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Edo flood

Mid-way into the wet season, Nigerians especially residents of low-lying and flood-prone areas of Lagos and some parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital have been suffering excruciating hardship due to flooding which appears to have defied solutions, writes Osaze Omoragbon

For many residents of Lagos and Oyo states, the rainy season brings nothing but pain and untoward hardship. The forecast by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Lagos State government earlier in the year saying the state will experience 263 days of rainfall, only deepen the uneasiness of residents in the state even as the government advised them to relocate to upland in order to avoid disaster.

Indeed, flooding exacerbated by torrential rainfall has wreaked a lot of disaster on Lagosians. Many lives and properties have been lost to heavy rain storm and flooding. Two years ago, heavy storm killed 15 people in Lagos including Godspower Ekpenyong, a mathematics teacher at St. Gregory’s College, Obalende on Lagos Island even as many houses in low-lying areas of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi were flooded with residents losing properties worth millions of naira. “We lost one of our finest teachers to rainstorm at Obalende. A falling telecoms mast killed him,” Mr Dike Egerue, a colleague of Ekpenyong who teaches Art at St. Gregory’s College told The Economy.

A siege-mentality has taken hold of those living in reclaimed-areas of satellite town on Lagos-Badagry expressway. “During the rainy season, we stock food and other household supplies,” said Mr. David Nwosu, a resident of Waterside in Satellite Town. Less optimistic is Timothy Abioye, a daily wage earner who decried his inability to get to work and his children not able to attend school regularly due to flooding. Many have lost their homes due to flooding.

Productivity also suffers as man-hours are lost due to traffic gridlock. No doubt employers-employee relationship sours due to workers’ late coming to work. The story is same across the country. Few weeks ago, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, experienced downpour culminating in a massive flooding, which killed no fewer than 15 persons in different parts of the city. The incident, which was similar to what the city experienced on August 26, 2011, also led to the destruction of homes and landed properties worth millions of naira. TheEconomy gathered that about 10 lives were lost at Apete due to the sudden collapse of make-shift bridge, which the people in the area had been using since the collapse of the main bridge on August 26, 2011. Five other persons including three children of the same parents were found under the rubble of a Cherubim & Seraphim church, which the flood brought down when the Olodo River overflowed its bank.

The question is: what is the way out? Though several governments have taken initiatives to palliate the effect of flooding even as they seek permanent solution, the situation has not abated. Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Mr Tunji Bello said that although it is difficult to control flood-related disasters, the state government has been able to tackle flooding through the collective efforts of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, engineers and the good people of Lagos who believe in the programmes of the present administration. “What we have done over the years to control and reduce the incidence of flooding is the implementation of our all-year de-flooding programme which is made up of pre-rain, mid-rain and post-rain massive dredging, maintenance and cleaning programmes across the state,” he said. According to him, the state government has sustained this through adequate pre-emptive and preparatory de-flooding programmes as well as regular upgrading and expansion of drainage channels.

Mr. Bello explained that even advanced nations of the world with the best of technologies cannot lay claim to absolute control over flood-related disasters. “We have been able to manage it through our deliberate and planned deflooding programmes and with God’s help, we have been able to reduce to the barest minimum, the incidence of flooding in the state,” he said.

The Lagos State government had, prior to the onset of the wet season, embarked on aggressive de-silting and cleaning of drainages across the state just as it had rehabilitated and constructed new canals in the last few years. However, finding a lasting solution to flooding in Lagos, according to some experts, is quite difficult because of its sea level and the indiscriminate construction projects.  Experts claim that Lagos, among other states, stands the risk of being submerged in the near future.  “Any increase in temperatures that result in rise in sea levels of above two meters would clearly be unmanageable,” said Dr. Stefan Cramer, Country Director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

Indiscriminate building construction, which often do not meet building codes as well as environmental standards, is one of the reasons for incessant flooding during rainy season. Most residential buildings in flood-prone areas lack drainages; where such exists, they are often blocked by improperly disposed wastes. Last year, the state government discovered that over 51 percent of wetland areas including mangroves swamps along the coast and freshwater swamp in the state has been encroached upon due to rapid urbanization. Population growth viz-a-viz the limited land space and increasing demand for housing, according to Bello, has placed wetlands on the verge of extinction.

Sea reclamation by developers is often done without proper environmental impact assessment. “The dream of housing for all cannot be realized when more people are being rendered homeless by flooding,” said Mr. Benedict Ugbodagha, a Lagos-based property consultant. Large swathe of land in various parts of the country have been rendered uneconomically viable by flooding. In 2012, flooding- resulting from torrential rainfall caused the Benue River to overflow its banks in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State and destroyed crops and livestock while rendering thousands homeless. The ever busy Abuja-Okene Road was rendered impassable for weeks by the flood which led to the set up of a presidential committee to look into the issues raised by flooding. The flooding, which is recorded to be the worst in the nation’s history, affected 22 states, with experts expressing fears that it could be repeated if there is no concerted effort to develop a master plan to deal with the issue.

In Edo State, however, the government has sought a permanent solution to the perennial flooding in Benin, through the Benin Storm Water Project. The N150billion phased-project seeks to de-flood the state by making use of natural drainages such as the ancient moats and restoring areas that act as weak points of erosion and flooding. “This is not a window-dressing project,” Governor Adams Oshiomhole said at the flag-off of the Phase 1.  Three years into the project, residents of Benin City are already feeling the positive impact of the project.

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