For instance, Multi-trex has established a chocolate factory at Warewa, along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Nestle Nigeria, DHL Courier Service Company and a host of Chinese companies producing plastics similarly constructed gigantic buildings in the vicinity. “Because of the liberal policy of the Ogun State government, it is easier to get land in the state, and process your document with ease, compared to what obtains in Lagos State,” explained Oludayo-Akowe. Fola Adekeye, director of studies, Champions Group International Schools, said the availability of a large expanse of land for sale was a major attraction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. He too said processing of documents is not as hazardous as what obtains in Lagos. He also said closeness of the area to Lagos, will afford residents to work in Lagos and live some 20 minutes away in the comfort of their own homes.
While major towns along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway are bursting at the seams, the Ogun State government is said to be slow in harnessing the benefits of the booming property business in the axis. Gbenga Daniel, former governor of the state, while decrying the paltry internally generated revenue in the state which he had desired to grow from N150 million per month to over N10 billion, acknowledged that the infrastructure deficits in water supply, housing and electricity could be a stumbling block to the revenue generation drive. “Travelling through the state during our campaign days, we watched with anguish, the level of underdevelopment that pervaded most of our state, and the haphazard and uncoordinated location of the modest efforts at development,” bemoaned Daniel. That experience prompted him to assign Bayo Adeola, managing director, Comprehensive Project Management Services Limited, CPMS, to prepare a comprehensive and integrated Regional Development Plan for Ogun State. Reports have it that a regional plan was eventually drafted.
Giving an insight into the regional development plan, Adeola said, “The plan considers land use – how to provide a beautiful living environment and develop urban and rural areas in an integrated way through tighter regulation and better use of land. It reviews transportation – how we can develop a multimodal transport network that reduces the number of cars on the roads, improves the state of the highways and makes them safer for all users. It also touched on water resources – how to provide every individual with access to a regular, clean water supply. It looks at our power supply and suggests how to provide reliable power by encouraging private sector investment and alternative sources.”
The plan was widely applauded but bringing it to reality has remained a big challenge to the state government. With a new government in place, it is believed that in keeping with what has become a tradition in the country, Ibukunle Amosun, current governor of the Ogun State is likely to throw the plan into the trashcan.
Olamilekan Adegbite, commissioner for works and housing, Ogun State, admitted that most of the towns along the Lagos/Ibadan axis where houses are springing up are not planned. He laid the blame at the feet of town planners who did not enforce the law during their inspection routine. He also complained that most developers fail to follow laid down plans. Comparing what obtains in the country with other climes, Adegbite, citing cities like New York, Berlin, observed that it is rare for an individual to open up an area, without government intervention. “What happens is that it is the government appointed town planners that will identify a particular area, move in construction companies, provide all the necessary basic amenities, then after all these, they will now advertise the area for people to move in. That is why you see that buildings and structures in developed countries are like pictures, well laid out, and a beauty to behold.”
The question agitating the minds of many residents of towns along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway axis is, whether the new government will evolve any plan at all, towards the provision of infrastructure and the overall development of the area. For now, more people, especially residents of Lagos are trooping to the axis, compounding its infrastructure challenge.