Although the recent flooding in Lagos and Ogun states have been linked to climate change, it highlights the deplorable state of the affected communities and also raises questions about the government’s ability in tackling environmental problems.
Like many others affected by the October 2010 flooding in some parts of Lagos and Ogun states, Seun Opoadini, has been having uncomfortable nights since the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority discharged excess water threatening its Oyan Dam. The young man has been forced to sleep just below flood waters threatening to completely take over his bed space in Odo-ogun, one of the communities in Ikorodu affected by the floods.
Apart from the widely stretched devastation in most communities, including Owode, Agiliti, Agboyi-Ketu, Ajegunle, the flood has also affected other communities in Ogun state that in areas like Denro and Ajuwon, people have to pay N20- N30 to cross wooden bridges constructed to ease movement. The pathetic Olambe-Ijoko road linking about 26 communities in Ogun state to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway have also been flooded, thereby cutting off a large chunk of commuter transport to these areas. “I have not experienced this kind of flooding since I’ve been here,” said Opoadini, who grew up in Odoogun. A conservative estimate put the number of houses displaced in Ikorodu alone at over four hundred while tens of thousands have either been affected directly or indirectly by the floods in both Lagos and Ogun states. Apart from displaced persons, there has also been reported loss of lives and damage to property.
Although the Lagos state government has lived up to its promise of evacuating displaced persons, some residents are still stuck in between. As at Tuesday, October 19, 2010, the number of people in the displaced persons’ camp located at Agbowa, on the outskirts of Ikorodu, has also risen from 200 to 1,000, including 357 pupils whose schools were affected by flood. These schools include the Anglican Primary School, Idowo, Itowolo Primary School, Odoogun Secondary School Ajegunle Junior and Senior High School and some private schools in the affected areas. Omolara Erogbogbo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, acknowledged that some pupils were yet to show up at because their parents refused to go to the Agbowa relief camp. People like Segun Abogun may fall under this category.
57 year-old Abogun, who has lived in Odo-ogun town all his life, used his retirement benefits to build his uncompleted house partially submerged in the flood waters. “My father was born here. I can’t leave this house because if I do, it will collapse. If the government wants to help us, they should come and tackle the water that comes from the river,” he said, while adding that Odo-ogun, like most communities affected by the flood, are swampy areas which are naturally prone to flooding annually, especially during the months of August, September or October. This fact nonetheless, some environmental analysts have been quick to identify the recent happening as one of the effects of climate change. But, more importantly, the flood waters have raised issues such as the deplorable state of these affected communities which helped to worsen the situation, and the poor response of government to tackling environmental problems. Although the Lagos and Ogun state governments made provisions for resettling displaced people afterwards, while the federal government responded through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to victims and address the plight of the population in these communities, there was nothing that could be done to cover up for a general failure in providing basic infrastructure such as good roads and drainage systems, proper housing, and other social amenities for many Nigerians in the affected locations. “We cannot fold our hands and assume every disaster to be due to the effects of climate change. All hands must be on deck to find a lasting solution to the problem,” noted Mohammed Sani-Sidi, Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA. While he commended the efforts of both state governments in tackling the disaster, he noted that the Lagos and Ogun scenario may have been aggravated by environmental factors and problems in dam management as well as insufficient warning to the people. For Abogun, who is semi-literate, human activities such as the long standing practice of digging sand from the Ikorodu areas could also be blamed for the recurring flooding. “These tippers (sand trucks) make about N200,000 a day shipping sand from here. Maybe the problem of flooding of the area could be controlled if these practices are effectively monitored by the authorities, he said.
While the government and the people count the cost of the flood, it has been different strokes for many in these areas. While petty traders and shop owners struggle to sell their wares in these affected areas, as the deplorable traffic situation has made it difficult for people to come from far areas to patronize their wares; profits have jumped up for mainly bus drivers and motorcycle (popularly known as okada) riders, as the cost of transportation has risen in the past few weeks. ‘We spend more hours to get out of the traffic because of the water,” said one happy bus driver, explaining the price hike, while the tell tales signs of resignation was mirrored on the face of the meat seller across the road in Ajegunle as she could only manage a weak smile when asked if business had been good so far. For others, canoe ferrying business was the money spinner overnight. Just before the state government made provision for affected students to relocate to other schools in Kosofe Local Government, Aboi Atiye, a JSS 1 student of Ajegunle High School, and his friend Chidi Nmabowi, a primary five pupil of Towolo Primary School, resorted to become ‘canoe boys’. Atiye and Nmabowi collect N30 each to ferry residents or visitors to their houses. Afterwards, they get some good sum for a day’s work from the adult who ‘owns the canoes. “But I pray that the water goes away,” said Chidi, who looked so keen about continuing his education. Although, Tunde Esilogun, another resident in Ikorodu noted that this was the worst the area has experienced in recent times, he was indifferent when asked if he knew about the effects of climate change. “I don’t know much about it, but I’m not happy with this (flood),” he could only say. Surprisingly, for Atiye, climate change was ‘the name of a society where they learn how to farm and play…’
Climate change, to put it simply, is a change in the average weather condition as a result of several factors; chiefly being the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn has depleted the earth’s protective layer over the last century. Flooding is just one of the effects. According to the 2007 report of the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global average sea level rose at a rate of 1.8 millimeters per year between 1961 and 2003. That rate increased starting in 1993, with the sea level rising about 3.1 millimeters per year. “The major contributors to the rising ocean is the expansion of water as the ocean absorbs heat from the atmosphere, and melt water from glaciers and ice caps,’ the report read. For residents in areas such as Ikorodu and other communities bordering water bodies, more flooding is likely to occur unless the government intensifies its efforts in developing these vulnerable communities. In recent times, flooding has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in other states such as Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Sokoto, Niger, Katsina and Zamfara.