How ocean surges ravage Lagos coastal communities
•Villages, heritage sites, health centres, roads totally wiped out
•It’s caused by climate change, unregulated coastal activities – experts
•No, the gods are angry – traditionalists
By Tope Adeboboye
In the beginning, Okun Alfa was an idyllic seaside town. Sitting a few
kilometres to the Atlantic Ocean, the community hosted the popular
resort, Alpha Beach. The shoreline was an exotic spectacle of gangling
coconut trees lined up in an aesthetic, breathtaking formation. The
natives and other residents farmed and fished. Most residents had a
cassava farm, just as nearly every household owned several coconut
trees that gave the town a magnificent look. Each day, hundreds of men
set out to the sea in their canoes, returning in the evening with
boatloads of assorted fish and other seafood. Elderly women and young
girls sorted the catch. Some were roasted and sold; the rest disbursed
for gastronomic purposes. The breeze from the sea wafted to the
community and its neighbours –Igbo Efon, Okun Lafiaji, Okun Ajah, Okun
Mopo and others. Residents enjoyed life to the fullest.
In those days, Okun Alfa and the other communities along the coast
were the place to be. Adewale Sanni, President, Eti-Osa Heritage
organisation was born and raised in the area. Sanni, a lawyer now in
his late 40s, tells the reporter that he enjoyed the tranquillity of
the seaside as a youngster growing up in Okun Mopo and Igbo Efon. He
recalls how he, alongside his mates, vended smoked fish on foot across
the villages in the area, from Mopo to Igbo Efon to places as far
flung as Maroko. Then, the sea was peaceful, and the fish, plenteous.
He’s not the only one. Alhaji Mustapha Okunmoyinbo immediately
concurs. A native of Ajah, a neighbouring town, Okunmoyinbo too grew
up enjoying life in and around the coastal communities.
Soon, large estates owned by multinational companies and construction
giants, among others, started springing up in the area, creating more
economic boom for the residents of the area. The sandy streets of Okun
Alfa beckoned to the rich and the not-so-rich. From far and near, fun
seekers trooped to the community to enjoy the beach and the pure
ambience of the serene seaside. Life was good.
But that was then. In the last few years, there has been a reversal in
fate and fortunes.
These days, Okun Alfa has lost its allure. The beach has vanished; the
coconut trees uprooted and flung far into the sea. Right now, no one
ventures near the Atlantic on fishing expeditions. Even the fish and
other animals hunted by the ancestors of the present dwellers of Okun
Alfa and its neighbours seem to have disappeared from the sea. The
persistent ocean surges terrorising Okun Alfa and its fellow coastal
towns in the axis have ensured that life in the simple, once sublime
address has lost its appeal.
Today, the community is a shadow of its old self. It looks hapless and
forlorn. The sea eyes Okun Alfa and its residents menacingly,
threatening their very existence. Already, many houses have been
destroyed by the ocean surge. Substantial portions of the major road
in the town have been occupied by the sea. A large part of what used
to be Okun Alfa has been seized by the Atlantic Ocean. Today,
residents of Okun Alfa live in utter trepidation, unsure of what the
next ocean surge would bring.
Many of the young natives of this community would never believe that
the town was once a commercial hub where traders from far and near
bought and sold seafood, coconut, cassava and other items. Today, many
vestiges of that forgone era have been carted away by the sea.
As it stands, Okun Alfa and many other communities along the coastline
are under threat of total extinction. Some towns in the axis are no
more, completely annihilated by the Atlantic Ocean. The indigenes have
been settled in some relatively safer places as the sea took over
their communities. The sea has occupied their ancestral lands, washing
away prized artefacts, crafts, shrines and history. The graves of many
of the ancestors of such communities now lie in the sea.
Over the years, ocean surge has been a persistent problem for the
dwellers of Okun Alfa. But the one that nearly sacked the town in
September 2012 has remained the most destructive in recorded history,
according to the residents.
A community in ruins
“It was an incident that left the community in ruins,” Sani tells the
reporter. And he isn’t exaggerating. It was an event that would remain
indelible in the minds of many residents.
One of such is Babade Hassan. He lost virtually everything he owned to
the ocean surge of that year. And even now, deep in his mind, the very
memory of the disastrous sea surge evokes pain and agony.
The morning after the catastrophic surge was one of terror,
trepidation and tears. Babade gazed at his apartment – actually, what
remained of it – in the single-storey building consisting of four
flats. From time to time, he shook his head, scratched his beards and
let out a sad, fleeting smile.
His flat was on the ground floor in the house, its right side facing
the Atlantic Ocean. All was well with the building and others in the
community by the time the Ogun State-born bachelor, who worked with a
private construction firm in Ajah, left the house the previous day. He
had journeyed to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, to attend a private
engagement. But after receiving a call from one of his neighbours very
early the following morning, he was fully convinced that his entire
life had fallen apart.
In the dead of that night, the sea roared ferociously and rolled down
to Okun Alfa. While the men and women of the town slept, the Atlantic
overran the coast and swept through the serene, blissful seaside
community. Snarling and screaming, and with all the fury it could
muster, the sea brought down virtually everything in its path.
Buildings collapsed in the ensuing commotion, and the roaring tide
dragged household items and other personal belongings to the
waterlogged streets. The long coconut trees adorning the shoreline
were totally uprooted and hurled into the sea. A mast belonging to a
telecommunications outfit was pulled down by the tide. A section of
the popular Eng Murphy Adetoro Road, which transformed to the Alpha
Beach Road further down close to the beach, was totally destroyed. The
community health centre collapsed and was washed away by the strong,
five-metre-high tide. The spot where the health centre once stood is
now in the sea.
The angry sea had reverence for neither man nor God. Even the
community’s deities were not spared. A church building close to the
beach was washed away just as a mosque was pulled down by the force of
the surging waters. And in a glaring display of downright disdain for
its patron goddess, the sea surge also sacked the Olokun grove,
Within minutes, household items were floating in the flooded streets.
Thousands of residents abandoned their homes and sought refuge on the
main Lekki-Epe Expressway, far away from their wrecked homes in the
Babade said he couldn’t communicate his frustrations to anyone. That
was understandable. On that day, there was scarcely any resident of
Okun Alfa that was ready to listen to the cries of a neighbour. The
Baale’s palace was flooded, and the royal household also fled from the
rampaging salty waters. The following morning, virtually all the
residents of the community were engrossed in sober thoughts as they
navigated their way to their homes in makeshift. For residents of Okun
Alfa, that day in September 2012 was a sad, sombre one.
Yet the residents are no strangers to occasional visits from the
Atlantic waters. Chief Yusuf Elegushi Atewolara, Baale of the
community popularly known as Alpha Beach, informs the reporter that
strong tides from the sea had for long brought the ocean surging into
the community. But he said the 2012 incident was particularly
“It was a serious incident; no one can forget that day in a hurry,”
the royal father recalls, as he reclines in an elevated chair in his
palace. “Canoes were moving unhindered outside this palace. Property
running into millions of naira was lost in the community. This palace
was not spared. You should have seen the water here. We survived the
incident by the grace of God.”
That incident cost the community more than the loss of buildings and
household items. They equally lost a large swathe of their land to the
sea. By the time the Atlantic calmed down, and its angry waters
receded, the Alpha Beach was no more. About 200 metres of what used to
be part of Okun Alfa had been fully occupied by the Atlantic.
“That’s usually the problem,” the Baale asserts slowly, his left hand
adjusting his white, royal cap. “Whenever we experience an ocean surge
like that, more problems remain after the water might have receded.
The sea takes over part of our land, and it would refuse to shift.
Since the days of our forefathers, this has been the case. The
difference is that, in those days, the water came slowly. But right
now, we have lost substantial parts of this community to the surging
sea. The sea eats up our land, and we are helpless in its presence. On
many occasions, we have been forced to relocate from our ancestral
land close to the ocean. See where we are now; there is nowhere we can
go again. That is our dilemma.”
Even as the royal father speaks, the sea snarls menacingly. The palace
is just about 50 metres from the sea. And from the short distance, the
waters growls furiously, baying persistently like a pack of famished
How solid was the support from the government back then? The Baale
sighs. “The government tried its best,” he mutters slowly. “The
governor was here. The president then, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan also came
around. But he was in a chopper where we learnt he was inspecting the
damage. We thought he would land the chopper and come here to witness
the devastation himself and maybe give us some reassuring words. But
that never happened.”
Eti-Osa Heritage Organisation is a socio-cultural group led by Adewale
Sani. The organisation canvasses for the development and advancement
of the mostly seaside communities in Eti-Osa. He is on the same mind
with the traditional ruler.
“The people have been relocating far from the shore over the years,
driven away by the sea which had been taking up their land,” he says.
“Whenever the sea seizes part of the land, the people quickly shift
further up. When we were growing up in this area in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, where Okun Alfa was then is now in the high seas. The
community was not here then, and the sea was far away. In those days,
there was still some distance between Igbo-Efon and Okun-Alfa. You
would have to do a lot of trekking from Igbo Efon to access Okun Alfa.
Now, there is hardly any difference between Igbo Efon and Okun Alfa
“The sea surge of 2012 is the worst in modern history. It destroyed a
lot of things. It destroyed and took over the main road. The community
is now on the brink of extinction.”
But even at that, the people of Okun Alfa are still lucky. At least, a
part of their land still remains, even if it is quite small. In that
same axis, the sea has sacked many communities, and it has since taken
over the land where such towns once sat. Alaguntan, Alagbonkan,
Morekete, Apese, Inupa, Olukotun and many other hitherto thriving
coastal towns with hundreds of years of rich history have been sacked
and occupied by the sea. Besides such towns, many little villages and
settlements have been annihilated. And forced out of their ancestral
lands, the natives have taken up residence elsewhere, much to their
“In the days of yore, the sea visited this community occasionally,
maybe once in eight or ten years,” Chief Elegushi avers. “And it
receded almost immediately. The sand that it would bring would be as
high as a small building. But now, it comes whenever it likes. If you
were in this community four days ago, you would see that everywhere
was flooded. There is nowhere the water doesn’t ravage, including this
palace. May people would come back from work to meet their homes and
property totally damaged by the sea. Sometimes, it comes in the night
and the people would have to start running helter-skelter in the dead
of the night.
“We have been forced to move away from the sea, which has been eating
up our land. Over the years, we have been moving. Many of our people
whose lands have been taken over by the sea have left. Where would
they stay again? Some have moved to Awoyaya; others to Epe. Or what
could they do? Life must continue anyhow.
“But now, there is nowhere to shift to again. We have reached the end
of the road. The fenced land you saw on your way here belongs to
Chevron. That automatically means we can no longer shift again. That
is why the government must come to our aid as quickly as possible.”
The traditional ruler noted that unless government moved quickly to
address the issue, even a community as far away as Epe would soon meet
its waterloo, after the sea might have sacked all the communities in
the Eti Osa and Ibeju/Lekki axis.
The Baale walks with the reporter to the edge of the community where
the sea’s tide seems to taunt the surviving houses. The remains of the
homes destroyed during the last major ocean surge in the community
remain. But the embankment being done by the state government from the
Kuramo waterfront is gradually getting to the community. The
embankment, including several boulders, stretches from the sea to the
shore. Its mission is to break the current and weaken the surge.
“If they can do this as soon as possible, maybe our problems at Okun
Alfa would no longer be as life-threatening as they had been over the
years,” the Baale states.
Other communities along the coastline are equally under threat, the
reporter gathered. Places such as Igbo Efon, Okun Lafiaji, Okun Ajah,
Okun Mopo, Igbara, Maiyegun,Aro, Ologolo, Baruwa and scores of other
towns and villages stretching from Victoria Island to Epe are all
facing threats of extinction.
But why hasn’t the community communicated its plight to the
appropriate authorities before now, you wonder. But the traditional
ruler says his people have always informed the state government of the
environmental challenges faced by Okun Alfa and other communities
along the coastline. He shows the reporter a copy of a letter
dispatched to the former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji
Fashola after the last major devastation of Okun Alfa.
The letter, dated September 27, 2013, was written by the Alpha Beach
Neighbourhood Residents Association. In the letter, the community
begged the state government to help with the reconstruction of the
Alpha Beach Road, also known as New Road, which was damaged by the
ocean surge. They also pleaded with the government to find a permanent
solution to the ocean surges as well as the coastal and beach erosion
eating up the community. The letter was signed by several notable
indigenes of the area, including Oba Tijani Akinloye, Ojomu of
Ajiranland, Hon Anofi Elegushi, Chairman, Eti-Osa Local Government,
Chief Yusuf Atewolara, Baale of Okun Alfa and Professor O.S. Adegoke.
The letter partly reads: “A decade ago, Alpha Beach and the
surrounding villages had over 200 feet of protected beach land.
Uncontrolled sand mining, seashell harvesting and the Eko Atlantic
project have led to the aggravated erosion of the beach. Today, the
entire coastline in an easterly direction from Victoria Island is in
immense danger from massive ocean surges and wave-induced erosion.”
The letter called on Fashola to initiate a land-reclamation programme
that would include the erection of E-W wave breakers. Many photographs
of the devastation of the area were attached to the letter. Sadly,
nothing of such was extended to the community until the former
governor left office.
Okun Lafiaji and Lafiaji Ojuy Egun are the twin communities lying next
to Okun Alfa on that coastal route. The Alpha beach Road, which had
run straight inside the sea, appears again, now leading to Lafiaji Oju
“That will show you how much of these people’s land that is now inside
the sea,” Sanni tells the reporter as he navigates his Nissan
Pathfinder SUV through the sandy road. “The road, as you can sea,
leads to Okun Alfa from off the Lekki-Epe Expressway. It courses
through the community then veers left by the edge of the beach and
leads to Okun Lafiaji. But the sea has eaten up the road. That shows
you that the community has indeed suffered in the hands of the ocean.”
Okun Lafiaji: Constantly under threat
A 20-minute drive takes you to Okun Lafiaji from Okun Alfa. Okun
Lafiaji, like its neighbour, has, without a doubt, seen better times.
The sea has done considerable damage to the community. The seaside
town is vacant and empty. But there seems to be some life yet in the
nearby Lafiaji Oju Egun. The people are worried though that the
current peace might not pervade the community for long. Every now and
then, the sea bellows like a maniacal beast, and everyone recoils in
Elder Alade Balogun is a businessman and community leader in Lafiaji
Oju Egun. Born and raised in the community, Elder, as he’s called,
left Lafiaji for the pursuit of knowledge years back. He returned to
the community 12 years ago, and he’s taken up the job, alongside
others of like minds, of trying to save his homeland from the threats
of the sea.
He tells the reporter in his house at Lafiaji Oju Egun that ocean
surge has, over the years, devastated the community. In his words,
hardly does a year roll by without the community recording a few
surges. He informs that while he was young, the distance between the
community and the sea spanned a few kilometres. “It’s like you’re
journeying from here to Okun Alfa or Igbo Efon. Now, from here to the
seashore takes just a few minutes on foot. So, naturally, one is
worried,” he admits.
He notes that the founders of the communities in the axis planted
coconut trees by the seaside, running several kilometres along the
coastline. In the older days when there were no paved roads, he
recalls with a hint of nostalgia, the spaces between the aesthetically
lined coconut trees served as road for trucks and commuters from Apese
in Maroko to Leke, the community now known as Lekki.
“But now, the coconut trees are no more. You can only find a scatter
of them in some of the communities. In others, the sea has destroyed
them all. Even the ones planted by people of my generation and those
that are younger than us have been devastated by the sea,” says Elder.
In his view, the community land seized and occupied by the sea could
not be an inch less than two kilometres.
“Back in the days, there were settlements by the sea, apart from the
main Lafiaji town. All those are gone now. The people have relocated.”
Why the sea gets very restive
To him, many reasons could be adduced for the fury with which the sea
now attacks the coastal communities of Eti Osa. One of such, he
informs, is the effect of the global warming and climate change which
is threatening virtually all aspects of life. Another is the emergence
of many beaches in the axis and the unbridled recreational activities
that go on in those fun parks.
Hear him: “Back in the days, our fathers did things the way they were
supposed to be done. But nowadays, life has turned upside down. In
those days, people knew that the sea had its own taboos. But not
anymore. These days, people bring food from fast-food restaurants and
dump the refuse in the sea. You see all sorts of people swimming in
the sea, including women in their period. The sea hates all this. It’s
like we’re provoking it deliberately. Our fathers observed these
taboos, but today, no one cares again.”
Elder Balogun tells the reporter that in years past, the sea mildly
overflowed its banks once in the year during the rainy season. “The
reason, as we were told, is that the sea does not accommodate foreign
water from other sources. So during the rains, water from the streams
will flow into the sea and after some time, the sea will expel such
water. That was happened in the past, but it was never serious. Of
course, it took some part of the land, but it was too insignificant to
be noticed. But right now, the sea surge devastates the community and
seizes our land.”
He laments that the dredging of sand and allied activities taking
place in and around Eti Osa communities are equally responsible for
the wrath that the sea unleashes on the area. Elder Balogun informs
that it is unimaginable that people are even dredging the sea, noting
that these days, dredgers no longer limit their activities to the
To him, another cause of the sea surge is the sand filling of the
water bodies in the area, notably the lagoon. Most of the islands, he
stated, were reclaimed from the sea and the lagoon and transformed to
residential neighbourhoods. He’s scared stiff that many of such
neighbourhoods now occupied by the mega rich and highly influential
members of the society might be a significant contributor to the
ordeals of the people in Okun Alfa, Okun Lafiaji and other communities
under threat of total obliteration by the sea.
Yet another reason, according to the elder, is the total abandonment
of the appeasements and rituals being done in the days of yore to
pacify the Olokun, the goddess of the sea. He asserts that modern
civilization has ensured that many of those rites and rituals have
been neglected, even as he laments that such neglect has been
provoking the sea, causing its restiveness.
He explains that in the not-too-distant past, the Olokun had its own
grove, where the necessary rites were being done. Now, he regrets,
Olokun has been relegated totally.
“Does the Olokun even accept the rites again? Those that perform the
rites these days, are they like their forefathers? In the past, the
priests of Olokun have their own rules that they must abide with. How
many of such traditionalists painstakingly abide by those rules these
Is he hopeful that the sea surge might be totally curtailed anytime
soon? Elder Balogun shakes his head vigorously. “I cannot
categorically say,” he notes. “The Bible tells us that God would no
longer destroy the world with water. But with what we’re seeing here,
we can rest assured that the end of the world is near. Well, the
embankment being done by the government along the corridor might be
working. Maybe if it is extended all through the coastline, it would
whittle down the strength of the tide and prevent sea surge. That’s
the only hope that we have.”
Fear, panic in other seaside communities
Residents of Okun Ajah and Okun Mopo, two other communities along the
coastline, are also scared stiff that the sea might soon be visiting
their homes. Alhaji Sulukaleen Babatunde Adamson is a businessman and
a community leader at Okun Ajah, another vulnerable community in the
axis. He tells the reporter at a fuel station of the Lekki/Epe
Expressway that he was born and raised in the town. He says the sea
has never ravaged Okun Ajah, but in his view, the place is nonetheless
under serious threat from the ocean. If nothing is done urgently, Okun
Ajah might soon witness a devastating call from Olokun, the goddess of
the sea, the man avows.
The elderly man recalls that over the years, the sea has been moving
dangerously close to the community, tremendously shortening its
expanse. The distance from the town to the seashore when he was
younger has become condensed as a result of the expansionist
tendencies of the sea. The entire economy of the place has been
battered considerably, he laments.
In the past, members of the community were mainly farmers and
fishermen. Cassava and coconuts were the major crops. Today, the
coconuts have been washed away by the sea, even as the cassava farms
have been totally destroyed.
Sulaiman Sani and Korede Shonibare are natives of Okun Mopo. They also
reside in the community. They say to the reporter that though the
community is not as devastated as Okun Alfa, it’s just a matter of
time before Okun Mopo too get inundated and ruined.
Sulaiman Sanni says he was born and raised in the community. He
observes that even though the sea has not been terrorising the
community, the signs are there that it might soon. He informs that the
sea has shifted considerably from where it used to be. He notes that
Okun Mopo 11, the community next to Okun Mopo but which is in Ibeju
Lekki Local Government area of Lagos, is already battling ocean surge.
Shonibare totally concurs. He says residents of the community can no
longer sleep with both eyes closed. He informs that right now, the
coconut trees in Okun Mopo have also been destroyed by the sea,
avowing that the trees, which were the major source of livelihood for
the dwellers of Okun Mopo, have totally disappeared.
“Our forefathers were farmers and fishermen. They had vast coconut
plantations by the seaside. But the coconut trees have disappeared
now. Those still trading in coconuts no longer get their supplies from
Okun Mopo. They now have to move to other communities. Our economy is
in dire straits. We need help. Whatever they can do to prevent the sea
from sacking our community will be appreciated. Government should
extend the embankment they are doing at Okun Alfa to our community,”
Climate change and global warming
But environmental experts are not surprised one bit about what is
currently happening in some of the coastal communities of Lagos. The
global consequences of climate change and global warming, they insist,
were the major cause of the ocean surge wreaking sheer calamity on the
coastal communities and their dwellers.
Experts inform that currently, around the world, sea levels are rising
at alarming proportions. An article published on Climate Hot Map
website noted that higher seas are currently endangering coastal
communities, affirming that up to 40 per cent of the world population
live in such communities and are at risk.
The report, published on http://www.climatehotmap.org, also explained
why the sea level is currently rising: “Two major mechanisms are
causing sea level to rise. First, shrinking land ice, such as mountain
glaciers and polar ice sheets, is releasing water into the oceans.
Second, as ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water expands. Trapped
within a basin bounded by the continents, the water has nowhere to go
but up. In some parts of the world, especially low-lying river deltas,
local land is sinking (known as subsidence)—making sea levels rise
much higher. “The consequences of sea level rise include: threats to
coastal communities, high tides and storm surges riding on ever-higher
seas which are more dangerous to people and coastal infrastructure;
natural protections against damaging storm surges are increasingly
threatened. “Barrier islands, beaches, sand dunes, salt marshes,
mangrove stands, and mud and sand flats retreat inland as sea level
rises, unless there are obstructions along the retreat path. If they
cannot move, these natural protections are washed over or drowned.
“Many shorelines have sea walls, jetties, and other artificial
defenses to protect roads, buildings, and other vital coastal
resources. In these areas, sea-level rise increases erosion of
stranded beaches, wetlands, and engineered structures.”
Another report published on the website of the United States
Environmental Protection Agency further expounded: “As water gets
warmer, it takes up more space. Each drop of water only expands by a
little bit, but when you multiply this expansion over the entire depth
of the ocean, it all adds up and causes sea level to rise. Sea level
is also rising because melting glaciers and ice sheets are adding more
water to the oceans.
“Average sea level around the world has been rising for many years.
Over the past 100 years, the average sea level around the world rose
by nearly 7 inches. If people keep adding greenhouse gases to the
atmosphere, the average sea level around the world by the end of this
century (the year 2099) could be anywhere from 7 to 23 inches higher
than it was in 1990. Sea level could rise even more if the big ice
sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt faster.
“Rising sea level is a threat to people who live near the ocean. Some
low-lying areas will have more frequent flooding, and very low-lying
land could be submerged completely. Rising sea level can also harm
important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests and coral reefs.
“Global climate change threatens coastlines and the buildings and
cities located along them. Hundreds of millions of people around the
world live in low–lying areas near the coast that could be flooded as
the sea level rises. Rising sea level will also erode beaches and
damage many coastal wetlands. Rising sea level and stronger storms
caused by warmer oceans could completely wipe out certain beaches and
Climate change poses risks for cities near the ocean. Places like
Miami; New York City; New Orleans; and Venice, Italy, could flood more
often or more severely if sea level continues to rise. If that
happens, many people will lose their homes and businesses.”
Though Nigeria is not mentioned in the report, the Lagos coastline
could as well have been its case study. Right now, buildings and
businesses have collapsed. And they are still collapsing.
Even in Nigeria, the statistics are not looking too propitious.
Professor Iyiola Oni of the Department of Geography, University of
Lagos, is the dean, Faculty of Social Sciences of the institution. He
affirmed that the projected sea level rise in the coastal areas of
Lagos State could be more than one metre by 2100, resulting in ample
loss of land to the sea. The university teacher informed at a lecture
in Lagos early in the year that recent studies suggested that the
expected climate change in Lagos State may include: temperature
increase of 0.04 degrees Celsius per year from now until the 2046-2065
period, with areas near the coast expected to warm up at a slower rate
Said the don: “Besides, a wetter climate, with the annual rainfall
increasing by about 15cm and a rainy season that will be longer by up
to two weeks by 2046-2065, an increase in the frequency and magnitude
of extreme weather events, such as extreme heat days (with the
temperature exceeding 38 degrees Celsius), with more violent tropical
storms are expected.”
“Sea level will rise by about 3.1mm per year as a result of
increasing global temperatures, and the concomitant thermal expansion
of water and melting of polar ice caps.”
The scholar said the impacts of climate change in Lagos include loss
of land to the sea; loss of livelihoods; loss of physical
infrastructure (transportation, industrial, energy, water
storage/supply; real estate, etc.); displacement of settlements and
population; Loss of ecosystems and biodiversity; pollution of surface
water and groundwater; increased frequency and magnitude of
climate-related disasters; and Increased risk of water-borne diseases.
So how could the coming calamity be forestalled? Prof Oni recommended
the construction of dykes for protection; relocation of homes or
businesses, or demarcation of certain zones as off-limits for
development; institution of stronger building codes, or strengthening
of early warning systems.
An environmentalist and environmental activist, Desmond Majekodunmi
also said a symptom of climate change is ocean rise caused by melting
of the polar ice caps and expansion of the ocean waters through
thermal induction. Another symptom is more virulent offshore storms
giving rise to hurricane force winds. All these symptoms have started
to manifest themselves in different parts of the world and are
providing the practical positive proof of the horrific realities of
climate change, brought about by anthropogenic induced global warming,
caused mainly through the unabated release of greenhouse gasses,
particularly CO2 and methane, into the atmosphere, he explained.
He stated: “Unfortunately for us here in Nigeria and particularly in
the coastal states like our dear Lagos, when the symptoms of heavy
volume of rain, ocean rise and virulent storms occur simultaneously it
can spell disaster for a low lying coastal area, especially when the
lagoons in that area are also the final destination for a series of
major river systems.”
A group and its efforts
The Eti Osa Heritage Organisation, led by Adewale Sanni, has been
fighting hard to bring attention to the plight of the communities in
the area. Sanni tells the reporter that his organisation has been very
concerned about the devastating consequences of the persistent ocean
surges ravaging the seaside communities. Early in the year, the group
organised a lecture where experts were invited to speak on ocean
surges and other issues afflicting the area. The lecture, he noted,
got the government sufficiently informed about the situation. The
theme of the lecture was ‘Climate change, ocean surge and sustainable
development in Nigeria.’
Sanni said virtually all the experts at the event focused on ocean
surge as it affects the communities and their people.
“We are very much concerned,” he says to the reporter, his back
resting on the stump of a lifeless coconut tree by the sea at Okun
Ajah. “This is our heritage. What we have here are hundreds of years
of tradition, of culture, of arts, of literature, of social
interaction. We cannot replicate these anywhere. So, we are concerned,
He describes the dwellers of the coastal communities as simple people
whose lives revolve around farming and fishing. Unfortunately, he
laments, the people’s source of livelihood has been virtually
destroyed by the sea along the Eti-Osa/ Lekki axis. He complains that
the land not threatened by the sea has been forcefully taken over by
“In my first 12 years, I didn’t taste beef. Well, maybe I did during
the Ileya festival. All that we had then was fresh fish. But today, it
is no longer so. The fish too have disappeared.”
Alhaji Mustapha Okunmoyinbo is the secretary of the Eti Osa Heritage
Organisation. He tells the reporter that climate change has indeed
been causing unmitigated disasters in several parts of the world. In
the Northern part of Nigeria, he says, it has been the cause of
desertification. He notes that the federal government should give more
support to Lagos State to address the problem of ocean surge.
“Nigeria should learn how other countries have been tackling this
problem,” he says.
“The topography of this coastal area has been destroyed. The coconuts
and the beaches are gone. The few ones left are going. The embankment
being done at Okun Alfa should be replicated in other communities.
That will bring some respite, even if it is temporary.”
He does not blame the state government for the environmental crisis
foisted on the coastal communities by the ocean surge. To him, the
state is handicapped. “It is the federal government that should take
over and help save these communities.,
Do the people have any role to play? Yes, the man avers. “The coconut
trees are gone now. Once the embankment being done by the state
government is completed, residents of these communities should start
planting coconuts again. Government should encourage people to plant
coconuts. We can make that happen. The ambience would be great again.
And it could be a breaker for the tide.”
Anger of the gods
But besides the effect of climate change, the ocean surges affecting
Lagos communities might be the handiwork of some angry gods. Chief
Nurudeen Odofin, a traditional priest and Alase of Ajiranland, tells
the reporter that some rites through which Olokun, the sea goddess,
was appeased in the olden days have virtually been abandoned.
“Back then, when the weather was not too favourable, our fathers would
do some rites and appease the Olokun. And it was only the Oba that
could lead the rites, not just anybody. But now, all that has
He’s unhappy that governments at all levels hardly want to have
anything to do with adherents of traditional faiths.
“Look at what has been happening in Eti-Osa. See those communities
that are being destroyed. But for the sacrifices and other rites that
we do, what do you think would have happened in the entire area? But
we have not stopped appeasing the sea and we won’t stop. It is our
rites and our heritage.”
He believes government has been too apathetic towards traditional
religion and its followers. “Why can’t the government declare just one
day, August 20, as a holiday for the adherents of our traditional
religions? Christians and Muslims have at least four days for each of
their religions in a year. But we have none.”
Many people would wonder, however, that since the priests of Olokun
still worship the deity, why does the sea still surge? “Olokun is not
being worshipped as it should,” he explains. “When we were young, I
never heard it that just anyone would go and be appeasing Olokun. No.
It is the responsibility of the Oba to appease Olokun. And it is not
He also accuses fun seekers at the different beaches of annoying the
sea with their activities. He notes that the sea doesn’t like refuse
or any strange items on its surface. “It will always expel such items
by all means. These are some of the things responsible for the ocean
Eko Atlantic City
Every member of the communities and others outside the area believes
the Eko Atlantic City project is a major harbinger of the people’s
woes. Baale of Okun Alfa, Alhaji Atewolara, says it is natural for the
sea to seek alternative outlets after it had been forcefully sacked
from the Bar Beach area. He tells the reporter that the embankment
being done in his community now should have been done much earlier.
“The Eko Atlantic City is part of the cause of the problems here. But
the truth is, if that project was not conceived, the entire Ahmadu
Bello Way, maybe the whole of Victoria Island, would have been at
risk. The land already claimed from Lagos by the sea, I’m sure, is not
less than half of Lagos. And even the Niger Delta too. That is why the
government needs to be more committed before the sea sacks the entire
Elder Balogun is more candid. “The Eko Atlantic city being built by
the state government in partnership with some private firm is perhaps
the major contributor,” he notes. “We have been told that such project
was done in Dubai and other places, and that there were no
repercussions. But how sure are we that these communities are not the
ones that would bear the brunt of all the diversion that is being done
to the sea?
“We have been told that the project would save Victoria Island from
being wiped out by the sea. But what about the rest of the communities
sitting along this axis? When you have driven the sea from that place,
it is basic that the water would seek a fresh outlet. So, while the
sea surge has drastically reduced in that axis, it has vigorously
increased in this area.”
But experts have also argued that the reclamation of land for the Eko
Atlantic is not the sole reason for the sea surge and the threatened
extinction of the coastal communities. Professor Emanuel Oladipo, an
international Climate Change expert, once informed that coastal
erosion had started along the Okun Alfa axis before the project was
But he also stressed that the water displaced from the Bar Beach would
naturally seek another place to percolate.
The state government, however, insists that it is not resting on its
oars. Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Ade
Akinsanya, an engineer, tells the reporter in his office at the
expansive State Secretariat Complex, Alausa, Ikeja, that the state
government is quite concerned about the challenges in the coastal
areas which he blames on the global effects of climate change.
He informs that the state did a comprehensive analysis in 2011 about
the challenges facing the coastal communities and how they could be
tackled. Since then, the commissioner says, the state has been working
hard to implement the recommendations.
The commissioner engages the reporter alongside the Permanent
Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. NM Salami, and the Director of
Engineering, Tosin Igun. He says there are three phases of the
project. Phase one, he notes, is already done while Phase Two is
on-going. Phase three will be done as soon as Phase Two is completed,
“There is limited resources, but the state has not and will never
abandon the area,” he pledges. “What happens in that area has
tremendous impact on other parts of Lagos.”
He says in its determination to proffer a permanent solution to the
incessant ocean surge being experienced along the Lagos Atlantic
Coastline, the government invited a reputable construction company
with expertise and experience in tackling coastal problems to come up
with lasting solution.
“The objective of the project is to protect and restore the
topographical characteristic between Goshen Estate Beach and Alpha
Beach. After extensive consideration of various engineering solutions,
the option of the groynes (a longitudinal massive wall made of huge
granite deposit of various sizes built into the ocean) was eventually
adopted as the most effective solution to combat the devastating
perennial ocean surge and ameliorate the drastic erosion of the
Consequently, a contract for the holistic solution to the state ocean
surge between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach using groynes was awarded
in year 2012.
“The project involves the construction of 18 groynes at an interval of
400 metres along the entire length of 7.3km. Presently, the contractor
is working on the 15th groyne of the project and this is about 6.0km
of the entire 7.3km total length to be covered. The present location
of Groyne No.15 is about 1.3km from Alpha beach.
“By the time the contract for the construction of the groynes is
completed, the Alpha Beach (Okun Alfa) shoreline would have been
protected from further erosion and damages to lives and properties,”
Elder Balogun suggests that an ambitious project like the Eko Atlantic
would also solve the problems along the Okun Alfa/Okun Ajah coastline.
“If the state government can construct such a city here, we will be
safe, and the water would be diverted towards some other place. That
is how we can be free. And if they can extend the current embankment
being done by the state to this area, there would be some relief, even
if temporary. The government should come to our aid now.”
The commissioner advises Lagos residents to be more committed to the
protection of the environment. He says the state is in consultation
with the federal government and expresses hope that the federal
authorities would do more to protect the Lagos coastline.
“We’re collaborating,” he says. “Collectively, we’ll work as a single
team to ensure that this problem is solved. Another major cause of
this problem is the case of abandoned ships. There are many ships that
suffered shipwrecks and they are there, contributing massively to
shoreline erosion. The burden has been left to the state alone, over
the years. We need the help of the federal government to address it.”