A burnt brick factory built by the Oyo State Government to serve infrastructural needs has been abandoned and left in ruins for 14 years, PREMIUM TIMES reports.
The factory, situated in Oloba Village, Erunmu, Egbeda Local Government Area of the state, is one of the projects embarked upon by the Rashidi Ladoja-led administration in 2004. Mr Ladoja governed the state from 2003 to 2007- although he suffered impeachment in 2006 and was later reinstated same year.
Even after Mr Ladoja’s administration, successive governments have done nothing to salvage the decay of the project.
Visiting the factory in June, this reporter observed that production and other activities have been grounded for over a decade. The paths to the site had become so bushy that one could barely walk through.
The only person found in the factory was the guard, who is in charge of protecting the sophisticated but rusty machines and the other production equipment from being stolen.
For Mr Ladoja, the burnt brick project was conceived with a view to reducing the cost of construction in the state.
But for the dwellers of Oloba village, the project meant more as their joy knew no bounds when the factory was constructed in 2004. They had high hopes that such infrastructural investment will be a major driver for social amenities and consequently, the development of Oloba village and other neighbouring communities.
Many of the villagers who spoke with this newspaper believed such factory would attract other basic amenities such as electricity, potable water and good roads; and above all, create employment opportunities.
According to the Baale (head) of Oloba village, Lamidi Oyekan, everybody was surprised when the government began the project and they were elated to see both white and black engineers in the village.
“We gave them acres of land for the project with the expectation that it would bring employment to our lands which would increase our lifestyle in the village and its environs,” Mr Oyekan told this reporter that sunny afternoon.
Their expectations were further heightened when the factory commenced operations and many youth started working in the construction department of the factory as casual workers.
However, the hope of the people hit the rocks in 2006 when Mr Ladoja was impeached. The impeachment of the governor brought an automatic halt to the ongoing activities of burnt brick making in the factory. That has been the situation to date.
Mr Oyekan, while expressing his dissatisfaction about the abandonment, stated that it has caused a great setback for this village.
He said, “They would have installed the electric transformer given to us then, unfortunately, we remain in our usual state till this moment. All we get is visitation from some government workers, but nothing has been so far.”
Oloba village has never had electricity and residents had hoped the factory’s operation would speed up the provision of electricity to the community.
Idowu Jaiyeoba, one of those who worked at the factory, lamented how he was promoted from a casual worker to a permanent staff before his employment was abruptly terminated.
“We were all working without payment then holding unto the promises given to us that we would be paid as at when due. Myself and other workers were so sad when the operation stopped abruptly despite not being paid for all our hard work and efforts. It has really affected my financial stability and my colleagues.
“Right now, I have gone back into my small-scale farming after waiting for a long time,” he added.
Another villager who used to sell food to the factory workers while it was still functioning, Morenike Akinyioye, shared her disappointment concerning the abandonment of the project.
She said the implications of the shutdown made her fall back to her palm oil extraction job, her first craft.
“I would have become more established and better than this if things did not turn out the way they did,” she said in regrets.
Reacting to the abandonment, the spokesperson to Mr Ladoja, Lanre Olatinwo, admitted that the project was stalled because Mr Ladoja was “illegally removed”.
He also blamed the then house of assembly for stalling work on the project, even after the reinstatement of Mr Ladoja.
“The hoodlums in the house of the assembly made it difficult for us to move on with the project amidst other political crises,” he told our reporter.
Ray of hope
Meanwhile, Taiwo Adisa, the chief press secretary to the incumbent governor, Seyi Makinde, has assured that the current administration is keen on reviving the abandoned project.
He said Mr Makinde had visited the place, adding that “the state has advertised that place for public-private partnership. The project is one of the twenty projects of such.”
“The governor has ordered that the company that built the place be traced because it is an Italian company which is no longer in Nigeria so that they can recalibrate the project.”
When asked about the budget allocated for the reviving of the project, he insisted that the government will not drop any money and that the project has been handed over to a competent company.
Experts proffer solutions
Hamzat Lawal, an accountability advocate and the founder of Follow The Money Nigeria, in an interview with this paper, condemned the lack of continuity in projects embarked upon by government administrations.
“It is quite unfortunate that successive governments, when they come to government, in some cases, cancel what their predecessors have put in place,” he said.
When asked about the solution to the abandonment of developmental projects, he proffered that the communities should be involved in ensuring that their needs are met. He advised that the government should meet with community members from time to time.
“By doing this, the government needs to have a constructive dialogue with community members. For projects to be successful, it is about ensuring value for money and ownership of the community because it will reduce vandalization of public property and it will also ensure prosperity in various communities.”
He also advised the current administration to deliberate on the project and revive it so that the aspirations of the community people will be met.