… As abandoned canal triggers tension in Alapere
By Job Osazuwa
Cracked walls, reptiles, stagnant stinking water and fear of an epidemic are the lot of residents of Bakare Street and its environs in Alapere area of Agboyi-Ketu Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State.
The people’s suffering is directly linked to the Alapere canal, a major watercourse in the area. The canal started as a narrow water channel but, over the years, it has expanded through natural and human actibity. At all times and seasons, there is water in the area, flowing from the canal into the streets.
The Bakare/Owoade axis is the worst hit. Businesses have been closed down. Artisans have relocated to other areas where they can ply their trade without fear of their premises being overtaken by flood. Schoolchildren are endangered, especially when it rains. The economic value of the properties in the area keeps diminishing daily.
Students and workers at the First Choice College on Bakare Street are also affected. The adverse impact of the canal does not spare the Alapere Estate and Akunle Suberu Street as the occupants live in perpetual fear of what might happen next.
A landlord at Bakare Street, Mr. Aniefiok Okon, told the reporter that he had just raised his house, as the property was sinking.
“I don’t have any children staying with me that will be helping me to bail out water from the house when it is flooded.
“Government needs to come to our aid because we voted en masse for this government in the last election. The politicians made beautiful promises before and during the elections, but we are still waiting to benefit from the promises,” he said.
Another landlord, Obadunmi Mudasiru Sobanjo, said he had lived in the area in the last 20 years. According to him, the area was a place to behold, once upon a time, regretting that it had become a different thing today. He has also raised his roof and sand-filled his compound on many occasions.
It was gathered that the people of the area have, on several occasions, levied themselves and spent millions of naira to get a lasting solution to the flooding and other havoc caused by the canal. He regretted that the community’s efforts ended up being a temporary measure.
On September 26, 2016, one of the affected occupants of the area, the pastor in charge of His Majesty Chapel, Ketu Area 3, Lagos Province 36, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bola Bolawole, wrote a letter of appeal to the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, and copied the general manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Adeshina Tiamiyu, drawing their attention to the plight of the community and its residents.
“We have read in the newspapers the commendable efforts of your good self and proactive measure of the Lagos State government to quickly move, not only to stem the tide, but to also prevent a recurrence. We have read in the media that special task forces have been set up to grapple with the flood menace. This is a clear testimony that yours is a listening government, which is eager to respond to the cries of the citizenry.
“For some years now, each time it rained seriously, it had always affected us in one way or the other, and we are always apprehensive and pensive. The two canals that flow past the area specially need to be taken care of by the special teams from your ministry,” the letter read in part.
Bolawole lamented that, when it rained, most of the streets around the canal, particularly Bakare and Owoade, would become impassable. He described the situation as a threat to life, explaining that the flood could be colossal and capable of sweeping people away. He said all manner of dangerous animals come out of the canal into the built environment.
He also expressed fears of the breakout of epidemics and pointed out that, even during the dry season, pools of water remain on the streets and in residents’ compounds. He said it might be shocking to discover that many people had died in the area from diseases that emanated from the canal and the dirty flood.
Counting the economic losses as a result of the flood, the pastor said properties have degraded and millions of naira have been wasted. The unhealthy development was said to have forced many residents out of the area for safety and other germane reasons.
The reporter observed that most of the buildings in the affected area were sinking below normal ground level, which some of the landlords confirmed to Daily Sun. Virtually all of them had at different times removed their roofs to re-adjust the height of the buildings because the foundations of the houses had sunk.
It was gathered that, whenever the canal was dredged, it expanded and increased its force to draw more sand from the area, with dire consequences on the nearby houses. A group of experts who went sometime ago to assess the problem confronting the axis was said to have discovered this.
Said he: “Some people have completely lost the first floor of their storey buildings because they are filled with water and most of the buildings are sinking and with cracks in the walls. These are properties that have cost the owners millions of naira to erect. Many landlords have put their houses on sale but no buyer is forthcoming because of the problem in the area.”
The permanent solution to the menace, according to Bolawole, is for the government to urgently fence both sides of the canal with concrete walls so that it would not continue to expand. He said the more the dredging was done, the more the properties were endangered.
Warning against procrastinating in embarking on the project, he said he was told at the Ministry of the Environment that the project was to be executed with about N120 million some years ago, but the cost would have doubled at the moment considering the present exchange rate.
“There have been promises by the state government to find a lasting solution to the danger. At different times, and recently, government representatives came to interview the occupants and did some markings. They also pledged to tar Bakare and Owoade streets. They also promised to put concrete on both sides of the canal and we were very excited about it but we later heard that government had postponed the plans.
“The postponement reinforced the view of some people here that there are some influential landlords who don’t want the roads tarred because their houses contravene regulations guiding the right of way. But Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has said that such selfish influence was not possible under his watch. However, we are waiting until he matches his words with action. I am so passionate about this not just because of the church but also for the community. I am not a full-time pastor and the church is not mine. l am a journalist and public relations consultant,” Bolawole said.
He also disclosed that the Alapere Bridge on the other end of the canal was too low, thereby serving as an obstruction to easy flow of debris underneath. He said, unless the error was corrected, the canal would continue to overflow with water and other debris, to the detriment of the community.