Oyan Dam… agony of residents of Agboyi-Ketu, Ajegunle, Isheri, others
Whenever Lagos State government says it is taking giant strides towards attaining the status of a mega city, some Lagosians usually take such assertions with a grain of salt. Among these skeptics are residents of Agboyi-Ketu, Owode Onirin, Isheri, Ajegunle, Agiliti, Kara, Majidun, in Kosofe and Ketu Agboyi local councils, who are currently sending a save our souls message to the government over the massive floods ravaging their communities. This usually occurs when River Ogun overflows. And not only are valuable property destroyed in the process, deaths of teenagers that fell from makeshift bridges into the flood have also been recorded.
The residents disclosed that the problem occurs every three years, whenever the Oyan Dam in Ogun State is opened and it consequently flows into the Ogun River, causing a serious rise in the tide, such that the communities in its surroundings are flooded.
For the past three months, residents in the Ajegunle area have been undergoing untold hardship, occasioned by the flood. For one, their roads are no longer passable, and many motorists and pedestrians have had to make do with other rugged alternatives. A recent visit by The Guardian showed that many residents have had to construct plank bridges to access their homes, while in several cases, the only means to go to their homes was by canoe.
More worrisome is that the flooding has now become a yearly occurrence and usually lasts for three to five months, unlike before when it occurred once in three years.
The communities first experienced the devastation in 2013, when the Ogun River overflowed its banks and nearly swept some communities away. At that time, the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola quickly sprang into action and relocated most of the community members to different IDP Camps in the state.
The ensuing disaster was so much then that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s attention was drawn to it. Consequently, he visited the affected areas to commiserate with the victims. It was alleged that the Fashola administration had to rescind its initial plan of demolishing all structures that were close to the Unity Street Canal and River Ogun along with makeshifts buildings because of the plea of the former president, who said he also grew up in worse communities in the Niger Delta region.
To address the situation, Fashola had embarked on regular clearance of the canal and dredging of River Ogun. But the embittered residents told The Guardian, last week, that since Fashola, who is the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, left office in 2015, subsequent administrations have declined to toe his path, as they have done little or nothing to improve the situation. Not only have they discontinued the dredging of the river, the canal that provided passage for the tide has been completely blocked.
A landlady in the area, who refused to disclose her identity, said: “I have been living in this place for over 35 years. We started experiencing this ordeal from 2013. Personally, I believe that some Lagos State officials have interest in these areas and are looking for every excuse to demolish all the structures here, so that they can take over.”
In her view, if there is no hidden agenda, finding a lasting solution to the problem should not constitute a big deal to the state government. “But because some people in government are nursing the ambition of taking over the areas and redeveloped it to their taste, nothing concrete is being done. I don’t see why government would not construct a good canal that will contain the tide, whenever the Oyan Dam is opened,” she said.
She pleaded with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to save their lives and property by doing the needful.
When this correspondent visited Unity Street Canal, it was completely blocked and over-grown with grasses. It was, however, gathered that one of the major contributory factors is the erection of structures right on the canal, which is preventing the water from flowing.
Another resident, Kazeem Bashiru, an auto technician, who claimed to have lived in the Agiliti area for over 25 years said: “I pay N1000 daily to take canoe from my house to the main road because of the flood. Each trip is N100, and by the time they take me and my family to and fro, it all amounts to N1000.”
Bashiru regretted that the media team came late. “If you had come a month earlier, you would have witnessed first-hand the hell we live in here,” he said.
He appealed to Governor Sanwo-Olu not to listen to the advice of mischief-makers, who want the entire place demolished. He urged the governor to order the clearing of the canals and dredging of Ogun River to alleviate their hardship.
Seventy-year-old Madam Sola Hassan said she moved to Ajegunle in 1977 and as at then, there was no flood.
She said: “This whole mess started sometimes in 2012 and since then, government has been paying lip service to addressing the situation. I recall that former President Jonathan pleaded with Fashola that the solution to a headache is not to cut off the head. I stood right behind the former president, when he told Fashola not to demolish this place. But I am suspecting that some hawks in this administration want this place demolished, which is why they have refused to do the needful.”
To worsen the situation, the Marine section of Lagos Waste Management (LAWMA) that is saddled with the responsibility of clearing debris on water surface across the state is no longer functioning.
“That is why if you go to the Majidun Bridge, the river flowing from Kara side is completely blocked and covered with debris, so much so that people are now walking on the river. Where does the water flow? Into our community of course!”
While the residents of Majidun, Ajegunle and others are seeking urgent intervention, while simultaneously pleading that government does not use the situation as an excuse to take over their lands and property, thousands of those whose property are situated along Kara and close to the long bridge along Lagos Ibadan Expressway are said to have abandoned their homes because of the flood.
It was gathered that in the last three months, properties worth several millions of naira have been lost to the flood.
The embarrassing aspect of it all is that most of the affected communities are not too far away from Lagos State government seat of power in Alausa, Ikeja. Some are also situated in-between the popular Mile 12 Food Market in Ketu and Ikorodu town, while other parts of the affected places are along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, one of the major gateways into Lagos.
The victims resent the fact that their ordeal has continued unabated, wondering who authorised the dredging of sand in places close to them. They feel that may have been partly responsible for the worsening condition of the flood.
While the affected victims are pointing accusing fingers at government for not taking the right steps to address the situation, the state government has, however, not stopped alerting affected people about the flood in areas close to Ogun River’s banks.
On several instances, the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, has issued warnings that water would be released from Oyan Dam.
The government has also said areas that might be affected include Agboyi-Ketu, Owode Onirin, Isheri, Ajegunle, Agiliti, Kara, Majidun, and other areas around rivers and the sea.
The government also noted that heavy rains predicted by the Nigerian Hydrological Services might compound the situation.
Bello said there might be respite in November, when a reduction of water released will drop to 11 million cubic metres.
He assured that government would minimise effects of the rains on lives and property.