3rd August, 2011
Â Victims of the flood that ravaged Lagos State in 2010 have insisted that they would not leave the premises of the Lagos State House of Assembly until their complaints were looked into and resolved accordingly. Since Monday, when they protested over the manner they were allegedly handled by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), led by Dr. Oke Osanyintolu, resulting in the arrest of some of their colleagues, they have remained at the premises and even slept there. Before they were asked to quit, they had been accommodated by the state government at the relief camp in Agbowa for 10 months. Representative of Epe Constituency 2, where Agbowa is located, Olusegun Olulade, spoke with Assembly Matters on their complaints and accusation in this interview
What did you do when the victims of the 2010 flood relocated to the relief camp in Agbowa, complain of maltreatment?
They did not inform me about their complaints before now. I only received a call last Saturday informing me about what was going on. They told me that there was crisis between the officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency and the victims and I quickly called on the LASEMA boss, who explained the situation at the camp at that period. I was earlier informed that I should be part of the delegation for the send-off to the place as I was told that they would move from the camp before or on 31 July. Unfortunately, I could not attend because of some pressing official matters. After Dr. Osanyintolu told me about the development at the camp, I also called a few of the victims I know there, but their coming here on Monday is strange to me and since thn, they have been around the Assembly. I even learnt that some of them slept at the entrance to the Lagos State House of Assembly. When I asked why, they said it was because they do not have a place to lay their heads. However, this issue is beyond that in the sense that a relief camp is a transit camp and not a permanent abode. So, when government started taking care of them in the past 10 months, it made sure they were sheltered, fed and clothed all through. If for 10 good months, the state government had been doing this, now that we have another emergency on our hand and they were asked to leave so that other people would come in, I donâ€™t think government has done anything bad. After discussing with them, I think they have realised that too and with the impression that they are giving me now, they are ready to move. They only complained about the money which some of them were not given and we have said we are going to look into it, while we have got in contact with Dr. Osanyintolu, who is in charge of the agency. The victims have sent to us at the state House of Assembly a petition and we have started looking into it. We hope to invite the victims to a roundtable and find ways of settling it amicably. That is our plan for now.
Some of the victims were arrested and we got information they would be charged to court?
They have been charged to court. I want you to understand that the issue here is that you cannot take the laws into your hand and that is exactly what these people did. They went ahead and held the officials of LASEMA, including Dr. Osanyintolu, hostage in the camp for several hours, just because they felt that some of them were not paid. I think they should have been more civil about their approach and go about it in a way that would not jeopardise whatever intent that they had.
I think they feared that it would be difficult for them to get paid if Osanyintolu was allowed to leave the camp that day?
But irrespective of what they had in mind, what they are doing now should have been done also. They could have come together and say, â€˜okay, since the situation is like this, let us get somewhere to stay till Monday morning so that we would embark on a peaceful protest to the House or to the state government to lay our complaints.â€™ I know we have a responsive governor and I know he would have come in if it had happened like that. I was there about two weeks ago, when the Commissioner for Special Duties, Wale Ahmed, visited the camp and spoke with them. Throughout their stay in the camp, they were trained in vocations and other professions. After this, they were given money for them to settle down and start doing the business on which they were trained. Even if you want to settle down in my community, Agbowa, you can easily get accommodation at a very cheap rate. I think with N7,000 they can get accommodation that they could stay for one or two years. So, why the noise about not been paid? If government has done up to the level of feeding and clothing them and even accommodating them for 10 months and then informed them that â€˜now that we have another emergency in our hand, you can now go,’ I think they have no moral justification to hold the officials hostage.
How about the alleged impression created that the money donated by President Â Jonathan would be given to them when they prepare to leave the camp?
On the issue of money, I donâ€™t think I can make comments. I can also not hold the brief for LASEMA officials because I was not there when it started and do not know much about it.
Some of them have complained that they were used and dumped by your party in that area because they were actually held back for so long to vote during the elections?
Why should the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), decide to cage them in Agbowa when they can easily vote for the same party wherever they are in Lagos? That complaint is not tenable. If government had wanted them to leave that place at that period, they would have gone. If not because of this recent emergency which the whole world is aware of, they would still have been there. I think that is one of the problems. Being a transit camp, if you are kept there for at most six months, you should leave, but you see, anything free, Nigerians enjoy having it to the fullest. I can tell you, some of them voted for ACN while some voted for other parties. They were not cajoled to vote for our party or any other party at that. Yes, ACN won in that area, but it is not because we wanted to use them. They could have been used anywhere if they are now saying they were used and dumped, but put that aside, since they voted us in, have they not benefited immensely from the party? Are they saying that we have not been up and doing in discharging our duties and in protecting lives and properties? It is not tenable and I beg that is not too fair on us. If any of them should come up with that insinuation, it is very wrong and I repeat that it is not fair on us.
Now, what is the fate of those that have been charged to court?
According to the information I got, the court has already granted them bail. They only have to pay the bail terms and go. But as time goes on, we shall look for ways to settle the issues that arose from the camp amicably and ensure that they are happy.
Epe seems to be the most backward in terms of government presence, what is your view on this?
It did not start from now, but a very long time ago. Epe Division happened to be one of the five divisions that Lagos state started with and coming from that background and having one-quarter of the total land mass of the state, then we need to look critically at developing that area. The issue of even distribution of infrastructure is one thing I know this government is committed to and on behalf of the government, I want to assure the people of Epe that we would do everything within our power to make the area bounce back to life. Although we are far behind as regards development, we should not give up. It is high time we came together to support the government in its bid to revive the old glory of Epe Division. I am very sure we have a listening governor who is prepared to deliver the dividends of good governance to our area and who is concerned about the people of Epe. I want to say that the neglect of Epe started during the military era and that is what resulted into what we have today. Since the time of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, we have been witnessing some level of development. As you may be aware, the new international airport is coming to Epe. This is just among other programmes including road projects that I think have been mapped out for the area. I have always said that Epe is the future of Lagos and we can turn it around to fit that future and by the grace of God and with the cooperation of the traditional rulers in the area, we can achieve it.
How do you hope to be rated among your people at the end of this tenure?
I would want them to believe that they have a voice in me and that during my era, they had a good representation at the House of Assembly. I am very confident in the people and would want to be rated as one of the best representatives they have ever had. I want to lay a legacy that those coming behind would meet a standard that would be too difficult to go below.