In spite of warnings from experts and efforts of the state government at checking flooding in Lagos metropolis, the former capital city still remains highly vulnerable any time it rains. In this report, AKIN ADEWAKUN examines the incidence of flooding in the state and why the environmental hazard has become an annual frustration for residents and authorities.
All over the globe, the coming of the rains is looked forward to with joy. Generally seen as therapeutic, the belief is that its advent has come to douse the anguish that usually comes with the heat of the preceding dry season.
Interestingly, besides its soothing effects on humans, the rainy period also holds a lot of significance for vegetations too. It is one of those vital ‘ingredients’ needed by those who are into farming, to make a success of the business; hence it is looked forward to with optimism by this class of people. Besides, its advent signals the commencement of serious work on the farm.
Curiously, the above is not so for most Lagos residents. Residents here simply dread the rains, and if given the chance, would not throw their arms open to welcome this period, considered by others as coming with a lot of relief. Instead of bringing relief, the rain season, as far as many Lagosians are concerned, comes with so much trepidation, anxiety and helplessness. They would therefore not mind that the dry season tarries a bit longer.
But the disdain for the rainy period is neither because residents are immune to the heat and inconvenience of the dry season, nor because they are averse to the soothing balm of its rainy counterpart. For many, it is simply due to the havoc rains had wreaked on residents and the environments in the past. Hence, almost every Lagosian entertains such fear whenever the wet season approaches.
Those fears are not unfounded. Going by happenings during the period, especially in the last few years, residents of the coastal city, have huge cause to be apprehensive.
For instance, events in the past few years in the city have shown a community that suddenly becomes highly vulnerable and helpless whenever the city witnesses a downpour, despite the state government’s unrelenting efforts at mitigating this environmental hazard.
Rains in the metropolis always come with a flash flood, which, most times, leave destructions and deaths in its wake.
‘We have never witnessed an incident-free rain season’
“Hardly had the metropolis witnessed an incident-free year in the last few years, and this is always caused by the flood that occurs during the year. This calls for concern, and this is why the average Lagosian is worried at the approach of the rains,” stated Mr. Gbadebo Elijah, who lives in Alabede, a flood-prone area, in Aboru community of the metropolis.
For Elijah, rainy periods for residents in the area are not always without their challenges. And one of such challenges, he said, is that people in the area will have to pay through the nose to come in and go out of the community.
Unfortunately, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the burdens of people in the community.
“This year is even a bit different. It is worse. While transport fare from here to Iyana Ipaja has gone up by 100 per cent, due to the insistence of the state government for commercial vehicles not to carry more than 60 per cent of their loading capacity, the situation is further worsened when it rains. No tricycle or buse operator wants to risk their vehicles in the water, for fear of it being damaged. The few ones that manage to work will, again, hike their fare,” he stated.
Findings from the commercial tricycle operators and mini-bus operators in the area confirmed Elijah’s claim. For instance, while Aboru to Iyana Ipaja now goes for N200 instead of the pre-Covid-19 fare of N100, it goes higher when it rains and the Alabede Bridge linking the community with Iyana Ipaja over flows its bank.
‘As commercial motorists, we are also helpless’
“We’ve made several appeals to the state government concerning the area, but all we get are promises. It’s not our intention to inflict more pains on the people, but it is simply because of the situation of these roads. Frequent flooding experienced in the area is rendering the major road linking the community to Iyana Ipaja almost unmotorable. Unfortunately, with the condition of the road, hardly can we work for two days without visiting the mechanic,” explained Wasiu, another commercial tricycle operators plying Aboru-Iyana Ipaja route.
But, while flood hazards remain a global phenomenon, it is, however, generally believed that certain factors have combined in making the risk of flood in Lagos metropolis quite higher than other upland communities in Nigeria.
For instance, a study, in 2007, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified this low-lying coastal city as one of the 20 most vulnerable cities around the globe that would have their populations most exposed to coastal flooding by 2070.
Interestingly, events of the last six years in the state have shown that residents of this metropolitan city will not even have to wait for the next 50 years, that is 2070, before the prediction, as contained in the report, comes to pass.
Apart from 1973, regarded as the drought year, flooding in Lagos has continued to be an annual occurrence, and this normally happens between July and October.
For instance, 2020 was barely in its second quarter when incidents of flooding began to occur in the city. On Thursday, June 18, a four year-old girl was reportedly swept away and 20 families displaced in Orile Agege.
A woman was said to have died in Ogudu when her house allegedly collapsed due to the heavy rain on that fateful day.
The flood was said to have also affected other parts of the metropolis such as Agege, Lekki, Ajah, Victoria Island, Ifako, Oworo, Ogudu, Ayobo, Gbagada, Iyana Ipaja, Ebute Meta and few others.
Maidan Orile Agiliti residents apprehensive
For instance, apprehension is the word that succinctly captures the general feeling of the people of Maidan Orile Agiliti, a community in Kosofe Local Government Area of the state, presently.
Though the flood-prone area is yet to experience any flooding this year, residents believe it is still too early to be optimistic. Flooding has become an annual ritual in the area, and for them it is a matter of time before the waters begin to hinder movements and disrupt social and economic activities in the area.
A resident of the area, Mr Aikomo Johnson, would rather give a ‘so- far- so- good’ response to Nigerian Tribune’s enquiry about the situation in the flood-prone area, at the moment.
According to him, the area normally becomes unbearable whenever there are heavy rains and the Oyan River Dam, one of the tributaries of Ogun River built for flood control, fishing and irrigation, begins a gradual release of water.
When that happens, you can be sure that the terrain here will be extremely difficult because the area is always flooded for days, and sometimes weeks,” he stated.
Aikomo was only saying the obvious. Besides resulting in flooding, the release of water from Oyan River Dam, in the past years, had brought untold hardship and even death to some Lagos communities.
For instance, at the tail end of 2019, November, to be precise, not fewer than six persons were said to have been killed in floods caused by the release of water from the dam.
But one thing that has become a jigsaw puzzle for residents and the state government is the fact that the metropolis continues to be vulnerable, despite warnings from relevant authorities at the beginning of the year of impending torrential rains and the need for the stakeholders to embark on adequate preparation.
For instance, in April, 2019, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had, in its Annual Flood Outlook, warned of the threat the impending flood would pose to communities in the country, including Lagos, and the need for residents and state governments of such communities to be ‘battle ready’.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) also sang a similar tune early this year. It predicted a 240/270-day rain this year, while also calling on Nigerians to brace up for the consequences of such heavy rains.
The agency advised on the need to clear drainages, and counselled that nobody should put up structures within the flood-prone areas.
But recent happenings in Lagos do not show such advice is being heeded. Many within the metropolis still see the period as the long -awaited time to empty their refuse.
‘Residents, authorities must be sincere to stop Lagos from submerging’
Alhaji Aliu Makanjuola, a trader around Ikeja, believes there must be sincerity of purpose on the part of the state government and residents to effectively prevent the city from being submerged.
“It’s quite an embarrassment that places like Oluwole Street, Guinness , Obafemi Awolowo Road, Ogba, in Ikeja and even elitist areas like Lekki and Victoria Island are always flooded each time there is heavy rain in the metropolis. Perhaps what makes it more embarrassing is the fact that all these places are not far from Alausa, the state’s seat of power. This is a huge setback for the mega city’s match of the state government,” Makanjuola stated.
Our flood control measures have been stepped up —Lagos govt
However, the good news is that the government of the day in the state is not throwing up its hands in surrender.
According to the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Tunji Bello, the state government had put in place relevant measures in preparation for the 2020 rain season.
The commissioner stated that while flood control measures had been stepped up to contain any unforeseen weather condition, residents should also be well assured of the determination of the state to maintain and sustain the long-established synergy and partnership with the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority.
According to him, the partnership, in the past few years had ensured the control and monitoring of steady and systematic release of water from Oyan Dam to prevent flooding to the downstream communities.
He also stated that the emergency Flood Abatement Gang under Drainage Maintenance Department of the Ministry had been activated.
The agency, he added, had begun to consistently de-silt and work on secondary collectors and conduits to enable them discharge efficiently and act as retention basins.
Soothing, no doubt. But whether it remains to be seen if the assurances are enough to douse the tension in the minds of the people of Maidan Orile Agiliti and other vulnerable settlements in the metropolis. One thing is urgently needed here: a workable master plan that will save this city from the annual floods threatening to submerge it.
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