It was 5:13 pm when the commercial motorcycle I boarded arrived at the bank of what had now become a large pond on the Denro-Odo road leading to Akute, Ifo Local Government Area, Ogun State. Prior to setting off at Ojodu Berger, the motorcyclist informed me I would have to alight on reaching the water and board a canoe to get to the other side.
It did not come to me as a surprise, as members of the community had lamented what flood had done to the road in a video circulated online. For two weeks, poor drainage on the road and erosion created a black pond in Denro following frequent rainfall.
Five minutes into the journey, the anomaly at Denro was before me. At that time, the area was crowded as young men in t-shirts and rolled-up jeans beckoned on anyone alighting from a motorcycle to take a ride in a canoe. It was at the close of work, so business was booming for them. These young men tasked themselves with sourcing for passengers and helping them into the wooden canoes to earn tips from the paddlers.
A trip from one end to the other costs N100 per head – the same cost for a distance between Ikeja and Maryland on a commercial bus. The canoes, which normally accommodate three people each, conveyed double their capacity at the same price.
Having observed the new normal for people of this community, I sought the help of one of the young men to get on a boat. My initial fear was falling into the water as the canoe shook under the weight of its five passengers, but the rider soon assured us of safety if we distributed our weights evenly.
While on the journey, he said the situation might linger for three more months. “E go reach like three months. The water go still full more than this, but they no fit do am now. If na Julius Berger, dem go finish am, but all these Korean abi Lebanese wey dem give contract…”
On the other side, there were motorcycle operators waiting to help alighting passengers get to their destinations. Those who could not afford the N100 fare trekked in the water.
Tijani, one of the residents, said work on the road had begun a while back. “They have done the hard core, what is left is to fix the road, but the rains came, and now it has been like this for weeks,” he said.
Another resident who did not want to be named, said, “The road has been bad for a very long time. There is no drainage, water cannot pass anywhere so we are just waiting for it to dry so that they can complete the work.”
Praise, a daily user of the road, also said, “Before the flood, once I get to Pipeline, I just take a shuttle or keke (tricycle) to Berger for N100. Now, the reverse is the case. I have to take a bike to the river for N100, go across with a canoe for N100, and then board another bike to Berger for N100, which brings my total transport spending to triple the original amount.”
One of the boys who helped people into the canoes said he stayed in the area and engaged in the business of helping people aboard the boats daily. “If you come tomorrow, you go see me here by seven. Na here I de every day,” he said.
When asked how long this had been going on, he said, again in pidgin English, “Every year, na so this place de be, water go full everywhere. Sometimes we collect N100, but if passengers no too de, we go collect N50.”
Iya Ibeji, a seemingly popular resident in the area, told FIJ that whenever it rained, wooden planks were usually mounted to help people get from one side to the other, but that was not the case now.
She said, “Flood is a usual occurrence here. When rain falls like this, they will bring out strong planks and put them from this side to that side. People can now use their legs to walk across, but now we have to use canoes.”
The canoe service operators told FIJ they went to Denro from different places because of the rain. When the water dries up, they will go somewhere else to work.
Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State Governor, had on April 11, 2021, assured residents of swift intervention. He said the contracts had been awarded and that the road would be fixed with covered drainage and streetlights. However, five months after, the groans of residents are loud.
The deplorable state of the road has also led to environmental degeneration as heaps of dirt and rubbish were seen in the surrounding.
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