Climate Change And Flooding……Okun Alfa Disappears Gradually
…Okun Alfa Disappears Gradually
..Villagers Appease Deities Over Ocean Surge
RESIDENTS of Okun Alfa, a fishing village founded over 400 years ago, and located 20 kilometres from Lagos city, have resolved to appeasing “the goddess of the sea and Creator of the universe“ over the massive loss of their ancestral land to the Atlantic Ocean.
The community head, Baale Yussuf Atewolara Elegushi told The Guardian recently during a meeting with select African journalists — who were monitoring the problem of Climate Change and its impact on Nigeria and how people are adapting to the threat — that the community feared that the problem of global warming which has resulted in climate change has been responsible for the massive flooding that has adversely affected the village and neighbouring communities.
The journalists visited the village on the platform of the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP) Capacity Development Project organised by the UNDP, International Centre for Journalists, based in the United States, Ghana Journalists Association, and the government of Japan to support 20 countries in Africa including Nigeria to adapt to the problem of climate change.
Within the past one year, the village has lost its mosque, its shrines where some of the gods including Yemoja, goddess of the sea used to inhabit. Yemoja was in particular propitiated by the people to help stem the tide of the surge.
Less than 50 metres from the advancing sea is one of the remaining shrines where the appeasement was made.
When The Guardian visited the community two months ago, there was still the hilly and sandy spot which remained as a breakwater between the sea and the community. But by the recent visit, the resources on which photographs were taken, had disappeared.
The houses in the village are already sinking and some families have lost the graves of their ancestors to the sea. Within the next three months, some graves observed within one hundred metres to the sea may be gone judging by the current erosion rate.
The community’s health centre facilitated through funding from the European Union and some agencies, is now under bombardment by the sea and health workers said they found it risky to be at work in the place. It is now a playground for goats.
Not far from the tremulous Ocean was a two years old lame boy whose mother was trying to make a living outside their home. The boy crawled behind other kids on the vast sand that their village has become. He was most of the time left behind. In case of a storm and sea surge, he is one of the 7000 inhabitants vulnerable to danger.
TO compound the flooding along the Okun Alfa Atlantic Ocean shoreline were wrecked ships long abandoned by foreign companies.
The abandoned ships, according to environmentalists and the villagers, have increased the erosion rates and altered the shoreline drastically..
Two months ago, it was one ship that was abandoned at Okun Alfa village. Two weeks ago, however, another ship was seen abandoned at the village coast. The water of the Atlantic pounded the wrecked ships throwing sand and water all over the neighbourhood and causing further erosion.
Investigations revealed that the means of livelihood of the men and the women in the village have been affected.
The coconut trees which supply the means of livelihood for the women have been wiped off by the advancing sea.
When the village was visited on September 19, 2010, over 50 coconut trees were standing at the site but they had vanished by last visit two wweeks ago — less than a year.
The spot and structures where the team of reporters took pictures during their visitation, have disappeared too. The last set of electricity poles that were standing two months ago were also gone. Electric cables that once served the community have been removed for safe keeping in the Baale’s palace.
The village has had no electricity in two years. The road that linked the village with other coastal communities have been removed completely by the sea and only motor cyclists and people with SUV vans could drive near the sandy beach.
For the men, their fishing vocation has been adversely affected by unpredictable weather and turbulence at sea as well as the carting away of their fishing nets at night by foreign fishing trawlers, whose personnlel often threaten them with guns.
Baale Elegushi told the journalists that as a result of their helplessness, he and his people have resulted to propitiating the gods as they are gradually losing their homeland to the sea.
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, and Lagos State Governor Raji Fashola had actually visited the affected communities after the July 10 flooding, which killed over 20 people in Lagos.
Investigations also revealed that there had been intrusion of water from the sea into the boreholes dug by the community for drinking water. The water had been contaminated and rendered undrinkable.
Baale Elegushi disclosed that the village relies on water from commercial tankers; four of which supply the village everyday to solve the water problem.
Chief Imam of the Central Mosque of Okun Alfa, Alhaji Banuso Shamusideen, found it difficult to find a praying sanctuary to replace the village’s mosque which was lost to the sea on April 24. On that day, he said he almost lost his four years old daughter, Basirat, to the tremulous mass of sea water that tore the land where the mosque was situated. The water washed the mosque alongside debris into the sea.
The Ojuelegba shrine where the people used to propitiate the god of “Elegba” had also vanished into the sea. The popular Igunnuko shrine had disappeared, while the Yemoja (sea goddess) shrine had also gone under the water.
Baale of the village and his chiefs with other members of the Baale-in-Council — Chief M.K. Alaafin, Alhaji Afisu Elegusi, Alhaji Wasiu Lawal Atewolara — became worried by the torrents of rainfall that had been pounding the village and Lagos in the last quarter of the year that they have resulted to spiritual assistance since they are not getting immediate assistance from the government.
Asked how the village head knew that their problem in recent times was related to climate change, the Baale retorted:
“We know that the ice cap is melting in the polar region and that is pushing water into low lying areas!”
How did the Elegushi know this, he answered, “we watch the news about all the development in the polar region on DSTV cable television with electricity generators!”
The Councillor representing the community, Sherif Elegushi, said in an interview that the plight of the village is worsened because there is no budget for remedial action of the problem. He hoped that the State government would make financial provision ready to solve the problem in next year’s budget.
To compound the community’s problem during the rains was the ongoing road construction work on the main Lagos-Epe road, which has caused some blockages, thus resulting in flooding of the village.
The village elders said series of letters had been written to the governments of Lagos State through the Ministry of Waterfront Development and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
NIMASA, two weeks ago, finally advertised in a major newspaper asking for people to bid for a tender that will assist in removing or dismantling the wrecked ships along Nigeria’s coastline.
Alhaji Mudashiru Alayaki, a centenarian and the oldest person in the village recalled again that the village had suffered so much from the problem of coastal erosion.
The Nigeria Emergency Management Agency has been working on Disaster Risk Management strategies in Nigeria with its foreign counterparts and the United Nations. It has carried out sensitisation campaigns in flood prone areas.
TWO weeks ago, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction marked the International Disaster Risk Reduction Day for this year.
The focus of the event was on youths and UNISDR/NEMA brought young people together to discuss strategies to reduce disaster amongst children and women; the most vulnerable groups.
Director General NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi observed in an interview that the “increasing exposure of communities to disasters including floods, are caused by the global climate change. He addded that there is need for collective efforts to address the negative impacts by all the three tiers of government and the communities.”
Sani-Sidi said that the hazards of Climate Change have serious implications for Disaster Managers and highly vulnerable communities.
At the roundtable to celebrate the day were Prof. Edwin O. Iguisi, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe; Adili Matontu of UNICEF; Princess Ella Tamufot and Mr. Cyril Stober of NTA. Also present at the interactive discussion with youths was Senator Mohammed Tukur, representating the Senate President, David Mark.
Dr. Mrs. Ibekwe, a Public Health and Disaster Risk Reduction expert delivered a paper on vulnerability of children at home and at school, noting that schools must have emergency and disaster plan. She counselled that there must be family studies and health economics, which should emphasise safety at home and at school. The Public Health and Disaster Risk expert said that here must be emergency preparedness and crisis response as well as family and personal emergency plan.
In a related development last week, plans for a multi-billion dollar fund to help poor developing countries to deal with climate change hit a big barrier when disagreement arose amongst countries on the design of the fund.
The bottleneck took place at the meeting of an international committee tasked with the duty to design the fund on climate change for developing countries ahead of next month’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to take place in Durban, South Africa.
In Cancun, Mexico last year, negotiators agreed that the proposed “Green Climate Fund” to channel up to US$100billion a year by 2020 to developing countries should be created.