By Eric Dumo
Owning a property in any of Lagos’s choice locations is no mean feat. It is always a venture ruled aside only for the fittest. Presently, a plot of land in any part of Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Ajah and the other posh neighbourhoods on Lagos Island goes for nothing less than N10 million. In some of these places the price could be as much as N200 million, depending on the size and exact location, though. Many averagely earning persons would think this is outrageous but not for those who have the cash.
For them, such areas apart from being cozy and serene, also fits their social status. It is a place good only for the high and mighty in the society. No doubt, over the last few years, even with the soaring prices of land and properties on this part of Lagos, more exquisite estates and residential quarters have sprang up with the number of influential faces also rising by the day. Shopping malls, hotels, eateries, beautiful structures, positioned strategically on neatly laid out streets and avenues have all come into the picture.
The axis has transited from just another part of Lagos to the perfect environment to be for the rich – the super rich. But this was until recently when residents in some of these places had not contend with nature’s fury. Changing climatic conditions have ensured that things are not all that rosy for many of those living in some of these highbrow parts of Lagos. Apart from coming under the threat of ocean surge in recent years, the destruction caused by heavy rainfall have equally ensured that people here, too, have a few other things to worry about.
From Ikoyi to Ajah, wherever you turn to, you are sure to be greeted by sights of rusting rooftops and peeling housecoats on most of the buildings. Some have been completely sacked from their homes as a result of this development, relocating to other less fancied areas where flooding is not a big issue. There has been more rains this year than has been in more than five years according to reports. This has ensured that many rivers across the country overflowed their banks and ravaged communities in the process.
Though, the situation is yet to get as bad as it is in other parts of the country, many residents of Lagos’s posh neighbourhood are already living in fear – fear of what the near future might bring in view of recent flood-related problems in several Nigerian communities. On a visit to Lekki Phase One during the past week, the reporter saw a number of streets, closes and crescents that still had water on their roads, more than five hours after the last rainfall. At Road 14 for example, one resident who simply mentioned her name as Tayo, told the reporter that whenever it rains heavily, the water flows into their compound. She said apart from their building, many other houses are affected, too.
“Look at the whole street (pointing to the road), everywhere is messed up. This is how this place looks like whenever it rains heavily. Even cars manage to pass through the road and this thing is now causing potholes on some portions. If you were here maybe a little earlier, you would have seen water inside our compound. That is how other houses you see here also suffer this problem. We just pray that the situation don’t get worse than this,” she said with a tinge of hope.
At Ikedo, another part of this expansive reserved community where the fear of floods is silently forcing more than a few property owners to weigh their options, most of the roads are already in bad shape while the paintings on most buildings are fast fading. Residents told the paper that the breeze from the lagoon nearby combined with the menace of heavy rains is doing their environment little good. “There is no time that rain falls that we don’t have problem in this part of the estate. All these bad portions you see on the road are caused by heavy rains.
The water would stay on the road for days before it dries up that is why you see all these problems here. I know up to ten people who have rented out their buildings and moved out of the estate because they are afraid that the place could be flooded soon. But we are still here and we believe that will not happen,” a domestic staff in one of the houses here explains to the reporter. Wole Olateju crescent and Tokunbo Omisore street are among places inside this part of Lekki that are also at high risk should an ocean surge occur.
They are among the closest places to the lagoon and have most of their buildings already affected by the waves. A property owner adjacent Jakande Housing Estate, Mayowa Obabulejo, wants relevant authorities to come to their aid fast enough and help them tackle the soil degradation presently faced in the area. He fears that things could get worse if delayed. “We are facing a huge challenge and this is very dangerous for those of us living along the coastlines. Government should please come to our rescue before we lose our lives and all that we have laboured for.” Desmond Majekodunmi, renowned environmental rights activist, says except urgent and far-reaching steps are taken to address the fundamental issues involved, most highbrow areas on the island might not exist in the near future.
“The Lagos coast is being seriously threatened by the erosion caused by man’s activity which started over 80 years ago with the construction of the Bar Beach and lighthouse beach groins by the British Colonial Government to protect the natural ports of Apapa and Marina. “Since then, it has been tales of woes for communities along our coast. They have not even helped matters with their incessant sand digging and removal of thousands of tons of protective seashells. Very soon Lekki and other coastal areas with all the monumental investments will be run over by water if urgent steps are not taken to save the shorelines,” he said. Philip Oguesi, founder of Community Agenda for Peace, a non-governmental organization, agrees with Majekodunmi that there is serious danger ahead for plush areas along the Lagos coastline like Lekki, Victoria Garden City, Oniru Housing Estate, Ikoyi and the rest if measure are not taken to protect their environment from flood. “I remember in the 70s, before you get to the shoreline, you would walk miles upon miles but sadly, that is not so today. It might get worse and unless a strategic and drastic action plan is formulated, these places might not be in existence in the near future.
“Our NGO is basically advocacy-inclined especially in peace building. So we volunteered to use this platform to advocate and appeal to the government to heed to the cry of those living in the coastlines,” he said. Although climate change has been a major reason for the surge according to the experts, human activities also account for some of the problems. Abandoned shipwrecks along the Lagos coastline obstructing the free flow of water, is only one in a long list. Larry Awosika, a professor and director of the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, Victoria Island, thinks, “Lagos and Lekki barrier Lagoon systems habouring large real estate could lose about well over 584 and 602 square kilometres of land from erosion and inundation” and that “such adverse impact will affect the residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lagos Islands valued at well over $12 billion.”
This is not the type of news property owners in this part of the city would love to hear but it is a reality they must painfully accept. In 2011, the Lagos State government started moves to reclaim part of the Atlantic Ocean and build a city there. It plans to win back some nine million square metres of land 2.4 kilometres into the ocean south of Ahmadu Bello Way.
The proposed city – Eko Atlantic City – would be one and a half times the size of current Victoria Island and would have the strength to house more than 300, 000 persons. Even though corporate entities and rich individuals are already paying for plots of land in the ‘new’ city expected to fully emerge four years from now, not many believe in the project owing to the ruthless rage of the waters in this axis lately especially with the washing away of the Kuramo beach only a few weeks ago.
Apart from Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, other places like Apapa where the combined threat of ocean surge and heavy rains is threatening to wreck havoc, could be in for some serious scrutiny as well. Experts say if government fails to act, the entire area together with their eye-catching treasures could be swallowed up the next time nature completely unleashes its fury on the city.