As a result of 1972-74 drought, the defunct Supreme Military Council (SMC) promulgated Decree 25 of 1976 to promote the development of Nigeria’s water resources. That step was followed in 1976 by then military head of state, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo with the promulgation of the River Basin Development Decree which birthed 11 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs). They included Upper Benue Basin, the Lake Chad Basin, Benin-Owena Basin, Sokoto-Roma Basin, Sokoto, Hadejia-Jema’re Basin, Kano, Ogun-Oshun River Basin, Abeokuta to mention a few among the established River Basins in Nigeria.
The were for: Provision of drinking water; Irrigation system for food supplies and food security; Habitat rearing; Fossil information; Means of transportation and improvement of navigation; Recreation activities; Hydroelectric power supplies; Erosion control; Flood management; Oceanic recharge, Environmental pollution control among others.
But, from the glaring evidence, it is clear Federal Government has not been giving attention to the purpose behind the creation of the River Basins, most especially the dams.
A good example is the Ogun-Oshun Dam that is located in-between Abeokuta and Igboora (though close to Abeokuta).
If the Ogun-Oshun Dam had been properly and effectively put to use, there wouldn’t have been flood around the Long Bridge areas on the Lagos-Ibadan highway and some parts of Ikorodu. Considering the flood challenge, it would have been better if Ogun-Oshun Dam was not created at all. It is obvious the purpose for its creation had not been pursued. Were purpose for creating the dam pursued, employment opportunities would have been created to engage our teeming graduates with many unemployed Nigerian youths productively engaged in different job schedules.
In addition, the river Basins were meant to bridge the gap between between the rural and urban centres by taking development to the grassroots and discourage migration to the urban centres. By this, small and medium scale industries would have been greatly encouraged and business/entrepreneurship promoted.
But, when the Federal Government could no longer pursue the purpose for which the Ogun-Oshun Dam was created, it was rented out for private business ventures for fish farming. The three notable commercial fish farm companies presently operating in the Dam are:
(1) Indian-owned Premium Aqualculture which is rearing fish in large commercial quantities to make profit.
(2) Nigerian-owned Ejide Fish Farm, a large-scale fish farm known for massive fish supplies to their clients nationwide. This farm is owned by Hon. Musiliu Obanikoro.
(3) Durantee farm – owned and managed by another group of Indian businessmen. This company is making a lot of money in Nigeria through the Ogun-Oshun Dam that the Federal Government of Nigeria did not put to use as she ought to.
It is also good to mention that another dam called Ikere Gorge Dam in Iseyin and Ogun-Oshun River Basin in Abeokuta are linked through Ogun River that flows from Saki to the Lagoon.
For the purpose of clarification, Ogun River, whose major tributaries are the Ofiki and Opeki rivers, is waterfront that has its origin from the isolated area of Saki in Oyo North, Oyo State.
Ogun River flows through three states namely: Oyo, Ogun and Lagos- and finally discharges into the Lagoon. Ogun River naturally created the politically delineated Oke Ogun enclave that is commonly addressed as Oyo North in most popular literature and research works.
Unfortunately, when the government of Obasanjo that promulgated the River Basins Decree in 1976 returned in 1999 as civilian president, he could not revisit and address the project. Till date, Ikere Gorge Dam is not achieving the purpose of its creation. Sadly again, as massive as the dam is, the project is abandoned without installing the deployed turbine till date.
Obasanjo spent eight solid years as civilian head of state but his agenda was far from completing the project he started as the military leader after many years of abandonment.
The effects of the meeting of the Ogun-Oshun Dam from Abeokuta and Ikere Gorge Dam from Iseyin in Ogun River can easily be imagined. Considering the present flooding ravaging many communities today, the question that should readily come to mind is: is Ogun River deep and wide enough to accommodate the excess water flowing from the two dams? The flooding challenges flowing into Isheri, Sparklight Estate, Opic Estates, Warewa, Mokore, Arigbede, Banku, City View Estate, Forthright Estate, Punch Newspaper Company location, parts of Arepo and Magboro Community are clear testimonies that Ogun River is inadequate to accommodate the water flows from the two dams talkless of emptying it into the Lagoon.
It has become needless to say lives and properties have been seriously and lamentably destroyed. We don’t have the statistics of those who have lost their precious lives and properties worth billions of Naira through the flood that is not well managed. Many residents in these affected areas have vacated their submerged and overwhelmed properties. Husbands, wives and the children are scattered over different locations looking for safety and shelters. Children cannot go to schools. This has almost been a perennial experience. The economic strangulation ravaging our nation is not helping matters! Those whose houses are not submerged are managing to go about their daily business activities using canoes as their means of transportation.
It is important to stress the fact that most of the roads in the listed communities are constructed and maintained through communal efforts of tax-paying residents using Community Development Associations (CDA) that are not receiving subventions from government. This flood has cut most roads and damaged beyond normal many passable roads. We are at a ‘begin again’ levels to restore normalcy to our lives, businesses and roads.
Anybody travelling along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, especially the Long Bridge, could capture the right picture to understand the points that we are making. If the purposes of creating the dams had not been achieved, what are the available approaches to achieving them without wasting previous lives and properties yearly?
Our challenge is not about availability of resources, both natural and human, but poverty of leadership; purposeful leaders who are ready to be transactional in their styles of leadership; leaders who are not corrupt, tribalistic and plagued with religious bigotry; leaders who are not surrounded with those interested only in their pockets. All we need in Nigeria are leaders who are sound, knowledgeable, sincere, committed and realistic in policy making and execution to achieve the set dreams. Agriculture have the potential to give us a turn around. Let us utilise the rivers and dams to actualise the above.
The worst is, rain has not stopped and, according to the available forecast, it will continue to fall till December 2019.
So, if the water level in those dams is still very high, there is the tendency for the authorities to open up the dams again to release the water before the year runs out. If this happens, the already bad case will become worse.
All we are saying is in no way targeted at instilling fears in the minds of residents in the affected communities and areas. The truth of the matter is, this is the right time to face the reality of what has befallen us and proffer solutions to our challenges.
The solutions to this perennial life-threatening flood and the destruction of properties is for government should to rise up to provide corrective and preventive interventions. The governors of the affected states and the Federal Government should set up a committee whose members would be objective professionals and genuine opinion leaders who are capable of making critical and objective analysis of our havoc-creating dams nationwide. With immediate effect, the affected communities should be variously and thoroughly inspected after which they can meet to proffer the necessary solutions to the evident challenges.
In addition, what are the remedies and damage control methods? Dredging of so many identifiable canals in the flooding areas for water ways into the Lagoon should be urgently and massively embarked upon.
Reservoirs should be constructed in different strategic locations with a view to channeling the excess water from the dams into them for irrigation and fishing purposes. We don’t need magicians to tell us that such action will reduce flooding and its negative consequences on lives and properties.
The Ministry of Physical and Urban Planning should wake up to ensure the waterways are maintained within the best practices. Also, the Ministry of Local Governments and Cooperative Developments should team up with other community development agencies to jumpstart effective coordination of LCDA in order to ensure there are no illegal constructions on waterways. Mechanism to checkmate official approval of illegal structures should be established to avert corrupt practices.
River Basin Dams in Nigeria, including Ogun-Oshun Dam that have been causing yearly havoc to residents of Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States, should be properly and sustainably developed to enhance and ensure socio-economic growth of the Nation or else it will continue to endanger the lives and properties of many Nigerians.
The truth, they say, is bitter but we should continue to call a spade no other name than it has been christened.