BARRING any unforeseen circumstances, the upgrading of Bariga blighted area in Lagos is going to witness a new transformation, as the selected road networks in the area are to be rehabilitated and new ones constructed in the neighbourhood. Besides, a new water channel is also to be completed by May, 2012.
The Bariga project is part of the nine settlements under the World Bank assisted programme, in partner with Lagos government. Others including Agege, Ajegunle, Badia, Makoko, Bariga, Ilaje, Ijeshatedo/Itire, Amukoko and Iwaya, all had earlier been classified as blighted areas under the erstwhile Governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during whose tenure the upgrading programme started.
The coming of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has also continued in the drive towards upgrading some of the areas identified.
Last week, however, stakeholders in Bariga, one of the blighted areas held a meeting, ostensibly to review the progress of work in their domain so far.
At the meeting held at the premises of one of the community leaders, Col. Sydney Kojo Oladehinde Akinyemi (rtd), the representative of the Community Development Association (CDA), expressed their desire over the possibility of completion of the ongoing canal and road project in the area before the rains begin next year.
While expressing their appreciation to the government, especially, the agency in charge of the project, the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP) on the completion of new schools and primary healthcare centre, the general consensus was the need to complete the canal and the identified road networks in the area.
In his comment, one of the leaders, Alhaji Mustafa B. Abdulquadri, was much particular about the pace of work by the contractor handling the canal project.
According to him, the experience every year whenever it rains has been a complete flooding in the area, especially, the Mafowoku area from the Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway end to Onasanya/Ibu-Owo and other areas.
“While we commend the government for its efforts in the upgrading activities, we would expect a sense of urgency in project execution. Provision of modern classrooms for our students and functional health centres for our people are part of the electoral promises of Fashola, but if the canal and road networks are not quickly upgraded, lack of access to them may be counter-productive,” said Abdulquadri. He urged the LMDGP Project Director, Mr. Bayo Kelekun to ensure the completion of the project before the rain starts.
Expressing similar sentiment, Akinyemi, who in his commendation of “the sincere and indefatigable leadership of LMDGP,” also urged a sense of urgency in the completion of the canal project.
“The canal is very important to us. Even, if we clear the drainage in front of our houses and there is no outlet for water to discharge to the primary canal, our efforts would be futile.”
However, beyond whatever government might want to do as far as upgrading of facilities are concerned, there are these problems that are peculiar to slum areas, as identified by the United Nations.
One of them is the seeming un-coordinated plan of physical structure. The United Nations (UN) Expert Group has recently created an operational definition of a slum. It says such an area should combine some of the following characteristics: Inadequate access to safe water; inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure; poor structural quality of housing; overcrowding; and insecure residential status. To these one might add the low socio-economic status of its residents.
This is what the upgrading exercise is about to achieve in Bariga and other blighted areas.
However, there appears to be an inhibition to achieving these goals, except government addresses certain issues in the area.
For example, on December 12 when there was a fire outbreak at No. 27, Akinranmola Street, behind Gbagada Phase 1, Fire Fighters found it difficult to access the street due to lack of direct road from Gbagada.
According to one of the victims of the inferno, who asked not to be named, the road leading to the area is not wide enough to occupy the fire fighting vehicle, “instead, they had to pass through Ladi-Lak en route the CMS Grammar School, which adds about 30 minutes to the journey, on a day without traffic jam. But before they get here, the entire building has been consumed by the fire.”
Community leaders have reportedly written to the Chairman of Bariga Local Council on how the road and others that are within the community should be enlarged.
“Although, we have written to the council chairman, but we would like the Ministries of Physical Planning and Urban Development to come and assess the situation, since some of these roads are outside the schedule of LMDGP,” said Akinyemi.
Responding to the requests of the Bariga CDA, the LMDGP project director, Mr. Bayo Kelekun, assured that the project would be completed by the middle of the year.
He specifically set May date for the completion of the new canal, while road project is to complete by June.
According to him, seven streets have been set aside for reconstruction and that activities would begin by January 2012.
“Although, this is not known to them that we are starting the road construction by January next year, but the ongoing construction exercise of the canal is fully on course. The fact is that this is a World Bank-assisted project. It is not like the conventional contracts that are at the whims and caprices of government officials. There are rules, time frame to work and specifications to follow. So, we have no choice than to get the result and that is the ultimate expectation from Fahola and there is no compromise about that.”
The World Bank is funding the project through a $200 million International Development Association (IDA) credit facility. It is being executed in three phases, infrastructure development and provision; public governance and capacity building; and urban policy and project co-ordination.
The information at the commencement of the programme, had it that the project are in three phases. The first component – infrastructure development, which activities had begun comprises three integrated sub-components, namely: Drainage, solid waste management and upgrading of nine selected slums, with $165.35 million, $5.97 million and $12.13 million were earmarked in that order.
By Tunde Alao
Source: The Guardian
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