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Heavy Rains: Exposing The Rot Beneath Our Cities




Lukmon Akintola


Surulere, Lagos State
Proper drainage system is an integral part of every aspiring metropolitan city.

However, it is something that is lacking in most cities in Nigeria. Giving our large population, it is a big worry. Very few cities in Nigeria can boast of good drainage system. Existing drainages are either inadequate or blocked by refuse; hence it is a common sight to randomly see gutters and canals overflowing into roads.

A visit to largely populated areas of Lagos State will reveal that many streets have refuse dumped on the side of the road. Sadly most of these refuse end up in drainages on it’s own has ricocheting effects on the health and well-being of the people living in these areas.

Only recently, Gbajumo, Karonwi, Adisa Bashiua and Akobi Streets all in Surulere, Lagos State were taken over by refuse emerging from canals and gutters after days of rainfall. Akobi Crescent also in Surulere, Lagos State was also not left out. The situation was such that the streets were blocked with refuse, and those living there had to slide between wastes of all sorts to get to major roads. Car owners were got the worst of it as most of the cars in the neighbourhoods were covered in murky water.

The same thing happened in almost every part of Ogun State including Lafenwa, Aiyetoro, Itele and Aparadija area of Otta, Ogun State, which was also overtaken by refuse on Saturday, July 22, following a heavy downpour.

Also affected is Akilo Road in Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos as drivers had to drive their vehicles at a snail pace to get to their destination.

Abuja is not left out, as lack of thorough fare for the flood in Suleja has been attributed to the blockage of drainages by accumulated garbage.

Confirming this is the minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu. He explains that due to constant use of drainages as dumping grounds, it is impossible for water to flow smoothly.

“Flash floods in the urban cities or semi-urban areas can be reduced with effective and adequate drainage systems. People must not use these facilities as their refuse bins which will block and render them useless, with the probability of flooding heightening whenever it rains.”

Undisputably, the major culprit for these are people who throw garbage in these drainages. However, some believe it has more to do with the government.

In Lagos for instance, man believes the flooding of various areas only exposed the inefficiency of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA)’s partnership with operators of Private Sector Participation (PSP), which had been saddled with collecting waste in Lagos State. It also raised questions about the ability of the newly launched Clean Lagos Initiative (CLI) and Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps, (LAGESC), created to handle environmental nuisance. However, the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare blamed it on the high tide of the lagoon which slowed down the flow of rainfall water from drainage channels.

Many can still recall the ‘good old days’ when streets of major cities were clean, roads were neat and flowers planted to beautify the environment never grew out of proportion. They were always trimmed into shape. Road managers woke up early to ensure that the streets were clean and saboteurs who deliberately or ignorantly sabotaged their efforts were dealt with by environmental law enforcement agents.

However, those days are far gone. Today, refuse have taken over most nook and cranny of the country, and even posh communities are not free from this carnage.

The end consequence can be damning, as witnessed recently when upscale parts of Lagos such as Lekki, Ikoyi, Ajah and even the mainland got flooded.

Others parts of the country including Niger State, Delta State and Port Harcourt were also affected by the flood which Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), attributes to unfavorable monsoon. The situation did not only displaced people, but also saw properties worth millions of Naira destroyed.

While a lot of explanations have been proffered regarding what could have led to the absurd flooding witnessed all over the country, NiMet, have advised residents to avoid blockage of water ways and flood plains and ensure clearance of drainage in their environment to reduce the effects of such floods, as other states get ready for a similar experience.

How did we get here one is forced to wonder, knowing there was once a clean country. Desmond Majekodunmi, an environmentalist and a director at the Nigerian Foundation Conservation, (NCF), an NGO which focuses on environment blames it all on blocking of drainage channels and irresponsible behavior of sand excavators in coastal states.

On his part, Akin Osilaja, explains it as thus “The flooding which we have witnessed recently is majorly our fault. People hardly listen when you tell them the implications of their actions. When you litter, the waste finds a place to stay and when there is heavy rain everything is pushed out. When the waste can’t be contained by the gutter it leads to flooding, hence what happened recently. It is logical, if the canals and water ways are blocked, the waste water will not flow, it will find a way out and that is what you have been witnessing in Lagos and other states,” Osilaja said.

“I don’t want to speak generally. I want to use my area as an example. The gutter that leads into where I live in a place call Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Road Bogije, Ibeju Lekki Lagos is a major problem for those of us living there. It is common to find people packing the gutter, but the problem is that having packed the junks out they abandon them by the roadside. What they don’t put into consideration is the fact that packing your gutter without carting away the waste is foolish. The waste will be washed back into the gutter when it rains and your efforts would have been in futility.

“Asides this, the gutter I am talking about doesn’t lead to any canal. So, when it rains, the road is automatically flooded when the gutter gets full. We have called the attention of our representative in the Lagos House of Assembly Hon. Fatai Adebola Mojeed and his House of Representatives counterpart Hon. Ayeola Abayomi to this fact severally, but they don’t seem to care,” Sola Olowookere said.

In Lagos, it is not an unusual sight to find shop owners dumping waste in gutters. Several of such gutters have been blocked by sands and often times those who seek to enlighten traders about the wrong that they are doing end up insulted.

Amazing is the sight of over flowing refuse dump with nobody to clean them. The implication is that pieces of papers and other waste which overflow from these bins are scattered in different directions and eventually find their way to gutters and canals. Our correspondent visited selected areas in Lagos State and was amazed by the amount of unkempt refuse dumps.

From Ikorodu to Jakande, Lekki, Lagos State, it is not unusual to find overflowing refuse dumps. One which has become an eyesore is that of a community identified as Gbara, in Jakande bus stop, Lekki, Lagos State.

The situation in this area is indeed pathetic, as the likelihood of an epidemic breaking out is inevitable. The Olusosun waste site which is the major dump for refuse generated in Lagos State appears to be full and over flowing too. Presently, the question begging for an answer is how healthy is it to pass through that route knowing that it is either oozing of unpleasant smells or Carbon dioxide.

The overflowing refuse bins which have become a common sight in some areas of Lagos State in recent times appear to be due to a cold war between the Lagos State Government and PSP operator who worked in partnership with Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).

In February, a new waste disposal policy CLI was introduced. At an event, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was quoted saying that the state’s new waste disposal policy would be befitting of a mega city and ensure the state remains clean and safe for healthy living.

The governor also said the government was embarking on massive reform in a waste management system, expressing optimism that the plan would be fully actualised by July.

Interestingly, not much has changed since Governor Ambode’s statement in February, as the situation appears to have even worsened, something blamed on the misunderstanding between operators of PSP and the government.

PSP operators have described CLI, a policy which will eventually take their jobs in the state.

Michael Olamilekan, a PSP operator condemns the introduction of CLI. According to him, the introduction of the policy by the government confirms that they are ungrateful. He wondered why the project was initiated without proper consultation despite the past sacrifices they had done to ensure the government’s keep Lagos clean policy was achieved.

Despite Olamilekan’s complaints, the government seems to be definite in its plan to see to the success of its new waste disposal policy. It received commendation for its cleaning initiative recently, having swiftly cleared streets where waste had taken over in Surulere, Lagos. In partnership with Visionscape, a globally acclaimed environmental utility group, the streets were said to have been evacuated hours after pictures of what had become of Surulere surfaced on social media.

Presently, advocacy for a better method of waste disposal, rebuilding depleted Ozone layer have been identified as a major solution to avoiding future flooding, even as the government is urged to be more proactive.

“As long as we keep having heavy rains, we will keep having these floods. It is until we change our ways before anything can change. We need to train children from an early age to learn to dispose of garbage properly. Yes, the government has its own blames. Probably if there are street bins, people could be encouraged to use them. Also, many people are poor. Throwing garbage away costs money, but throwing them in the gutter is free. guess what a poor man will do? So you see, the problem is deep and multi-layered,” says Alhaji Bankole Yusuf, a community leader in Ikorodu, Lagos.

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