By Andrew Iro Okungbowa Ekwy P. Uzoanya, Debo Oladimeji Ebere Ameh Ibukunoluwa Kayode, Laolu Adeyemi, Bukola Apata and Olushola Ricketts, Onyeka Igbodike
• Environmentalists Warn Of Health Harzards, Urge Effective Management Of Crisis
• We Now Use Canoe To Move From Street To Street, Says resident
For the third consecutive day, the rains fell heavily in Lagos yesterday. It did not rain cats and dogs, though, but it was quite heavy all the same.
But the prognostications are even more foreboding. Metereologists have warned that the tribulations might drag for the next seven or eight weeks, especially in the coastal areas.
The meteorologists have, however, dismissed suggestions of three-month-non-stop rains in Lagos.
The Lagos State Government had on March 27, 2012 alerted residents to brace up for 236 days of persistent rainfall this year. It warned that the rains would come with rainstorms that could uproot trees, cables and house roofs.
Deputy General Manager in charge of Weather Forecasting and Climate Research of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Abuja, Mr. Cyprian Okoloye, told The Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday that there was nothing unusual about the over nine hours of rain between 11pm on Wednesday and 8am on Thursday.
Okoloye dismissed suggestions that Lagos might be submerged by rain if it continued. He, however, said the Director General of NIMET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom had at the beginning of the year given a clear picture of rainfall pattern for 2012, in a paper titled “Seasonal Rainfall Prediction and Socioeconomic Implications for Nigeria for year 2012.”
According to the Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), “overall, there is likely to be normal onset of rains in 2012 in most parts of the country. Onset dates between late February (in the Southern-most part of the country) and last week of June (in the northernmost part of the country) are predicted. A near normal annual rainfall amount is predicted varying from 300 to 1100mm in the northern half of the country and from 1200 to 2700mm in the South.”
Okoloye said: “Right now the Monsoon flow pattern is over the West Coast of Africa where it brings a lot of rainfall over the coast. So, right now, it is deep. The whole country is having rain. Like in Abuja, the rain has been heavy and in most parts of the South. We are in the peak period for rain.
“So, it will continue up till the third week of July before we will have a respite. There will be temporary relief with drizzles. Then there will be a little dry season afterwards—- what people call August break.
“This Monsoon flow is very deep over the coast of West Africa and will continue to bring rain. I can tell you it will continue at interval. So, you will expect flash floods here and there.”
According to meteorologists, Monsoons, or rainy seasons, are a shift in wind direction, which causes excessive rainfall in many parts of the world, including Asia, North America, South America, and Africa. The primary mechanism behind a monsoon is a shift in global wind patterns.
On what Nigerians should do to ameliorate the effects of the rains or rather, to contain the rains, the meteorologist said: “Listen to weather forecast for cities across Nigeria and this can be obtained from our website. The Central Forecast Office on daily basis publishes two to three days’ weather predictions for state capitals and beyond. This will equip them to take precautions.”
Okoloye said there would be a respite for just a day or so. “The rains will subside and pick up,” he said.
Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello had said that the rains would begin in March and end in November.
Bello had told journalists: “It has also been predicted that the end of season for 2012 rainfall is 12 November with a margin of error of two days, between 10 and 14 November as probable days.
“A further explanation of this year’s rainfall prediction shows that in the 4th week of March, rain will commence in earnest and increase gradually till late July or early August.
“A break is expected in between, while the rains will start again in late August or early September before the rainy season finally ends in November 2012. The implication of all this is that Lagos State shall experience a rainy season of about 234-238 days, with intermittent stoppage between March and August before restarting and finally ending in November 2012.”
The commissioner assured that government had put machinery in place to mitigate the impact of flooding that might arise as a result of heavy downpour. The government, he said, had pre-rain, mid-rain and post-rain programmes to combat flood.
He emphasised that the government would not promise a Lagos free of flood, rather, “what we can promise is to reduce to the barest minimum the incidence of flood in Lagos State. We in the Ministry of the Environment are ready as our drains have been cleared and cleaned.”
He appealed to Lagosians to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse in unauthorized places, silted drains around homes and stop illegal erection of structures on drainage alignment, among others.
Meanwhile, environment expert, Kofo Adeleke of Community Conservation and Development Initiatives (CCDI), has warned of the health hazards that the rains may likely cause. She has, therefore, also called on the Lagos State Government to set up effective crisis management points by ensuring that the local governments play a pivotal role.
According to her, what the state is witnessing now is what climate and environment experts globally have warned about over the years because of change in the climate. She said the flooding this year is really bad and even worse than last year, adding that early warning of its nature was not communicated to the people by the government and NMET.
The environment expert also warns of health risk, as she said that “there is a risk of epidemic naturally and that is the danger in this kind of situation,’’ she said.
Similarly, the General Secretary of Friends of the Environment, Chike Chikwendu, an engineer, has blamed the worsening flood situation in the state on the failure of the state government to fulfill its promise of clearing the drains and fixing the bad roads in most parts of the state.
According to the environmentalist, “ the problem we are facing in the state is because the Lagos State Government has not lived up to its billing. It is sad that the situation is not any better than last year. “ He lamented that the government promised to attend to the flood situation last year when the problem arose but it has so far failed to do so.
He narrated how bad the situation was in his Surulere area yesterday and how he suffered, wading through the rains.
While calling on the government to fulfill its promise by attending to the roads and drains, he also advised residents of the state to live right by not blocking the drains and ensuring that their wastes were properly disposed.
“We have to change the way we live too because it contributes to blocking of the drainages. We have to change our attitude to the environment as well but the government must play its role,’’ he said.
Chikwendu warned that if the situation was not urgently redressed, the state might have to contend with an epidemic, since the flood carries with it all sorts of germs. “It is very hazardous and it can lead to epidemic,’’ he stressed.
His organization, he informed, would intensive its advocacy role by educating the public and encouraging them to live right by ensuring that their surroundings are well-kept and drains are free of all debris.
By Wednesday evening when the sky turned cloudy in the Ogba area of Lagos, the fear of impending rainfall and the havoc it could wreak was palpable. A fuel station attendant at the Mobil Filling Station at Odo Eran stood looking up and wished aloud that the rain would not come. She feared for the filling station.
The attendant was correct. Hours after the night’s downpour that spilled into Thursday morning, the entire filling station was overrun by flood.
The raging flood affected homes, schools and offices. Many residents found their homes and property submerged in water. In the Unity Street area of Ikeja, the residents had to contend with the rampaging flood.
A victim of the flood on the street, Mrs. Dupe Akinsanya, bemoaning her experience recounted: “It was just like the July 10 rain of last year that devastated Lagos. The only difference was that while we were away to Church last year when it began to rain, this time we were at home and so could manage to drop a few of our things on top of others or run to our neighbours living upstairs to keep them. What the tenants did was to concentrate on scooping out the water in the passage of the building, since it is from there it would flow into the rooms. But we soon discovered that water was seeping into the rooms from the floor, which means that the ground was saturated with water. So, our properties were still soaked with water.”
Also in Ikeja, a soakaway serving a residential compound sank under the ceaseless rain.
Traffic snarl characterised several routes as a result of the flood, hours after the rain cleared. Driving from the Prayer City stretch of the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway to Oworonsoki Expressway took over three hours, prompting some motorists heading towards Lagos Island to call off their journey.
Ajao Estate is a middle/upper middle class residential/industrial neighbourhood in the Oshodi-Isolo Local Council of Lagos State. It is a sprawling, well-populated neighbourhood with the (in) famous Oke-afa canal as the demarcation between it and Ejigbo, its more densely populated neighbour to the north. Ordinarily, Ajao Estate has a good and efficient drainage system. Flood drains off as soon as it rains. But, on Thursday night, it rained heavily and for the first time, Ajao Estate was flooded!
What happened? For some time until recently, the landlords/residents association of ‘New Ajao’, the side where Chivita is located, had engaged in a game of wits with the Lagos State government, which, at the behest of the chiefs and elders of Ejigbo, is pushing to link the estate with Ejigbo using a bridge across the Oke Afa canal. Discountenancing all arguments about the security risks of emptying the entire mobile Ejigbo population through an already highly populated estate and the traffic nightmare such a move was bound to cause, the Lagos State government, through the Ministry of Environment insisted on constructing the bridge.
Late last year, the Chinese engineers of the CCECC, which won the contract, mobilized to site. They started by sand-filling the part of the canal where the bridge is to be constructed, directly opposite a street passing through a school located on the edge of the canal, thereby causing a hitch in the free movement of water in the waterway. Accosted by residents, the Chinese assured that the rains would not meet the project; that they would have been done with the project before the rains came.
But, inexplicably the project got stuck. Up till now, less than 30 per cent of the work has been completed. The Chinese engineers are off and on, more away from the project site than they are at it. And so, when the rains poured down on Wednesday night through Thursday morning, they met a disaster waiting to happen: as the floodwater looked for escape routes, it pushed its course through any available space—gutters, streets, drainage pipes, living rooms, shops, low-lying houses, some of which were completely submerged or washed away, and the like. Needless to say that by the time the downpour ceased, many had lost their homes, property and other valuables to flood.
Mr. Emeka Nnama, a factory owner in the neighbourhood lost four I-pads and several bags of other perishable goods brought in by her sister-in-law from the United States. Unconfirmed reports say some kids were washed into the canal when the flood invaded their homes where they were asleep with their parents.
Vice Chairman of the Residents Association Chief Leo Ikeagwu, a legal practitioner lamented the damage the flooding had wreaked on the estate. “This was clearly avoidable,” he said. “If only they had done what they were supposed to do, this wouldn’t have happened.”
What, then, do the landlords expect from the government? The Vice Chairman whose association recently lost its chairman, Chief Mark Nwankwo, a school proprietor, said: “Since the government ignored our objections and went ahead to award contract for the construction of the Ejigbo-Ajao link bridge, all we ask is that it should just try and finish the project soonest to avoid a reoccurrence of this type of disaster.”
In Ijegun, the rain caught many people off guard as many houses were covered by the early morning downpour on Thursday. Many of the residents could not go about their daily businesses as the flood did not allow them to go out. Ikotun-Ijegun road was almost cut off.
Properties worth millions of naira were also damaged by the rain that leaked through the roofs of many houses in places like Ilori Street, Ijegun.
One of the victims, Mrs. Aina James, called on the Lagos State Government to bail them out from the poor state of roads by constructing drainages.
“Most of the children could not go to school on Thursday because the flood covered everywhere around Prince Bus Stop and Ile Ibadan,” she lamented.
Another resident, Mrs. Shola also urged government : “Although we were expecting the government to do something during the dry season which they did not do. The government can still help reconstruct the roads to prevent further damage…,” she said.
According to Mrs. Tinuke Ajayi, the continuous rain has rendered many people homeless because the canal that lead to Ijegun is over flooded.
“The road project that leads to Buknor / Isheri Osun from Jakande Estate has been on for years. The government failed to fulfill its promise to fix it. Lagos state should stop treating us as if we are not part of its government. We keep experiencing this hardship year in and out and nothing has been done to help us. We now use canoe to move from street to street.…government should just have pity on us,” she said.
The flood was also serious in some parts of Isolo, Ejigbo and Aguda areas affecting residents and commuters and damaging properties and disrupting business activities.
Some residents observed that the inactivity of the Local Government Chairmen leave much to be desired. “The task of ending the yearly loss of lives and property to flood should be the responsibility of all. While the governor is doing his bit, the local government chairmen should also wake up to their responsibilities and do something about the drainages in their environment,” Lateef, a resident of Aguda, noted.
“While the dirty habit of the residents who still throw things into drainage channels that are built at a great cost should be undermined, it is good to know that the majority of the drains are blocked by sand from unpaved roads,” Gladys, a resident of Surulere, added.
The residents of Buknor/ Isheri Osun on their own part are calling on the government to come to their rescue as the rain has left their homes and streets preventing them from moving out.
“We don’t have good drainages for the water to flow. Even the roads are death traps. The government keeps singing ‘Lagos State is working’ but we have not felt or had any dividends of democracy in this part of our community,” one of the residents said.
Chidi Anyawu, an Okada rider noted that
on Thursday nobody dared to ply the route because the road was overflooded, “the normal fee we collect is N100 but now we charge N500. The roads are so bad, we just risk plying it,” he said.
In Aguda, Akeukewe Street, Adenike Mesagan, recalled that the flood is becoming part and parcel of the lives of the people.
“ The carnal in our area is blocked and anytime we have heavy downpour like this, the area becomes flooded. We are appealing to the government to help us and build covered drainages so that people will not keep pouring dirt into it. There should be strict enforcement of law to guard this dirt throwing into some drainages … the government also should be credible in fulfilling their promises in building our roads and a standard drainage,”she said.
Mrs. Atobatele Oyinlola, a teacher, disclosed that she almost lost her life in the flood.
“I was almost taken away by the flood on my way to school on Thursday. It was God that saved me. Our drainage system is bad and also there are many abandoned drainage projects,” she said.
Mr Tunji Bello, the Lagos State Commissioner of Environment, said that the people should not panic as the state government is in control of the situation. According to him, those who are living close to the Lagoon should try and move from the areas. “Because they are the most vulnerable. But the water is moving so there is no need for Lagosians to panic. We are already making efforts to drain the water in places like Shomolu, Oshodi, Arowojobe area as well,” he said.
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