New Telegraph

Communities At The Mercy Of Flood, Windstorm

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), had in its 2023 Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP), forecast an early onset of rain across the country. Mansur Matazu, director-general of NiMet, had said the rainfall onset date would likely be from March 2, in Southern states while other parts could delay till around July 7. He also said that the annual rainfall amount was expected to range from 420 mm in the Northern region to 3,253 mm in the coastal areas.

He had said: “The prediction shows that the earliest rains will likely occur on or around March 2, in the coastal zones of south-south states of Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, and Rivers. The onset date is expected to increase latitudinal- ly with the ITD northward oscillation as the year progresses. The inland cities of the south are therefore likely to have onset in April while areas around the central states are likely to have onset in May. “The extreme Northern states are predicted to have onset between June and July, with the Northern fringes of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Kat- sina, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno states predicted to likely have onset between June 20, and July 7.”

He also said the length of the growing season will range from 84 to 283 days, adding that most parts of the country would experience the long- term average, while some parts such as Katsina, Jigawa, and Kano, would have shorter-term average length. Similarly, the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Ahmed had said the NiMet’s seasonal prediction would help NEMA to conduct an analysis of disaster risk implications and produce disaster early warning messages for the protection of lives and assets. He said the unprecedented flood disaster in 2022 was an eye-opener, noting that the agency intends to plan ahead and intensify inter-agency collaboration to forestall any negative impacts.

“At the end of this auspicious event, I look forward to bringing together experts from NiMet and other relevant agencies under one roof to analyse the disaster risk implication of the SCP and develop necessary advisories including risk mapping to guide all NEMA partners to mitigate disaster losses across the nation,” Ahmed had said. While the NiMet prediction is following its pattern of forecast, the assurances of NEMA have remained at best a statement. The assessment of rainfall in Lagos thus far shows that 228 buildings and 336 families were affected in varying degrees. There have been serious wind/rainstorm though without any casualty or fatality but with attendant damage to public and private buildings.

This newspaper gathered that Omojuwa Estate, Agboyi and Odo Ogun communities in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State had many houses either partially or fully affected with several families involved in the incident which occurred on or Sunday, May 14. Other communities heavily affected, according to findings, are Agege, Ifako Ijaye, Ikola, Isale Aboru and Oke Isha- gun, located in Alimosho Local Government Area with about 13 electric poles also affected in the areas. A statement signed by the territorial coordinator of NEMA, Lagos office, Ibrahim Farinloye, on Monday confirmed the incidents. Farinloye thereafter urged Lagosians to exercise utmost restraint on their activities, especially during working hours.

He had warned: “Children must not be allowed to play outside or sent on errand hours before rainfall. School authorities must be protective and train the children to hide under their furniture to protect them from the effect of falling objects. We must avoid taking refuge under temporary structures and trees.” The May 14 rain, which came with heavy wind, also destroyed the roof of some buildings around Ijegun, Ikotun-Igando LCDA and Oko-Oba in the Abule-Egba area of the state. A Lagos-based lawyer, Adebanjo Adeliyi, told one of our reporters that his house roof in the Abule-Egba area was blown off. He said: “The wind tore the roof of my house into pieces. Other house owners in my estate also had similar experiences.

The wind was so heavy that many of us feared it might bring down our houses. “Well, I don’t know what the government can do about it because it’s a personal issue. However, the authorities should clear the water channels as most of them are heavily blocked making free flow of water almost impossible.” For the Omojuwa area of Kosofe, it is a disaster waiting to happen. At present, many houses have been buried under the surging flood. The people have b e e n forced to learn to swim as that remains the only way to access their homes, while snakes, crocodiles and other dangerous reptiles have, for some years now, been living with them. “This is the way we have been living for years now.

We are being forced to live like medieval creatures. Life has really become cruel and not worth living in this community. We are surrounded by water but have none to drink. We also seem to be caught in the web of politics; dirty politics that promised us change. “This, definitely, is the most unlikely change that we deserved,” said one of the elders in the estate, who craved anonymity. He added: “The canal at the back of the estate, very close to the Magodo Estate tall fence has been blocked for only God knows when. It was last cleared by Babatunde Fashola’s government. But subsequent governors after him have turned a blind eye to our plight because we don’t have any ‘big man’ to speak for us.

“Any time they open the water from the Oyan Dan, the entire estate becomes a pool. The dark, smelly water brings with it all manners of creatures that threaten the inhabitants of the estate. If only the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, will remember that we are also part of those who voted for him and come to our aid, to clear the canal. “We have gradually but steadily become an endangered species here.” A landlord, who claimed to have lost all his property to the perennial flood. also said that his wife and five children had moved to another community for safety. “They can no longer stay here with me because we are daily threatened by dangerous animals, especially snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles. But l can- not abandon my house and relocate because this is the only possession l have left,” he further said. But the landlord’s case is not an isolated one. Many other inhabitants of this small community are in the same condition.

There are those who have been displaced as their houses and other belongings have been buried in the belly of the water. There are also others whose house roofs have been blown off leaving what used to be palatial homes mere carcasses. One of them, however, noted that they were tired of predictions and warnings that have not solved anything. “Of what use is the yearly predictions and warnings when the authorities concerned are not using to solve the problem. They have become a sing song every year with nothing coming out of it. We need action not prediction or warning. Enough of all these rigmaroles,” said, Anthony Madu, one of the landlords. According to what the paper gathered, no fewer than 25 houses had been ravaged, with over 90 residents, including landlords, forced to relocate.

It was learnt that the flood usually was caused by the failure of Lagos State government to dredge a canal in the area. Residents, who spoke with Saturday Telegraph, confirmed that the canal was last dredged about 12 years ago. This, they say, often makes it overflow its bank and wreak havoc in the community. However, when this newspaper sent a whatsApp message to the Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello, seeking his reaction to the issue of the intractable flood in the state, he responded by directing the reporter to instead speak with Engr. Olalekan Shodeinde, the PS/Drainage as “I’m away from the state for now.” Unfortunately, a message sent to Shodeinde via the number provided by Bello was not responded to.

He also did not pick the numerous calls put through to that same number. Another whatsApp message was sent to Engr. Joe Igbokwe, Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage Services and Water Resources and calls on his known number. But he neither responded to nor answered or returned the calls. Meanwhile, the State government had expressed readiness to confront emergencies that will arise due to the 2023 rainy season. Bello had stated that it was the tradition of the state to annually alert Lagos residents of the predicted rainfall patterns and its socio-economic implications. He had, however, noted that rain- fall from neighbouring Ogun, Oyo and Osun states coming into the state would result in increasing water levels which would continue to be monitored.

He had said: “To ensure a flood-free and hygienic environment in the state, the Ministry has always embarked on an all-year-round drainage maintenance programme for effective and efficient flood control, in addition to an efficient and sustainable solid waste management system. This year will not be different.” He said that the state was also stepping up proactive measures to reduce the prevalence of plastic waste and also create a circular economy in line with recently approved draft plastic waste policy for the state. Bello said that the state government would maintain the long-established synergy and partnership with the Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority to effectively contain flooding.

“This mutual relationship has been highly beneficial in the past, and will be sustained,” he had assured. In Ogun State, it is a canal of death. But how much wailing and media reports can stop the yearly deaths that come with the rainy season and a flooded canal in this Gateway State? A flooded canal that is causing death and destruction in the Ilo-Boundary Ajegunle/ Ilo-Awela communities at the Toll Gate, Sango end of the Lagos -Abeokuta Express Way is giving residents and business owners cause for concern. As the rainy season has already started, residents and business owners close to the canal are already jittery and calling on the relevant government agencies to come and fix the canal and the damaged bridge so as to stop the flooding that they witnessed in the area every year.

A hotel, the Fayab Lounge , at the Ilo-Boundary Ajegunle community, the Folashade Tinubu Ojoo Market and the Ilo-Awela abattoir Market may not survive this year’s flooding as the canal has widen to the walls of these businesses outlets which can pull down anytime. Worse hit is the Fayab Lounge whose fence is already on the brink of collapsing due to the widening canal caused by previous years flooding. The bridge that separates the Ilo-Boundary Ajegunle community and the Ilo-Awe- la community has been badly affected by the flooded water and may cave in soon, not to mention the lives that will be lost and other businesses that can be destroyed.

The Folashade Tinubu Ojoo Market has some of its land swallowed up by the expanding canal. Likewise, the Abattoir Market is suffering the same fate. Several appeals by business owners, residents and concerned citizens have not yielded any positive results even when a young meat seller and an elderly woman were among five other persons that have died in the canal during rainy seasons. The residents and businesses owners have sent several Save Our Souls appeals to the Lagos and Ogun states governments including the federal ministry of works but their appeals enumerating the deaths and destruction by the flooded canal have yet to result in the fixing of the canal.

Sadly, deaths of residents in the flooded canal have also not moved the governments to intervene in fixing the canal and the damaged bridge. Olatunji Omiyale a meat seller lost his 28 years old son, Matthew to the flood during a heavy downpour which usually causes the canal to overflow. Narrating how his son died, he said: “It was just like any other day. We had gone to the market. I and Matthew sold meat at the Ilo-Awela Abattoir Market close to the canal when suddenly rain began. “Everybody in the market including our customers started running out because we all knew that if the rain becomes heavy the canal will overflow and the entire market and neighbouring areas will be heavily flooded.

“We all ran but Mathew was not lucky as he fell into the waters. He struggled to get up but the water was too much for him and he fell back. Before we could run to rescue him, the water had swept him into the canal and floated him away. The rain was very heavy that day and the canal was equally flooded.” The residents also narrated how school children coming from school on a fateful afternoon were swept into the canal. It took the quick intervention of the meat sellers to rescue the children. Suraju Ojikuto, the Chairman of the Abattoir in the Ilo- Boundary Ajegunle community while speaking on the danger the canal poses, said: “There was a time it rained heavily during the day and three children going home fell when the canal wall collapsed and they were swept away.

“Fortunately, some of our meat sellers saw what happened and they quickly jumped into the flood water and rescued the children and took them home. The rain has started again and we thought by now the government would have fixed the problem but the engineers came, did as if they wanted to start work but left without doing anything.” A former CDA chairman at Ilo-Awela community, Elder Raji, also lost his wife to the flooded canal. “I am now older than my age since I lost my darling wife to the canal. She was returning from the market when the rain started falling heavily. “She was rushing to cross the bridge to get home on time but the flooded canal swept her away and it was the next day we saw her corpse. I am alone with no companion and nobody to cook for me since she died in that canal,” he said.

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