By SAM OTTI
People in other climes pray for rain to refresh their land. But for residents of Iyekantan Street, off old Ojo Road in Lagos State, rainfall brings showers of pain and sorrow. Located at the back of the royal palace of the Alamuwo of Kuje Amuwo Land, from where it leads to Alahu-Osumba (Monkey Village), residents sleep with their eyes open for fear of flood.
Their misery is compounded by the poor drainage system in the area, such that the rage of flood has saddled many families with irretrievable losses. Several landlords in the area have suddenly turned from riches to rags, as rampaging flood breaks into their homes and wreaks untold havoc on valuable property.
The Chairman, Iyekantan Landlords Association, Omike Herbert, told Daily Sun that many tenants have fled the area to escape the furious flood. According to him, each rainfall increases people’s agony, as they watch helplessly the destruction of their property. Several traders, he said, have been sacked from their shops, which had brought the business life of the community to an abrupt halt.
He said repeated appeals to the Chairman of Oriade Development Council for the construction of drainage and link roads have yielded no result. One of the letters dated April 6, 2010, reads: “It is important to mention here that the road will serve as a link to Alahu Osumba, Kirikiri Town and will equally be a useful diversion to ease the traffic hold-up at Maza-Maza and Mile 2 areas when improved.” Omike said residents had been financing the maintenance of the road but regretted that the flood has undermined their efforts.
According to him, aside covering the whole streets and forcing people to wade through dirty waters, families in the area live at the mercy of flood. Mothers and children, he said, suffer the most traumatic experience whenever it rained. “I wish some people would come and experience what we are experiencing here. If there is rain, people cannot do anything. To cook is a problem. The water will submerge both the kitchen and the bedroom. Children go hungry anytime it rains.
The Oba is aware of our suffering. He was the one that advised us to go to the local government. He is the one that encouraged us to sand-fill the road. It was through self help that we constructed the road that connects here to Monkey Village and Kirikiri area.” Other residents of the area attributed the severe flooding in the area to a fence constructed over a waterway.
One of the landlords in the area alleged that the fury of the flood in the area increased with the fencing of a landed property by a landlord, one Nnodim, popularly called Obasanjo. According to him, the blockage of the waterway had stolen peace in the area, plunging the entire residents into anguish. He said the blockage of the water channel left the flood no option than to sack people from their homes, including churches located in the area.
He claimed that the people in the area had not experienced such severity of flooding over the years, adding that development of property in the area by owners had opened a distressful chapter for the old residents. Hear him: “There was no flooding here in the past. Even when we experienced seven- day-rain, the flood would dry up within a short period.
The problem started when somebody blocked the waterway that links here with Alahu-Ozumba, claiming that he bought the land that has the waterway. Since then, we have been experiencing flooding, which takes up to two weeks or even three weeks to dry. There is no outlet for the water because its channel has been blocked.” He said the landlords and tenants complained to the council boss and he promised to look into the matter. “They awarded a contract, which was supervised by Chief Godfrey Okafor, for the construction of a drainage culvert but the project failed to yield the desired result.
The culvert was buried in flood when our reporter visited the scene. He lamented further saying: “We have lost a lot. When it rains, the people will not use the road again. Of course, worshippers would not find their way to the church because the whole place is flooded. Many people are hurriedly packing out of this area. We have lost so much to the incessant flooding of this area.
One of the landlords, Alhaji, has lost all the tenants in his house because of the sad experience of flooding. People do not sleep in their house whenever it rains. The threats of disease outbreak cannot be ignored in an environment where people wade through dirty water for weeks. You could imagine what school children living in this area experience on their way to school.” When our reporter visited Nnodim (Obasanjo), whom the residents accused of blocking the fence, he strongly denied the allegation. Aside from denying owning any property on Iyekatan Street, he told Daily Sun that the menace of flooding had been an age-long problem in the area because of the absence of proper drainage system.
He said those accusing him of building on a canal were wrong since the area had no such drainage system. Also speaking, the former chairman, Alahu-Osumba Estate Landlords Association, Chief Godfrey Okafor, said the association had in the past written a letter to the Lagos State Government and the Town Planning Authority to address the problem of flooding in the area.
To bring a permanent solution to their agony, Okafor said the landlords unanimously signed the letter authorising the agency to demolish any structure found on the proposed site for a drainage canal. Unfortunately, their urgent demand, which would have saved the community from the harrowing experience of flooding, was left on the waiting list.
“The flooding in the area is because the water has not been properly channeled to any outlet. There is no government presence in this area. When we construct our road here, erosion would wash it off because there is no proper drainage channel. The gutters are not standard,” he said. Okafor blamed those that built houses along waterways, saying: “Water must find its outlet.
Those that build houses along the water pathway should have themselves to blame. I have been there for more than 18 years and I can confidently tell you that flooding has been a common problem in the area. Anybody claiming otherwise is not saying the truth. There was a particular year I used an excavator to open up the access road.” Speaking on behalf of other aggrieved landlords, the President of Alahu-Osumba Landlords association, Chris Onyebueke, told Daily Sun that communal efforts to control flooding in the area had not been successful. “We have been here for over 20 years.
We have made several efforts to control flooding. When it rains, our children can’t go out. Women have to remain indoors. The flood rises above the waist. It is difficult to manage it. We have made several efforts to construct drainages but we have not been able to do enough to curtail the menace of flooding. We have constructed drainages, culverts but to no avail,” he said. According to him, attempts made by the Oriade Development Council to salvage the situation were abandoned midway.
Hear him: “We met the council officials but they said the project was beyond their financial strength because the road needed a canal and proper drainage system. The local government promised palliatives and issued us LPO of N2.7 million for the grading of the road. The council asked us to do up to 60 per cent of the road but they only gave us 30 per cent mobilisation fee, which after the deductions totaled N775, 560. We went ahead and borrowed money and we placed the base cost on the road for months.
They didn’t give us any other money again. We spent close to N1.7 million. We wrote letters demanding for the next 30 per cent payment as initially promised but they didn’t do anything since then.” Undeterred by the setback, Onyebueke said they took the fight to the Governor’s Office, adding that an official from the Ministry of Environment, Office of Drainage Services visited the area to assess the impact of flooding. Sadly, their expectation of an immediate solution to the problem was dashed again as nothing has been done since then. “Even when we wrote reminders, no response came. We are still suffering.
The member representing us at the State House of Assembly is not helping matters because he has been silent on this matter,” he said. On measures taken to prevent property owners from building on waterways, Onyebueke said it was not within the powers of the association to exercise such responsibility, as officials of the state and local government visit construction site at the commencement of any building.
He said the landlords also paid their land use rate to the government, which oversees the development of property in the state. “I do not have the master plan of Lagos State in the first instance. There is no existing canal here. When the officials came, they promised to construct a water canal to control the flood in this area. What we do is that we enforce the law restricting people from building on setbacks of public roads,” he said. The residents insist, however, that the issue at stake was not canal as Nnodim (Obasanjo) and Okafor claimed. They alleged that both men were in cahoots with each other, adding that their angst was the blocked waterways, which are verifiable.
They called on the government to come to their aid by visiting the site for on the spot assessment. The appalling silence of the government to the cries of Iyekatan landlords and over 250 landlords in Alahu-Osumba Estate will continue to heighten their fears at the slightest sign of rain. In this flood-ravaged community, only urgent intervention by the appropriate authorities will bring respite to the people’s suffering.