On January 27, 2021, Nigerians and Lagosians especially celebrated the anniversary of the loss of lives during the Ikeja Military Cantonment bomb blast of 2002. It has been 19 years since the armoury explosion, caused by an unintentional detonation of high explosives stocked in a military facility in Lagos, led to the death of about 1,000 people and left over 20,000 homeless.
When FIJ visited the memorial site of the tragedy, located at Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, on Sunday, it was in bad shape. Built in memory of some victims who jumped into the canal in the ensuing post-blast confusion and opened February 10, 2002 by Bola Tinubu, the then governor of the state, the site is situated close to the canal bridge linking Isolo with Ejigbo. Local motorcycle repairers have since opened a shop in between this bridge and the site, causing environmental damage to the area.
Cobwebs have taken over the railings, while some parts of the backyard are caving into the canal. The canal holds stagnant water that sends stinks and horrible air down one’s lungs. The titles used to design the floor are filled with fallen leaves of trees. Weeds can be seen growing around the interlocks. The solar panels supposed to provide light are not working. The sign post seems to be the only thing in good shape.
Jethro Ogogo, an elderly man who used to look after the place, said he was relieved of his job by Ejigbo Local Council on the grounds of old age despite only earning N10,000 monthly. The Rivers State native who has worked at the site from inception blamed the decay on government’s failure to cconfitnue paying the personnel in charge of maintenance.
“Someone built a house here before the incident. From the beginning of the memorial site, I was the one placed in charge of taking care of the ground. I was employed by the Ejigbo Local Council. When they saw that I was getting old they brought any person,” he said.
“This new person bought chemicals which he used to clean the site. The thing cost about N2,500 per day. We’ve been together and the man has been telling me the amount he was been owed by Lagos State Government. He can’t be using his own money to buy chemicals while working for the government and they are not paying.
“He went to meet them at Ejigbo Local Council but they said there was no money. They said, well, if he was tired he could go, because they did not have any money to pay. Upon hearing this, the man left.”
When FIJ contacted the new cleaner, he asked not to be named and also declined to speak, only saying: “There is God and I have left him to fight my battles.”
When contacted, Monsurudeen Oloyede Bello Obe, Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council, said via sms: “Thank you, we don’t have access to the site because it has not been handed over to us. You may please reach out to the state.”
FIJ then contacted Idris Salako, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, but got no response, has calls and a text message to his line were not replied.
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