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Lagos, Na-waa! - UNTOLD STORY OF IJORA RAIL-LINE: Melting pot of oddities

  • UNTOLD STORY OF IJORA RAIL-LINE: Melting pot of oddities
  • Inside Lagos 'under bridge' world
  • In Lagos traffic, you can buy anything, including television
  • Goodbye molue • Gradually, kings of Lagos roads disappear
  • Lagos! Na-wa! ...Now and Then
  • 5 crazy things you shouldn't do in Lagos buses

UNTOLD STORY OF IJORA RAIL-LINE: Melting pot of oddities
~The SUN Nigeria. Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Indeed, the community of Ijora Badia, on the railway line, in Apapa/Ajeromi Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, is a constellation of absurdity. It is a melange of miscreants, roughnecks, gangsters, fraudsters and prostitutes. It also harbours good people, who engage in provision of services, such as hair dressing, pedicure and manicure as well as petty trading, among others.

This Lagos suburb is an enclave that stretches about 400 metres or thereabout along the railway line, which runs from Ijora to Iddo. The environment is filthy with euglena infested brackish lagoon, which, ostensibly, has the capacity to harbour dangerous reptiles. The stagnant, brackish water laced with all kinds of refuse breeds mosquitoes in their millions.

From Ijora bus-stop, a macadamised Fadaini Street, which links the bus-stop with the Ijora Badia railway line community, gives a wrong impression of where it leads. On both sides of the street are shops that display different wares, ranging from electronic equipment to clothes, shoes and bags, among other articles of trade. But, the point at which the link road crossed the railway brings one to another reality. It exposes one to a community on the railway, which bubbles with plethora of indecent and unspeakable activities. That is to the right hand side of the railway from Ijora bus-stop, through Fadaini Street.

However, for somebody who entered the railway from the under bridge situated opposite the Nigeria Breweries in the Orile-Iganmu area of the state, the first sight tells the entire story of what lies ahead. Just as one leaves the under bridge and heads towards Ijora through the railway line, an array of ladies of easy virtue immediately comes to the fore. They appear in their seductive mood, sitting and standing psychedelically in front of the make-shift wooden house of about seven rooms erected just about 30 metres away from the railway line.

The swampy side of the railway is replete with clusters of large wooden cabin suspended up to six feet on top of the brackish swamp. There are several of such accommodations housing half naked, haggard, dishevelled, fierce-looking women of all sizes, shapes and ages. In fact, one could rightly say that the cabins are brothels on the lagoon.

By 10am when Daily Sun visited the enclave, some of the women, especially the older ones, appeared worn-out with bulging, sleepy red eyes, which was an indication that they must have had a busy night the previous day. It could also be an indication that business is booming, even with the economic recession currently plaguing the country. Even as they intermittently shut their eyes and nod their heads involuntarily as they fight against sleep trying to envelope them, reliable sources revealed that they are still ready for action if a customer calls.

The old whore

Looking at the age bracket of some of the women, who are seemingly in their 50s, one wonders how they are able to withstand numerous men, who patronise them. This concern becomes heightened, considering the fact that most of their clients live on sex enhancing drugs (aphrodisiac). Not only that they look old, they also smoke and drink, as they wait patiently for their clients. They use different non-verbal cues to attract men's attention.

One of them made a snake-like sound to attract the attention of the Daily Sun reporter. The woman was disappointed when the reporter refused to go inside but chose to take her to a corner for a chat. Her mien changed to anger but on assurance that her time would be adequately compensated in financial terms, she relaxed and the earlier smiles on her face returned. On how women as old as she are able to withstand the pressures of men, especially the younger ones and those who live on sex enhancer, she said: "Yes, it is true that the older a woman becomes, the weaker she becomes when it comes to the matter of sex. But, in this business, experience matters a lot. It is not all about energy and youthfulness. It is about tactics and skills – knowing how to press the right buttons at the right time and the deed is done. It is not something I can explain how it works for you standing here but if you think you are man enough to challenge me, we can just go in and you will see the stuff women of my generation are made off."

Younger whores

For the younger ladies, most of whom appear tattered and unkempt, they sit in clusters with their navels on display as well as their breasts shooting out like balloons. Although, the sight of those riotous breasts would appear repulsive to any reasonable man, as stretch marks run horizontally and vertically across, the male folks in the community, who appear morally depraved and who seem no less better, find such commodity very luscious, salacious and sexually scintillating. And they savour them whenever they want. The girls wear skimpy tight skirts and shorts that expose their thighs up to their pubic region, but like the breast, such exposures are also very repugnant. This is because instead of robust and sexy thighs, which would spark a hot blood through the sexual veins of any healthy man, what is exposed are coarse, rough, stretch-marked and mosquito bite-infested thighs.

The ladies in this breast terror, navel and thigh exposure business are lined up along the railway line. Both young and old women find breasts pumping as the rave of the moment – a fashion in vogue.

From investigation, it appears that any lady who fails to expose her breasts in such a very tempting manner could be seen as a deviant. It is right to conclude that at Ijora Badia, breasts are on parade because there is a breast fair any time any day for willing viewers. While some display their wares in front of the makeshift wooden houses, others step forward at the base of the rail to display theirs and pretend to be recharge card sellers or phone call vendors.

Checks revealed that the women had ready and booming market in the male folk of the community, who are mostly gamblers, drug addicts and fraudsters.

Baby and deformed whores

A closer observation also revealed that the enclave equally parades under-age as well as physically challenged prostitutes. Most of the under-age or baby prostitutes are deviants, who run away from their homes within the Ijora Badia neighbourhood. They found solace in the life on the railway. They engage in stiff competion with the older girls. Some of them ply their trade carrying their babies.

Yet, another class of prostitutes in this environment are the physically impaired ladies, though the impairment is not that serious. They could see, hear and speak. Their hands are also intact, but they have bad legs despite the fact, it was gathered, that it does not stop them from selling sex or men patronising them.

New brothels

Apart from the class of women described above, there is another set of ladies who feel they have an edge over and above their competitors in that community. These are the ones who ply their trade in a newly constructed brothel situated about 50 metres away from the railway. There are about two of such buildings lying adjacent to each other. They parade girls of all shapes, colours and sizes, with different shapes and sizes of breasts and buttocks. They mill around in front of the brothels, wearing tell-tale signs of who they are. They appear half naked, wearing pants and skimpy shorts, with their breasts sprouting and dangling seductively and their eyes roving like that of an eagle, looking for potential prey. They also smoke cigarette and marijuana and drink alcohol, as they loiter around the frontage of the brothels, which have no name tag.

When Daily Sun visited the community the second time in the evening, about 6pm, the entire stretch of the railway, including the frontage of the two buildings, was a bedlam. The women in the makeshift wooden houses were let loose, as they no longer waited in front of their base. They stormed the railway line, scouting for customers with different non-verbal cues – winking of eyes, beckoning, making snake-like sounds to attract the attention of unknown customers and even nudging, in extreme cases. Yes, there are the daring. They boldly accost men walking along the rail to offer sex.

Commenting on such bravery, a recharge card seller told Daily Sun that competition brought about creativity and that what has happened is that because there are so many prostitutes, competing for a few men, it is only those who are prepared to go the extra mile that can survive.

He said: "I have stayed here for over five years now and I can tell you that competition is so stiff here. Their numbers increase on a daily basis and you can see that things are becoming harder in the country. But, one thing I discovered is that no matter how hard the economy is, men must always stretch their muscles.

"Like I said, their numbers keep increasing every day; so once it is evening like this; they will all leave their cubicles and come to the rail line to look for customers. And the strategy is yielding positive results because some men, who are coming here for the first time may not know how to start but when these women approach them, they would just follow them like sheep without a shepherd."

Fighting and violence

Fighting is not a novel occurrence in Ijora Badia railway community and its neighbourhood. Checks revealed that in Lagos State, the neighbourhood had the highest number of brothels where deviant teenagers, who run away from their parents' home find solace. The constellation of these young ladies, who have sold their souls to sex attracts criminals in the neighbourhood. They are belligerent, testy, violent and can do anything, including stripping themselves naked when angered.

Daily Sun witnessed what could have been a live adult movie when a teenage prostitute almost stripped herself. She had a fierce argument with a male folk beside one of the wooden cabins, while two other boys and another lady circled them. She walked briskly away from there to the pavement of the rail line where she sat. But, the roughneck would not let her be. He followed her to that point and the girl, in readiness for what would follow, picked a big stone. But, before she knew what was happening, the man grabbed her by the waist and raised her feet above the ground.

When she freed herself from the man's grips, she quickly pulled her T-shirt off while her breasts flung out at once because she wasn't wearing any bra. The breasts dangled, as she proceeded to unzip and possibly to remove her shorts before the man left the scene. It didn't even bother her that at such a tender age, her breasts had become flabby and saggy. As soon as the man left, others prevailed on her to rescind her action, which could have resulted in naked display in broad day light.

Just a few metres away from that spot, there was another drama. This time, it involved an old whore, who seemed to be in her late 50s. She was engaged in a verbal duel with a young man, seemingly in his late 30s. The man held her by her bra and threatened to beat her up, but the woman also threatened to deal with the young man if he didn't mind his business. The man cajoled and lampooned her that after 15 years of prostitution, she had nothing to show for it. But, she also fired back, telling the man that she would show him that she was from a particular area in the country. At that point, about three dishevelled, haggard, fierce-looking young men intervened and pleaded with the man to let go off the woman's bra.

Further checks revealed that incidents as painted above are commonplace occurrences in the neighbourhood.

Life of alcohol, drugs, gambling

However, the male folks are seen in clustres of 15 and 20 rough, fierce-looking men, either drinking gin and smoking hard drugs or playing Ludo, Worth or Draft games. They appear so rough and fearsome that one actually must be very careful in looking at them. And because they most likely engage in one criminal activity or another, they are always at alert and they know when a stranger comes into the habitat. They are not like the women whose only trade is to exchange their bodies for money with any willing patron. Men who live among the women in makeshift wooden houses stay inside during the day except when they want to enter the town. But, the ones who live separate in their own wooden cabin wander up and down in company with teenage girls.

The other side

Ijora Badia railway community is not only about prostitution, gambling, hard drug and alcoholic consumption. There are football-viewing centres scattered along the rail line, just as there are movie houses in the place. Like most European football viewing centres in Lagos, you see notice boards announcing which teams are playing. You also see viewers, who are patiently waiting for the kick-off time but their composition also leaves much to be desired. They look every inch like the ones earlier seen gathered smoking and drinking, a confirmation that football is a unifying force. Just as normal, reasonable people enjoy it, so also do the hoodlums.

Investigation revealed that in the movie centres, x-rated films are freely shown during the day while the volumes of the loud speakers are raised so that outsiders can hear the sounds very well. Daily Sun reporter corroborated this finding when on approaching one of the movie centres, a deep shrill, humming and moaning sound filtered into the air. Every discerning ear would know that such sounds only come from a woman in sex act.

However, in the midst of all these, carpenters are still busy nailing woods together while hairdressers and barbers are equally busy twisting and creeping through their customers' hairs. Food vendors as well as beer palour operators are not left out in the neighbourhood, as all of them scramble to make ends meet.

Also on hand to energise the men are the sex enhancement drug sellers, who line their wares along the edge of the rail line, waiting for patrons. Talking about the sex enhancer and how high or low the patronage is, one of the dealers, who simply identified himself as Ahmed said: "We come here because we know that people who need our drugs are here. It is not only sex enhancers that we sell; we also sell pain relievers like Panadol and Paracetamol. We also have drugs that give power to women and the women are also buying them. Our major competitors in this business are the people who sell local herbs. Some people prefer that but majority of them still buy our drugs. So, in all, it is a good business and we make good sales every day."

Inside Lagos 'under bridge' world
~The SUN Nigeria. Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

Related imageBefore the former governor of Lagos State, Babtunde Fashola, launched the gentle revolution that restored sanity and beautified many locations under flyovers, popularly known as "under bridge" in Lagos, most of them were safe havens for all kinds of criminal activities, from substance abuse, fighting with deadly weapons, robbery and rape, among others.

However, all these were eradicated when Fashola carried his tree planting campaign to most, if not all, of such places in the state. That bold step dislodged the roughnecks from their havens, giving a new lease of life to Lagosians.

For instance, under the bridge in Oshodi, in Oshodi Local Government Area, used to be one of the most dangerous spots in the state. It used to be a beehive of criminal activities, peopled by marijuana-smoking hooligans, who snatched handbags, picked pockets, raped and even killed passers-by, especially late in the night. It was so notorious that at no time of the day was an average person completely safe there. Anything could happen at any time. It did not have to be at night before a crime was committed there.

Government after government tried to purge Oshodi of the malaise but none succeeded, until Fashola came with his magic wand that rid the area of thugs and gave it a facelift.

The same thing happened in places like Ojuelegba under bridge, Ijora under bridge, Railway Line under bridge and Ikeja under bridge, among others.

After Fashola's purge, Oshodi under bridge became safe and the place wore a new look and was so well-lit that one could hardly distinguish night from daytime at the place.

Ikeja under bridge also wore a new look, as a roundabout was constructed, complete with a fence and flowers. All the adjoining spaces were also cleared of any kind of activity. Ikeja under bridge was sanitised to the extent that residents became proud of the place.

At Ijora, the story was not different. The criminal elements that made life hell for Lagosians were completely driven away. A roundabout was constructed with a fence and flowers, while an armoured police vehicle was stationed there to ensure that people were protected from any kind of attack.

The Railway Line under bridge, located opposite the Nigerian Breweries complex in Iganmu, where all kinds of businesses, from auto mechanics to vulcanising, welding works to sale of condemned diesel, fairly used home appliances and office equipment as well as the criminal activities of miscreants flourished, was also cleaned up. The place wore a new look and nobody, especially squatters, was allowed to stay there. Though there was no garden planted there, the area was neat and appeared safe for people to pass through any time of the day.

When this revolution by Fashola's administration was going on, many believed that it would not stand the test of time, as they would return to what they were as soon as he left office. Others, however, held that, once the miscreants were dislodged, they would not have the audacity to regroup and return, as the places would no longer be safe for their nefarious activities.

However, less than two years after Fashola's exit, the aforementioned places in Lagos have regained most of the features that made them stink. Businesses have continued to boom as usual in some of them, with criminal elements back with vigour in their numbers.

When Daily Sun visited some of the places, which were once cleared of vices, they were all filled with all kinds of activities.

Oshodi under bridge
A close observation of activities at Oshodi under bridge showed that it has relapsed to its old self. Gradually but steadily, it is regaining all its former unwholesome characteristics. Those features that made it notorious before Fashola's clampdown are taking centre stage once more. The roughnecks are back in their numbers.

Like before, Oshodi now accommodates a large chunk of homeless Lagosians. But, this time, many of these destitute are under-aged boys. Although it is still safe to pass through the place during the day, such cannot be said at night, especially during late hours.

The day look of the spot belies its sinister nature, which only materialises at night. Filled with a potpourri of activities, it booms, as many people move up and down, to and fro, while others hang around standing, sitting and even lying down. Each person you find within the vicinity has one or two reasons for being there. As people do their thing, the long buses, popularly called 'Molue,' as well as small buses discharge commuters on the service lane right under the bridge, thereby increasing the tempo of activities around there.

While serious-minded Nigerians mill around the place, struggling to find their way, the roughnecks also mill around but without any effort to get out of the way. To them, they are in their comfort zone. They always wear tell-tale tags. They appear frail, shabbily dressed, disheveled, red-eyed and lethargic.

From investigation, what has happened is that, with the demolition of the Oshodi Main Electronics Market and Aso Rock Garage, the activities of the bad boys have moved to the Safejo Garage side of the same under bridge. Today, they have added to their numbers young impressionable boys, whose age ranges between 10 and 17. They are either standing, sitting on the road median or sleeping at an elevated corner by the edge of the bridge.

To an observant passer-by, the presence of such people is an indication that the place is a danger zone at certain hours of the day. But many people do not take note of this class of people. They are the people that make the spot tick.

Between 10pm and midnight, when the hustle and bustle have eased, the chickens would come home to roost. The place would be overrun by the youngsters, who have found in it a comfortable abode. Both those who hang around during the day and others from other places, such as Mushin and other parts of Oshodi, would all converge on the spot. At that hour, all the rickety vehicles as well as those waiting for the next day's job, make-shift shops, kiosks and other near-safe containers become their sleeping places.

Yet, there are other teenage boys, who hang onto the doors of 'danfo' buses, calling for passengers at that ungodly hour of night. They are bus conductors who brave all odds at that age to mingle with such adult roughnecks. They live on the street, independent of their parents. They form the bulk of the new occupants of Oshodi under bridge. After the day's struggle, they all retire to the place, where they are exposed to all kinds of danger, including sexual assault by the adult gay that take advantage of their innocence to perpetrate such evil.

Speaking about the children, whose activities have become prominent in the area, an elderly man who works with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Oshodi Branch, said: "Just check from under this bridge down to the point where BRT buses stop and up to the point where Heritage Bank is situated and you would marvel at the number of the under-aged boys working as bus conductors at such an ungodly hour of the night. They are not even afraid of anything. Most of the drivers they work with are hemp-smokers, who drive like there is no tomorrow and the boys don't give a hoot. I understand that most of them are street children who left their various homes to live this kind of Spartan life. They fend for themselves. They are exposed to all kinds of dangers, which sometimes lead to their death without the knowledge of their parents."

Investigations revealed that some of them did not plan to live under the Oshodi flyover but circumstances forced them into such a life. Today, many of them live there, where they mingle with adult criminals under whose tutelage they also emerge as tormentors of society.

Checks equally showed that life under Oshodi bridge is akin to the Hobbesian society, nasty, poor, short and brutish. It is the survival of the fittest. The children are molested sexually by adult homosexuals, who often rape them.

According to a man who identified himself simply as James and who said he had lived at the place long before Fashola's revolution, the place provides a home to many homeless Nigerians. He said: "Not all the people who sleep here are criminals. Some people are stranded and have nowhere to go. So, such people would resign to fate and take the risk of sleeping there pending when they could locate any of their relations in Lagos. But, while the person stays there, he would have to go through the baptism of fire.

"Yes, you don't just come to sleep at the place and resign yourself to fate without a scratch. No, it is not possible. The place is like a jungle and there are people who are in charge of the jungle. Such people are not in their right frame of mind; at night, something would have to be given in order to guarantee your safety. It could be money or clothes or any other property with you. You could also be subjected to sexual assault because many of those who are lords in that jungle are gay.

"Fashola tried to dislodge us but that was only temporary. We knew when he was clamping down on us that it was only a matter of time before we re-grouped. Where is Fashola now? Has he not finished his own time? Yes, he is gone and gone for good and we are back to base. Although the place is not as bad as it was before Fashola, things are beginning to happen again."

James further revealed that the idea of adult gay forcing under-aged boys to bed is a new development in life under the bridge: "Usually, it used to be robbery, street fighting, pick-pocket and rape of women. This issue of older men sleeping with young boys by force is new and it is dangerous because the kids could contract some of the deadly sexually transmitted infections, like HIV/AIDS. Remember that many of the kids still have the opportunity of being taken back to civilised society and if they are infected with a disease such as HIV, what will be their fate when they are fully re-integrated into the society?"

However, life under Oshodi bridge is not all about adult thugs who abuse all sorts of hard drugs and teenage boys under their tutelage. It is also about the ladies, who do brisk business selling their bodies. They are also categorised into different groups, depending on their modus operandi.

There are ladies who hawk drinks and cigarette at the spot during the day and early at night. This class of ladies also hawks sex in addition to their wares but only the initiates know their other article of trade. There are other ladies who only parade their bodies for the highest bidders. These ones are also neck-deep in the abuse of hard drugs. They sometimes offer free sex to the lords of the jungle, who always use abandoned or parked vehicles as their boudoir.

Life at Ojuelegba under bridge was also tough before Fashola's purge in the state. It used to be a hotbed of criminal activities, from fighting, prostitution to robbery, among others. But after Fashola raided the place, the criminals were dislodged and they relocated to other places. Today, activities have resumed but not criminal activities.

When Daily Sun visited the place, the whole of Ojuelegba under bridge had been converted to a garage where buses load passengers to places, like Orile, Ikeja, Ketu, Opebi-Allen, Agege, Apapa-Wharf, Iyana-Ipaja and Ibadan, among other places. It also hosts shops of newspaper vendors and those who sold food, recharge card, books, mineral water, bitter kola, vulcanisers as well as gamblers.

On the latest development, a driver who identified himself simply as David said: "This place is now safe. In the past, the fear of this place was the beginning of wisdom, as the saying goes but not anymore. The criminals are no longer here. Since Fashola pursued them out of here, this place has become safe. As for the buses you see loading here, it has always been like that. Before Fashola's wahala, we dey load here and I am happy we are back again. The only problem then was the criminal activities that was rampant, but thank God that all those kinds of activities are no longer here with us."

Before Fashola's revolution, Ikeja under bridge used to provide shops for women who weaved various kinds of hair styles. They were driven away and the spot was converted to a roundabout, which was fenced and beautified with flower.

However, both sides of the roundabout, which were also cleared of any kind of activity, have today been converted by bus drivers and tricycle riders to motor parks. Aside from the activities of these transporters, others such as newspaper vendors, book sellers, vulcanisers and cobblers are also competing for space.

When Daily Sun approached a trader there, who identified himself as Wale Johnson, he said: "This place is no longer looking as beautiful as it used to when Fashola drove everybody away. That time, the whole of under bridge was free and you could breathe fresh air; but look at what is happening today. I am sure that if not that the roundabout is protected with all those sharp, protruding stones, the hairdressers would have equally returned but those stones cannot even allow anybody to perch around the roundabout. That was a wonderful brainwork."

Railway under bridge
This particular place did not escape the hammer of Fashola's men, as they cleared it of all illegal activities. But today, the story has changed. Various trades take place there, an indication that those who were barred from doing business there are fully back.

According to a tricycle operator, Segun, who transported our reporter to the place, "As you see them, they don't sleep. They will stay like that till daybreak. They live there. During Fashola's government, all of them were driven away; there was no single soul there, but today, you can see that, gradually, they have returned and are doing business as usual."

From close observation, apart from the activities of condemned diesel oil merchants, all kinds of used products, ranging from refrigerators, foams, rugs to water closets, chairs and tables, among others, are sold there. Food vendors and sugar cane sellers are not left out. In short, the place is a community of its own.

Another tricycle operator, who spoke to Daily Sun, described the place as a mini jungle. He said: "That place is very rugged; it's just like a small jungle. There is no kind of person you won't find there. I am sure you will get all kinds of criminals there. Didn't you see them smoking marijuana there?"

To clearly illustrate how fearful the place could be to a stranger, he told of the experience of one of his passengers, saying: "There was a man who said I should carry him and turn inside the place because everywhere was flooded and he needed to cross over to the other side of the road. When we got into the place, the man saw an intimidating crowd and became afraid. He started shouting, 'mafia, mafia,' and he almost jumped out of my tricycle but I encouraged him to stay. I assured him that nothing would happen to him. When I finally dropped him off at the other side of the road, he thanked me profusely and gave me N1,000 instead of N50, which was the actual fare. He was palpitating as I dropped him off."

Government's approach

However, if the roughnecks at Oshodi under bridge think that the former governor's efforts would be in vain, they are in for a shocker. Just when they thought that they had launched a successful comeback and were beginning to settle down to business, the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, came with a master stroke. The governor ordered the demolition of Oshodi market, whose walls provided dark alleys for the roughnecks to easily ply their trade within the under bridge axis. When that was done and it appeared they were shifting their operation to the Aso Rock Garage side, the place equally came under demolition. With the demolition of the market and the garage, a greater part of Oshodi under bridge, where the bulk of criminal activities were going on, was completely exposed.

However, investigation revealed that even though some of the miscreants are still hanging around, majority of them had relocated to the Safejo Garage side of the area. They are still hopeful that by the time the state government is done with what it intends to do there, they would continue with their usual life. But, from observations, they very well know that their days are numbered, because by the time the governor is through with what he intends to do, the place and its surroundings would no longer be conducive for the kind of nefarious activities that have become part of their life.

As for other places where activities have returned, Lagosians believe that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

In Lagos traffic, you can buy anything, including television
Written by Eric Dumo
~Punch Nigeria. Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Nwabueze Okoli rushed out of the house like a man who was being chased by a monster. With an important presentation to make at a general staff meeting ahead of him that morning, the 31-year-old had less than two hours to wriggle his way through the chaotic traffic from his home in Owode, a small but densely populated town along Ikorodu Road, to his office in Victoria Island, Lagos's main hub for corporate entities. Forty minutes later, at the Alapere end of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway - a section notorious for inexplicable daily traffic snarls at that time of the day, Okoli realised a big problem. The Enugu State-born father of one had forgotten to pick up his shoe while hurriedly dashing out of the house. His fears mounted.

"I was almost running mad," the young economist said, flashing back to that tension-soaked moment. "How could I make such important presentation at a meeting where all the staff and directors of the company were going to be around without putting on shoes? For several minutes I was confused, nothing good came to my head aside the calamity that I had been thrown into at that moment. Going back home would compound my misery, it was not an option. I was in dilemma," he added, before sipping from the bottle of cold beer in front of him at the bar our correspondent engaged him recently.

Confused and stuck to the steering wheel of his car, Okoli's absent mindedness at that moment soon got to other road users who out of rage, constantly honked the horns of their vehicles for him to cover the space in front of him. Time was running against him. A career-threatening embarrassment stared him in the face. There must be a way out.

"Just as I approached Ogudu, I sighted a guy from afar in the traffic holding different pairs of male shoes," the 31-year-old said, a warm smile suddenly emerging on his bearded face. "They were in different sizes and colours. I couldn't scream or cry but I remember that the excitement I felt inside of me almost led to an accident that morning. At that moment, the guy seemed to me like an angel.

"I bought a pair of brown shoes from him for N4000. Even though the quality isn't something I would go for ordinarily if it wasn't an emergency situation, the shoes looked nice and saved me of the embarrassment I could have suffered that day at work. Each time I look back at that experience, smile fills my face," he said.

Like Okoli, Gbenga Adamolekun, a bank worker in central Lagos was also saved some embarrassment recently when he mistakenly put a pair of black snickers in the trunk of his car thinking it was a pair of black shoes. For convenience, the 35-year-old prefers to drive without shoes, only wearing such when he gets to his office's car park. But one morning two weeks ago, Adamolekun nearly collapsed from the shock that seized him when he stopped at a filling station to drop off a gas cylinder he hoped to pick later that evening on his way from work.

"Immediately I opened the boot of the car, it was as if a strange hand grabbed me by the throat. The shock of not finding the pair of black shoes as I carried the gas cylinder up was that severe," he recalled. "I was in complete shock, not knowing what to do next as time was not even on my side to start looking for a boutique around to buy a pair of shoes. Luckily for me, as I drove towards Fadeyi bus-stop to connect Western Avenue enroute CMS, I saw a bunch of guys hawking different types of male shoes right there in the traffic. It was a big moment of relief for me.

"Without minding the quality or price I quickly bought one. Just before climbing the bridge at Jibowu, I also realised I was not putting on a belt. I forgot to pick that up too while rushing out of the house that morning. But before I could panic further, another set of guys selling belts, stockings, singlets and shirts appeared in front, advertising their wares to potential customers in the traffic. I bought a black belt from one of them immediately. In fact with what I saw that morning, one could completely dress from head to toe by buying everything needed in the traffic on that stretch. I can never forget that funny experience," he said.

But apart from shoes, belts, stockings, shirts and singlets, a lot of unexpected items are today sold in traffic across most parts of Lagos, too. This form of street trading, which started as a way of providing light refreshment like water, soft drinks and sausage rolls for road users stuck in traffic, has grown in sophistication over the years, introducing into the mix, a host of other items including things traditionally found in shops and open markets. It is an industry that grows by the day.

"I was alarmed recently when a guy approached my car in traffic at the Obanikoro area of the city with a 21-inch LED television," Andrew Memudu, a Kogi native and public relations executive, told our correspondent during a friendly chat. "I had never seen anything like that since I have been in Lagos, so the sight came to me as a rude shock. How can anyone think of selling a television set in traffic, I imagined to myself. But the guy, who was not going to be discouraged by the strange looks on my face, told me boldly that the product was a new brand in the country and that they were advertising it everywhere to create more awareness about its quality and affordability. He was not the only one; his colleagues were all over the traffic marketing the item to other road users that afternoon too. I counted at least four people who patronised them as I drove along in the heavy traffic. It was really shocking," he said.

In addition to this interesting development, young men and women dangling cartons containing decoders, antennas and other items used to receive satellite television signals are now a common phenomenon in most parts of the city today. During the European Championship staged in France in June and the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, last month, our correspondent observed how several brands of decoders, their dishes and antennas were displayed at strategic sides of roads where heavy traffic occurred. While one or two watched over the stocks where they were positioned, a handful fanned out into such traffic, canvassing and trying to convince road users into buying one of the items.

"The GoTV I am using at home now, I bought it in traffic just before the European Championship in June," Kabir Usman, a dealer in fabric materials at the Agege area of Lagos told Saturday PUNCH. "It had always been on my mind to buy the item so that my family could enjoy it at home but I never found the time to do so. One afternoon while I was driving out, I saw some young ladies advertising GoTV in traffic around Pen Cinema, so I quickly bought one. They were running a promo at the time. If not for that opportunity, maybe I would still not have bought it till now because the time to look up and down for it wasn't just there.

"Before that time I had also bought a DVD player, pressing iron and electric kettle in traffic. To be honest with you, I have purchased quite a number of important electrical items in traffic," he said.

For two weeks, Mrs. Sandra Bibite, a school teacher in the Orile area of Lagos, was constantly on the lookout whenever she drove past Mile 2. Since visiting a friend and finding one of her portable gas cookers attractive, the 42-year-old woman had been searching everywhere for that particular product, hoping to find it in traffic like her friend, Kike, did.

According to her, the cooker which is built in the size of a stove, burned faster but consumed far less gas than the normal ones used in most homes today. After looking for the product in the market without success and constantly monitoring every corner of the road while driving along the axis for two weeks, she finally stumbled upon the item one evening as she was returning from work.

"I could not believe it when my friend told me that she bought that gas cooker in traffic around Mile 2. I fell in love with it and immediately searched for it in the market the following weekend but never found it. Since that period I had always been on the lookout for that particular gas cooker until I found it recently in traffic just before Orile.

"I was surprised to also see some other guys selling pots, fry pan, kettle and other kitchen utensils in traffic that day. It is something I had never encountered when I was living in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, with my husband before he was transferred to Lagos," she said.

A trip round most parts of Lagos metropolis earlier in the week by our correspondent revealed just how much a lot of 'crazy' and unexpected items have found their way to traffic these days. For example, at one section visited, ironing boards, wall hangers, huge mirrors, pillows and bedsheets could be seen being moved in between rows of slow-moving vehicles while in another part of the city, men of different ages could be seen dangling cutlasses, hoes, rakes and other farm implements before road users as the traffic dragged. Catapults, horse whips known in local parlance as koboko, hand fans and mats were also spotted. The list is endless.

"I have lived in Lagos for a long time but last week I saw something really strange in traffic around Ojuelegba area. I was sitting in the front seat of a commercial bus when suddenly a guy appeared from nowhere carrying female pants and brassieres, asking me to buy that they were very good items. I just hissed at him and had to eventually shout at him when he kept pestering me to patronise him. I even thought he was the only one selling such unusual item in traffic until I saw others like him as we progressed with our journey. It was a bit shocking to me," Folake Adepitan, a fashion designer, told Saturday PUNCH.

Donald Bassey was constantly left in awe during his first three months in Lagos after relocating from Abuja, the nation's capital, to join his elder brother, Mark, a stockbroker. Used to the less chaotic nature and lifestyle of Abuja, the 27-year-old told Saturday PUNCH that most of the items he had seen sold in traffic from where he was coming from were mostly cold beverage drinks and snacks to refresh exhausted road users but that he was surprised to discover that in Lagos one could get to buy mobile phones, MP3 players, power banks and chargers of all kinds plus other related accessories in traffic.

"It took me time to adjust and get used to all the unexpected things I was seeing in Lagos traffic after relocating from Abuja earlier this year," he said. "Throughout my five years in Abuja the strangest items I found in traffic was bathing towel and umbrella, otherwise most of the things I usually came across in traffic were just things to eat and refresh yourself while sitting in the vehicle.

"But in Lagos it has been a different and crazy experience. I have seen people selling and buying mobile phones, tablet pc, power banks and other similar items in traffic. These are things that ordinarily someone should expect to only find in stores or in the market. To find these in traffic is really strange to me," he said.

Many housewives and in fact individuals frequently travelling through Owode to the Ojota area of Lagos have indeed found a new and easier means of shopping for food items especially ingredients needed to make tasty soups and stew while on the go. From tomatoes to pepper, vegetable, onion, smoked fish and grinded beef to other vital spices - everything needed for a complete pot of soup could be bought in the traffic along the axis. Those familiar with the route have been utilising the opportunity quite well.

"Most weekends whenever I am returning from Ikorodu after visiting my mother, I usually get cheap tomatoes and pepper to buy on the Mile 12 Bridge while in traffic. If I need to buy other items to make soup or stew, I could always find them in that traffic as well, thereby saving me the time and energy I could have used to go to the market. In fact I even have customers now at that place who I always call ahead once I am leaving Ikorodu. For me, it has been a very easy way of shopping for these items," Obiageli Martins, a housewife, said.

Once described as the "Street Supermarket" by Time Magazine, an international news publication, Lagos traffic indeed harbours some of the strangest items any market could even have. Apart from items such as television, gas cookers, cutlasses, brassieres and soup ingredients, puppies and live chicken are also now advertised to potential customers in traffic.

In July 2016, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, declared during a television programme that the administration would enforce an existing law banning street hawking by metting out punishment of N90, 000 or a six-month jail term to any buyer or seller of any goods or services in traffic caught in the act.

The governor's declaration followed a tragic incident where a young trader fleeing from officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline, an agency of the Lagos State Government saddled with the responsibility of instilling discipline and social order in the society, was crushed to death by a speeding BRT vehicle during a hot pursuit.

The incident, which sparked the fury of an angry mob at the scene, resulted in the vandalisation of 49 BRT vehicles - a damage Ambode said would cost his administration around N139 million to fix. Incidents of this nature have become a regular occurrence in recent times and despite such stiff warning from the Lagos State Government, much hasn't changed as different items continue to find their way into traffic by the day.

According to a sociologist, Bimbo Davies, the rise of street trading and hawking in traffic is largely connected to the high cost of renting shops in a city like Lagos.

He said with the large influx of people into the city from other parts of the country each day and only few jobs to cater for their needs, the quest for survival would always push such individuals into devising all sorts of means including risking their lives to sell various items in traffic.

"Whether we want to admit it or not, Lagos' traffic provides us with great and easy access to a lot of goods and services. While still sitting in the traffic that sometimes runs into several hours, we could easily look out the windows of the vehicles we are trapped in and purchase whatever item that could have carried us to the market, thus bridging an important gap.

"But one of the biggest significances of this industry is that it provides a lot of employment opportunities for many individuals who lack proper education, and or skill needed to compete in the real sectors of the economy. Many of these guys who cannot afford to rent a shop turn to the endless traffic across the city to find a means of survival.

"I am not against the ban of street trading or hawking in traffic, what I am simply saying is that for such practice to be completely eradicated, we must first address the factors giving rise to it. A lot of these guys who sell in traffic get killed every day, so it is not as if they are also having a fairy tale ride, no. But because they have no other means of genuine survival, they must sell one or two items in the market Lagos' traffic provides to live. It is a big industry and care must be applied in dealing with it," he said.

Interesting as it is, Lagos is not the only place where 'crazy' and unexpected items are sold in traffic, in other parts of Nigeria, the line up is equally attention-catching.

In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for example, kerosene turned into empty table water containers are hawked alongside other items like smoked fish, shrimps, fufu and palm oil in traffic. In Sapele, Delta State, freshly killed games like alligators, tilapia and catfish are all dangled before motorists who drive along the military checkpoints on the expressway linking Edo State.

In Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states, South West Nigeria, it is a similar story - items ranging from bean cake popularly known as akara in local parlance to bags of cassava flakes are all advertised at almost every stop caused by traffic. For sellers and patrons, these 'traffic markets', regardless of its good sides and evils, would remain one big part of their daily lives.

Goodbye molue • Gradually, kings of Lagos roads disappear

Written by Cosmas Omegoh
~The SUN: Friday, April 8, 2016
The sun was setting fast; dusk was gradually descending. The skyline, which, a few moments before, was looking as bright as the mid-morning sun, had begun to grow dimmer with darkness settling like a sheet of blanket over the arena.

At Bolade, Oshodi, that evening, the air was hot and humid. Bolade is an inimitable bus stop on Agege Motor Road, Lagos.

That scorching evening, scores of Lagos residents – mostly the hoi polloi – had gathered at Bolade, with apprehension boldly etched on their faces. Most of them were contemplating how they would get home as soon as they could. They were waiting for the 'king of the Road,' the Lagos' yellow and black-stripped molue buses, obviously the last of the vanishing tribe of such buses, which, for decades, kept Lagos moving. But now they are almost no more.

That evening, Lagos was firmly in the grips of the biting fuel scarcity. Each time everyone experiences acute fuel scarcity, the city is held at the jugular by chaos. So, residents were worrying about how they would get home just before it became too late. The available commercial buses on the roads were fewer in number as a result of the biting fuel scarcity. So, they came in trickles. Their operators, who had fought the odds to get fuel from wherever they could were charging far higher fares in excess of 150 per cent because they wanted to make their money back.

Almost all the passengers were headed towards Iyana Ipaja and Abule Egba. Many more were bound for areas as far as old Toll Gate and Sango in Ogun State and beyond.

Many at the bus stops could not afford the new fare regime, but they all must go home anyway. Their joint prayer was that the one-time, ubiquitous Lagos' mass transit bus should show up quickly. In those days that the molue reigned supreme, some people hailed it as "the people's taxi" or "the big taxi." But now it is almost extinct. They have been chased away by the government.

Perspiring prodigiously, some of the waiting passengers were seen clutching various items, mostly foodstuff meant for their respective families. Some of them might have spent hectic hours at work and market places, struggling to eke out as little as N500 which was barely adequate to hand a family member a decent meal. And for them, the very reasonable thing to do was to wait for a cheap means of going home. That was where the molue came handy. With just N100, those going as far as some parts of Ogun State were sure they could make their journey.

Then suddenly, the long-waited rescuer was sighted making its way. The momentum changed, as the once popular, 911 Mercedes Benz bus pulled up, roaring into the arena with its characteristic bravado. Just before it screeched to its final halt, a wiry, scruffy fellow came off the doorway with the trade mark, commando style many Lagos motor conductors are known for, stamping his feet forcefully and nosily with a certain long-practised rhythm, as he attempted to break his speed. Then seeing the crowd that surged forward desperately seeking to secure a space aboard the rickety contraption, he screamed at the top of his voice "Iyana Ipaja, Toll Gate! Enter with your change ooo!"

That was the typical molue at work. For some time, the reporter had been searching for the remnants of this popular Lagos mass-mover without success. But at last the search ended with a reward. The last subsisting tribe of outlawed buses was found. The remnants, which now operate, perhaps, only on Oshodi to Old Toll Gate route are few in number. The rest are off the roads, having for long either been grounded or had their carcasses turned into other uses after they were yanked off most Lagos roads in 2013 by the administration of the former governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.

Before the final nail was driven into the molues' coffin, they were the common man's preferred means of moving from place to place. For one, the buses charged the least fares. With as little as possible, one could go round Lagos, thanks to the molue, which then had various variants. For instance, there was the Bedford type and the popular and bigger 911 Mercedes Benz stuff. Both were made of the vehicle's chassis clothed with some iron sheets welded together to form a contraption which often left some rough, jagged edges that could tear anything, including human bodies and clothes, that got entangled with it.

Molue seats were no better than its body. Some were mere iron mesh welded together to some few sheets that served as the vehicles' floor. Some had bare, fairly smoothened planks or sheets of iron as seats. Passengers sat on separate rows in twos and threes, with two to three iron rods rising from the floor to the roof as pillars. Standing passengers held firmly to a long line of iron rod to support themselves and to maintain their balance.

During rush hours, a typical molue had far more people standing than sitting. It was such a commanding feature at that time that the legendary afro music maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, dedicated one of his hit tracks "Suffering and Smiling." to the molue. In the song, Fela sang, "44 sitting, 99 standing," all in apparent mockery of the transport scheme the governments of the day could provide for the people.

Indeed, the Lagos molue was never lacking in real things that fully amused and entertained. The issues ranged from the numerous fights between the conductors and their passengers, the passenger versus passenger fights, the vivacious vendors who mingled their trade with comedy, to the preachers of the gospel. All these made each moluenot just a means of transport alone but a house of comedy. And many loved the molue for the free entertainment it offered in full measure.

Then the typical molue driver used to start work sometimes as early as 4 am to be able to convey early risers to their respective destinations. Their day starter, as usual was a drink of the popular local gin, ogogoro, with which they "washed their mouths and shined their eyes." That explained why early in the morning, many of them were already reeking with alcohol.

After a few doses of alcohol, the drivers often saw every other road users as ordinary. They could torment lesser vehicles and go on to deny their drivers the right of way, damning the consequences. Everyone was afraid of them because they had nothing to lose hitting or brushing other vehicles. The molues were hardly maintained, with some of their tyres looking completely bald and worn out.

Molue drivers and their conductors were largely unkempt and were known for their abusive and foul language and sheer recklessness. They easily started fights, and they followed such fights to the bitter end. Many on the roads never wanted to engage them.

But in 2013, the Lagos State government came to the conclusion that the days of the molue should be over for good, insisting that the decision was being taken in the interest of the general public. The mind of the state government was revealed by the General Manager, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Babatunde Edu, at a stakeholders' meeting he held in September of that year with the branch chairmen of the Lagos Urban Bus Owners Association of Nigeria (LUBON), operators of the molue buses.

"The Lagos State government was supposed to commence the enforcement of the order last month, but being a responsive and responsible government which believes in enlightenment before enforcement, it, therefore, decided to shift the enforcement tothis month," he said.

While warning that any buses found contravening the law would be impounded, Edu revealed that the prohibited routes for molue buses were Iddo, Ebute Ero, Apongbon, Obalende, Idumota, and CMS roads, among others. The action was in line with the envisaged metropolitan status of the state.

But that was not the first time such a public transport bus would be suspended in Lagos. A similar one, then called the bolekaja, was at some point rested. The bolekaja was introduced in the colonial days. Bolekaja, when translated into Yoruba language, meant "come down, let's fight," because of its peculiar nature. It was a wood-bodied axial lorry that had just a lone entrance at the back. Passengers sat on rolls of strong planks crossed from one end of the vehicle's body to the other. For a passenger in the middle or innermost part of the vehicle to alight, many before them who were in the way must have to disembark. This, it was said, often caused fights.

But at the turn of the 1970s, the bolekaja was phased for the molue which offered more convenience. That fell in line with the level of development at that time. The molue ruled the city streets and highways until September 2013 when its long era ended. It was replaced by the more modern buses operated by the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) supervised by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and the LAGBUS scheme, which offer speed, neatness and greater convenience. Several of such buses are operating on most Lagos roads at the moment.

So, right now, only a vanishing tribe of the molue remains active. The search for this endangered specie, which stands as an eloquent testimony of the buses' once glorious rein, can be arduous. Only on Oshodi-Sango-Toll Gate route just a few could be found. And for those who have missed the ever-dominant presence of this once popular mass transit bus, seeing them once again offers real excursion into the past.

"Molue still dey!" Akeem, a driver said in smattering English, amid laughter. "Since government say make we no enter Island again, we still dey push am.

"For more than 25 years, I dey drive molue. Na for molue I dey get my daily bread." But he refused to disclose how much he made daily from driving the bus.

Lagos! Na-wa! ...Now and Then

Lagos, Nigeria.
'Eko oni baje'
Lagos commissions Nigeria's first cable bridge
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola on May 29th, 2013
 commissioned the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge.
Lagos Island: Marina West via the Obalende fly-over

Marina, Lagos Island: showing the all new BRT/LAG Bus scheme in Lagos

Marina west, Lagos Island.

Lagos Island: Eko Bridge

3rd Mainland Bridge: From Oworonsoki to Ikoyi, Lagos and Victoria Islands.

Voice of Nigeria station, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Ikorodu road by Anthony village, Lagos.

Oshodi, Ilupeju side, overlooking Agege motor way, Lagos.


Oshodi, Ilupeju side, overlooking Agege motor way, Lagos.

Oshodi oke, showin Agege motor way and rail line trading. Lagos.

Oshodi Lagos- viewing Agege motor way, Lagos.


Then: ...daily molue rush. 'No shaking'


5 crazy things you shouldn't do in Lagos buses

By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke

Lagos is a comedy zone half the time and moving from one part of town to the other in a public bus can leave you with interesting experiences that keep you reeling with laughter for the most part of the journey.
If you lack a sense of humor, many situations you encounter can cause you to flip a switch but once you realize that public vehicles are boarded by Lagos people who are drawn from various backgrounds, orientations, and mindsets, you should feel better., Africa's No 1 Hotel Booking Portal rounds up a few crazy things you should not do in a public bus.

Wooing a woman
Yes, you can meet your life partner anywhere. For this reason, men may want to take advantage of the opportunity of wooing a pretty girl especially when they know that the chances for seeing her again are pretty slim. However, thing can turn awry really quick as not all ladies like the idea of being wooed in a public bus or on the high street of Ikeja area of Lagos State. To avoid embarrassments, suppress your urge to woo the lady till she's ready to get off the bus and then make your move. If it's a hit or miss, the memories are all yours alone.

Dozing off on the shoulders of a fellow passengers.
Sleeping in a public bus is not an unusual situation. However, what many Lagos people can not stand is when you turn the shoulders of a fellow passenger to a pillow. It's a little weird to have a stranger rub-off on you and if you can't stand it, neither can they. Plus it puts you at the mercy of pickpocket's and you run the risk of being driven past your bus stop.

Not paying for your transport fare
Some people are fond of trying to avoid paying transport fares. Other persons go as far as saying a little prayer hoping the conductor will forget his money. In Lagos, you have got a large dose of faith, this prayer may not work and it often leads to bitter fights between the conductor and do not want tied in a fist-cuff with a bus conductor.

Offering the driver 'driving lessons'
The average driver thinks of himself as king of the road. No matter their flaws, they rarely accept caution or correction from anyone. Therefore, any passenger who attempts to caution the driver may receive a vitriolic reaction from him. In classic comicalEkofashion, he may threaten to abdicate the driving sit for the a moving vehicle, you certainly do not want him to take his threat seriously.

Intervene when arrested
Members of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) or the police may be overzealous and aggressive but this is as a result of the habitual recklessness of drivers who disobey the state's driving rules. When arrested, the drivers feel remorseful while pleading with passengers to apologise on their behalf. Most passengers in Lagos are always conscious not to intervene especially when the driver is at fault. To avoid getting caught in a free for all verbal onslaught, whenever the driver gets arrested, quietly disembark from the vehicle and get another one heading your way.

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