Democracy Must Serve The Needs Of The People

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Being the Text of Press Statement issued on the occasion of 2015 Annual Anti-Corruption Tour organized by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) on the Anti-Corruption Day dated 9th of December, 2015.

Compatriots, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), has organized its 2015 Annual Anti-Corruption Tour to monitor some Federal and Lagos state budgetary deficits typified by notable infrastructure decay in Lagos State with a view to calling the attention of responsible authorities to it.

In the past few years, Nigerians have been groaning under the weight of infrastructural decay all over the country which is evidenced in many of the federal and state roads and hospitals.

The conditions of various government hospitals are so bad to the extent that many accident victims and patients of other emergency illnesses do not have beds to sleep, with many of the hospitals lacking in other relevant equipment. In cases where there are equipment, they are seldomly used because the equipment are either substandard or don’t have expertise to operate, not to talk of maintain them. While many of our so-called leaders patronize foreign health institutions to access basic health care, the teeming masses that cannot afford costs of private health care are left to suffer the jeopardy of perpetual illness or premature death due to lack of necessary infrastructures in the all-essential health sector.

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A recent report on PUNCH newspaper of Saturday 14th November, 2015, titled “Lagos Hospital where new born babies, mums sleep on chairs, floors”, was an exposé of what happens in the Ifako Ijaye general hospital in Lagos state and some other government hospitals all over the country. Pregnant women who had just been delivered of their babies are told, and sometimes compelled to vacate the bed and sit on plastic chairs so that other pregnant women in the queue could be admitted. The same newspaper, The PUNCH, reported earlier that patients and visitors to Gbagada General (Govt.) Hospital defecate in open spaces due to non-functional and subsequent abandonment of its toilet facilities. A development, which findings revealed as being synonymous with the government hospitals because of the constraint of space and the need to attend to other women in labour.

On the other hand, many of the Nigerian roads are in bad shape. To put it mildly, the state of most of the nation’s highways today has become a serious embarrassment to the successive Nigerian regimes without reprieve in sight. It is not just that most of these roads are so impassable; it is also a disturbing fact that dangerous spots along many of them have also become convenient operating centers for highway robbers, who lay siege on unsuspecting motorists and other road users. This is aside the notorious fact that the poor state of these roads hampers economic activities as much as it costs Nigerians their lives and properties.

The raining season is one season that most Nigerians especially Lagosians hate to experience. Rains ought to have been factored into the plans of all states developmental agenda. It is lack of adequate planning and preparation that makes predictable disasters to become emergences before efforts are made to fix them. If adequate precautionary measures had been taken in advance, the effects of floods would not be as devastating as we have it presently in some states of the country. It is not normal for flood to wreck constant havoc on the people. Lasting solution must be found to the cause of such floods because it does not only endanger lives and properties but also disrupts economic activities in the state.

The present state of Lagos State is particularly pathetic. This is a state where we have a raft of broken infrastructures as symbolized by bad roads, poor quality of construction, dilapidated schools, a comatose health system, flood-ravaged neighbourhoods etc the conditions have been made such due to official negligence, thereby causing citizens a lot of untold hardship in their bid to eke a living. The state has a recent history of an unaccountable government and complacent legislature; a ham-strung judicial system, over-taxed citizenry and corporate bodies, and other poor developmental indicators. These have left the people asking questions, questions and questions. These questions, so far, have remained unanswered.

Roads are bad – riddled with craters and gorges making them sources of personal danger and economic waste. Schools lack functional infrastructures; most are in various states of disrepair. There is no efficient drainage system, roofs are leaky, and pupils still sit on bare and broken floors, while their personnel are poorly motivated morally, technically and materially.

Ironically, Lagos State that prides itself as the ‘Centre of Excellence’ with a presumed ‘Modern City’ status has nothing much to show for this over-bloated rating due to several dysfunctional infrastructural facilities. To say the least, Lagos State cannot boast of adequate social amenities and good infrastructural facilities in the magnitude proportional to its income and need. Some parts of the State have become a nightmare to its dwellers due to the decrepit state of its utility structures and infrastructures which are grossly inadequate and non-functional.

The pressure on the highways which led to traffic congestion on our roads would have reduced if the potentials of waterways are developed. A particularly terrible example is the Apapa-Oshodi expressway which serves as the main access to the nation’s two main seaports in Lagos but is perennially congested and presently a complete disaster. All attempts to fix the road have been mired in politics. Most of the adjoining streets, especially the famed Apapa GRA are death traps, and maneuvering through them in times of emergency is a waste of time. All the feeder roads linking Marine and Liverpool roads remind drivers of a war-torn region.

There are other visible contradictions like the gap between Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland and others classified as ‘Lagos no-land’; all of which ought to be equally developed with the collective resources of the state. The basis of the differential provisioning becomes hard to understand thus becoming subject to primordial interpretations as in the case of extremely opposing two sides of the city that radiate immoral affluence on one side and roasting poverty on the other. This is accentuated by the ultra-expensive Cable Bridge in Ikoyi-Lekki access road and the Pako Bridge in Ayobo-Igando axis, all in Lagos state. For residents of Alimosho and other underdeveloped areas, the need to link communities has been a major drive which has resulted in the construction of wooden bridges otherwise known as ‘Pako bridges’ in parts of the states. The Alimosho Pako bridges, as an example, provide the needed escape and a short route for motorists who intend to avoid the burden of traffic snarl at the popular Ayobo-Igando axis.

These wooden bridges built by communities also go to show the failure of government in the provision of essential infrastructure for the people. For so many years the owner of this Pako bridges have been extorting poor citizens with it. Each passage on this motorable and pedestrian wooden bridges cost as much as N200 per vehicle and N30 per person. It is high time the Lagos state government intervened in this situation by building a proper bridge for the citizens living in the area for free as dividend of democracy. Why do we have to suffer in our own state to have access to a road?

There are other invisible contradictions within the aspiring modern city that Lagos State is. It appears that there are deliberate concerted efforts to obliterate the poor who government apparently seems to consider as deface to the face of the mega environment Lagos state desires. To clean the environment and make it decent for the rich and the international community, the commercial and residential shacks of the poor are demolished, together with their goods and at times even, with the people. However, it must be reiterated that it is the mega population that confers the ‘megacity’ status on Lagos not the expensive estates. What is expected of a responsible government is to expand infrastructural facilities to contain and made affordable for the population of various socio-economic classes; not depopulation by systematically frustrating the poor out of the city.

Thousands of potholes form a death-ring on Lagos roads thus make driving in the state a living hell on earth. Taking a look at Command- Ile-Iwe/Meiran road, you would continue to wonder if those roads are considered as Lagos roads.  The Meiran road which is less than 2 kilometers has been under perpetual construction for 5 years now with the project yet to be completed. Even though some of the major federal roads are considered to be in good shape; they are bumpy, narrow and badly managed. A vast majority of the feeder roads are a crying shame on governance and those who run the affairs of the state.

Most of the roads actually need complete redesign and reconstruction, with side drains to channel flood waters into dedicated reservoirs by very competent and reputable construction companies; not quacks masquerading as construction companies, who collude with state officials to shortchange the state.

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