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Again, Lagos at the mercy of flash floods

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Isaac Taiwo and Ogochukwu Uzokwe
17 July 2022   |   2:54 am
For the umpteenth time, it was another season of gnashing of teeth for some residents of Lagos State, who had the misfortune of losing their valuables as well as loved ones to flash flood.

A submerged Lexus 330 Sports Utility vehicle (SUV)<br />

For the umpteenth time, it was another season of gnashing of teeth for some residents of Lagos State, who had the misfortune of losing their valuables as well as loved ones to flash flood. 

  
Indeed, the last couple of weeks has proven to be the most concerning for residents of low-lying areas, especially those with poor drainage networks, as well as those with clogged drains where nature’s fury was witnessed in full force.
  
According to experts, one of the biggest factors that facilitate the perennial flooding that parts of the state are witnessing is its topography, as the state is essentially made up of low-lying terrain, which is up to 0.4 per cent below the sea level. This in itself constitutes a drainage challenge for any city, anywhere in the world.

Residents, onlookers, watch as one of the occupants of the Sports Utility vehicle (SUV) that was swept away by flood at Ogundele Junction is being rescued, while another occupant clings onto the submerged wreckage.

  
The “extended rains of three to eight days for areas in and around Adamawa, Ogun, Edo, Niger Delta and low-lying areas such as Lagos,” in other words, the intensity of this year’s rains, which the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) earlier predicted, is also a major factor in the scenario that is currently playing out.
  
Another factor, which experts also spoke about as being responsible for the devastating flash flood so far witnessed, is the multi-pronged challenge of global warming-deforestation, greenhouse gasses emissions, and its damaging effects on the world. 
  
Even though the state government and indeed the Federal Government have been involved in the staging of some local and international conferences on global warming, in addition to making several advocacy campaigns on the subject in the past, the message is yet to impact society and cause the needed mindset change.
  
Interestingly, human-induced environmental hazards including improper waste disposal, and poor monitoring and supervision of road and drainage contracts awarded by the government play vital roles in what is happening in parts of the state.

Residents at Ogundele Junction, the scene of the incident<br />


ON some occasions, Surulere has been adjudged, by appropriate authorities, as the cleanest local council in the state. Only last March, the Managing Director/CEO of Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr. Ibrahim Odumboni, commended residents of the local council for maintaining a consistently clean environment, resulting in the council being crowned as the cleanest local council in the state during the 2021 metropolitan competition.
  
This notwithstanding, the attitude and poor waste disposal habits of some residents, as well as the waste management agency’s failure to evacuate household refuse and waste from markets in good time have combined to worsen the flood situation in the council. 
  
As a matter of fact, some market women and residents still see canals as the best place to dispose of their waste. These dumpsites, which are sprouting up in canals contribute immensely to rainwater finding its way into residential and sundry structures during heavy downpours.
 
Because of the harm that clogged drainage is causing innocent residents, Mrs. Janet Esene, insists that dumping of dirt in canals should be severely punished by appropriate authorities. 
   
Esene, a petty trader said: “LAWMA officials come to Babs Animashaun Street, Surulere, where I reside to pack refuse twice a month. But the bill that we pay is simply alarming. That perhaps explains why those that do not settle their bills empty their trash into gutters and canals during heavy downpours.”
   
But Mr. Ahmed Lawal, an artisan at the Pako-Aguda Market, Surulere, in absolving traders of complicity in the clogged drains said: “Dirt travel all the way from Ogunsami Street down to Animashaun, Martins, and other streets in the Pako-Aguda area of Surulere. So, traders are not the major culprits when it comes to blocked drains. Some of our colleagues have encountered culprits dumping refuse into the drains, including canals at night, or during downpours.

Sometimes these people are stopped in their tracks, and forced to return home with their thrash.”
THERE are several areas in the state where poorly constructed roads (which pay scant attention to the efficient drainage systems), as well as decrepit or sparse infrastructural provision, constitutes a let rather than a hindrance to flooding.
  
For instance, the kind of palliative work done on Ige Street (popularly called Aboru Road by residents) has further worsened the flood situation in the area. This is because flooding has persisted in and around the neighbourhood even after the so-called palliative work was completed. 
  
Before the road was rehabilitated, it was bumpy, and in very bad shape. But the palliative work, which ended abruptly at the Aboru canal has done little to ameliorate the previous condition. The section beyond the bridge over the canal is yet to be worked on. 

   
Residents, commercial motorcycle riders, motorists, and other road users insist that they still undergo the pains that they underwent before the repair works.
  
The Chairman of the Oki Community Development Association, Femi Gbadamosi, lamented that the road has been a source of concern to everybody in the community for a long time now. 
  
“The last time stakeholders met with the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, was when the contract for the rehabilitation works was awarded. The contractor has been working on the road, but the job has been slow…The contractor told us that he intends to build another canal where rainwater from the streets would be channelled into. The rehabilitation of the road after the canal is being handled by another contractor who is also yet to construct the drainage,” he said.

THE latest round of flash floods to batter the state, which happened on Saturday, July 9, 2022, like the previous ones, ended on a fatal note in the Orile-Agege of Lagos, where the flood swept away moving vehicles with their occupants. 

  
Two vehicles, a Lexus sports utility vehicle (SUV) carrying three persons, and an Acura SUV, also carrying three persons. While the three, the three occupants of the Lexus SUV were feared dead, while the three from the Toyota vehicle were rescued.
  
Occupants of both vehicles were driving along Fatoki Street, Agege, when the flood swept them into the drainage, and ended up at the Ogundele Junction Canal.
  
The Public Relations Officer of NEMA in the South-West Region, Ibrahim Farinloye, who confirmed the unfortunate incidents, said that the victims were swept away when rainwater overflowed an uncompleted canal in the area, adding that rescue officials were still searching for the bodies of the missing three persons. As of last Thursday, only one of the three bodies had been recovered, by rescue workers. 
  
Similarly, on the penultimate Friday, at Yaya Hassan Street, Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area (LCDA), a commercial driver, simply identified as Ugo, 48, Alias, “Gunners” was swept away to his death by a heavy flood during the persistent rainfall.
  
The Vice Chairman, Ilupejutuntun CDA, Mrs. Morufat Olayanju, while commenting on the incidents, called on the state government to come to their aid, as the canal has been carrying away vehicles with people inside long before now.   
“We are calling on the government to come to our rescue at Ogundele Junction. The flooding that has been occurring as a result of the heavy downpours has continued to bring us sadness. While victims of the first vehicle were rescued by God’s grace, victims of the second vehicle were not so lucky. This is not the right time to be upgrading this canal. This ought to have been done before now, which is like the peak of the rainy season.  
  
The CDA Chairman, Ilupeju tun tun who is also the Special Adviser on Environment, Orile Agege Local Council, Ajala Suraju, confirmed that the expansion of the canal from the abattoir end has already commenced.  
  
“The topography of this area has not been helping the matter, and this is the reason that we had to ensure that the drainage work was done. 

A lot of things that we have done, including the diversion at Super are all meant to manage the flood. But the major problem is that the canal is not deep enough. Even though the contractor is working, the heavy downpours have been disturbing his work,” Suraju said.
  
When his comments were sought on the government’s efforts to address the flood challenge in Agege and other parts of the state, the Special Assistant on Drainage and Canals to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said: “We are not talking now; we are just doing our work. We do not want any comments on the pages of newspapers. I won’t say more than that.”

ALSO giving an insight into the sprouting up of dumpsites in many locations across the state, indiscriminate dumping of refuse in canals, and the failure of LAWMA to effectively evacuate refuse in some areas as when due, the Chief Executive Officer of LAWMA, Ibrahim Odumboni, said that his agency remains committed to tackling the challenge of indiscriminate waste disposal, and has adopted various approaches, including advocacy, sensitisation, education, as well as appealing to residents to shun acts that are capable of endangering the lives of residents.
 
“Dumping of waste in the canal is wrong and should be avoided because it gives rise to so many environmental hazards, such as flooding, the dilapidation of road networks, disease outbreaks, and a host of others, and anyone caught would face the full weight of the law,” he stated.

  
On the failure to evacuate mounting refuse, Odumboni said: “All the waste collection trucks run on diesel, and the recent high cost of diesel, currently being experienced across the country is seriously hampering our waste evacuation operations. The authority is, however, taking practical steps to help the service providers to address the issue, as it works assiduously to tackle environmental challenges facing the state presently.
  
“Despite the ban on cart pushers, some of them still roam the streets of Lagos. This set of people collect waste from residents and dump them in the canals, road medians, uncompleted buildings, and other unauthorised locations because they do not have access to our dumpsites. The authority’s enforcement team has confiscated hundreds of carts used in perpetuating this act. LAWMA has also adopted holistic sensitisation and enforcement approaches to stop the dumping of refuse in canals, and partnered with community leaders and sister agencies in the state on waste policing all in a bid to monitor the environment, and ensure that the dumping of refuse in canals is stamped out,” he concluded. 

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