By Tessy Igomu
Like a sea treacherously surging and claiming more territories,
floods have mercilessly inundated several communities in Lagos and Ogun States, devastating everything in their path.
With the waters stretching farther than the eyes can see, the human and material losses have been enormous. So far, over 400 houses and 1,000 families, business and religious premises, schools and recreational centres have been negatively affected
The air of despondency that pervades these communities is disturbing. The communities include several estates in and around OPIC, Akute and Warewa in Ogun State as well as Agiliti, Maidan, Orile, Owode, Agboyi and Araromi communities in Ketu and Mile 12 areas of Lagos. Others are Iwaye, Wawa, River View Estate, Lonex Gardens, River Bank Estate, Guinness Cooperative Estate, Alasepe, Denro, Ishasi, Iboko, Odo Ipa, Pipeline, Akutesorun, Akute, Arifanla and Lambe.
Socio-economic activities are now on hold in these communities, just as learning has been suspended in many schools that have been overrun by floodwaters. Those that still brave the odds to go school have to commute in canoes, the only means of transportation in the affected areas.
The cause of this agony, this reporter learnt, was the opening of the Oyan Dam, on the tributaries of the Ogun River. Primarily constructed to provide water for household use, irrigation and power generation, the dam, for years, has become a harbinger of pain and sorrow for residents of many communities in Lagos and Ogun states.
Severe flooding was experienced in Ogun and Lagos in 2007, 2010 and 2012, but the incident of 2012 has remained indelible in the minds of many residents on account of the devastation it caused, which has been described as one of the worst environmental disasters in Nigeria’s history.
This year’s flooding, according to residents, could be likened to that of 2012.
The Oyan Dam, located in Abeokuta North Local Government area of Ogun State, was built by the Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA) and inaugurated by former President Shehu Shagari on March 29, 1983. Covering 4,000 hectares with a catchment area of 9,000 square kilometres and crest length of 1,044 metres, height of 30.4 metres and gross storage capacity of 270 million cubic metres, the dam was designed to supply water to Lagos and Abeokuta, and to support the 3,000 hectare Lower Ogun Irrigation Project. The dam also had three turbines of three megawatts each, which have remained unused till date.
Opened every three or four years, between August and late October, water from the dam usually submerges communities in the path of the spillway, plunging them into unmitigated crisis. In each of the flooding incidents, it could take months for the water to recede.
From residents to refugees
As it is, victims of this year’s flooding are already counting their losses. The effects of the flood on residents cannot be quantified and they have admitted that recovering from the loss would take a while. Although no life has been reported lost in this recent flooding, the trauma of those at its receiving end is heart-rending.
For residents of Owode-Elede, Agiliti, Ajegunle and Irawo, which are communities leading to Ikorodu in Lagos, life has been traumatic. Yetunde, a food vendor in Ajegunle, lamented that everything in her home was destroyed by the flood. She lamented that it was the third time that she would be losing her belongings to the perennial flood.
“I have since relocated my three children to my mother-in-law’s place in Mushin. This year’s flood has cost me so much. I am still wondering how I would recover from the whole setback,” she told this reporter.
Like Yetunde, many have since moved to the homes of friends and family in other areas, while those who dare to stay have been marooned in their homes. Most people can only move about with the aid of canoes or by riding on the back of burly young men that paid to ‘ferry’ people through in the flood without getting them wet. In most of the communities, makeshift wooden bridges have been constructed to ease movement in the flood. The planks, Daily Sun learnt, maintained through tolls, from N20 to N50, collected from users.
Worst hit are schools located within the flood plains, as they have either been shut down or their pupils left to study in the most deplorable conditions, ravaged by mosquitoes, gnats and other adverse aspects of thge environment.
One of such schools is the Community Primary School, Itowolo, Ikorodu. For the pupils and their teachers, getting to school and reaching any of the classrooms daily is a tricky adventure, as floodwater has taken over every space in the school premises. To make movement easy, members of Itowolo community had to help the school construct a wooden walkway for the pupils to get to their classrooms.
The flooding witnessed in the communities bordering Ikorodu was made worse by the road construction embarked on by the Lagos State government. The construction, which lifted the road above the communities, invariably stopped the flow of floodwater to the highway.
“Since the water can’t flow across, it just builds up and virtually swallows most of the buildings. It is just stagnant and smelly. We are just waiting for it to dry up. This flood has really tormented us,” said a landlord in the area who did not give his name.
Lamenting the devastation of this year’s floods, Mr. Akintunde Soyemi, Managing Director of the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, said in an interview that it was ironic that “a dam that the government should have derived maximum benefits from, for the people, has become a source of destruction and disruption of livelihoods and economic life in communities downstream of the dam, contrary to the operational principles adopted for the design and construction of the dam.”
He noted that more runoff was witnessed this year, stressing that areas downstream of the dam were not supposed to witness such of flooding as the water was released at a controlled rate.
“It is flooding because it is not the only contributory river. Most of those flooded places are in the floodplains of the Ogun River. The rule of thumb in constructing residences is that you must be above the level of the road, anywhere below such level will always be submerged,” he said, indicating that the homeowners were partly to blame for building houses in such areas.
Why erosion persists in Nigeria, by FG
•Minister tasks citizens on protecting environment
From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia
The Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, has reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to ending the erosion menace in the country. He pointed out that deliberate actions were being taken through government agencies, with the support of the World Bank and other international agencies, to ensure that the affected areas, especially in the worst hit states, are given remedial attention.
The minister gave this assurance recently at a one-week training programme on Catchment Management Planning of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), organised in collaboration with the World Bank. The event, which held at Best Western Melloch Hotel, Awka, Anambra State, involved participants from seven states including Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Cross River and Edo.
Dr. Grant Milne, a senior natural resources management specialist from the World Bank, anchored the programme. He disclosed that the Nigerian government was applying the systematic approach known all over the world in dealing with erosion in order to achieve the desired target.
“We have the best standard, the global best practice, because this money is not for free. It is a loan taken from the World Bank and we have to pay back. And in paying back, government has to go a long way in following the best practice that is common everywhere in the world,” he said.
While inspecting an erosion site being handled by NEWMAP at Amachalla village, Awka, Ibrahim blamed harmful environmental practices as the major causes of erosion in the country. He bemoaned the lackadaisical attitude of the people towards environmental protection, which he maintained encouraged natural disasters such as erosion.
“There is need for people to know the causes of erosion such as harmful agricultural practices like bush burning, deforestation, incessant sand mining without regulation and the rest of them. There is need for sensitisation,” the mnister said.
He also noted that, “People think about how much money they’re going to make when there is gully erosion at their backyard. They reason: ‘Let’s go and see how we can get a contract to do it.’ They don’t even understand how the gullies come about.
“Erosion is a serious problem. As I am talking to you now, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, is in faraway Gombe inspecting erosion site. While here, we have deep gully erosions; in Gombe, they have wide expanse because the nature of the rains and soils there and the ones here are not the same. So there are different effects. The last tranche we visited recently stretched about 800 metres.”
While commending NEWMAP, the minister said that the “beauty of it is that it’s not only restricting itself to the bio-remediation or reclaiming of the land but even the road construction was factored into this project. So, NEWMAP is bringing a new concept; it’s getting us into a wholistic approach to tackle erosion menace, not only in the South-East but the entire country. So I am impressed with what I have seen so far.
“People living at the edge of gullies are always at risk. They do not have rest of mind but when you have something like this in place, it first shows that the government cares for its people and the people should also reciprocate by doing the right thing by refusing to dump refuse in the flood channels. If you block the channels, chances are there that water will spill over and can destroy your property. So with this concept we’re having now, I think that NEWMAP is doing a good job and we will keep pressurising them by constant visits to ensure that the right thing is done.”
In his speech, Mr. Michael Ivenso, the project coordinator of NEWMAP in Anambra State, maintained that the body would leave no stone unturned in its efforts at winning the war against erosion in the state. He said, so far, NEWMAP has deployed every resource to end erosion, and so, in no distant time, the issue of erosion would be a thing of the past in the state.
Also speaking at the erosion site at Amachalla, Prince Chuma Okolo, managing director of PACHUCS Engineering Ltd, who was handling the project, pointed out that the texture of the soil in the area made the erosion site too challenging. He maintained that negative environmental practices were largely responsible for the escalating landslide in the area even as he cautioned the residents to embrace positive practices such as daily clearing of the drainage channels to forestall a repeat of the disaster.
The national project coordinator, NEWMAP, Salisu Dahiru, disclosed that the body was applying total, remedial measures throughout the affected states in the country to bring an end to erosion in Nigeria.
Foundation gives succour to indigent families, pupils
By Ismail Omipidan
The Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) group has carved a niche for itself as an institution that helps to build knowledge in Ngeria but, beyond that, Daily Sun gathered that it also has a foundation that has been affecting lives positively. The foundation chooses the adherents of the two major religions in the country as its target, using the occasion of their major festivities to reach out to the less privileged in Nigeria.
With 17 educational institutions located in Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, Yobe and Ogun states, this reporter learnt that NTIC dedicates substantial resources to humanitarian causes carried out under the banner of the NTIC Foundation.
During the last Sallah celebration, for instance, the group reached out to over 20,000 families across Nigeria.
Mr. Behlul Fatih Basaran, coordinator of the NTIC Foundation, said the mandate of the organisation, established in 2013, goes beyond just providing food and drinks during festivities, as it also implements various social responsibility projects, in collaboration with First Surat Group of Companies, the Turkish/Nigerian-owned holding company of NTIC, Nigerian Turkish Nile University (NTNU), Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital (NTNH), and Vefa Travel Tourism Limited.
Basaram said the foundation equally collaborates with Ufuk Dialoque Foundation and other partners to give succour in education, health services and water.
On his primary purpose of coming to Nigeria, he said: “I actually came to Nigeria based on a study scholarship offered by the Hizmet Movement. It was here in Nigeria that I first learnt how to speak English. I started from the very elementary level of learning A-B-C because I did not even understand the alphabet back then.
“Four of us were offered scholarship but we performed a bit poorly in the JAMB examinations; Bayero University in Kano offered us a chance for university admission,” he said.
Recalling some of the foundation’s intervention, Bassaram said: “I particularly recall a girl I met in 2002, when she had a challenge of cataract in both eyes from birth. But now, she sees very well with both eyes and you cannot offer or assist a human being get something more precious. The job I am paid to do at NTIC Foundation, by coordinating charity and humanitarian activities perfectly fits my character and the meaning that I find in life.
“In collaboration with Nizamiye Hospital, NTICF has also done more than 300 eye cataract operations. The humanitarian body did 50 cataract surgeries in Kano in order to attend to those who needed it but could not afford coming to Abuja.
“I also cherish the opportunity of coordinating the drilling of 200 boreholes between 2014 and now, and distributing relief packages to the needy, especially during the Ramadan fasting and Sallah. Its unique children education support programme includes provision of writing materials in packages for pupils in government-owned schools. The foundation also visits orphanages across the nation to provide free medical check-up, food items, clothing and other items, in addition to organising picnics and helping with renovation of such homes.”
He also stated that the foundation ensures that all those who genuinely need assistance are reached, redgardless of the cost, “What we have done here is that we slaughtered 70 cows and 10 rams for the needy, majority of whom are in the villages and internally displaced persons’ camps.
“For instance, in Karamajiji village (located within the FCT ), which hosts the burial ground for Nigeria’s war heroes, soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their fatherland, we made sure that virtually everyone of 512 families there received NTIC Foundation’s charity and humanitarian packages.”
The model for distribution, during festival periods, was such that about 70 cows would be needed, just like in Lagos during the last Sallah. The meat was packaged in about 250-kilogramme packs each, in almost 4,500 packs and distributed. According to him, the same thing was also done in Abuja, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, Katsina, Kwara, Sokoto, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Nasarawa states.
Basaram also explained to Daily Sun that one of the ways of reaching out in the foundation was to give out books to underprivileged pupils.
“Every year, children in NTIC schools leave books behind after completing their session, while many return to school to give back books they no longer need. We gather these books and distribute them to government schools in rural areas so that it can help them feel inspired or more interested in schooling.
“At the moment, we have about 20 to 30 cartons of books in Abuja and other branches across the nation, which are meant for onward distribution. We are also trying to gather and distribute items like good furniture such as tables and chairs that are no longer being used. Rural government schools make good use of such. At the NTIC Foundation, we try not to waste things,” he said.