Cosmas Omegoh and Henry Okonkwo
Year after year, Lagos goes under flood. At the onset of the rains, the city’s residents begin to shiver. They know what to expect; they know they are in for a rough patch. They know that the city’s flooding menace is no respecter of persons. Once the rains begin to pour in thick sheets, the flood seeks its level. Individuals and property living and lying in lowland areas take severe hits.
At the moment, environmentalists are warning Lagos and every other state governments that are liable to flooding to seek proactive measures to avert this perennial disaster.
But the Lagos State government has come out to say that this year’s flooding will not follow history. It explained that massive work is underway on the city’s numerous drainage channels to ensure that everyone of them is opened up to let flood assess the lagoon as quickly as the rains begin to pour down.
Over the past three months or so, Lagos had experienced torrential rains. Each one of them caused massive flooding across the metropolis. From Ikeja through Lagos Mainland, Surulere, to the Islands and Lekki, heavy flooding was recorded. Victims of the disaster are not telling sweet tales of their encounter.
Sometimes, the rains start in the dead of the night. Residents simply woke up to behold an unwanted guest – flood – right in their living rooms. When the water did not storm in through the doors, it simply gushed out from the floor – because Lagos, according to experts, lies below the sea level; its water table is shallow. In some instances, the residents were away and the flood had unfettered access into their homes, destroying everything it could. Major business premises are equally affected.
Lagos roads are not spared when the rains descend on them. Major road networks are affected. In some areas, the residents are unable to assess their homes. Those right at home find it difficult to wade through the flood. Traffic is majorly impeded. Everyone is placed on edge.
Residents tell their stories
“Our area in Ijeshatedo, Surulere is perennially flooded,” a man, Olalekan Idowu, told Sunday Sun.
“Once it rains, we are at flood’s mercy. One has to stay back to bail out water from the home. We continue to do that even long after the rain has subsided.
“We don’t have money to relocate yet because of the exorbitant rent in this area. That is why we are still managing here,” he said.
A resident of Lekki who didn’t want his name in print admitted that over the years, the area always went under waters. “Some areas off Abraham Adesanya are seasonally flooded,” he said.
“In our own part of Lekki, yes, we experience heavy flooding, but the flood disappears into the lagoon not long after because that area was planned,” he said.
In Ikeja, a trader who simply identified himself as Emeka, admitted that part of Awolowo Way is flooded after heavy rains. He lamented that after the construction work on Agege Motor Way, Ikeja-Along bus stop particularly is heavily flooded, stating that the area had been made worse.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that Nigeria will continue to be ravaged by environmental disasters if governments at all levels do not wake up, and begin to take proactive measures to forestall the negative impacts of flooding during the rainy season.
They decried the reactionary style of government at the thick of flooding incidents, calling on Nigerians, particularly Lagos residents to show more seriousness to environmental issues especially whenever experts raise concerns after forecasting the weather.
According to an environmental consultant, Dr. Kingsley Nwogbidi, chairman of the River State chapter of the Nigeria Environmental Society (NES), government’s continued politicisation of environmental issues will only spell doom for the country.
Nwogbidi condemned government’s nonchalance to the advice of experts and predictions of agencies like the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), and Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHISA).
“We don’t have the political will to enforce environmental legislation and to get things right in this country. For instance, every year NIMET makes predictions, and even reveals places, states, and local governments that are likely to be flooded. Can you remember any situation where the government took proactive measures based on NIMET’s prediction? Rather, the government would wait for the flood to come to sweep the place. That is when they would create IDP camps and give contracts to their cronies to supply mattresses, food rations, and all.
“We need to get it right by ensuring that once predictions are made, alternative arrangements are to relocate the people, and make efforts to find out what is really causing the flooding – is it that drains are filled with stilt? Or have the canals been blocked, or to find out whether town planning rules have been flouted. Until we begin to pay attention to these aspects of environmental issues, the flooding would continue to persist.”
Dr Nwogbidi decried the poor waste management among Nigerians, especially those living in Lagos, saying that it worsens flooding in communities, insisting that “our holistic approach to environmental matters is really not good enough.”
Also speaking, another environmentalist, advised the Lagos State government to put up measures to forestall the negative impact of flooding ahead of rainy seasons in the future.
Mr Olu Andah Wai-Ogosu, an engineer and a lecturer, charged state and local governments to shun their fire brigade approach to flooding, and be more proactive and serious with environmental protection.
The former national president of the NES, said: “Flooding will always present a problem to many states across the nation due to both natural and man-made factors. It is, therefore, essential for every state and stakeholder to act and take proactive measures in reducing the impacts of flooding in 2020.”
We‘re taking proactive measure –Lagos govt
But Lagos State government says it is making concerted efforts at mitigating the effect of flooding in the city this year.
Speaking to Sunday Sun, Mr Joe Igbokwe, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Drainages, and Water Resources, said: “Yes, the rains are here; surely we are doing a lot to mitigate the effects of flooding.
“We are working hard to fight the flood menace. But I would rather prefer to do the work than the talk. That is very important.
“However, the truth every Lagosian has to know is that Lagos is lying below the sea level. And that makes it liable to flooding all the time. If you live in low-line areas, you are exposed to flooding.
“But we are telling Lagosians to be conscious of the way they dump refuse into the drains. That is the biggest problem we are having at the moment. In our drainage channels, there are all manner of plastic materials – bottles of drinks of various sizes and shapes and nylon materials too – all dropped by the residents. Much of the refuse were dumped there in the dead of the night. Now, the truth is that if water does not flow, we will have flooding. So, we have to live with it.”
On the efforts being made, Igbokwe said: “Right now, we are working on various canals, tertiary canals, secondary canals and primary canals – that is the big ones that discharge flood waters into the lagoon. We are doing a lot. We are working particularly on the areas that are prone to massive flooding.
“We are appealing to Lagosians to help us succeed by knowing how to discharge their refuse, and not discharging them into the drainage channels. It is going to be a collective responsibility rather than the problem of Lagos State government alone. People must know what to do and do it right. People must buy dust bins and put their refuse there. If they block the drainages, water will not follow. They must not only block the drainages, they must not dump refuse in low-lying areas.
“We appeal to people living in low-line areas to be patient; we are on top of the matter. We are working to address the flooding issues. But we need their cooporation to succeed.”
On the way forward, Nwogbidi called on the government to pay attention and be guided by the counsels of environment experts.
“Our role as an NGO is often advisory. But sadly to what extent does the government take the advice? Our government most times does not listen to advice. They don’t even care to put qualified people in environmental agencies and appointments so that these experts can bring their wealth of experience. But our governments think that everything is about political patronage. And that’s really sad.”
Similarly, Wai-Ogosu, noted that there was an urgent need to strengthen flood disaster early warnings, urging both states and local governments to implement proactive measures to maintain drainage channels regularly.
“Practising flood prevention when flooding has already occurred should be discarded because that amounts to window dressing with no positive bearing on the victims. It is sad because what we have on our roads are gutters, not drainages.
“Drainages are properly channeled to drain flood waters. So states or locations without drainage infrastructure should be given due attention by constructing and upgrading various drainage channels.
“There should be a strong policy towards indiscriminate dumping of refuse and obstruction of the drainage channel. There should be continuous cleaning and de-silting of primary and secondary canals across the cities to allow free flow of storm water and evacuation of traders on drainage channels.
“There should be an establishment, and clear budgetary provision for flood management in states and local governments to hand flood matters.”