By G9ija

For residents of flood-prone areas in Lagos and Ogun states, they are used to seasonal flooding and only pray for it to be for a while. Indeed, they have devised means of overcoming the yearly challenge.

But prediction that there might be heavy rain later this month and September, as well as staggered release of water from Oyan Dam, which could negatively impact their communities, had been taken in good fate, even though they now sleep with one eye open. News of the impending calamity did not come to them as a surprise, as they had anticipated that their communities would get flooded, having been experiencing yearly flood since 2018.

The amount of water that could pour in, however, is making many of them worried than before. The fact that their communities were not flooded yet only gave them a relief and reduced their trauma. Indeed, they are ready to weather the flood of pains that will come with the heavy rain and release of dam water.

When The Guardian visited three of the communities expected to be highly affected – Ajegunle-Ikorodu, Owode-Maidan and Agiliti- residents were not as apprehensive as would be expected. Since 2018, they have devised means to weather the challenges that come with the flood. Surprisingly, they are not planning to relocate.

While the landlords said they cannot leave their buildings behind, more so as they have nowhere to go, the tenants cannot relocate because of lack of funds to do so.

There are no proper drainages in the three communities, while the canal in Ajegunle-Ikorodu has been partially blocked with refuse and water hyacinth.

Mrs. Bose Oladapo has lived in Owode-Maidan for 12 years with her family and there are no plans to relocate, though the experience has not been palatable anytime the community gets flooded since 2018 when it became a yearly occurrence.

Oladapo said when the community gets waterlogged, residents usually navigate through using canoe or floater at a fee, which adds up to the daily running cost for families like hers. She said at non-peak period, it costs N100 to board a canoe or floater, but increases by 100 per cent during peak hours due to the volume of passengers waiting to get on board.

She disclosed that every year, many residents, including landlords who are badly hit, move out of the community; hence many apartments are unoccupied, while some are occupied just by the landlord or a tenant, as the number of tenants that leave is far higher than those that come in yearly.

To prevent the flood from gathering in their rooms, she said the building floor has been refilled and raised, with the entrance supported with six-step stairway, a means already a norm in the locality, despite some of them being bungalows.

She pleaded with the Lagos State and Federal Governments to intervene by helping to construct drainages and embankment by the river, as residents had been carrying the burden alone over the years.

A resident of Ajegunle-Ikorodu, Joy Yerepia, narrating that last year, she was sick when the community got flooded, thereby compounding her problem, as she not only had to wade through the flooded road to gain access to her compound and room, but also had to walk into the apartment and sleep in a flooded room.

“When the water streamed into the rooms, we placed planks on the floor to prevent some of our personal belongings from getting soaked in water. Some were not lucky, as it damaged many things, including documents.

“We want government to do something this year, so that the water will not sweep away anybody, because two persons got drowned last year. We have not seen government coming to help to ensure that our community does not get flooded. Last year’s flood was high and we pray this year’s will not be of high torrent,” Yerepia said.

Another resident, Nelson Adebayo, does not pray for the community to witness the intensity of last year’s flood, which made many houses to be flooded and residents sleeping in rooms with water, adding: “If the dam is opened and it rains heavily, it means many would run away, based on the experience of last year. We were technically swimming in the rooms with many of our household items damaged.”

Asked if he planned to relocate, Adebayo asked rhetorically: “Where do I relocate to? We have to stay and find a means to survive the situation. We are Nigerians; we would always face it through God. How do we prepare for the flood? To run to the village? If it comes, we would face it and God will see us through.

“Unless government comes to our aid, but I do not know how they will do it, since it is about nature. Though we have heard the news of the impending flood, no government officials had come around to engage us physically about it.”

Henry Omulala, yet another resident, noted: “Past experiences have been terrible, but this year, we thanked God that nothing has happened so far. Last year was very heavy, so we have been expecting the rains and its consequences.

“If it comes, we would manage it. Normally if it comes, nobody comes to our aid; we assist ourselves to overcome the challenges. We do not plan to relocate; we did not relocate last year, despite the community being waterlogged for about five months, and we hope government will truly do something.”

Daniel Patrick had changed accommodation twice within the community, but it was more like moving from frying pan to fire, as the former apartment turned out to be better than the new one he rented. He lamented that landlords would claim their houses do not get flooded, which is usually a lie.

Moyinoluwa Alade, who lives in Agiliti, said last year’s flood was massive, as areas within the community that usually do not get waterlogged contended with flood. She disclosed that the community usually gets flooded every three years, but that that has changed since 2018, with yearly flood.

She explained that many residents are still wondering if things have changed, as the community was already flooded by this time last year. She said the flood flows uncontrollably into the community within days, but takes months to dry, urging government to dredge the river and construct drainages and canal to take in the water.

Kolawole Folorunsho, another resident of Agiliti, said over the years, the community gets flooded with the level of water higher than the previous one, but landlords have devised means of ensuring their rooms do not get flooded by raising the ground floor of their buildings. He, however, does not completely agree with the government about the coming flood, saying there are no signs of such and that the water level of the river close to the community has even become shallow, while there has not been consistent heavy rains.

He, nonetheless, said if it happens, residents would have no other option but to cope with its consequences, especially as many of them are now used to living with the flood.

A resident of Owode-Maidan, Precious Joe, who has lost three mobile phones to flood at difference times, along with other electronics and personal belongings, bemoaned that the cost of living increases when the community gets waterlogged, as she can longer cook, but eat outside, and pays for canoe that ferries her out of the community. Her plan to relocate from the community has not been possible, because of lack of funds.

Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Tunji Bello said the state government has resolved to step up its multifarious efforts to ensure that the heavy rainfalls, which are expected to resume from the end of this month and cause flash flood, will have minimal effect on the residents.

“Part of the new measures we are putting in place, in addition to existing efforts is the provision of pumping stations with a pilot one already installed at Ilubirin in Lagos Island. The pumping stations will ensure quick pumping out of water from flooded neighbourhoods and reduce risk of damages to properties. Major flood prone areas that are natural buffers to the lagoon like Isheri and its environs, Owode, Agboyi –Ketu will also benefit. 
 
“The state government is also stepping up its advocacy campaigns by producing jingles using known faces in the theater industry for testimonials on why residents should desist from dumping refuse in the drainage channels and desist from erecting structures on setback of drainage channels; also to warn the residents that Lagos is a coastal city that is bound to experience heavy rainfall which will lead to flash flooding that will however disappear within four hours after the rainfalls.”
  
Bello disclosed that the government is presently working on over 222 secondary channels out of which over 80 per cent are in various stages of completion, just as 46 primary channels are receiving attention. 

“This is in addition to the gigantic efforts of our Emergency Flood Abatement Gangs (EFAG) that are being deployed around the state to undertake “quick fix” to free manholes or clogged up drains manually. The drainage channels are spread round all the divisions of the state. What is very instructive about the drainage channels that are receiving attention is that many of such channels have been cleaned and tons of solid refuse excavated from the canals and simultaneously carted away. The state government has also mobilised some contractors back to some of the drainage channels that have been cleaned up but littered again by some recalcitrant members of the public.”

Bello said all those dumping wastes, including plastics, tyres and rubbers into drainages already cleared to desist because if they are caught, they will be diligently prosecuted.