Two months after the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, inaugurated the Pen Cinema Bridge, homeless people, including beggars and hoodlums, have occupied the facility and are allegedly using the opportunity to dispossess unsuspecting members of the public of their valuables.
During a visit to assess the situation on Tuesday, PUNCH Metro observed that the bridge, which was constructed to ease mobility of road users and members of the public, had become a shelter as people were seen taking refuge under and around it.
However, passers-by, motorists and business owners lamented the growing insecurity occasioned by the activities of people living around the bridge, adding that the area around the bridge was polluted by waste.
Speaking with PUNCH Metro, a commercial bus driver, Shola Oye, said a lot of people live and pass the night under the Pen Cinema Bridge, adding that their activities had led to increment in the level of waste generated there.
He stated, “A lot of people have made under the bridge their abode. Even the National Union of Road Transport Workers constantly forces them out of the place, because of how they litter the place.
“Sometimes, the NURTW officials pay street sweepers from the union’s purse to clean up the place to avoid being blamed by the government.
“Most of those living there prefer to sleep at the end of the bridge facing the rail line to avoid being easily spotted. The union members sometimes come on Thursdays to chase beggars and those loitering around the bridge.”
One of those residing around the bridge, Rokeeb Oladimeji, told PUNCH Metro that he migrated from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to Lagos in search of greener pasture, adding that he had been homeless since he got to the state.
Oladimeji said, “I am from Osun State, but I came from Port Harcourt to Lagos after I encountered some challenges. I arrived here recently with no place to go. I am currently working as a labourer at a building site to make enough money to rent an apartment. I couldn’t go to work today (Tuesday) because of the injury I sustained yesterday (Monday).
“Residing here, everyone must get up early to have their baths in a public toilet, where we pay. We also have various places where we keep our clothes. I can’t wait to return to Port Harcourt when I make enough money.”
A member of the NURTW, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told PUNCH Metro that aside hoodlums occupying the bridge, beggars and porters had also turn the bridge to place of abode.
“They are everywhere. They sleep even up to the rail line. Most of them are homeless northerners. I don’t think the government can do anything about them,” he said.
When PUNCH Metro contacted the state Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, he said there was police presence in Pen Cinema, adding that all damaged police stations during the #EndSARS protest had been restored.
Adejobi stated, “All the stations that were burnt during the violent #EndSARS protest are now functional. We have our men in the area as makeshift structures and vehicles have been provided for them to operate.
“In addition, there has been no increase in the crime rate in Pen Cinema or Agege in general. We don’t have such a record with us at the command. It is just mere psychological projection.”
The spokesman for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Mr. Adekunle Adeshina, had yet to respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile telephone on the issue of waste and illegal habitation of the bridge as of the time of filing this report.