High brow, high risk •The flooding menace of Lagos’ rich enclaves

The rich love to live in exclusive places and Lagos is not an exception. Unfortunately these exclusive places are flood-prone, though very expensive. CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA reports on how residents of these areas cope with flood and why they choose to remain there despite the dangers.


“I had barely slept off after working all through the night to finish an important assignment, when a loud shout kicked me out of my slumber. I recognised the voices of my neighbours, some of them I hardly know. I immediately jumped out of my bed, only to land in the flood that had swept through my house. My documents, books and various other stuffs were floating like dead fish.”

This was the experience of Tokunbo Ajayi, a resident of Adeola Street in Alpha Beach area of Lekki Lagos, in a chat during the week with Sunday Tribune, while recalling his ordeal after a downpour just months after relocating to his Lekki property.

Ajayi’s experience might have occurred in 2011, but this, according to him, has left an indelible impression on him that living in upscale places in Lagos “does not necessarily guarantee that you are safe from flood problems.”

“I ran to Lekki on the Island, because I thought I would be safe from insecurity and diverse challenges associated with living in the less-fancied areas on the Mainland, but apparently, this is far from being the case. Lekki may be safer than Ikeja in terms of security, but in terms of flooding, it is the worst,” he further lamented.

For the past couple of years, Lagos State, like many other states in the country, has been plagued by incessant flooding especially after every downpour. This, needless to say, has led to the loss of scores of lives while property worth millions of naira has been destroyed.

While the 2011 floods arguably remain the worst in the annals of Lagos State, as rainfall measuring 178mm was recorded over a period of 18 hours, a situation that resulted in massive flooding which ravaged many parts of the state including exclusive areas such as Lekki and parts of Victoria Island, the state has continued to be plagued by ‘pockets’ of flooding from time to time.

Ikoyi, Victoria Island, and Lekki are generally referred to as the homes of the rich and affluent in Lagos, and as such, many people might have the notion that both places might be immune to some of the general problems, especially rain-induced flooding, often faced in places such as Abule-Egba, Iyana Ipaja, Agege, Oshodi, Ijegun, among others, which are generally occupied by middle and low-income classes.

But this is far from being the case, as residents of Ikoyi and its environs now seem to be living at the mercy of runoff which is often experienced anytime there is a downpour. This problem again reared its head very recently in the state.

Worst hit were many roads leading in and out of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, where scores of people were seen wadding through large puddles of water that had taken over different sections of both communities and their roads.

There was massive flooding of roads followed by massive traffic gridlocks, in many areas visited by Sunday Tribune, such as Queen’s Drive, Glover Road and Park View Estate, all in Ikoyi. Very conspicuous in all these neighbourhoods are very expensive houses, some of which are believed to be worth over N300m.

Other upscale places such as parts of Lekki phase 1 and 2, as well as Adeola Hopewell and the popular Ahmadu Bello Way, in Victoria Island, among other places were also not left out.

Scores of vehicles were seen having a hard time manoeuvring their way out of the water that had flooded the roads, while many pedestrians with trousers rolled-up to knee level were equally seen wadding through a large pool of water on the Ahmadu Bello Way and other roads in Victoria Island.

A lot of residents were also seen stranded at various bus stops, as many commercial buses had apparently been trapped in the ensuing gridlocks.

But meanwhile, hours after the downpour was over, many residents said they were forced to stay indoors, while those who were already in their various shops and business centres when it started raining lamented poor business patronage.

A recent survey carried out by Sunday Tribune, however, seems to suggests that the problem might have been in existence for a very long time, and this has largely been blamed on the attitude of the so-called rich men towards one another. This is because it is believed in some quarters that rather than working together to solve the problem, many of the rich residents in the highbrow communities seem to have lack of commitment towards solving the problem, especially as no one wants to seek the opinion of another.

This idea was supported by a resident of Bourdillion Road in Ikoyi, Mr Desmond Alaka, a self-styled social critic and businessman.

“As against what obtains in communities occupied by low and middle income earners, the rich people here don’t believe in working together. Here, every house has a personal security guard as against guards engaged by the whole community as usually found in other places.

“Usually when there is a problem in places occupied by the common people, and it seems the government is not doing anything about such problem, residents of such places often come together to solve the problem. But here this attitude is somehow missing among the rich, who see such moves as an open invitation to unnecessary interactions,” said Alaka.

“Nobody wants to seek the opinion of another in the bid to finding a lasting solution to a common problem. The rich are often of the notion that seeking a collective response to a communal problem is subjecting one another to ridicule. So they prefer to ride over the problem in their expensive jeeps,” he added.

Sharing a similar opinion with Alaka, another Lagos resident, Mrs Abimbola Ademuyiwa, whose office is located at Falomo in Ikoyi but lives on the Mainland, was at a loss as to why three places – Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi – well known for their affluent residents, would be among the worst affected places in Lagos anytime it rains heavily.

“I have been working on the Island (Ikoyi and Victoria Island) for close to a decade, so to a large extent I know a thing or two about the state of things here. I find it very strange that in these places, nobody seems to be finding a solution to the problem. Anytime there is a major downpour, everything in Ikoyi comes to a standstill. The roads become flooded with water while the drainages tend to overflow with rain water, yet we have the headquarters of banks, telecommunications companies as well as the personal residents of highly influential people in the country directly affected by the problem,” she remarked.

In the past, the problem of flooding in Lagos, particularly on the Island, has been blamed on a number of human activities including dredging and sand filling of wetlands and buffer zones, as well as indiscriminate laying of cables in drainage channels by different telecommunications companies.

lagos-flood2But while the state government, through the Ministry of the Environment and other relevant agencies, has always refuted this, it has never ceased to issue out warnings to telecommunications companies to desist from indiscriminate laying of cables in that part of the state.  This, according to the state government, is the major cause of the problem.

A lawmaker in the House, Hon. Segun Olulade, the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, while lamenting the havoc recently wreaked by rain-induced flood in the parts of the state, including various communities in Epe, charged the Ministry of Environment to redouble its efforts at ensuring functional and free flow of water across the state as well as carry out palliative measures in places already affected by flood.

Olulade, who said that residents should desist from habit of throwing refuse into carnal, noted that two communities in Epe Local Government were recently totally sacked by flood.

“It is important for all relevant agencies to enforce all regulations to ensure protection of lives and property during this rainy season,” Olulade said.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, said that the government should not relent on sensitising the residents on the repercussion of blocking waterways with wastes and illegal building. Obasa further said that all relevant agencies needed to do more to ensure that flooding of roads, houses and business centres became of thing of the past in all parts of Lagos State, not just the upscale places only.


Properties in flood prone areas still expensive

Despite the flood problems associated with highbrow places on Lagos Island such as parts of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, the prices of properties in those places are still considered to be very high.

Many people including a few real estate investors, sometimes see this as an aberration because not only does the development seem to negate the principle of ordinary basic reasoning, it also negates the principle of basic business reasoning, especially since it is expected that people will always migrate away from places where there seems to be any sign of discomfort or even danger, both of which are posed by flood.

But rather than decline in value, prices or demand of properties in the above mentioned places, as well as their environs have continued to grow. While this might sound rather confusing or even ambiguous to an average layman, experts in the real estate sector have, however, explained why this is so, and why the trend may not end any time soon.

In a chat with Sunday Tribune, Mrs Mayowa  Akoda, who works as a facility manager in one of the service apartments in Ikoyi said that since Lagos had been structured in such a way as to set some places aside for the rich, the situation would continue to remain the same, flood or no flood.

“Right from the outset, places like Ikoyi and Victoria Island (VI) were made to be different and separated from the other places such as Ikeja, and Yaba, among others which have always been deemed not decent enough for the rich. This explains why all defunct government liaison offices are in VI and not in Ikeja. This also explains why all the rich people in the country would still invest in Ikoyi than even in the choicest places on the Mainland, even if it has its own highbrow centres such as Magodo and Ikeja GRA. Right from the outset, the rich have always loved and lived in Ikoyi and VI,” she said.

Mrs Akoda who manages two properties occupied largely by expatriates in Ikoyi, said the same situation is applicable with Lekki, which she said is like an extension of VI, and as such, is expected to naturally attract rich people too.

“Lekki was created when VI and Ikoyi were becoming too overcrowded, that explains why you will find a lot of expensive houses there too, because those who live there are also very rich. At a point, the Victoria Garden City (VGC) in Lekki was one of the most expensive estates in the country. So the flood problems might be there, but it is not strong enough to dissuade the rich from living there. If they relocated, where would you have them go, the Mainland, which they had already rejected? So, rather than leave, they would rather prefer to stay there and continue to manage the problem so long as they are still found within the comity of the rich. So given prestige alone, people will want to stay in those places in spite of their inherent problems,” she stated.

Another expert and real estate consultant whose operating base is in VI, Lagos, Mr Desmond Akakpo, said one of the things that often endeared rich people to flood-prone places like Lekki is the level of security there, which he said was bettered only by the security in Ikoyi, which also has its own fair share of flood-related problems.

“You can never compare the state of security on the Mainland with that of VI, Lekki or Ikoyi, so by virtue of that alone, many people will prefer to live on that part of the Island even if it means living through the ordeal of

The real estate consultant further argued that many other communities on the Lekki axis were also fast benefitting from the high profile nature of Lekki lands, saying to buy land now in villages in Ajah, Ibeju-Lekki and other adjoining communities required millions of naira. He further added that the creation of the Lekki Free Trade Zone had also begun to open up more hidden lands for investments, as lands even in the most interior ends of Lekki now go for millions of naira as well.

“This is to tell you that the flood problem is considered as secondary to investors and buyers. It doesn’t count for much here in terms of investments,” he said.


The Eko Atlantic project

The Eko Atlantic City is arguably the most expensive real estate project ever in Africa. According to the projections, the Eko Atlantic has been designed to provide space and infrastructure to house 250,000 people and become the workplace for a further 150,000 in Lagos. It has also been estimated that upon completion, the developers and city planners of the new city will have produced 10,000,000 square meters of land, ripe for development; equivalent in size to the skyscraper district of Manhattan in New York City.

However, many of the controversies surrounding the project are still staring it in the face despite ongoing efforts to prove to members of the public of the safety of the project. Thus, many people began to predict how the project would eventually lead to the demise of the entire Lagos Island, particularly Victoria Island, in “many years to come.”

But the Lagos State Government, then led by Mr Babatunde Fashola, had declared the safety of the project, saying ‘it is protected by the Great Wall.’ will would help in the fight against coastal erosion, and also help in reclaiming land that had been lost to the ocean.

A recent investigative report indicated that the state government may not have properly conducted Environmental Impact Assessment, (EIA) as stipulated by a Federal Government Act of 1992, on the underground forces and nature of the Atlantic ocean bed close to the Bar Beach (where the project is being carried out) and its impact on coastal communities and residents of Victoria Island and Lekki.

This purported poorly conducted EIA becomes particularly important according to environmentalists given the fact that the Atlantic Ocean, which the Bar Beach and subsequently the reclaimed land is hewn out from is tremulous.

On the contrary Lagos state commissioner of the environment,  Oniru said the city has been tested by an institution, DHI Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“We tested it for one in a 100-year ocean surge, one in 120 years, one in 150 years and at the end of the day, we tested this city for a one in 1,000 years’ storm, the worst storm you can get, this will be like a tsunami; and that city held up.

“Why did the city hold up? It held up because the protection we are having at the edge of the Eko Atlantic city will be eight to nine metres above the sea level. The worst surge that we have had so far at the Bar Beach was 1.5 metres high coming from the ocean, and when that happened, the protection was already in place and it held up. If we had not put the breaker in place, Victoria Island would be no more today because when we had the 1.5 metre surge coming to hit the island, the lowest point on Victoria Island is by the Falomo Bridge just before you get into Ikoyi, and at that point, the ground level point there is two metres below sea level. You can imagine us having a surge of 1.5 metres and the lowest point is two metres below sea level, if that protection was not there as at the time, the entire area would have gone. That protection is three metres above the ground level; that was what saved VI then.

“You can now imagine that at the completion of this new city, we will have a protection area of eight to nine metres above sea level, this is the guarantee that nothing is going to happen to Eko Atlantic city, the Bar Beach and Victoria Island once the city is completed,” explained Oniru.


Flood control elsewhere

Flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about two thirds of its area is vulnerable to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide defence storm surges from the sea. River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while a complicated system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically: windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture. Water control boards are the independent local government bodies responsible for maintaining this system.

In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the influence of the sea and prevent future floods.