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A case for Lagos flood risk management


An increasingly important threat to the high population and large concentration of residential, industrial, commercial and urban infrastructure systems in Africa’s coastal megacity of Lagos is flooding.

Over the past decade, flooding in the state has increased significantly, drawing attention to the need for flood risk management. The state is among other coastal cities in the world which include Bangkok, Manila and Vancouver with grievous impact of climate change. Presently, climate change and city growth have resulted in increase in the frequency and spatial extent of flooding in Lagos. Apart from the well-acknowledged social and economic impacts associated with flooding, there are also physical and mental health impacts on flood affected residents. There are cases of people being injured from falls and accidents during flood events as well as loss of lives. 

The more recent was the ugly incidence of Thursday June 18, 2020 when Nature in its fury emptied its bowel in what was clearly a torrential down pour that caused massive flooding in several parts of the sprawling city. Like most flooding incidents in Lagos, it threw the entire city into confusion and claimed the life of a four-year-old girl, Azeezat, at N0.38 Fashola Street, off Olabode Street, Papa Asafa, in Orile-Agege area of the state. Also, a pregnant woman and others narrowly escaped death, as they were rescued at No 26 Railway Line, Ashade Quarters, behind Guinness while four buildings collapsed in the area as a result of the attendant flood.


The incident further compounded the intractable traffic situation in the metropolis as vehicular movements were grounded to a halt, while a storey building comprising 8 rooms, 23 shops at No. 3 Sadiku Street, Alagba, Iyana -Ipaja area of the state collapsed when it couldn’t withstand the shock. These occurred despite assurances by government officials led by the State commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage Services and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe as well as, Permanent Secretary, Office of Drainage Service, Lekan Shodehinde. These officials had assured residents of the State’s preparedness to contain any unforeseen weather condition, when Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), in its 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), revealed that the state was going to experience 240-270 days of rainfall with a maximum annual rainfall estimated at 1,750mm. 

At present, the state contends with disease outbreaks, coastal erosion and flooding, forced evictions, economic downturn, building collapse, high unemployment and underemployment, traffic congestion, inadequate transportation system, formal-informal economic contestation, erratic power supply, civil unrest, unrest, urban fires and inadequate health system. Also, one of the grave environmental challenges, bedeviling the metropolitan is indiscriminate disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW). With about 10,000 tonnes of solid waste generated daily at 0.7 kg per capital, there is need for urban managers in metropolitan Lagos to adopt effective and people –oriented sustainable waste reduction strategies, introduce aggressive waste recycling modalities and intensify collection rate as part of effective management of flooding in the city.

The resilience to flood risk in Lagos is highly dependent on the provision of a functioning basic infrastructure and social services, hence the need for structural measures in enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities. Although, a number of structural and non-structural measures have been put in place to ensure municipal solid waste free city, the struggle to disentangle metropolitan Lagos from the menace of disposing MSW in unregulated places remains elusive, owing to citizens’ habits, increase in waste generation cause by intractable population growth and subsequent poor collection by government agents. But experts said the creation of community-oriented environmental pollution and flood control mechanism will enhance more resilient flood risk governance. According to them, although citizen’s participation in Flood Resilience Management (FRM) decision-making is widely welcomed in several countries, citizens’ involvement in the delivery of FRM measures in Nigeria and other developing countries is abysmally low. Gladly, Lagos City Resilience Strategy unfolded early this year by the Lagos authorities, articulated community engagement approaches in care management for disaster. The expertise of the State Resilience Office (LASRO) led by Architect Gbolahan Owodunni Oki in reviewing disaster and urban risk management in other cities will be helpful to stem the tide of flooding. Launched in collaboration with Africa Global Resilient Cities Network, the strategy aligns with the Lagos State Development Plan and contains three pillars, 10 goals and 31 initiatives, which provide a framework for improving the capacity of the city to respond to present and future shocks and stresses.


The strategy is a product of three years of collaborative efforts and actions, including workshops, research, inclusive engagement and participatory processes with civil society, the strategy, experts said should be implemented being the state’s first urban resilience document.
One of the goals of the strategy is to create inclusive environment for all residents by strengthening information management and disaster preparedness. The proposed initiative takes into consideration the current state of policies, plans and actions by the Lagos state government and intend to build on what already exists. It will also ensure that the health, social and economic well being of all citizens including people living with disabilities. The initiative intends to strengthen Lagos’ resilience by enhancing citizen to government engagement, improving information dissemination, promoting rapid and equitable response to emergencies, upgrading infrastructure and improving management response capacities of first responders. This initiative will provide support for the Lagos State Government’ s plan to build a cohesive and resilient society that caters for disadvantaged groups, and thus inspires collaboration and social responsibility among citizens. 

This is in addition to enhancing the resilience and disaster preparation of local communities through participatory flood management.
From a public administration perspective, citizen’s involvement through the theoretical lens of coproduction captures both the involvement of citizens within the decision-making and delivery phases of a public service, like flood resilience management.  
At present, coproduction is most prominent in discourse and practice in England and is emergent in France and Flanders (Belgium).

On the basis of a cross-country comparison among Belgium, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Poland, there were varied forms of coproduction and these have been established within divergent settings. At the level of the European Union (EU), this approach is endorsed by its call to member states to make arrangements to prevent, protect, and prepare for flooding. In contrast to the flood defense approach, FRM necessitates the involvement of diverse policy domains, such as spatial planning and emergency management, and a broad range of public, private and civil society actors. Both at the EU and national levels, calls are increasingly made to involve the public in FRM, e.g., the 1998 Aarhus Convention, the Floods Directive 2007/60/EC, the 2004 Making Space for Water strategy in England, and the 2004 act on civil security in France. Across Europe, citizens are increasingly expected to participate in the implementation of flood risk management (FRM), by engaging in voluntary-based activities to enhance preparedness, implementing property-level measures, and so forth. This approach reflects a strong consensus that it is not practically feasible, financially viable, or sustainable to offer complete protection from flooding. In Lagos, which is one of the hundred resilient cities across the globe, this approach has not been adopted. The resilience to flood risk in Lagos is highly dependent on the provision of a functioning basic infrastructure and social services, hence the need for structural measures in enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities As the Project Director, Artic Infrastructure, Lookman Oshodi succinctly puts it, the Lagos Resilience Office, through its resilience strategy has articulated community engagement approaches in care management for disaster.
The Lagos Resilience Strategy is crucial because it is ahead on the quantity and quality of healthcare, housing, security, energy, transportation, waste management, water and sanitation needs for the city. The scope of service, institutional framework and participatory models for all the stakeholders in the city is the additional strength for the city.
The expertise of the office in reviewing disaster and urban risk management in other cities will be helpful to the city at this time of managing the flood crisis as the state awaits the next round of torrential rain.

Nwannekanma is on the staff of The Guardian


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