By Joke Adeniyi
For residents of Omoda in Ilorin Local Government Area of Kwara State, waking up to see roads closed to vehicular traffic for sole reason of social function is fast becoming a norm.
The hosts of the shindig do not deem it necessary to give notice or inform residents of the area of the road blockage beforehand. Consequently, motorists and even pedestrians are forced to meander their way through almost impassable alternative roads in most instances.
This development is however not peculiar to Omoda, there are several areas in the heart of the metropolis where this practice has been going on unhindered. In the affected areas, roads are put to other use aside mobility. In the indigenous residential areas, roads are turned to spaces for holding social ceremonies. The ceremonies are mainly wedding and naming ceremonies.
My colleague and I regretted passing through Okekere area on a particular Saturday, sometime last year, on our way to attend a wedding ceremony. There was heavy gridlock as a lane of the dual road was blocked with canopies, tables and chairs at a party venue. We had to park our car just like other motorists, alighted and trekked several metres to our destination.
The incessant occupation of major link roads, especially on weekends, by organisers of social events, has become a major challenge in the state capital. In fact, no weekend is complete without parties being thrown in same manner in some parts of the metropolis.
It has become a culture that residents of the affected area do not want to let go of. Despite the growing number of event centres in the state capital, these people would rather hold their ceremonies right in the middle of the road; not minding whose ox is gored.
Although some hinged their action on cost of renting event centres. The people throw decorum to the winds; flagrantly obstruct roads for a whole day out of self-serving interest, constituting public nuisance and sadly, government and concerned authorities seem not to be bothered.
This worrisome development, however, calls for concern, given the danger of the practice. In a situation where there is a medical emergency and the victim needed to be rushed to a health facility for attention and link roads have been blocked by merry makers, the eventuality is best imagined. Aside disturbing vehicular movement and pedestrian movement, there is also the issue of noise pollution in residential areas. There have been instances of breakdown of law and order, when some aggrieved members of the community have attacked organisers of parties for infringing on their right, thus posing danger to lives and property. In addition, vehicular accidents cannot be ruled out in this situation, coupled with health hazard consequent upon emission of carbon monoxide from exhaust pipes of vehicles in traffic girdlock. From the foregoing, one believes it is high time the Kwara State government curbed excesses in the social life of the citizens. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development needs to identify areas notorious for this practice with a view to tackling the malaise. It is pertinent that the ministry in charge embark on sensitisation and orientation of the people on doing things the proper way. Most of them have no knowledge of the hazard associated with this unacceptable practice. This is because a high decorum is expected from citizens on issues that could cause problem to the society at large.
The people should be made to know that the act is gross lawlessness, which must be put to an end in the interest of all.
But most of all, there should be a law prohibiting blocking of roads and streets for the purpose of holding social functions. The law should aim at discouraging residents from holding parties on the street to ease traffic flow around the state capital and nip in the bud attendant dire consequences of the practice. It is common knowledge that implementation of law is a problem in this part of the world, but to prevent anarchy, the state government through relevant agencies and authorities must enforce compliance, when such law is passed. There should be no sacred cow; anyone that runs foul of the law should be sanctioned appropriately irrespective of his status in the society. That is, strict enforcement without fear or favour.
With this law, the right of both motorists and commuters to unhindered access to roads in the state will be protected. The governed have a role to play in ensuring that public amenities such as road and its furniture are wisely used and protected.