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…Neglect, Impunity May Push SouthWest Cities Under

July 8, 2012
…Neglect, Impunity May Push SouthWest Cities Under
Sunday, 08 July 2012 00:00 By Tunde Akingbade Sunday

ONE stark reality from the recent round of flooding that has affected whole communities in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States is that some towns and cities may go under water. The reason for this is not far fetched: people, in their quest to survive, have completely altered the geography and topography of these towns.

Investigation since, January this year showed that past and current governments in these states in Western part of Nigeria including their Local Councils and land speculators have sold out some areas that are along river channels, wetlands and parks.

Dredging and commercialization of land along the Lagos coastline, the estuary and Ogun River, which empty into the Atlantic Ocean has altered the relief and features of land in the country.  Experts told The Guardian that the flood plain areas have been taken over by thousands of land speculators who sold such lands with corruption in government circles, making officials to shirk their responsibilities.

In Ibadan the largest city in West Africa, which was founded on rolling hills and slopes, rapid urbanization has resulted in houses being built along valleys and hilly sides, without proper drainages. Similarly, in Ogun State, many towns such as Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu and Abeokuta do not have proper drainage and heavy rains often lead to massive flood which sweep away structures and  household materials, precipitating losses running into millions of Naira.

Studies have been carried out by experts at the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography, the Nigerian Institute of Marine Research (NIOMR) and UNESCO office in Abuja between 12 and 14 years ago to prepare Lagos State government towards reducing the impact of flooding in Lagos State.

The studies carried out by Professor Larry Awosika and Dr. Regina Folorunso and other experts targeted the Victoria Island and Lekki axis of Lagos, which were worst hit by the flooding last week. Shrines such as Yemoja (sea goddess), Elegba where the locals in the Okun Alfa area propitiated their deities have gone completely into the sea.

After the ocean surge and the rain, the palace of the Village Head, Baale Atewolara Elegushi was also under water. The rooftop of the palace was barely above the volume of water that destroyed properties. One of the property owners in the area looked at another landlord and asked. “Where will I go now? I came to settle here in my country from Europe. Do I have to go back?”

For many residents of the area, Chevron is an integral part of the flooding problem. The American oil giant is alleged to have built a structure on a wetland adjoining a 200 acres of land owned by it and one of its subsidiaries. Also locked in emerging ecological problem is Julius Berger, the German multinational construction company. Chevron and its subsidiary contracted Julius Berger to build a palatial residential estate for its staff behind the Okun Alfa village. The village was thus sandwiched between the restless ocean and the new Chevron construction site.   Without what could be described as a proper, due, extensive and comprehensive scientific study on the Environmental Impact Assessment as stipulated by a Nigerian government Act 86 of 1992, Chevron, through Julius Berger laid a solid foundation for its proposed estate, sandfilled, elevated it above the original ground level.

The companies also constructed a long and highly reinforced wall, which blocked the free flow of water in and out of the sea. To compound the problem, the village never really had a flood drainage system. It was a conflict between the rich, heavy and modern western structures of multinationals as opposed to poor, mixed rural and middle class struggling African families’ residence. The impact of the heavy rain fall, sea incursion, and construction that lacked proper post-ecological scrutiny was the flood that overran all houses and spots as high as ten feet in many places and many people who fled their homes.

TO get across the nooks and crannies of the Okun Alfa village last week, this reporter was able to do so through the assistance of a resident who offered his Hummer Jeep which was the only vehicle that moved slowly through the flood 60 hours after the rain. About 20 people were left in the village. They were the aged, some of who had been taken to elevated buildings. Food was taken to them at intervals. It was gathered that Alhaji Alayika, the oldest person in the village and others whose ancestral home had gone under the sea were persuaded to move before the raging sea got to them.

Chief Durojaiye, an 87 years old landlord whose house was directly opposite the sea was smitten with fear as the seawater pounded his house. He thought that the worst had come as they laid helpless in their rooms with no help in sight.

Investigations revealed that the land on which the river called Joboyo flowed in between the community and close to where Chevron and its subsidiary was building the 200 acreage Estate was sold by land speculators. Houses were built as soon as it was sandfilled. By time The Guardian visited the abandoned community last week, the seawater had returned in form of the river, which sacked everyone from their homes.

The drainage density in Nigeria, according to Prof. Olusegun Areola in this book, “Ecology of Natural Resource in Nigeria” is low being about 1.5 – 3.5 on crystalline rocks as calculated on the 150,000 topographic maps of Nigeria and much less on sedimentary rocks. The professor noted that much of the water that was potentially available in the network of rivers in the country “is lost in run off to the sea during the wet season”.

According to Areola, the demand for river sand for the building industry in Lagos area has been very high. The reason for the high demand of the river sand in Lagos, he explained, is a result of “pure fire sands of uniform grade.” Regrettably, experts noted that sand mining has been destroying the habitat of freshwater fish in Ogun and Lagos State.

Investigation on rivers that flowed across Ogun State into Lagos revealed large scale dredging of sand in Ogun river, the network of creeks and estuaries in Ikorodu and Epe area. It was discovered through extensive tour of the forest off the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that a lot of massive removal of sand was taking place under forest cover.

Besides the loss of freshwater fish habitat in the Lagos area, investigations revealed that those who engage in fishing business have moved their breeding habitats into locations inside the forest.

According to a study carried out 36years ago by Professors Faniran A, Sanda P.O and Areola O, 7,321 trucks carried 37, 190.7 tonnes of sand during the dry season along the Lagos Ikorodu road. The number decreased considerably during the wet season to 1,418 truckloads of 7,303.4 tonnes of sand. The experts took the survey over a period of ten days between Lagos and Ikorodu Road. Investigation at Okun Alfa which was affected by the sea incursion last week revealed that those constructing the Chevron Estate at Lekki dredged sand from the earth where the facilities are being constructed to create an artificial lake. They also removed sand from the sea to complement the one they had, to create an expanse of large white sand on which gigantic structures are to be constructed.

Community leaders told The Guardian that a villager died in the artificial lake last year and that irked some residents. Professor Areola specifically mentioned in his book published as part of Avebury Studies in Green Research twenty years ago that “many valley bottom lands have since been dug up and the flow of the streams disrupted” adding that “runoff from the valley sides sometimes collects in ditches made by the sand miners instead of flowing into the stream”.

Investigations revealed that the 200 acreage land which Chevron Nigeria Ltd is building its sprawling residential complex was owned by Late General Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua who was second-in-command (as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters) during the regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo as a Military Head of State between 1976 – 1979. General  Yar’ Adua, was the elder brother of late President, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua who died in office before the current President Jonathan mounted the saddle.

General Yar’ Adua used to own the land before he was incarcerated by the dictator, General Sani Abacha who died mysteriously while in office. Shehu Yar’ Adua died in Abacha’s custody and the parcel of land which was used as collateral for a bank loan was taken over by the Nigerian Depositors Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

In the years that followed, several other deals and transactions took place and Chevron Ltd and its subsidiary later brought the land and began the construction work which has compounded the drainage problem in the area.

However, sources said that the Lagos Governor Mr. Raji Fashola (SAN) is disturbed about the development at the coastal areas.

The community whose aged citizens were trapped, and are seeking shelter on the higher grounds of some buildings, said they went to Chevron for help, with no appreciable result. The landlord’s associations later mobilized funds and dredged the land to remove the sand and blockage caused by Chevron’s construction. When this was being done for three days, the Islamic faithful amongst them led by their Chief Imam Alhaji Banuso Shamusideen led them in prayers from a makeshift platform. The sea had washed their mosque away. After the prayers, they mobilized themselves with others excavated the earth at the point at which Chevron allegedly blocked the flow of the water. They carried placards and walked to the spot at sunrise.

Prof. Areola in his work noted that the reasons for the flooding in Lagos are the inadequate storm water control, the land drainage measures and very poor land use zoning.

“Lagos is located in an area of flat relief which is almost at sea level,” said the Professor who observed that many of the swamps in Lagos which were natural reservoirs from other flowing water and creeks have been sand filled. Also, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, an environmentalist who has been calling for the protection of Okun Alfa in the past two years expressed sadness at the flooding of the village. He lamented that Nigerians had altered the country’s landscape and river courses and thus making people vulnerable to sea level rise.

Majekodumi bemoaned the dredging and sand filling of wetlands and buffer zones in Lagos, explaining that it was one of the main reasons for ecological disaster in the state.

Further investigation revealed that the land which is now the sprawling residential estate known as Palmview Estate, Ikoyi was formerly Ikoyi Park and up till 1980s. That was during the regime of the military government of Air Vice-Marshal, Gbolahan Mudashiru. The park had had acres left. It was changed from its original design as a park to residential area. It is not far away is the rural coastal settlement of Ilubinrin where houses were built on stills. The fishermen were driven away by the government and under the civilian dispensations of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the incumbent Babatunde Fashola; the area was reclaimed from the estuary and sandfilled.

During the torrential rain last week, the sand-filled area caused blockages, which in turn caused some area in Ikoyi to be flooded massively.

Mr. Abu Odita, Chairman of Atlantic View Estate Alpha Beach Road, Lekki, Mr. Felix Uwawah, the Vice Chairman of the Estate and other inhabitants had to relocate their households elsewhere.

One of the landlords whose family was on holiday in London quickly asked his wife and children to stay away for a while because “flood had taken over our property”.

Mr. Kim Abdulsalam. Director of Admiralty homes UK who runs a real estate firm wondered how the entire neighbourhood suddenly turned into an ecological nightmare. Abdulsalam who also runs tourism facility in Okun Alfa regretted that Chevron’s construction work accelerated and compounded the environmental woes of the people.


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