Two years af­ter, Kogi re­builds de­mol­ished round­abouts

Sunday Trust - - SUNDAY MAGAZINE - From Itodo Daniel Sule, Lokoja Daily Trust on Sun­day

One of the first ac­tions of Gov­er­nor Yahya Bello of Kogi State when he came to power in Jan­uary 2016 was to de­mol­ish the round­abouts in Lokoja, the state cap­i­tal. It was a con­tro­ver­sial move that drew con­dem­na­tion and ru­mours that the ac­tion was taken to find charms buried in the round­abouts. But two years on, while the re­ver­ber­a­tions con­tinue, the govern­ment has com­menced re­build­ing the round­abouts. re­ports:

There was shock in Lokoja in Fe­bru­ary 2016 when res­i­dents of the Kogi State cap­i­tal woke and dis­cov­ered that most of the round­abouts in the city had been de­mol­ished. What was even more shock­ing was the dis­cov­ery that th­ese struc­tures were de­mol­ished by the then new ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov­er­nor Bello on the grounds that there were charms buried in the round­abouts.

A few weeks into the life of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, it came un­der se­vere crit­i­cisms for this ac­tion as some of the round­abouts were con­sid­ered land­mark struc­tures and mon­u­ments that have de­fined the cap­i­tal for ages.

Amongst the round­abouts de­mol­ished were the fa­mous Pa­paranda Square, whose ex­is­tence is said to have dated back to the colo­nial era.

Also af­fected were the Lu­gard Round­about in front of the Govern­ment House, erected in mem­ory of Nige­ria’s former Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral, Lord Fredrick Lu­gard, and the pop­u­lar Kogi Cir­cle, erected to mark the cre­ation of the state in 1995.

Also de­mol­ished were the Wel­come to Lokoja Round­about, at the en­trance of the city built to wel­come vis­i­tors from south western Nige­ria.

The pop­u­lar NTA Round­about and the one ad­join­ing the Govern­ment House and the Govern­ment Re­served Area (GRA) were also de­mol­ished.

The round­abouts around Zone 8 Junc­tion and that of Ganaja Vil­lage on the Ajaokuta-Lokoja high­way were also not spared.

The de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise, which took place on a week­end, took many res­i­dents aback as they re­sumed work the fol­low­ing Mon­day morn­ing to dis­cover rub­bles of what hith­erto used to be the round­abouts.

Crit­i­cisms, con­dem­na­tions trail de­mo­li­tions

In the wake of the de­mo­li­tion, con­dem­na­tions and crit­i­cisms poured in from var­i­ous quar­ters with some de­scrib­ing the ex­er­cise as un­nec­es­sary and a waste of scarce pub­lic funds.

The op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) took a swipe at the gov­er­nor over this act al­legedly taken to remove “charms” planted un­der the round­abouts by past ad­min­is­tra­tions.

The PDP spokesman, Mr Bode Ogun­mola, urged the govern­ment to fo­cus on pro­vid­ing pur­pose­ful lead­er­ship for the peo­ple in­stead of dec­i­mat­ing en­ergy and re­sources on things that would not im­pact the lives of the peo­ple.

Ac­cord­ing to Ogun­mola, “The last [first] 30 days (of Bello in of­fice) has been any­thing but pro­gres­sive. What we have wit­nessed is a knee-jerk ap­proach to gov­er­nance char­ac­terised by poor pol­icy for­mu­la­tion, re­ver­sals and som­er­saults”.

Spokesman of the Audu/Faleke Cam­paign Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Mr Duro Maseko in his re­ac­tion then said, “We are at a loss as to why the gov­er­nor should take this very pre­cip­i­tate ac­tion by wak­ing up one day and or­der­ing the de­mo­li­tion of th­ese round­abouts, most of which were colo­nial and mil­i­tary land­marks on some re­port­edly out­ra­geous ex­cuse of try­ing to up­root amulets pur­ported to have been buried in them by some past regimes.”

A res­i­dent of Lokoja, Ja­cob Lalu James, who faulted the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise, said the govern­ment should have fo­cused on ad­dress­ing press­ing chal­lenges, such as pay­ment of work­ers’ salaries and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the Lokoja town­ship roads which he noted were rid­dled with pot­holes.

How­ever, Mr John Daniel said he be­lieves the gov­er­nor had good in­ten­tion for the ex­er­cise, adding that the de­mo­li­tion would en­able him re­build bet­ter ones for the peo­ple.

He said the state had wit­nessed many years of un­der­de­vel­op­ment un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions and that the gov­er­nor needed to start from some­where in bring­ing de­vel­op­ment to the state.

“The present govern­ment is a clear de­par­ture from the past; the man is try­ing to bring about de­vel­op­ment in the state and I pray that God will help him. I also ad­vise him to look into the ar­eas of roads and wa­ter”, he said.

Govern­ment ex­er­cise

While the ca­coph­ony and con­tro­ver­sies that trailed the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise rage, var­i­ous govern­ment of­fi­cials came up to speak in de­fense of the de­ci­sion and ac­tion.

Re­act­ing to the de­vel­op­ment, the then Spe­cial Ad­viser to Gov­er­nor Bello on Me­dia and Strategy, but now DG Bureau of In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices and Grass­roots Sen­si­ti­sa­tion, Mr Ab­dul­ma­lik Ab­dulka­rim de­bunked the in­sin­u­a­tions that the gov­er­nor or­dered the de­mo­li­tion of the round­abouts on the ad­vice of some marabouts as be­ing al­leged.

He said it was done to give room for the construction of mod­ern and bet­ter ones in line with Bello’s quest to give Lokoja town an “aura of beau­ti­fi­ca­tion and aes­thet­ics” be­fit­ting of a state cap­i­tal.

“Ev­ery­body has his or her own opin­ion. When he (Bello) was sworn in on Jan­uary 27, he didn’t mince words when he de­clared that Lokoja, the Kogi State cap­i­tal, looked like a glo­ri­fied lo­cal govern­ment coun­cil head­quar­ters.

“The roads are bad, heaps of refuse here and there; the roads around the so-called round­abouts are very nar­row and un­tidy, so, when you want to start the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, you have to start from some­where. So, the idea that he is start­ing de­fends de­mo­li­tion on a wrong note or what­ever is sub­jec­tive,” he said.

He added that the move would also help in re­duc­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion in the state cap­i­tal, point­ing out that most of the de­mol­ished round­abouts were too large for the roads they were meant to serve.

Also, a state­ment is­sued by the then Chief Press Sec­re­tary to the gov­er­nor, but now DG Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Mr Kings­ley Fanwo, de­fended the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise, say­ing it was the be­gin­ning of a process to make Lokoja more at­trac­tive.

“The nodal sta­tus of Lokoja as the gate­way to the North, East and West is sup­posed to be an at­trac­tive state cap­i­tal in or­der to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of po­ten­tial tourists,’’ the state­ment said.

Ac­cord­ing to Fanwo, the new ad­min­is­tra­tion was poised to give the city a face-lift by re­mov­ing “sub­stan­dard round­abouts.”

Equally com­ment­ing on the de­vel­op­ment, the Di­rec­tor, Kogi State Town Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Board, Mr Akin Ajagbe, said the de­mo­li­tion was car­ried out on the di­rec­tive of the gov­er­nor to cor­rect some anom­alies.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the de­mol­ished round­abouts were not only poorly con­structed but were ob­struc­tions on the road.

Ku­dos, knocks as new round­abouts spring up two years af­ter

Af­ter about two years, new round­abouts are spring­ing up to re­place the de­mol­ished ones.

Daily Trust on Sun­day re­ports that work on the de­mol­ished round­abouts com­menced in earnest some­times early Jan­uary, 2018.

At the mo­ment, a greater num­ber of the round­abouts had been com­pleted while work is on­go­ing on oth­ers.

Those com­pleted in­clude the NTA Round­about, the Kogi Ho­tel/GRA

The com­pleted NTA round­about.

PHO­TOS:

On­go­ing work at the Pa­paranda Square round­about in Lokoja Itodo Daniel Sule

The re­built Kogi Cir­cle Round­about in Lokoja

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