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Darkness in the midst of light, penury in the centre of plenty… tales of woe from Seme

Darkness in the midst of light, penury in the centre of plenty… tales of woe from Seme
January 12
12:11 2015

Seme, a border community between Nigeria and Benin Republic, has over the years been a major source of revenue for the federal government.

In 2013, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) generated over N8 billion from the community. Over N2 billion was also realised in the first quarter of 2014 and in October, a total of N935 million was raised from Seme. But the community has little or nothing to show for being the goose that lays the golden egg.

The decline in the price of oil has forced the government to diversify to other revenue means and the funds realised from NCS would no doubt go a long way in boosting the country’s economy.

However, just like inhabitants of communities in the Niger Delta complain of neglect by government after drilling oil from their soil, the people of the border town are full of lamentations.


But unlike some youths in the Niger Delta who resorted to violence in order to draw the attention of government to their plight, the Eguns, as inhabitants of Seme are referred to, have vowed never to resort to violence.

The only durable road in the community

The only motorable road in the community

“We are peace-loving and very law-abiding. Though government has totally abandoned us, we would never take laws into our hands,” a community leader, who craved anonymity, told TheCable.

“We have all what it takes to create a scene and get the attention of government; we know what we can do to get the attention of Abuja but we have voluntarily chosen to maintain orderliness.


“We don’t have anyone to help us. Nobody at all. Our youths don’t have what to do. No job, most of them have turned into commercial motorcyclists in order to eke out a living.”

Good roads, potable water, electricity, are basic infrastructure required in any society but these necessities are nowhere near existent in this area.

Going round Seme, there is basically no sign of development. Apart from the main expressway connecting the community to Badagry, the only place where one could find a tarred road is the route leading to the custom barracks in the community.

A road leading to one of the villages

A road leading to one of the villages

None of the roads leading to the over 50 villages in the community is tarred. The people also have to dig wells to find water.


If destiny is to be determined by the quality of education, then the parents of about 700 pupils who attend Methodist Primary School, Seme, would stop their children from going to school in order to prevent a doomed future.

Being the only government primary school, virtually every household in the community send their children to the dilapidated institution.


Chairs are inadequate for the number of pupils, while the walls of the school, which was established in 1955, are about caving in and the toilets are nothing to write home about.


“The worst problem is flooding. We feel free to walk during dry season but during raining season, I don’t allow my children leave the house,” a parent told TheCable.

“The children find it very difficult to get to school because the whole place would have been flooded and to worsen matters, rain drenches them in the class because most of the roofs are bad. It is a pity that our children would continue suffering like us.


“We sent them to school because we were told that we were going through hardship because of illiteracy, but how would their own story be different after undergoing such hardship all in the name of being educated.”

Zofu Nathaniel, a leader at Oglogbo, one of the communities in Seme begged for government help with the drainage, saying the experience during raining season is better imagined.


“We are almost fed up with complaints because it has not yielded any result. Government just abandoned us here.”

One of the clasrooms

One of the classrooms

Another problem affecting Seme is electricity. So bad is it that while darkness descends on the town at night, reflection of light from electric poles in neighbouring Benin Republic shines from afar.


The families, who cannot afford generators but have their homes around the fence of the border, benefit from the light from another country, which illuminates their lives.

It was observed that people, including security personnel, seated outside in groups to take advantage of the light shining into the land of darkness from afar.

“We appealed to the Lagos state government and they donated five transformers to us,” Abdul Rashid Oguntosin, a villager, said.

“We used the light for three years and it got spoilt. The main problem with the light is that the electric poles were erected beside the road and vehicles have been hitting them. Most of the poles have been destroyed and vandals have also carted away the cables from over 50 poles. So we have transformers but there is no light.

“We tried by drawing the attention of the government to the fact that the contractors who handled the light project erected the poles at a wrong location. We have made community efforts and even set up many committees in collaboration with security agencies but nothing fruitful came out in the end.

“Who would believe that despite the billions that the federal government is generating from our land, they cannot give us ordinary light? Is that not a big shame? The state government built a micro water facility for us but it is not functioning.”

As if the people had been waiting for the opportunity to bare their minds, the complaints kept pouring in from different angle.


“We want the government to revisit the contract of electricity from Gbaji to Seme,” said Zofu Nathaniel, a traditional ruler at Oglogbo, another village in Seme.

“During raining season, the whole area is usually flooded. We want government to help us with drainage. We are really suffering here. We have complained several times to the government and yet no result.

“The roads to the village are bad. No road at all. We park our vehicles at the express and trek several miles. Even bikes cannot move during rainy season. This village has a very huge population; what politicians get here in terms of vote is massive, yet they abandon us after election.

“We, as parents, don’t have a steady source of income. Even the children we sponsored to school don’t have jobs after graduating. Some of our boys took to smuggling in the past, but they have stopped that after many of them were killed.

“Whenever vacancies are advertised, particularly in the armed forces, we don’t have anyone to assist our children. Many times they end up being disappointed after going through stress to enlist in Customs, police or any of the forces. There is nobody to help us here in Badagry West.”

Seme is just one of the several communities across the country complaining of neglect, but their case seems peculiar for some reasons, one of which how their Beni  Republic neighbours continue to mock them.

Crying in the midst of plenty. So unfortunate.

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