Lagos/Suleja floods: Is NEMA overwhelmed?

In Nigeria the rich and the poor don’t often cry or wail in solidarity.

But an irony has occurred which necessitated the meeting of these unlike minds- the rich and the poor.

That necessity which the mother of the irony that birthed in Nigeria is the natural cum man-made disaster of floods which occurred in two distant places-Lagos and Suleja.

Lagos and Suleja in Niger State as we write are substantially flooded.

This floods in Lagos affected mostly the affluent members of the society because of the fact that majority of the victims of the disaster reside in very affluent areas of Lekki and Victoria Garden city.

In Suleja near Abuja, most of those affected are the poor. But even in the irony of commonality of the disaster that afflicted the rich and poor classes about the same time, there is a dissimilarity in the area of human costs.

Indeed, over two dozen poor residents of this densely over-populated town of Suleja in Niger state of North Central Nigeria, perished.

These unfortunate man-made disasters have happened against the back drop of the recently signed Paris climate change agreement which Nigeria signed on to. Buhari is known to view the Paris Climate change agreement as his international signature tune. His them Environment minister who also served the immediate past administration Mrs. Amina Mohammed has gone on to become the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, an appointment she bagged apparently because of her significant role in making sure that Nigeria signed on the Paris Climate Change Agreement or so it seems.

Anyway, back to the issue of floods, i had stated that the floods that have occurred in Lagos and Suleja are man-made because of the deficiencies in the implementation and enforcement of urban/town planning laws.

The floods in Lagos is blamed strictly on the rapid creation of ‘artificial’ residential areas out of the Peninsula near the Oceans of Lagos around the areas of the popular Lagos bar beach.

There are insinuations that the Lagos waters were sand filled just for the specific purposes of regaining lands to create new cites for the very rich in the society.

In the case of Lekki, this is how a researcher described it on an entry in Wikipedia: “Lekki is a city in Lagos State, Nigeria. It is located to the east of Lagos city.”

“Lekki is a naturally formed peninsula, adjoining to its west Victoria Island and Ikoyi districts of Lagos, with the Atlantic Ocean to its south, Lagos Lagoon to the north, and Lekki Lagoon to its east; however, the city’s southeast which ends at around the western edge of Refuge Island, adjoins the eastern part of Ibeju-Lekki LGA”.

The writer continued thus: “The city is still largely under construction; As of 2015, only phase 1 of the project has been completed, with phase 2 nearing completion. The peninsula is approximately 70 to 80 km long, with an average width of 10 km. Lekki currently houses several Estates, gated residential developments, agricultural farmlands, areas allocated for a Free Trade Zone, with an airport, and a sea port under construction.”

Scholars stated that the proposed land use master plan for the Lekki envisages the Peninsula as a “Blue-Green Environment City”, expected to accommodate well over 3.4 million residential population and an additional non-residential population of at least 1.9 million.

The history of Lekki is also that of deprivation of the poor to throw in the hands of the affluent members of the society.

It is a notorious historical fact that “part of the modern day Lekki (phase 1) in the Eti-Osa LGA was formerly known as Maroko, a slum, before it was destroyed by the Raji Rasaki led Lagos State military Government. Lekki phase 1 currently has got a reputation as an area with some of the most expensive real estate assets in Lagos State.”

On the other hands, Suleja is known as the place whereby hundreds -of- thousands of poor civil servants,petty traders and artisans who work in Abuja are resident due to high costs of residential rents in the Abuja municipal Area council. Suleja houses are mostly ramshackle and dilapidated structures even as there is a total absence of any modicum of town planning. In Lagos, the stat’s administration blamed residents for blocking the water channels or drainage facilities with solid wastes.

In effect we are right to state that man-made factors have come into play alongside the forces of nature to unleash the floods which equally can be traced to the effects of the climate change phenomenon.

Incidentally, these disastrous floods of Lagos and Suleja in Niger State have occurred few months after the Paris climate change Agreement was signed.

From a document downloaded from a United Nations affiliated website, we are told that on 5th October 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved.

The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. The first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) took place in Marrakech, Morocco from 15-18 November 2016.

What are the Paris Agreement’s essential elements? One may ask!

“The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.”

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

“Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.”

The Lagos and Suleja floods are however blamed basically on some man-made factors such as improper drainage channels.

The Lagos administration had clearly blamed the environmental indiscipline of the residents for the floods.

Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, on Monday said the flooding caused by torrential rainfalls in the State within the last few days would soon be a thing of the past, as the State Government was working towards embarking on holistic solutions to address the situation once and for all.

Speaking at a sensitization workshop on water management and environmental control held at Ikeja which is a prelude to a Water Technology and Environmental Control (WATEC) exhibition holding in Israel later in the year, the Governor said aside the fact that the issue of flooding was not peculiar to the State or Nigeria as it was a global phenomenon, but that urgent steps are being taken to tackle the challenge in a holistic manner and protect the State from future re-occurrence.

The Governor, who empathized with people who lost properties to the flood, said that it was painful to see most prime estates flooded with water, roads taken over by floods, while many homesteads literally became pools.

The governor then proceeded to cast his blame on ‘unruly’ Lagos residents for dumping refuse on drainage channels.

His words: “However, if we have learnt anything in the on-going flooding of some parts of the State, it is that there is an immediate, even urgent need for us to embark upon a review and reengineering of our canals and drainage systems.”

“This must be pursued hand-in-hand with a clear and crystal re-envisioning of our water management system. So, in effect, what we should immediately pursue is a holistic solution to what is certain to be a recurring problem. It must be a sincere collaboration between government and the citizenry,” Governor Ambode said.

While alluding to the fact that the incidence of flooding was not circumscribed to Nigeria or Third World countries as United Kingdom and even Japan recently witnessed heavily flooding, the Governor said no matter how well a society may be prepared, natural occurrences could not be totally ruled out, and such was why Lagos State and indeed the country fully subscribes to the tenets of Climate Change Solutions by the United Nations.

“While all the aforementioned examples enjoin us to put our experience and pains into perspective, they also impress on us as a State and a government that we must learn from all these examples in order to better prepare for the future.

“To that extent, we will reinvigorate our campaign against the dumping of refuse by citizens into canals. We will be stronger in enforcing our physical planning laws especially those building illegally on canals and blocking the free flow of water across the State,” Governor Ambode vowed.

Speaking on the new waste management strategy being adopted by the State Government encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), Governor Ambode said available statistics show that the State generate 13, 000 tonnes of waste per day which is the highest in the world, and that the new approach was aimed at revolutionizing waste management with particular emphasis on reusing waste for other critical purposes and growing the economy, as against the present practice of dumping.

Besides, the Governor said as government would be implementing new strategies to find a lasting solution to the problem of water shortages and flooding, it was also important for residents to play their part by bearing new attitudes towards civic obligations at all times, without which the efforts of government would be in futility.

But in all of these, the agency set up for which billions are paid to them to carry out emergency rescue activities – National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was virtually non-existent. NEMA played no major role to mitigate the Floods in Lagos and that of Suleja isn’t different as desperately distressed citizens were photographed climbing trees and rooftops to escape from the sweeping floods. Is NEMA overwhelmed or is it only meant for relief duties in the North East of Nigeria?

– Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head of Human rights writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


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