IMEKO/AFON So Close…Yet Far From Development
Despite its nearness to Abeokuta, the seat of power, communities in Imeko-Afon Local Government, Ogun State, appear to have been forgotten, as the people languish in relative obscurity.
IN the 21st century Nigeria, several communities still live like those in the Stone Age, lacking access to electricity, water, roads, hospitals and good schools.
This is the experience of communities in Imeko, in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State. For Ita Ori Ejo, Aafintedo, Idufe, Idi Ayin, Iga Baba Alado, Kofesu and Clement village, among other rural communities, it’s been tale of the absurd.
The road leading to the villages from the council secretariat is snake-like, hilly and dusty. It is disfigured with steep inclines that cause serious headache to those plying the route. Rainy season is always a period of pain and agony for them. It is only motorcycles that ply the route. From observation, considering weeds that have taken over the major parts of the road, it was obvious that no vehicle had passed through the road for over a year.
The first sight that welcomes visitors to the area is the presence of cattle gracing in the forest, with their droppings littering the entire road. The remarkable thing that baffles a first-timer is the strangeness of the road, which was virtually deserted. No vehicle was seen throughout the duration of the two-hour journey via commercial motorcycle, only one motorcycle was sighted. The few pedestrians seen with cutlasses and hoes hung on their shoulders were soon seen disappearing into nearby bushes for the day’s work.
These communities are predominantly inhabited by Yoruba of Ketu origin, with a sizeable number of Ohori, Hausa and Egun speaking people. Deriving from their strategic location as border communities, they also accommodate nationals of other countries in the West African sub-region.
They are predominantly farmers and herdsmen, who cultivate crops such as cassava, maize, yam, melon, including cash crops, such as cocoa, oil palm and cashew. They rely solely on the income that accrues from the farm and petty trade for survival. None of their houses are built with brick; they are either built with mud or raffia. To them, modern toilet is a luxury; the residents prefer to answer the call of nature in nearby bushes, while there is also no provision for modern waste disposal.
The first community to be spotted, Iga Baba Alado, about 20 minutes ride from the secretariat, a predominantly Hausa settlement could as well pass for a hamlet. The houses are made of raffia and palm front, though it was gathered that the community boasts of about 100 people, including children, only few people were seen in smaller groups in front of the huts when The Guardian visited. It was learnt that others had taken out cattle for gracing.
The road leading to the community is a mere footpath. Aside the deep-water projects provided in 2012 under the administration of Hon Jide Ogunesan, chairman of the council caretaker committee, there is no other facility enjoyed by the residents. Their children, The Guardian learnt, attend the nearest primary school to the village, which is about five kilometres away.
Even the water project, has almost packed-off, barely four years after its commissioning. It is now pumping water erratically. The residents have now resorted to the use of the community stream, where their cattle also quench their thirst, together with other neighbouring communities.
According to the head of the community, Seriki Magaji, Alhaji Usman Adamu, in a chat with The Guardian, serious efforts were made to ensure that the water pump works maximally, but the money spent so far is enormous, coupled with the huge amount spent regularly on petrol to power the generator, but no solution yet.
“We have made effort to persuade successive administrations to provide us good roads and other basic amenities, but all we’ve been hearing are promises that were not fulfilled. It is only when elections are approaching that we see them here and after voting massively for them, they disappear into thin air till another election,” he said.
The experiences of other communities like Ita Ori Ejo, Idufe, Idi ayin, Clement village and Kofesu, all in the council area are not different. They live in ramshackle houses. Despite their population, the communities are always deserted in the day, leaving behind children who are either out-of-school or just returning from school to join their parents in their farms. By 5:30pm, tired in their sweat-soaked clothes, they return home.
Economic activities here are at its lowest ebb because most of the residents do subsistence farming, leaving only few items that are bought at the weekly market or from petty traders within their communities, who sell at a very exorbitant rates. Usually, buying and selling takes place in the evening when most of the residents have returned from their various farms would need to purchase goods needed for the night and the following day.
They seem to be operating in the world of their own. There are certain habits and lifestyles that are not obtainable in other areas of the country, but which are found in these communities. For instance, petrol is sold in bottles in almost all the houses, just like domestic kerosene. A bottle is sold at the rate of N150.00. Majority of them display the product in front of their houses, especially for smugglers, and other residents to fuel their motorcycles and grinding machines.
Another strange behavior The Guardian observed was that Idufe, Aafintedo and Idi Ayin that share boundary with Benin Republic recognise only West Africa CFA as their legal tender for purchases and services, as against Naira, despite being Nigerian communities.
The residents rue the state of development in the area, alleging that government has completely abandoned them.
For Ita Ori Ejo community, over two hours journey from Imeko, it was the same odd story. It had more population compared to others, but still shares the same characteristics with them. Aside Idufe and Idi Ayin that boast of Primary Schools, Community Primary School, Ita Ori Ejo has the highest population of pupils, estimated at 265, choked together in a block of two classrooms. While the Kindergarten, Primary One and Two pupils share a room; primaries three to six occupy the other. The classrooms are partitioned with plywood and sack. The school has four teachers-the Headmaster, his assistant and two others for all the classes. As at the time of the visit, classes were merged.
Before the construction of the classrooms in 2012, the pupils occupied woodshed and makeshift classrooms, made of mud and thatched roofs. The classrooms have no doors and no windows, whenever it rained, both the teachers and pupils would be drenched.
The lack of necessary facilities, infrastructure and other challenges in the school, may have negatively affected the education standard, as pupils find it difficult to converse in English language, except in their local dialects.
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