Ocean surge threatens seven Lagos communities *Stakeholders blame Chevron, Eko Atlantic projects
WorldStage Newsonline (EXCLUSIVE)-- For more than four days last week, residents of Okun Alfa community and environs in Eti-osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, South West Nigeria, were sacked from their homes due to the ocean surge that occurred in the early hours of Sunday July 1st. Although no life was lost in the incident, but properties worth millions of naira were destroyed, KAYODE ABOYEJI reports.
Seven coastal communities with over 30,000 human populations in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, South West Nigeria, may soon be on their way out if no urgent action is taking, no thanks to the frequent ocean surge that has been affecting the communities in the recent past.
Some of the communities prone to this disaster are: Igbara, Maiyegun,Aro, Ologolo, Baruwa, Igbo-Efon and Okun Alfa community all along the Lagos coastline. These communities, in the recent past, have been experiencing frequent flooding from the Atlantic surge that had destroyed properties worth millions of naira.
However, no life have been lost due to the fact that most of these disasters happened in the day time, but one serious concern in the mind of residents is that, if such should occur in the night, only God knows what will be their fate.
Being a coastal state, most parts of Lagos metropolis were submerged in water through out last week due to over five days of continuous down pour with the consequent negative effect on free flow of traffic as most of the roads were flooded.
Experts had early in the year warned that the state would experience about 256 days of continuous rain fall this year, the situation which had made the state government to embark on aggressive clearing of drainage channels, opening up of canals and sensitizing people living in danger prone areas to move to saver places.
A year ago, precisely July 10, the state experienced about six hours of heavy down pour which claimed lives and destroyed several properties in the city.
However, in the early hours of Sunday July 1st, this year, the Atlantic ocean again, for about 24 hours surged into these communities and sacked people away from their homes while several properties were destroyed.
Worst hit was the Okun Alfa community, a tourist community that parades the popular Alfa Beach, where virtually all the buildings were overtaking by flood including high class Admiralty Estate among others.
A resident of the community, Alhaji Alayaki Mudasiru, who is over 100 years old and has leave all is life in the community said the Atlantic has been there for a very long time and that whenever it surges, in years past, it does not disturb any one.
He noted that the community started facing trouble with the ocean since the various land reclamation and sand-filling were executed along the coastline.
Alhaji Mudashiru, who went down memory lane, alleged that the problem started soon after Victoria Island was reclaimed.
He explained that the house where he currently leaves is the third house he built because the previous ones had been washed away by the Atlantic Ocean which had encroached more than 200 metres inward.
Besides, Pa Mudashiru also blamed the inability of water that flowed into the community to find its way out on the activities of Chevron Nigeria Limited that has acquired large expanse of land for the construction of an international school and staff housing estate.
The oil giant had constructed a high-wall fence on the over 10 hectares of land which the community people claimed that during the course of sand-filling the land, the only channel that water could flow through to the lagoon had been blocked.
Worldstage Newsonline gathered that residents of the community last week Monday protested to the management of the company to express their displeasure on the blockage of the canal.
According to Pa Mudashiru, “Whenever the ocean surges and drove us from our house, we normally moved forward and build another house, but now that Chevron had taking over the land, where are we going to move to?”
Pa Mudashiru, in an emotion laden tone, appealed to the Federal Government to come to their aid by constructing an embankment that would prevent the community from future effect of ocean surge.
Asked if he would leave the community based on what had happened, he said, “I have lived all my life at Okun Alfa, I was born, bread and grew up as a farmer. My children living in other parts of Lagos came when they had about the incident with the plan to take me to their place of abode, but I said no. I will not leave because of that till death comes.”
Narrating his experience on the last incident, a Clergy, Rev. Musa Philip, Pastor of one of the Pentecostal churches in the community, said if the surge had happened in the night, only God knows what would have been the extent of the damage and casualties that would have been recorded.
He went further, “The surge started early hours of Sunday morning around 2 am, we started noticing water in our houses and everybody had to wake up. By the time the day break, it subsides.
“But when it got to around 11.30am, the surge started again and this time around in a very strong manner that could carry people away. Myself and one other man had to rescue a woman with four children thrown to a building wall.”
Rev. Philip reiterated the need for the Federal Government to urgently construct an embankment to save guard future occurrence of such incident and protect life and properties, failure of which he said, could be catastrophic.
Another resident of the community, who declined to mention his name, described the incident as ‘terrible’, adding that, ”you can’t go in or come out.”
Councillor representing Ward C in Eti-Osa Local Government Area comprising of Okun Alfa and some other communities, Sheriff Elegushi, bemoaned the activities of Chevron Nigeria Limited that blocked the only access that water from the community could have flow through to the lagoon.
He added that the community in recent past had suffered from the effect of ocean surge. He explained that last year, the only road leading to the community was washed away and that up till now, they can only access the community through the beach.
Elegushi lamented that since the incident occurred, no emergency unit or government official had deemed it fit to sympathize with them.
The ward C Councillor, however, appealed to both the Federal and State governments to come to their aid by constructing drainage channel and embankment to shield the community from such an occurrence.
Said he, “When this incident happened last year, President Jonathan came here and promised that they would assist the community through the ecological office, but up till now nothing has being done. The state government too has not done anything.
“Governor Fashola was here last year, but since the Sunday incident, neither the governor nor any of his representatives had visited us. It is only the local government chairman that is making efforts, he hired a caterpillar to open the canal so that water trapped in the community can flow back to the lagoon”.
Elegushi added that since the incident happened, many people had trooped out of the community and yet to return, besides, he lamented the negative effect on the socioeconomic activities of the community.
He blamed the incident on the various reclamation projects going on in the city particularly the Eko Atlantic city project where large expanse of land is being reclaimed from the sea, next to Victoria Island.
The project has been a source of worry to environmentalists and other stakeholders particularly whether a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted before the project commenced.
Early this year, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), Henrich Boil Stufiing convoked a stakeholders meeting on the Eko Atlantic city project where participants expressed grave concern on the possible effect of the project on other coastal communities.
Residents of some of the coastal community including Okun Alfa believed that the problem they are now facing was as a result of the project. They specifically asked South Energyx Nigeria Limited, developer of the project, to make public the EIA.
So far, the company has not made public the EIA but it claimed that the project “is already helping to reverse the environmental damage at the Victoria Island caused by a century of coastal erosion. The imposing new sea wall will shield the city of Lagos, as well as Eko Atlantic city,” the developer claimed.
Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, seems to believe in this school of thought as he clearly told who ever care to listen during the opening ceremony of the fourth Climate Change summit organised by the state government in April, that the project does not constitute and environmental problem but rather a blessing to the city.
An environmentalist, Ako Amadi, said the project is not advisable and that there should be a rethink on it.
At the time Worldstage visited the community, frantic efforts was been made to open up a canal through which water from the community could flow to the lagoon. Many of the residents are yet to return to their homes.
A study conducted recently revealed that more than 51 per cent of wetland areas including mangrove swamps along the coast and freshwater swamps along major rivers in the city have been lost to urbanization in last few decades.
The report revealed that in 1965, wetlands covered about 53 per cent of Lagos State but as at 2003, this has been reduced to 2 per cent with great loss of biodiversity. A document prepared by the Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change (BNRCC) in partnership with the Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST) on Lagos State Climate Change Adaptation Strategy shows that in 1965, Lagos has 53 per cent wetlands; 29 per cent vegetation, 12 per cent built-up area, three per cent agriculture and three per cent water body.