Akin Adewakun and Qudus Kasali visited Maidan Orile, Patele, Agiliti and Mile 12 in Lagos, where the rains wreaked communal havoc. Their report:
Few months after the unrest between the Hausa and Yoruba communities that almost consumed residents of Maidan Orile, Patele, Agiliti and Mile 12, in Ikosi Ketu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, the communities are again in the news, for the wrong reasons.
The torrential rains being witnessed in Lagos metropolis in the past few weeks and which many, especially farmers, have described as a blessing are increasingly becoming a nightmare for these communities and others such as Magodo and Ikorodu that share proximity with the areas.
For residents of these areas, they seem helpless and they cannot wait for this wet season to be over.
A visit by Nigerian Tribune to those communities revealed the source of the residents’ discontentment for the waters which the rains bring.
The people in these communities detest the waters and would do everything humanly possible to ‘run away’ from it. Perhaps the late Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo, would have waxed another song to counter his “Water, no get enemy” album since the people of Maidan and Agiliti are not too favourably disposed to water at this time.
For the past two weeks, since the flood took over the entire community, life has not been the same for many residents of the areas. Mobility in the areas has been greatly hindered and its dire consequences on social and economic lives of the residents were very palpable when Nigerian Tribune visited.
Expectedly, apart from a negligible few, others in the area have been counting their losses, induced by this unwanted ‘visitor’, the deluge, in the past few days.
Interestingly, since the areas began to experience the flood, different approaches had been adopted by individuals and community development associations in the areas to mitigate the impact of the flood.
For instance, while some simply decided to relocate from the place, albeit temporarily; others residents that decided to stay put have been deploying several survival strategies to ensure that the flood did not get the better of them.
While some of the relatively affluent ones that live in the estates nearby have embarked on serious sand-filling, to ward off the waters from their individual properties, some have had to relocate their businesses to less flood-prone areas within the communities. Interestingly, all these are not without their financial implications to such people.
Recounting his ordeal in the past few weeks, a bus driver, Mr. Amambi Izuaba, who plies MTN-Mile 12, one of the affected routes in the area, described the situation as very critical.
Izuaba, who ventured into transportation business in the area just three months ago, explained to Nigerian Tribune that besides the mass exodus being recorded in the area due to the flood, some others were finding an alternative means of transportation using canoes.
“I ply the MTN to Mile 12 Under-bridge route and I can tell you authoritatively that the situation in Agiliti has negatively affected my income, because most of the residents of the area moved out immediately the flooding started, thereby reducing the number of passengers I used to load.
“Besides, some are going for canoes now since it is easier for canoes to manoeuvre these flooded areas than any motor vehicle,” he stated.
“Prior to the flood, I used to load seven times but now it has reduced to just three. The most unfortunate thing is that this is coming at a time when urgent bills, especially school fees, must be paid. For instance, my children that should have resumed since Monday are still at home, and there is no hope of them resuming this week because the income has been badly affected due to this disaster,” he complained.
Curiously, while one would expect Daisi, one of the canoe owners, to be happy that he is actually thriving on this ‘chaos’, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune his prayer was to see a quick end to the problem. Daisi, a vulcaniser in the area, stated that he had to abandon the job and make ‘take advantage’ of the situation, since he was really finding it out carrying out his primary occupation.
It was another tale of woe from Mrs. Olayinka Adegboye, a resident who also runs some businesses in Maidan Orile, one of the affected communities.
“When the dam in Abeokuta is filled to the brim, the agency in charge would open it, thereby causing uncontrollable spread of water to different places in this area,” explained Mrs. Adegboye, who claimed to have been in the community for over 40 years, in her response to Nigerian Tribune’s inquiry regarding the probable cause of the flood.
But unlike Izuaba, whose income had shrunk, due to the flooding, Mrs. Adegboye argued that besides its inconveniences, the unpleasant situation has not had any negative impact on her business, insisting she had not lost anything to the two week-old flood ravaging the area.
Another resident of Maidan Orile, Tawa Lawal’s narratives were not in any way different. It has been a tale of the unpleasant since the flood started in the area on September 14. “I cannot say the flood has not affected me. It has affected me, though not with far-reaching effects. For instance, I had to relocate my petty trading business to a more accessible place within the axis,” she stated.
She, however, expressed delight that there had not been any incident of stealing and robbery, since the communities began to experience the flood, as it used to be the case in the past at such times.
A landlord in Agiliti 2 Area of Mile 12, Mr. IK, said the flood started two weeks ago, adding that the water from the dam usually overflows once or twice in a year, especially when it is opened.
“The unfortunate situation about the flood is that it has affected my basic necessity of life which is food, in the sense that it has restricted my movements. I cannot go out to buy food to eat. Most importantly, I have lost several millions of naira in terms of properties and inability to attend to my businesses because of this situation.”
IK added that the flood had also reduced, drastically, the more than 20,000 people population of the community.
“What we have now are snakes, reptiles and other dangerous animals. For me now, the situation is critical because the house that I built with hard-earned money is difficult to access in the face of the flood,” he stated.
He, however, called for government intervention since it was obvious that the situation was beyond the people in the communities.
One Mr Idarabasi, who has been in the community since 2014, seems to be in a dilemma now concerning the situation. For instance, he noted that since the communities began to experience the flood weeks ago, some of the areas had been thrown into darkness.
Idarabasi argued that the long period of power outage being experienced in the area seems to be taking its toll on his laundry business.
“It is a serious situation, I must tell you. My business is almost crippled now. There is no electricity to carry out this business, and it is having its trickle-down effects on everybody here.
“My children ought to have resumed school this week, but the unpleasant situation will not allow,” he stated.
For Gabriel, the flood comes every three years and the most affected areas in the community are usually Magodo Road, Agiliti 2 and down to some areas in Ikorodu.
“It is important to note that the flood comes between the months of August and September but sometimes it could be in October,” he stated.
Explaining the nature of the flood, Gabriel said “the coldness of the water shows it is from the opening of the dam in Ogun State, while if it’s warm it shows the closure of the dam.”
In other words, if the water is cold, it means that the dam is open, but if is warm, it means that it is not coming from the dam.
He, however, believes if a canal, binding Agiliti 1 and 2 together is created, the area would not experience any overflow, since the water would be channeled elsewhere.
Miss Doris, a resident of Idi Oparun area in Agiliti said that the flood has affected her in so many ways. “We remove our clothes to enter the water. Children are carried on the back by their parents to school. There is no free way for the gutter to flow and houses were built on places which ought to have been earmarked for gutters.”
Doris said, in spite of the seriousness of the situation at hand, human wastes were still being dumped into the water. “Prior to the flood, we used N50 to transport ourselves to Mile 2, but it is now N100 that is N50 for canoe to the newly-relocated bus stop and N50 to Mile 2. Unfortunately, some residents still empty their wastes into these waters, thereby worsening the situation,” she stated.
She also told Nigerian Tribune that she had lost some money to the incident, arguing that the situation had begun to take its toll on the religious lives of the people in the area. “Majority of the church leaders whose churches were affected have fled the area, thereby leaving their congregations with no leaders that would conduct services,” she added.
An architect, Mrs Okeshola, whose church is domiciled in Maidan Orile, however, gave an insight into what may be the cause of the flood, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune. “Geographically, most of the land areas in Lagos State are below the water table. So, flooding is normal and that is something that should be expected. The present situation we are experiencing in the area is as a result of the Ogun River overflowing its boundary. The reasons are not far-fetched. Ogun River is the main channel that empties the inner land water into the lagoon. It is the river that is connected to the Lagos lagoon. So, when you have an unusual wet season and the hinterland rivers are filled, they empty their water into the Ogun River.
“By the time it gets to Lagos State, where it has its estuaries, the land area around those estuaries are bound to experience flooding. The Majidun River, which is one of Ogun River’s estuaries, is the one that flows from Sango Ota, Iju and comes out on the Lagos Ikorodu Road- Owode Onirin. So, the residential areas around it such as Owode-Ekede, Maidan, Owode-Ajegunle, Owode-Onirin, Ikorodu, even Isheri-Magodo, Ogudu, situated in the low line areas are bound to experience flooding during the season,” she said.
She added that the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority has been given the responsibility to do proper channelling of this river so as to stop the incessant flooding along the path of the Ogun River.
“The agency exists, but we don’t know what they are doing. However, the quagmire can be taken care of through proper channelling of the river,” she stated.
But a resident and member of the one of the community development associations in the area attributed the incessant flooding of the area to the not-too-willing nature of the people to allow for government intervention.
“The fact remains that those in the affected areas are the low income people, and they always nurse the fear that they may be asked to relocate at the end of the day if government decides to intervene; hence their decision to complain in whispers,” argued this resident, who would not want his name in print.
According to him, some of the landlords in flood-prone areas, such as Elias Estate and Unity Estate had started sand filling their areas to prevent this.
“That is why we still see some of the buildings that are not affected, even when the whole area is submerged in flood. What we are experiencing is accumulated water from the dam. We normally experience this when the dam is opened and it overflows its banks,” he explained.
He disagreed with the notion that the flood in the community was caused by the heavy rains being experienced in the metropolis lately.
“The flood is experienced when the dam is opened. That is why there are times the community is flooded when there are no rains. And interestingly, sometimes you see the areas very dry even when there is heavy downpour. This is due to the fact that the flood has nothing to do with the rains, but the opening of these dams,” he stated.
He, however, believes until government intervenes, such disaster would continue to be experienced in the area.
“For me, as a way out, the government should create an artificial lake in a neighbouring state, such as Ogun, where this water can be channeled. Such lake could even have economic advantage since it can be used for commercial fishing,” he stated.
Besides, he counselled government to take advantage of the situation by finding a way of conserving the excess waters for irrigation farming, especially during the dry season.
As arguments continue over the incident, the probable causes and the way out, one thing that is obvious is that it is definitely not the best of times for residents here; since a common thread that binds their stories together is that element of anguish.