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Government urges calm as Lagos readies for lockdown over coronavirus

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Jankara market, Lagos Island


Lagos is presently under emergency. The coronavirus pandemic is hitting hard, disrupting the fabric of social interactions and engagements. Schools, churches mosques are closing and public functions being shelved indefinitely. As more cases are confirmed, there will be additional measures to curtail the spread of the virus

While Lagos residents are adjusting to these new realities, the state has also moved into the rainy season with an anticipated 240 to 270 days of rain. The Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, who announced this last week, had urged residents of Lagos to prepare for likely consequences of 240-270 days rain with the 2020 rainfall predicted to begin in March 19 and end November 22.

“Year 2020 will likely experience days with extremely high rainfall amount which may result in flooding. Another contributory factor to possible flooding in the state is sea level rise. This poses the biggest risk to coastal areas and the state’s drainage infrastructure, as anytime there is high tidal movement, it may ‘lock up’ the discharged points of drainage channels and until it recedes, there will be no discharge.

“Such occurrences also caused back flows, resulting in flooding but as soon as the Lagoon recedes, all generated storm water run-off will immediately discharge and our roads will be free,” Bello said.

In addition to this is the cloud of doubt being raised by the probable cause of the Abule-Ado explosion, which has displaced hundreds, killed over 20 and in the words of the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, rendered the area desolate like a war zone. The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) also said the impact of Sunday’s explosions could be likened to aerial bombardment.

In a city of an estimated 24 million people, Lagos is assailed almost on all fronts and about to be stretched beyond its capacity, but Architect Gbolahan Oki, the Chief Resilience Officer of the state government, believes ‘all is under control and there is no cause for alarm.’

According to him, the journey to today had been planned months back leading to the unveiling of the Lagos Resilient Strategy (LRS), a master-plan detailing the various challenges and stresses prevalent in the state and the initiatives developed to put them in check.

The LRS was the 77th of such document worldwide, and the first of its kind in the continent and is a product of Lagos’ membership of the 100 Resilient Cities network, established by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2013, to help more cities across the world build resilience against the physical, social and economic challenges that has become a growing part of the 21st century.

The document is the culmination of efforts from cross-sectoral participants led by the representatives of 100 Resilient Cities, the state government, civil societies, private sector, academia and residents to respond to “prioritised shocks and stresses that Lagos contends with on a daily basis.

For Oki, Lagos is moving from being a mega or smart city to a resilient city. “A smart city means that everything is being done with aid of computers and ICT but the resilient city plans for now and the future. Take for instance the issue of traffic, the smart solution was to engage the ride hailing services like Uber, Taxify, Gokada, Oride but the resilient move is basically to look into the future by developing other means of transportation.

“The major means of transportation now is by road. If I have to move from Iyana Ipaja to the island, it will take me a minimum of two to three hours same for Ikorodu to the island but the Babajide Sanwo-olu administration with its THEMES agenda is thinking ahead through the roadmap of a resilient city by developing other means of transportation, like the overhead rail, cable and water transportation under its long-term plan.

“That is imbibing the resilient strategy, which is reducing the burden on the road. The roads at the same time are receiving attention with rehabilitation going on across the state. That way, the congestion and stress everyone is complaining of will soon become history with a more resilient transportation system.

“This is the short-term plan, which I also call the quick fixes. They include clearing of all the drainage before the rains come, introduction of drainage and covered gutters on streets, and rehabilitation of roads. Over 2,000 roads are being rehabilitated presently, which is why if you look at every corner of the state, there are hold-ups. It is better we have the traffic now and then enjoy smooth road ride in a few weeks time.”

This, Oki reiterated, is part of why the Lagos Resilience Office was established to not only monitor and evaluate government projects, but “plan for today and tomorrow. We have a huge burden on our shoulders as government because every other state look up to us, an example is our response to the present pandemic of the coronavirus. If we have not set up a ready isolation centre, our index case, the Italian from Ogun State, would have cause grave trouble for Nigeria. We already have the Ebola experience under our belt and I believe in a few weeks, we would say the same of this new threat of coronavirus.”


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