By Olakunle Olafioye
Again, the rains are here and with the attendant challenge of flooding. And as usual residents of flood-prone communities in Lagos State are beginning to live in fear of the deluge which had wreaked unquantifiable havoc in the past.
Penultimate week, residents of several communities in the state, including Ejigbo, Ago, Amuwo Odofin, Aboru and several other areas experienced what many described as a tip of what to expect in the coming weeks as the rainy season inches towards its peak.
At Aboru where residents had difficult times contending with the flood last Saturday, a resident of the community, Alhaji Sulaiman Adeyemi blamed the failure of the Lagos State government to live up to its promise on the channelisation of the canal in the area to tackle the perennial flooding in the community.
He recalled that the state government had as at last December promised to commence the project which he said was billed to last for three years.
He, however, revealed that seven months down the line the state government was yet to commence the project after the demolition exercise which was carried out in the area to pave way for the channelisation project.
Few years ago, when a massive concrete ring drainage was constructed from Ejigbo junction to the canal at Egbe, residents of the area had thought that would be the end of their ordeal with flooding, but that was not to be, as residents of communities in and around Ejigbo and Egbe continue to face the challenging battle of flooding during rainy seasons.
On Saturday, June 26, residents and motorists in and around Apple Junction to Ago Palace Way in Amuwo- Odofin too had unsavoury tales to tell following the flood, which accompanied the downpour in the area.
The flood which accompanied the rain worsened vehicular movements in and around the area even as residents had hectic time contending with the flood.
The situation was worsened with the parking of heavy-duty articulated vehicles, owned by tank farm operators in Amuwo Odofin that is now transforming into a mini-Apapa in traffic gridlock, on the road. Apparently, the flood was caused by blocked drainage, a challenge that was intractable around Community road area of Ago Palace Way before now. The residents told Sunday Sun that unless the local and state authorities do something fast, flood will wreak more havoc in the area, adding that the government should check the growing indiscriminate location of tank farms in the area that is densely populated.
Also residents of other major areas, including Alagbado, Agege, Ikorodu, among others are equally expressing fear of the possibility of worsening flooding situation in their localities as they expect the rains to get more intense in the weeks ahead.
The 2021 Annual Flood Outlook, AFO, released by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, NIHSA, indicates that parts of 121 LGAs in 27 states and the FCT fall within the highly probable flood risk areas, while parts of 302 LGAs in all the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas.
The parts of the remaining 351 LGAs fall within the low probable flood risks areas. However, the predicted probable flood area coverage in 2021 is expected to be similar, but lower in magnitude to that of 2020.
The 27 highly probable flood risk states, according to the forecast, are: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara.
In addition, some coastal states such as Bayelsa, Delta and Lagos are expected to experience coastal flooding due to rise in sea level and tidal surge.
This, experts claim, could impact fishing, habitation and coastal transportation. On account of poor drainage systems, the report says flash and urban floods are expected to occur in some locations such as Birnin–Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Gombe, Yola, Makurdi, Abuja, Lafia, Asaba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Benin City, Oshogbo, Ado-Ekiti, Abakaliki, Awka, Nsukka, Calabar, Owerri, Kano, and other major cities.
In view of this, the agency called for aggressive sensitization and awareness campaigns. In addition to this, NIHSA advocated constant clearing of waterways and maintenance of hydraulic structures such as dam and reservoirs as these, according to the agency, will ensure free flow of runoff into the provided drainages and the natural courses.
The agency, therefore, tasked stakeholders, decision and policy makers, relevant federal and state government’s agencies and departments to take note of the flood early warnings and information and put in place mitigation measures, advising that the predictions of flood scenarios for 2021 be adhered to and all recommendations heeded by water users.
But some residents of some of the affected areas in Lagos State told Sunday Sun that the state government has failed to live up to expectations as far the need to put measures that would help in mitigating flooding in the state are concerned.
For instance, at Alagbado, residents complained about the poor state of the inner roads which made their areas inaccessible to waste managers, a situation that has left many residents to resort to illegal dumping of refuse into drainages whenever it rains.
This, experts believe, is likely to predispose the area to flooding.
A resident of Ajasa-Command area of Ipaja, Mr. Idowu Soyemi told our correspondents that the leaders of Community Development Associations in the area now find it difficult to stop indiscriminate dumping of refuse, including into waterways since some of the streets are no longer motorable to enable waste management trucks servicing the area access them.
“People will be left with little or no option than to resort to illegal practices in situations like this. For several weeks now the waste collection trucks servicing some of the communities around here have not been coming because they complained that the roads are bad. We are now back to situation where people are now returning to their vomit by dumping of refuse indiscriminately especially during night rains when nobody will see them. The government still needs to help us especially in the area of making major inner roads accessible to waste managers,” Mr. Soyemi pleaded.
This submission confirmed the claim of the Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Kunle Adeshina, who told Sunday Sun in a chat that the state government’s efforts at preventing flooding in the state were being undermined by residents who clog drainage channels with refuse.
According to him, “Lagos is a coastal city as you are aware and the state government is committed to a continuous cleaning and clearing of all drainage channels on a year round basis. But government’s efforts have not been helped by some unscrupulous residents who clog drainage channels with refuse and prevent natural silting which would have taken place if the drains had only sand at the base as it is expected to be.”
Adeshina pointed out that what was experienced in some parts of the state recently was flash flooding which disappeared after a couple of hours when the water discharged into its proper channels.
“Concerning Aboru and the Alimosho, the state government has awarded a contract for the concrete lining of the Aboru/Akinola River which will address the issue of flooding in that axis of Agbado Oke-Odo till Ekoro axis. It is a 24-month contract that is ongoing.
“In addition, all over the state, we have our quick fix gang known as Emergency Flood Abatement Gang that are cleaning up all black spots that have been blocked by indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the channels by some residents,” the Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, stated, adding that the state government had the drainage master plan and was committed to addressing the challenge of flooding in state.
Environmentalists, however, insisted that flooding will continue to pose a major challenge in the state unless the state government act on the channelization master plan designed in the 60s.
A civil engineer, Festus Whesu, in an interview with Sunday Sun, said that the state government’s success at addressing the perennial flooding in Lagos State depends largely on its readiness to revisit the channelisation plan that was done in the past.
He noted that Lagos being a coastal city had a channelisation plan designed to take care of excess water, either from rain or from the sea.
He, however, pointed out that the failure of successive governments in the state failed to act on the plan.
“Lagos will continue to be flooded until the state government is prepared to see to the full implementation of the channelisation plan of the state. Lagos was planned from inception with adequate channelisation to address the challenge of flooding being a coastal city. If you move round the state you would see channels that were created. But what has happened to these primary and secondary canals? Structures have been constructed on them. So, what we have now are canals that you don’t know where they will empty their water. This definitely portends dangers for the state as it risks being submerged should things continue like this,” he warned.
Speaking further, Whesu said that while the residents are largely at fault for some of the environment infractions which predispose the state to flooding, the government, he posited, must rise to the occasion by dealing decisively with the situation.
He condemned a situation where flood plains and wetlands, which he said are naturally created to absorb rainwater, were being built upon without the government taking necessary actions to right these wrongs and dissuade others from following suits.
He said: “Nature has given us flood plains and wetlands. Flood plains are the places where the rainwater settles when it is more than usual. The wetlands are like sisters to flood plains. The rainwater finds a way of going into the flood plains. And the flood plains are not meant to be built on. But in Nigeria we don’t even know where our flood plains and wetlands are anymore because people have taken over them to erect all manner of structures on them. So the government needs to take drastic actions to prevent the violation of these vital areas. Nobody must go there; nobody must build on them; nobody must do anything to them if we are serious in averting flooding and its attendant dangers. They are provided by nature to take care of excess water.”