Appeal to the Kwara state govt: Stop building shops on road setbacks

September 3, 2015
3 mins read

I RETURNED  from Ilorin this week. I noticed that the road setback by the wall of the Government Secondary School on the Fate Road, was being cleared. Over the past couple of years, individuals from various backgrounds have built shops and sheds, mechanic workshops and all kinds of anarchic developments on that setback, on a road that leads to the GRA. I discovered the clearance  going on now is by the Kwara state government as part of an effort to construct shops on the setback, in a maddening pursuit of internally generated revenue.

A similar development has already taken place on the Yidi Road, by the Irewolede Housing Estate and on the opposite side, by the House of Assembly residences. The ones by the estate are said to cost N2million while those by the Assembly residences are also said to go for N5million.

Again, the over riding reason is to generate funds, without any thought given to the long-term interest of healthy living in the Kwara state capital. I discussed the issue with two very senior officials of the Kwara state government on Monday and Tuesday this week, and they confirmed the plan to build on the setbacks.

One spoke of security issues arising from the anarchic, free-for-all developments that had been taking place and the need for government to take over to stem the problem while also making money. While the other spoke of the effort as part of a plan to encourage entrepreneurial efforts, and create something similar to high street shopping in Europe!

But the truth is that anyone familiar with Ilorin cannot fail to see the dysfunctional state of the city today. The business district from around the Challenge Bookshop on the Murtala Muhammed Road going to the Wahab Folawiyo (Unity) Road is constantly caught up in traffic gridlocks most of the day and this extends to the Ibrahim Taiwo Road.

The shopping complex there was built on railway right of passage land and that has been largely responsible for the gridlock there. The shop owners park cars by the road and shoppers also try to park in the same area, thus narrowing the road and making movement a nightmare. This is what will be replicated on the Irewolede Road, where the Eid praying ground is located.

A foreclosed future

The possibilities of road expansion in the future have been foreclosed by the shortsighted decision to build on the road setback, because of the desperate search for IGR! This same problem will also emerge on the Fate Road, where they have already constructed SHOPRITE that has fatally damaged the original purpose of opening that part of the city of Ilorin, from the 1970s. But I am APPEALING to Governor AbdulFatai Ahmed to STOP the plan to build shops in that part of the GRA, because it will DISTORT that part of Ilorin FOREVER, if he goes ahead with the plan.

On the contrary, what should be done is to review the master plan of the city (if there is one) and begin a systematic development of new layouts in the city. Ilorin’s infrastructure as we know them today, were laid up over three decades ago, for a population that was probably a quarter of what the city has today.

While we cannot blame the government there today for all of the problems of urban decay and the attendant chaos that is threatening a decent existence for all of us, there is no gainsaying the fact that the period since 2003, has seen some of the most horrific abuses of the development process in our history.

There has been an arrogant abuse of all the carefully laid out canons of development. Vast areas laid out for a different set of usages have been pulled down, like the huge Ministry of Agriculture complex and allocated to members of the government and cronies of Bukola Saraki and the new elite that formed around the ruling administration in Kwara state.

Similarly, all the architectural pieces of late colonialism from the 1950s were torn down on Ahmadu Bello Way, including  the Government House and today, the Government House is an example of a tasteless and dreary architecture that has no relationship with the history of the community. A well thought out, futuristic usage of urban space, well defined infrastructural expansion and a deliberate effort to ensure that urban development serves the best interest of the citizenry have been absent and short term expediency has been central to all that has taken place in the development process in Kwara state.

Re-think use of urban space

But there is a need to re-think the use of the urban space in Ilorin so that our people can have a decent existence. The traffic gridlocks today and the alienation of road setbacks for the construction of shops, because the government desperately needs money, cannot help us live in a decent state capital. If Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed can re-think the plan to build on road setbacks and stop them, he would have helped our community into the future. That is why I am making this DIRECT APPEAL to him today: PLEASE STOP BUILDING ON ROAD SETBACKS IN ILORIN!


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