Lagos Retools to Wage War Against Flood

Since some parts of Lagos State, including highbrow areas like Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Banana Island and Lekki among others, were held hostage by last week’s floods, which started building on Wednesday, July 5, a deluge of activities have been taking place to devise ways of mitigating the impact of the perennial nightmare.

To date, images of flooded apartments, submerged vehicles, stranded commuters at heavily flooded bus stops, entire neighbourhoods being taken over by flood water, and even residents swimming across streets, which were everywhere ranging from the print, broadcast and social media, still haunt some of those badly affected by the disaster. As a result of the untold pains suffered by the victims and those from other affected 16 states, the Federal Government, which has also warned that more of such floods were on the way, last week approved the sum of N1.6b as immediate intervention for victims of flood. According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who made the disclosure at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, chaired by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, beneficiary states include; Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Oyo, Lagos, Plateau, Sokoto, Edo and Bayelsa.

“The money is going to be taken from the Federal Government Ecological Fund Account at the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Minister of Finance is to release the funds directly to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Lagos State, where property worth billions of naira were destroyed by the rampaging flood, is urging residents to remain calm, just as it attributed the problem to the high tide of the lagoon, slowing down the flow of rainfall water from drainage channels, persistent rainfall and high volume of storm water. The state is just in the middle of the rainy season and even heavier downpours are still being expected.

The state’s Commissioner for the Environment, Babatunde Adejare, who said that the government was concerned by the recent occurrence of flooding in some parts of the state, urged residents who were in the habit of dumping refuse indiscriminately especially in drainage channels to stop forthwith, as it could also lead to loss of lives and destruction of property. He lamented that despite the vigorous campaign by the government on the dangers of indiscriminate dumping of refuse, some residents were still engaging in such act. Beyond the lamentation, the state government is building a retention pond to assist in containing flooding in the state. Construction of the retention pond is ongoing at the Sangotedo area of the state, and it would serve as a reservoir for storm water at the peak of the rainy season, for onward release into the Okota River after the rains must have subsided. Adejare, who said that all over the world, flooding is rated as the second biggest of all natural disasters, added that the present administration has resolved to find lasting solutions to the issue of flooding.

He said the state experienced 475mm of rainfall during the week of flood, adding that the rains of July 8, 2017, which was 178mm, was more than six months of rainfall in the city of California, United States. Adejare stressed that the state government has resolved to be more stringent in the campaign against dumping of refuse in canals and drains, just as it is ready to scale up the application of physical planning laws against the erection of building on canals, drainage channels and water courses. He stated that the retention pond was part of the state government’s response to the issue of flooding, in addition to the existence of about 202 primary channels that also serve as storage for storm water. He added that the channels were constantly being de-silted. Still as part of efforts to combat the menace of flood in the state, the state House of Assembly on Tuesday called for collaboration between the state Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Urban Planning and Physical Development, in order to reduce the havoc caused by flooding in the state. In a motion sponsored by Gbolahan Yishawu, the house charged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, to direct the two ministries to immediately remove structures that are blocking drainages and consequently impede free flow of rainwater.

The House also tasked the ministries to ensure that canals were constantly dredged and desilted across the state. In addition, the Ministry of the Environment was also urged to publicise its emergency lines- 767 and 112 so that residents would be aware of numbers to call during emergencies. Addressing the lawmakers earlier, Adejare blamed the massive flood on natural and human causes. He said: “We have been embarking on tree planting to reduce climate change in the state. But we saw people sandfilling to build houses on Osborne Phase 2. People also built houses by the lagoon against the law,” he said. Adejare, who told the lawmakers that illegal dredging was taking place all over the state, added that machineries have been put in place to correct all these anomalies. He further informed them that the ministry embarks on massive clearing of drainages before, during and after rainy season, stressing that it would take time before drainages are properly cleared, and that a lot of advocacy was being done to impress on the people the need for them to prevent flooding in the state.

Bisi Yusuf, a member of the House in his remarks accused the Ministry of the Environment of neglecting its responsibilities, the reason it was reacting instead of preventing the flood menace. He pointed out that there was no reason for any one to be watched while erecting structures by the riverbank when there were laws against such. Another lawmaker, Rasheed Makinde, deplored the bastardisation of the master plan for the development of Lekki area of the state, saying such development contributed prominently to the flooding of the area.

Other lawmakers in their respective contributions, called on the Environment Ministry to rise to the occasion and work towards halting a repeat occurrence. Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa in his remarks said it was essential for the Ministry of the Environment to be up and doing, adding that it was important for the commissioner to visit all parts of the state affected by flood. He stated that monitoring and compliance with extant building laws was important just as information dissemination should also be emphasised. He tasked the ministry to rave up efforts aimed at mitigating the damage done by flood in the state.

 Gbenga Salau and Kehinde Olatunji/Guardian