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How railway terminus cut off 15 Oyo communities, church

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In this piece, WALE OLANIYAN reports the frustrations of many residents in Akinyele Local Government Area of Oyo State where the railway terminus has been constructed. The residents claim access to road, religious centres, electricity and potable water has been cut off.

FOR residents and indigenes of about 15 communities in Akinyele Local Government Area of Oyo State, where the Obafemi Awolowo Railway Terminus is located, news of the construction of the railway terminus at their locality was received with joy. However the current realities of these communities, namely, Igbagbo village (main host to the terminus), Gbaku, Olode, Akonko, Molarere, Mogaji, Isabiyi, Akinyode, Lapite, Sogunro, Olorombo, Otun-Agbakin, Jooye, Alakeji, among others, have pitched them against the Federal Government, considering the hardship the terminus has placed on them.

Residents of the communities who spoke to Saturday Tribune argued that since the construction of the terminus and the continuation of construction work, all major access roads have been blocked leading to the breakdown of commerce and trading among the various communities, lack of electricity and impending erosion since all water channels have been blocked. Residents are forced to travel long distances to access their houses.

Sadly also, access to the oldest church, Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Igbagbo, which has served as the biggest, most attended denomination, has been blocked; further worsening the life and living of the communities. In separate interactions, stakeholders in the communities described the plight of the people as avoidable, thereby calling on the Federal Government to do the needful.

A resident who identified herself as Olawumi Olatunde said: “Since the construction of the rail terminus, it has been hell for us here. All our access roads have been blocked. Whenever it rains, our communities are flooded because there is no place for the water to go through. Vehicles and motorcycles will be unable to come in or go out. Also, we are unable to attend our church because already the access roads have been blocked.

“Our businesses have also been affected. We can’t trade anymore. This is unfair. It is not in the interest of our people. When the construction work started, we were very optimistic that development would be witnessed here. But the reverse is the case. We are very sad.”

Seventy-year-old Mrs Silifatu Ganiyu bemoaned the present plight of the residents and various communities. She said: “We have no roads to move around. The construction of this rail terminus is costing us a lot. There are no vehicular movements. I have been living here for over 50 years. I have been ill since all of this started. We can’t trade; our livelihoods have been affected. In fact, it has also affected our electricity. We don’t have electricity anymore. The construction also affected our electric poles. We are suffering. It is very sad.”

For 60-year-old Mr Jide Adeyemi, “When the Federal Government decided to bring development to Oyo, the state government chose Akinyemi Local Government Area for the construction of the rail. They acquired the land on behalf of the Federal Government and gave it to the Federal Government. The Federal Government is now a tenant to Oyo State. We have a dry port over there. We also have a train station here.

“When we the construction work was to start, they came to us since there are established communities here. The church here too was valued when we met them. The church also has a missions’ house. But they assured us that the church would not be affected when the construction work starts. They told us that the government did not ask them to acquire the church. But later, we noticed that when they started work, they were cutting off access roads to the church and communities. We spoke to them, and they advised us to write a letter to the Ministry of Transportation, which we did. We wrote another one to their station at Abeokuta. They responded to that letter.

“Already they have demolished the vicarage. They have cut off the communities and blocked existing roads. We had electricity supply before, but when they came, it was cut off. Now there is no electricity. Commerce has been affected. There is no water. We are appealing. We met the state government but we were told that the Federal Government should be responsible for all our needs since it is the Federal Government’s project.”

One of the residents and indigenes, Professor Olujide Obisesan, said: “What we want government to do is that we don’t want our church here to be thrown into isolation by reason of the blockage of the access roads by the continuous construction of the rail track. As it is right now, there is no way that we will be able to worship in this church after their construction. We want the government to create another road for us. Another option is for them to give us another place where we can worship. We know that all lands belong to the government. We are asking the Federal Government to do this for us. If they cannot do that then the church building should be properly evaluated. This is the heritage given to us by our fathers.”

Elder Oluwole Olalere said: “We held a meeting with the project manager and his team. He gave us the assurance that when they wanted to start the job, they would invite us to look at what we want and they would take into consideration our concerns. But because that meeting was not documented, then the church and the villagers instructed me to write to the Federal Government and the Ministry of Transport replied us and they said we should be patient.

“On March 6 this year, we discovered that they started filling up all the access roads, blocking them. The government has failed in its promise. We are law abiding citizens. We know the government is trying to develop these communities but it is affecting us. The church building cannot be accessed by worshipers. We have been cut off totally. They should help us to create a bypass bridge. If we have it, we will be able to access our church and the communities will also benefit from it. If we have the bypass, we will be able to come through the old Oyo road, through Isabiyi, through Igbagbo, and then the road will join Ibadan-Iseyin Road. But with this arrangement we have been blocked.

“Our appeal is simple: if they cannot create access road for us, they should relocate the church to a neutral ground. They should get a new place; give us a new church as it is. If they cannot do that, they should acquire the church and pay commensurate compensation.”

In a statement jointly signed by top officials of the church, including Professor I.O. Obisesan, Elder E.O. Adedokun and Pastor P.O. Adeagbo, the church said: “We plead with the Federal Government to save our soul and come to our rescue in any of the following ways: grant us an underpass bridge to access the church and the burial ground with many graves of the dead members of the church and the villagers; or create alternative road through Lapite/Ketepe villages axis to access the church; or relocate the church building and the graves to another place since we do not have another place/village we can call our own; or compensate us adequately so that we can pick the pieces of our lives and live again.”




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