By Ola Kehinde-Balogun
THESE are hard times for business owners at JehoShammah Shopping Plaza in Ogba, Lagos State. They are currently sulking after floodwater destroyed their property worth million of Naira, following an overnight rain on Sunday, May 29.
JehoShammah Plaza, which is located on Abiodun Jagun Street, Ogba, in Ojodu Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos, houses many private businesses. Among them were small and medium-scale outfits.
Occupants of the plaza had gone to have a deserved rest to mark the Democracy Day celebration. But as the weekend wore on, heavens opened its doors and let down heavy rain. The floodwater that followed went on to virtually destroy every property on their premises. By the time the rain had abated, property and goods worth millions of Naira were destroyed; some were found floating on the floodwater that had taken control of the plaza and the entire neighbourhood.
An ongoing road and drainage construction project on Abiodun Jagun Street, being undertaken by Ojodu LCDA was being blamed by many to have caused the flooding.
Till this hour, the affected persons are still counting their loss. They told the reporter that they feared that the havoc would mark the beginning of economic hardship, which they never wished for.
The distraught persons pointed fingers at the ongoing rehabilitation work on their road, as the cause of the disaster. They were angry that no channels were provided by the construction firm for flood to flow through. This, they said, led to the flooding of their plaza, which ultimately destroyed their means of livelihood.
One of the affected persons, Patrick Erhunse-Joseph, lamented that his investment in the past 15 years simply went down the drain overnight. This alternative medicine practitioner feared that life might not be the same again for him, as he had lost valuable documents, machinery, laptops and goods worth millions of Naira to the flood.
Erhunse-Joseph, 55, argued that in his three-years tenancy at the plaza, he never experienced such magnitude of flooding that destroyed all his hard-earned property.
“This terrible flooding simply destroyed our plaza because of the rehabilitation on this street,” he said. “They simply blocked our gutter. By the time we got to our office on Monday, May 31, all we saw was flood, rising to the waistline, which occupied every inch of space in our offices and the whole surrounding. We saw to our chagrin, our products and machines floating on the water. Even out computer laptops, documents, files and other property were not spared.
“This is the first time we are having this horrible experience in the past three years I have been here. We wouldn’t say that it had not rained all these years, but the construction work on the road made it possible for erosion to flow into our premises because the drainage channel was blocked.
“Now, see, the whole of our property: Products, drugs were all completely damaged. Our massaging machines, computers, water dispenser, everything is gone. I can no longer make any sales here; my means of livelihood has been destroyed.
“To make matters worse, we approached the contractors, working on the road to lodge a complaint but their officials chased us away. I don’t know what next to do now,” he lamented.
Just a few offices away from Erhunse-Joseph’s was a relatively large book store, which was also affected by the disaster. Large volumes of expensive books were seen destroyed by the flood.
One of the keepers of the bookshop, Ogunnaike Olatunde, also testified to huge losses incurred by his firm. He did not spare the construction company, working on the street where the plaza was located as being the cause of the flooding.
“I have been here since 2009 and have never witnessed anything like this before. This was not the first time rain would be falling in this area. If not that the main channel that carries flood was blocked due to the ongoing construction work, this loss could not have occurred.
“To tell you the truth, we did not dump our books on bare floor. We usually arrange them neatly on the shelves. But when the flood stormed our store, it rose so highly that all the books on the shelve were damaged.
“This is one loss whose value I can put at over a million Naira. This is because a huge number of our imported books were affected. Most affected were books whose market values stood at N10,000 and even more.”
While at the premises, our correspondent observed a young lady, bailing and mopping up water from an office apartment, belonging to a chartered accounting firm. The lady, who identified herself as Bisola Ojo, said her organisation had been occupying the plaza since three years. She said it was particularly painful, seeing his firm’s property floating on the water when she arrived for work.
Another business owner, Mrs. Okonji Enitan, also added her voice to the unfortunate incident. She said it was one unprecedented loss she had experienced in her more than one decade of being in the fashion business.
Feeling dejected, she lamented that part of her losses were clothes, belonging to her many customers. She further lamented that she would have to replace them at a cost she put at half a million Naira.
“We have had to bail out more than 40 buckets of water from this store since we arrived. The flood simply destroyed our customers’ clothes; even our machines were all affected.
“We are disheartened that nobody is saying anything to us. No one is accepting responsibility for this unfortunate incident.”
When this reporter approached one of the engineers on the site, who identified himself as Ayo Monday, he debunked the allegation. Monday argued that with the way the road was constructed, there was no way flood at the plaza could be traced to their activities.
“If you assess all the points of entry throughout the street, you will see the same allowance for turning and accessing different premises. We laid channels for water passage under the road on one side, and we provided a gutter on the other side.
“Rain is a natural phenomenon. It is no nobody’s fault if flood goes into anywhere. We have done our job rightly.”
The reporter also visited the project sponsor, Ojodu LCDA, to get its own side of the story but its Executive Secretary, Mallam Moyo Jaji, was not available for comments. Efforts made to obtain his contact were not successful.
However, an official of the council, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not so authorised, refuted the blame. Rather, he accused the plaza owner of not making provision for an underground drainage, as stipulated by law. He maintained that the flood that destroyed property at the plaza was not from the main road, insisting that it was rainwater generated within the plaza that found no way to escape.
“That bad road has been there for many years unattended to. Is it a crime that the government is doing its job now? Or do our people expect government to lay drainage channels in individual houses for flood water to flow through? If you assess the road construction very well, you will see a gutter on one side, and an underground channel on the other side. Mind you, the plaza in question is not the only property with an entrance to the road being rehabilitated.
“We have a garage on that side of the road alongside many other shops and spaces; why were they not flooded? I can tell you that the flood had nothing to do with the road under construction. The plaza obviously doesn’t have an underground drainage system, to prevent that kind of disaster; that is even against the law,” he averred.