On Wednesday, May 1, Lagos state’s Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, shared a post on X revealing the government’s discovery of 86 partitioned rooms under the Dolphin Estate Bridge, Ikoyi, on Lagos Island.

The revelation sparked mixed reactions among Nigerians, and a recurring question everyone asked was “Who is the landlord? How do people live under the bridge, and what’s life like for these residents?”.

While my journo request seeking out “underbridge” residents to share their experience didn’t generate a strong lead, I found Oladimeji*, who moved from Osun State to Lagos in 2020. He talks about spending his first night in Lagos under a bridge and how it’s an entirely different world.

As Told To Adeyinka

In 2020, my workplace in Ijebu placed me on a temporary assignment, which required me to work with another company in Lagos for a few weeks. On the day of my trip, I worked normal office hours before setting out for Lagos around 4 p.m. Unfortunately, I missed the last vehicle heading for Lagos. It was getting late and the garage didn’t seem like they had arrangements for another bus, so I made for the roadside in hopes of finding “sole”(roadside pickups).

Luckily, a Sienna heading to Lagos turned up some minutes later, and I hitched a ride with the car. Now, the instruction from my boss was to resume at the company in Ogba on the same day, but there was traffic and we got to Lagos late.

I should have lodged at a hotel but I was broke AF because I’d not been paid for the month. Also, I didn’t know anyone in Lagos,  so I explained my condition to the driver. I told him I was supposed to resume at Ogba for a new job but it was late. Surprisingly, he was sympathetic to my plight. He said he was spending the night in his car at Ojota, and I could join him. He also offered to drop me off at my destination the next morning. It wasn’t the most ideal condition but it was better than getting stranded.

We got to Ojota around 10:30 p.m. and the driver found a parking spot under the bridge. The driver asked if I wanted something to eat, but I told him I was fine. He, on the other hand, was starved and needed to find food. He also said he’d stop at his babe’s place so he might return a little late. In my head, I wondered why we couldn’t spend the night with his babe if she had a place in Lagos. Before he left, he gave me his phone number and asked me to call him if I had any issues.

Get a free ticket to Strings Attached and enjoy a feel-good evening of music, dancing and games at Muri Okunola Park, Lagos on May 11, 2024.

I got hungry after he left but I decided to wait it out till the next morning It didn’t seem safe to wander by that time.  However, at some point, it felt like I was going to die if I didn’t find something to eat. 

So, I stepped out of the car to look for food. It was now 11 p.m. but people were still around. Hawkers, traders, conductors and other people who were probably wrapping up for the day. 

Soon, I found a Hausa man selling fried yam and suya ahead and started walking towards him. I was almost at his place when I heard screams of “won ti n bo” “won ti n bo” (They’re coming) and saw people running towards my direction. I didn’t bother to find out what was chasing them, I just joined them. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like I’d make it to the car in time, so I found a spot to hide like the other area boys. It turned out it was a midnight police raid and the officers came or people selling drugs under the bridge.

While in hiding, some of the area boys noticed I wasn’t one of them and attacked me. I got a couple of slaps and they wanted to know what I was looking for and why I was out that late before they collected my phone and the little cash I had on me. 

Luckily, I’d left my smartphone inside my travelling bag in the car.  Whrn I got back to the car, the driver wasn’t back. I called but he didn’t pick up and I knew I had to spend the night alone. It was a scary thought, but at least I was back in the safety of the car. I rested my head for a bit and drifted off.

I don’t know how long I was out for, but the sound of people grinding against the car soon jolted me out of my sleep. I looked around and a window at the back of the Sienna was wide open, and my travelling bag was gone. 

I was still trying to reconcile what had happened when someone banged at the door and was like “So you’re sleeping. Can’t you hear the sound of people fighting?” 

I’m not sure if it was the confusion of my missing bag or the fear that gripped me, but I stupidly opened the door and stepped out. Before I could figure out what was happening, these boys rushed out of nowhere and occupied the Sienna. I tried to put up a fight but they all looked dangerous and I was certain they’d have gotten away with killing me if they felt up to it.

So, beaten into defeat, I let them have the car and found somewhere to sit. It was around 3:30 a.m. by this time. 

A woman who sold agege bread watched it all play out, called out to me and was like “Arakunrin, kilo nse nibi? Fi awon omo yen sile o, won kin seyan gidi”. (Young man, what are you doing here? You better leave those boys, they’re dangerous people). 

She gave me a big polythene bag to wrap myself up but at that point, it was hard to find any sleep. The heat from the nylon made me uncomfortable, the mosquitoes were unforgiving and it was just a completely fucked up situation.

Around 4:30 a.m. the driver returned and he casually asked the boys to leave his car. I’d expected him to shout or do something rash but they had such a smooth exchange that made me think it was all planned. But what would have been the point? It wasn’t like I had money or looked like a rich kid. 

So many other things happened during that night I spent under the bridge but I can’t remember now because I’ve pushed the memories away. I just know it was a whole different world.

READ NEXT: Which Popular Lagos Bridge Are You?

>

OUR MISSION

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.