By Emmanuel Onwubiko
In Nigeria, the rich and the poor don’t often cry or wail in solidarity. But an irony has occurred which necessitated the meeting of these unlike minds–the rich and the poor.
Lagos and Suleja in Niger State, as we write, are substantially flooded. The floods in Lagos affected mostly the affluent members of the society because of the fact that majority of the victims of the disaster reside in very affluent areas of Lekki and Victoria Garden city.
In Suleja near Abuja, most of those affected are the poor. But even in the irony of commonality of the disaster that afflicted the rich and poor classes about the same time, there is a dissimilarity in the area of human costs. Indeed, over two dozen poor residents of this densely over-populated town of Suleja in Niger State of North Central Nigeria, perished.
These unfortunate man-made disasters have happened against the backdrop of the recently signed climate change agreement which Nigeria signed. Buhari is known to view the Paris Climate change agreement as his international signature tune. His then Environment Minister, who also served the immediate past administration, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, has gone on to become the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, an appointment she bagged apparently because of her significant role in making sure that Nigeria signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement or so it seems.
Anyway, back to the issue of floods, I had stated that the floods that have occurred in Lagos and Suleja are man-made because of the deficiencies in the implementation and enforcement of urban/town planning laws.
The flood in Lagos is blamed strictly on the rapid creation of ‘artificial’ residential areas out of the Peninsula near the oceans of Lagos around the areas of the popular Lagos bar beach. There are insinuations that the Lagos waters were sand filled just for the specific purposes of regaining lands to create new cites for the very rich in the society.
In the case of Lekki, this is how a researcher described it in an entry in Wikipedia: “Lekki is a city in Lagos State, Nigeria. It is located to the east of Lagos city. “Lekki is a naturally formed peninsula, adjoining to its west Victoria Island and Ikoyi districts of Lagos, with the Atlantic Ocean to its south, Lagos Lagoon to the north, and Lekki Lagoon to its east; however, the city’s southeast which ends at around the western edge of Refuge Island, adjoins the eastern part of Ibeju-Lekki LGA”.
The writer continued “The city is still largely under construction. As of 2015, only phase 1 of the project has been completed, with phase 2 nearing completion. The peninsula is approximately 70 to 80 km long, with an average width of 10 km. Lekki currently houses several Estates, gated residential developments, agricultural farmlands, areas allocated for a Free Trade Zone, with an airport, and a sea port under construction.”
Scholars stated that the proposed land use master plan for Lekki envisages the Peninsula as a “Blue-Green Environment City”, expected to accommodate well over 3.4 million residential population and an additional non-residential population of at least 1.9 million The history of Lekki is also that of deprivation of the poor to throw in the hands of the affluent members of the society.
It is a notorious historical fact that “part of the modern day Lekki (phase 1) in the Eti-Osa LGA was formerly known as Maroko, a slum, before it was destroyed by the Raji Rasaki led Lagos State military Government. Lekki phase 1 currently has got a reputation as an area with some of the most expensive real estate assets in Lagos State.”
On the other hand, Suleja is known as the place in which hundreds of thousands of poor civil servants, petty traders and artisans who work in Abuja are resident due to high cost of residential rents in the Abuja Municipal Area Council. Suleja houses are mostly ramshackle and dilapidated structures even as there is a total absence of town planning. In Lagos, the state administration blamed residents for blocking the water channels or drainage facilities with solid wastes. In effect, we are right to state that man-made factors have come into play alongside the forces of nature to unleash the floods which equally can be traced to the effects of the climate change phenomenon.
Incidentally, these disastrous floods of Lagos and Suleja in Niger State have occurred few months after the Paris climate change Agreement was signed. From a document downloaded from a United Nations affiliated website, we are told that on 5th October 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved.
The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016. The first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) took place in Marrakech, Morocco from 15-18 November 2016. What are the Paris Agreement’s essential elements? One may ask!
“The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.”
“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.
“Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impact of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.”
The Lagos and Suleja floods are, however, blamed basically on some man-made factors such as improper drainage channels. The Lagos administration had clearly blamed the environmental indiscipline of the residents for the floods.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday said the flooding caused by torrential rainfalls in the State within the last few days would soon be a thing of the past, as the State Government was working towards embarking on holistic solutions to address the situation once and for all.
Speaking at a sensitization workshop on water management and environmental control held at Ikeja which is a prelude to a Water Technology and Environmental Control (WATEC) exhibition holding in Israel later in the year, the Governor said aside the fact that the issue of flooding was not peculiar to the State or Nigeria as it was a global phenomenon, but that urgent steps are being taken to tackle the challenge in a holistic manner and protect the State from a re-occurrence.
The governor, who empathized with people who lost properties to the flood, said that it was painful to see most prime estates flooded with water, roads taken over by floods, while many homesteads literally became pools. The governor then proceeded to cast his blame on ‘unruly’ Lagos residents for dumping refuse on drainage channels.
Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)