People living under the bridge in Lagos Mainland of Lagos State have appealed to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to take them out of homelessness and provide them with sustainable means of livelihood.
Among those sheltering under the Iponri bridge for many years is a 74-year-old prominent grass-root politician identified as Comfort Oke and popularly known as Iya Ilorin in the Lagos political circle with her son’s wife for many years.
Speaking with Newsexplorersng.com, Iya Ilorin claimed she was rendered homeless, and now living and sleeping outside in the cold since the demolition of her rented apartment in Batula in August 2008.
With a cranky voice, feeble and pale Iya Ilorin regretted that in spite of her selfless service and loyalty to the political party and politicians she had served and campaigned for as a young woman, they have abandoned her in her old age and in moment of needs.
Recounting her early days in politics, Iya Ilorin who is currently a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Elders’ Council in Lagos Mainland Local Government said she was part of the campaign train of the Social Democratic Party in the 1993 presidential elections that went to Jos and Ilorin where she had an accident and was left with a fractured leg.
“I was a voice to reckon with among the women folks in Lagos politics especially during the Hope ’93 presidential election campaign” she boasted.
She continued, “We travelled from Lagos to Jos and Ilorin in Kwara State moving from one State to another campaigning for the late Chief MKO Abiola as president.
It was during one of my campaign tours that I was given the alias, Iya Ilorin.
Even in Lagos politics, starting from the era of Alliance for Democracy which metamorphosed into Action Congress and later Action Congress of Nigeria and now All Progressives Congress, I played a prominent role in my party’s electoral victories.
I delivered and coordinated women’s affair in the then Batula. So, why I was abandoned in this homeless and penniless condition remains a mystery to me” she said.
While appealing to the Lagos state government and politicians whom she had served and worked with to bail her out of her homelessness, she said the Iponri bridge in Costain, Apapa road which housed her and other occupants would soon be demolished as the new one under construction is nearing completion.
Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat during his inspection tour of the Iponri bridge construction project had said that the bridge would be completed in September, 2019 with the existing bridge to be demolished because it lacked enough headroom for the new standard gauge train that would pass under it.
Consequently, Iya Ilorin appealed to the Lagos state government.
“I am appealing to Governor Sanwo-Olu to help us out of this situation. Myself, my son’s wife and others living under the bridge are really suffering. We are bitten by mosquitoes, rain falls on us, and we are exposed to various forms of criminal acts.
I never imagined living under the bridge and being exposed to all sorts of dangers and dangerous elements until it happened.”
The Igbaja born female politician who said her children were not financially buoyant to help her situation added that “I considered the option of moving under the bridge with my son’s wife when I couldn’t afford to raise enough fund to rent an apartment and I was ignored by some of the politicians I approached for financial assistance.
They only promised to assist me but till date nothing has happened. I only got assistance from the Chairperson of Lagos Mainland Local Government, Hon. Omolola Essien who placed me on a monthly stipend of N5000 which I am still collecting till date.
Apart from her benevolence, I was neglected by other politicians I had helped in their aspirations.”
Tawa Ahmed and her son, Taofeek have been living under the Iponri bridge in the last three years.
According to her, the N18, 500 she earns as a street sweeper is not enough to feed, clothe and educate her children not to talk of renting an apartment.
She said, “I am tired of hiding and lying to my colleagues about where I live because I don’t want them to know that I live under the bridge. It is shameful and dehumanising for me to be seen here with my son but I don’t have any other place to go.”
A casual worker at the Nigerian Breweries, 61-year old Rafiu Atanda has been living under the bridge for 10 years because he couldn’t afford to rent an apartment.
He said, “My little earning as a casual worker is not enough to cater for my needs. Lately, I have been out of job and the bridge which serves as shelter for us will be demolished soon. Where do I go from here? I am appealing to the Lagos state government to help us secure an accommodation where we can lay our heads.”
A former employee of the defunct National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, Emenike Olumba lived in Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos until 1999 when he was sacked by his former employer and since he couldn’t afford to pay his rent, he settled for under the bridge where he has been living since 20 years.
67 year old Emenike whose only daughter left him to start her family said, “All I need to live a comfortable life is for the government to help me establish a spare part shop where I will be selling electrical parts. If this is done, I will be able to feed and rent another apartment.”
Meanwhile, traditional head of Otumara and Apapa road community, High Chief Kehinde Kalejaiye has commended the benevolence of Hon. Essien Omolola towards Iya Ilorin.
He however advised the three tiers of government to invest more in the housing welfare of the citizenry.
According to Kalejaiye, the Lagos state housing deficit would be a thing of the past if the Lagos government would invest in building more houses as done during the military administration of Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson and the civilian administration of Alhaji Lateef Jakande. The country’s senior citizens should be catered for and not made to suffer.”