The heavens have opened yet again as Lagos, which prides itself as the “Centre of Excellence” and some other states swim under the deluge of floods. Communities, according to this report by ISIOMA MADIKE and KUNLE OLAYENI, are daily being submerged, while drains are blocked and citizens sacked from their homes
It’s been a steady downpour in Lagos and other parts of the country since June. There hasn’t been respite lately, especially since the beginning of this month, as the rains poured in torrents. The ensuing flooding has also been creating panic and forcing most people indoors.
Many, however, have been displaced already as Lagosians now wake up to the rhythm of the rain with its droplets hitting the roofs hard. The state, reputable for its high commercial activities, has some of its areas not rain-friendly. Indeed, the rainy season is back again in full force, and as always, it is bad news for most residents in Nigeria’s mega city and some other states. Worries increase not only for inhabitants but also for visitors to Lagos who take a drive around this “Centre of Excellence” when it rains.
After just a few days of rain, many parts of Lagos went back to a familiar path. The roads, apart from being riddled with huge potholes and gullies, have been narrowed to single lanes due to the mammoth refuse congealed by rain water whose passage is inhibited by blocked drains. Whenever it rains, the flood sweeps the refuse to the middle of the road, making movement of any kind difficult. Residents have to roll up trousers to walk on the streets to avoid being smeared, and motorists have to wade through waterlogged roads.
The people are recounting the sad experiences of the past and are afraid of what the next weeks and months have in stock for them. Properties are daily being destroyed in places like Kosefe-Mile 12, Ikorodu, and those on the plains of the Ogun River on the Isheri axis. Among the property destroyed were personal belongings of residents washed away and collapsed buildings, which equally took some lives. It has also created severe gridlocks, particularly at the Lagos-Ibadan corridor, forcing motorists, looking for alternative routes in the bid to avoid car-damaging gullies and potholes, to drive against traffic.
Recall, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), had earlier released the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) report to guide various sectors of the country, with an expected high volume of rainfall. Ac-cording to NiMet, a ‘normal to above normal’ rainfall is expected generally in the country.
The agency envisaged total rainfall amounts to be 400mm in the North and about 3000mm in the South. The Director, Applied Meteorological Services, Alhaji Yusuf Mailadi, in an interview with Saturday Telegraph said that the country now has adequate early warning mechanisms to prevent flooding and minimise associated losses of human lives and property through the Seasonal Rainfall Prediction and the Annual Flood outlook from the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA).
He said: “What Nigerians should do differently on the early warning systems that are issued by both NiMET and NIHSA is to take them more seriously; policymakers should look at the recommendations, what are the predictions. Are there going to be flooding and in which areas, so that they can begin to plan early.
“It is for policy and decision makers to take early decisions to avert catastrophe, loss of lives, loss of property, loss of investment, farmers particularly, if you take cognisance of the early warning and begin to prepare, you can avert most of these things.’’ Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, in the company of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage Services and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe, aligned with the NiMET prediction. Bello said while briefing the press on the year 2020 seasonal rainfall predictions and prevention of flooding that the state is likely to experience increasing frequency of extreme weather events.
“Worthy of note is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events which indicates that year 2020 will likely experience days with extremely high amounts which may result in flooding,” he added. He, however, urged residents to desist from indiscriminate refuse dump into water channels in order to reduce the effect of flooding that possibly accompany the expected heavy rainfall.
While urging residents not to panic at the prediction, Bello said: “I want to assure you that our state will continue to reap the gains of planning, as our flood control measures are being stepped up to contain any unforeseen weather condition. “I am glad to note that relevant measures have been put in place in preparation for the year 2020 rainy season.”
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), has also advised against building and farming on waterways to avert floods and the negative impact of heavy rainfall in the country Its Director-General, AVM Muhammadu Mohammed, gave the advice while briefing Journalists on the agency’s plan for the 2020 Flood Preparedness, Mitigation and Response’ on Friday in Abuja. Mohammed, while explaining the rainfall prediction and flood outlook in the country, noted that it would be a herculean task to manage a flood disaster in the midst of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, such a scenario will amount to managing an “incident within an incident”.
He said that the agency had written letters to the various state and local governments that could be affected by the flood. “In Nigeria and most parts of the world, people are seriously attached to their traditional lands; it is very difficult to get them out of where they are living.
“Climate change has also compounded the issue as, sometimes, what is predicted is not what will happen exactly. “And so, if we tell them to move out from where they are living, they will tell you that in a particular year, it was predicted and nothing happened.
But there are times that it was predicted and it was worse. The fact is that, the best mitigation against floods is to continue to talk, educate and even plead with people to realise that it has happened before and it can happen again. “Another factor is the increase in population; people are competing with natural waterways. They want to claim waterways to build or farm, but water will always want to find its way; we all understand that the important thing in life is to stay safe.
Once we realise that, you will admit the fact that sometimes you have to abandon some things you hold dear in order to save your life,” Mohammed said. NEMA’s former DG has equally said it was important to bring key stakeholders in disaster management together to chart the way forward toward handling the predictions. He said: “Preparations and planning are key to any successful activity or project. Knowing the agency’s role in disaster management, it started planning from October through November, last year. So, it had to come out with a work plan that guides on a step-by-step approach to possibilities. And with the seasonal rainfall prediction released, it will now engage all stakeholders for technical meetings.”
NAN also reported that the Victoria Island branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), recently gave an advice to the Lagos State Government to intensify its flood management efforts so that communities in Epe, Eti-Osa, Amuwo Odofin, Ojo, Kosofe, Lagos Island, Apapa, Ibeju-Lekki and Ikorodu Local Governments would not be submerged. The advice was given at a conference and paper presentation on the solutions to flooding in Lagos State. NAN quoted NSE to have said that a recent research showed that Eti-Osa could be totally submerged in a few years’ time if there were no concrete management of flooding on Victoria Island. It therefore called on the state government to relocate residents in floodprone areas elsewhere before it happened.
It also suggested the need for environmentalists, sociologists, lawyers, engineers, economists and other professionals to collaborate with the state government and jointly find lasting solutions to flooding. One of the panelists, Sunday Egbiki, in his paper presentation, according to the report, said that the piecemeal approach of cleaning drainage channels would not work on Victoria Island. Egbiki, a fellow of the NSE, also said that some parts in the state were lying below the sea level and if urgent measures were not adopted, such would soon be completely submerged by flood. He therefore advised the state government to relocate residents of the local governments susceptible to perennial flooding elsewhere.
“The traditional approach of solving flood and drainage problems must change if we are to achieve any meaningful and sustainable progress in this area,” he said. Also, John Audu, another fellow of the NSE, delivered a paper on “Safety Precaution for the Public in the event of disaster”.
He advised residents to always disconnect all electrical appliances in their homes when an area is flooded to guide against being victims of electrocution. Some of the worst hit areas are also the country’s most expensive residential and commercial real estate in neighborhoods like Victoria Island and Lekki. But the aftermath is also likely to reveal some lower-income slum neighborhoods and poor structures will be badly affected. Residents across the city would likely spend most of their days indoors in the coming weeks if nothing concrete and urgent is done to tackle the menace. However, the government has often blamed the repeated floods on illegal houses and office structures built without city permits and without adequate planned drainage systems.
Residents’ poor waste disposal habits have also been cited, with most of the city’s streets littered with waste, which often ends up blocking street gutters and causing them to overflow. Given its low-lying position next to the Atlantic Ocean, Lagos is also susceptible to severe climate change floods.
It also appears that flooding may have been worsened by the poor urban planning of these areas, rapid population growth, climate change, indiscriminate waste disposal and poor/blocked drainage systems. Although the dearth of flood data revealing the peculiarities of each flagged state, according to some opinions, seems to have limited the National Emergency Management and other well- meaning environmental agencies to respond most effectively.
Other issues include health concerns, as there are fears that flooding in these areas could expose victims to various water-borne diseases even as certain parts of the country are currently struggling to contain a cholera outbreak. For its part, the state government has urged residents living in flood prone areas to relocate.
In the long-term, Lagos’ floods could yet get worse as a result of an ambitious 5-mile new city, which is currently under construction. Eko Atlantic, funded by private investors, is planned as a modern economic hub which, once completed, will be home to a new financial district, luxurious apartments and sky scraper office complexes.
The city is being built by dredging up and filling more than six miles worth of land in the Atlantic sea, protected by “The Great Wall of Lagos,” a sea wall built around it to protect it from the surrounding Atlantic and its “worst storms.” But, some experts have said, the sea wall, while protecting Eko Atlantic, will leave much of Lagos even more susceptible to flood.
Just like Lagos, flooding appears to have also become a recurring decimal in Ogun State. The perennial challenge reared its ugly head again last Saturday when torrential downpour resulted into flood, destroying property estimated at millions of naira in Abeokuta, the state capital. Roads, bridges, houses and shops were submerged, drainage channels overflowed with vehicles and goods swept away in the rains, which lasted about 16 hours.
Areas mostly affected within the Abeokuta metropolis included Kuto, Isale-Igbein, Lafenwa, Amolaso, Ijeun- Titun, Ago-Ijesa, Abiola Way, Isale Abetu, Sokori, Igbore, Oke-Mosan, Isale Ake and Adigbe. Also, a section of the fence of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), along Abiola Way, Abeokuta, was pulled down by the flood. Many houses near the river bank were flooded while the popular Ogun River was filled to the brim. However, there was no reported loss of life during the incident.
But for the weekend lockdown imposed on the state by the government, many people believe the devastation could have been on a much larger scale. The movement restriction as a result of the coronavirus pandemic ensured that fewer people were on the move on the fateful day. One of the residents of the flood-ravaged areas, Michael Adekoya, said the failure of the government had caused the recurrent flooding in the state. Adekoya, who lived in the Amolaso area, urged the government to be alive to its responsibilities by providing necessary infra-structure and facilities.
He said: “Normally, what we need around this area is dredging. The government needs to dredge year in, year out. When there is dredging, the water flow will go smoothly. But the moment you have waste on the waterways, you have flooding. That is the major problem we are experiencing around this area.” Another resident, Dele Oyetoro, who lived in the Temidire area, blamed poor quality road construction and rehabilitation for the flooding. “Flooding in this area has become a habitual thing. This bridge caved in last year.
We asked the government to help us fix it and dredge the small stream that was at the back of the community. “But in their wisdom, they decided that they will do some remedial work and the small corrective work was done there last year, which to me was shoddy. As you can see, what was done last year has caved in now.
The bridge cannot be accessed anymore. We are just saying that the perennial flooding that has been going on in this place; the government should just come to our aid. This community is right at the back of the Government House. What is happening here does not do the image of the government itself any good. “This bridge connects about five communities – Omida, Ijeja, Temidire Igbore and others. So, it’s a major artery. Without this bridge, all the economic life of this area is completely collapsed.
So, we are asking the government to please come to our aid and get things done.” Also speaking, the Secretary, Isale-Oja, Kuto, Community Development Association, Alhaji Bello Mohammed, said his community had been experiencing flooding yearly in the last 10 years as a result of water flowing from other parts of the state capital to the area. Bello said only proper channelisation of the canal with an adequate drainage system would bring an end to the flooding. Meanwhile, the state government, it appears, is responding to the plight of flood victims in the state.
The governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who has since inspected some of the flood-ravaged areas, said his administration would carry out proper channelisation to put an end to perennial flooding. He also promised to compensate those who lost property to the flood. According to him, the government has assessed the damage caused to the roads and bridges with a view to carrying out a comprehensive and proper channelisation of the waterways to bring permanent solution to flooding.
He said: “I want to assure you that we will repair the damaged roads, expand the gutters and bridges so that when rains fall, the gutters and the bridges would be able to accommodate the large volume of water. With this, the problem of erosion would be a thing of the past.”
Abiodun, therefore, urged the people to desist from dumping refuse or building structures on the waterways. Earlier, the state Commissioner for the Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Tunji Odunlami, had declared that the government will not hesitate to demolish houses and structures obstructing waterways in the state. Abudu-Balogun identified human activities such as indiscriminate dumping of refuse on waterways, as a major factor responsible for the flooding.
The commissioner said the state government would take decisive steps to ensure compliance with environmental laws. He restated the commitment of the administration to dredging of rivers to give way for free flow of water so as to prevent recurrence of flooding in parts of the state.
On his part, Odunlami expressed regrets that many residents still encroached on the terrain of water courses despite sensitisation by the state government. He, however, said the government might not have a choice than to demolish houses obstructing waterways.
“Demolition is the last resort. If 500 lives are being affected by one structure due to human error, definitely such buildings will have to give way in the interest of the public. It is the government responsibility to secure lives and property,” he added.