By Ishola Balogun
Though their houses may have been submerged by water, their businesses paralysed and other belongings, acquired over the years with sweat gone, some victims of the flooding at Ajegunle-Ikorodu, Ikosi and Isheri areas of Lagos are determined not to move anywhere under a rehabilitation programme drawn up by the state governor, Babatunde Fashola. Only a few have agreed to relocate to the Agbowa Relief Camp.
At the Ajegunle, Agilinti, Idera Orile, Idera Titun, Kio_Kio Ajegunle where the floods have caused untold havoc, residents and their leaders told Saturday Vanguard that the flooding is the least of their worries.
Madam Ijaere Esther, an Ijaw woman and property owner in Itowolo, Ajegunle area who says she is used to the annual flooding said, “I was born at Itowolo and my grandparents stayed for over 50 years here. Since I have been living here, the flood has not come as heavy as this.
I believe it was meant to punish us, to drive us away from here, but we aren’t going anywhere. We are used to the flood. Although, this year’s flood is huge but we are not new to it. This is where we make our daily bread. How do you want us to live in another place where we are not used to?”
Edwin Bourdillion, whose six room- apartment was submerged said he still sleeps well and carries on with life. When the reporter asked how does it, he explained that they make wooden embankments atop the water where the lay their heads on with their belongings properly secured.
On those that opted to go to the Agbowa Relief Camp, he said, “those who go there are under captivity. They will give them their daily meal and decide their destiny for them. I can’t subject myself to that situation.”
Bourdillion’s sentiments were shared by Mr. Warelade Sampson, Vice Chairman of the Kio_kio Ijaw Community, who said those who were evacuated are tenants in the area and not property owners. “For us, we were born here and our grandparents had no other place than here.
Demolition as being proposed by the government is not the solution but channelization of the water and raising the roads above water level so that when they open the dam, the road will not be affected. And as for us, we can’t live elsewhere except near the water. We are okay with lives on the water.”
The Baales were unanimous in their resolve to resist attempts by government to relocate them to another place. These are Baale Sulaiman Balogun, (leader of Oruba Akintan, Kio_kio Ajegunle), Baale Abraham Kolawole Ogundipe, (leader of Idera Orile) Community, Baale Obingbnen Lokor, (leader of the Ijaw Community), Chief Moyosola Oladunjoye, Baale of Ajegunle community, and Chief Gideon Oni Ogundipe, Baale of Idera Tutun.
Baale Balogun said this year’s flooding is close to that of 1963 which, according to him, rendered the whole area impassable. “You see, it is not new and we are not new to the situation. In fact, if it does not come, we become uncomfortable. We know the history of this place.
The government which is proposing relocation came and met us here. We were born here.
My grandparents were born here, even my father who lived for 100 years was born here, and I am over 60 years of age. How can government say they want to relocate us?
No way, we are not going anywhere. The government should focus on the road.
Demolition will not stop the flood. They can build bridges or make embankments. As for us, we are used to the water. In fact, if it does not happen we will make sacrifice to bring it, because the fishermen and hunters amongst us will have good business.”
Asked what sort of sacrifice they perform to make the river overflow its banks, he said they simply invoke Oluweri_Iyemoja (water goddess) and she will oblige them. We do it every time, we cannot relocate.
It is a taboo.” He also said that those who were at the relief camp waiting to be relocated went there because of the promise of relief fund that they may get and may not have any historical descent in the area.
However, the evacuated victims at the Agbowa Relief Camp see it as a disaster and are ready to forget about the area. For them, their stay in the camp was a big relief coming at the auspicious time. Some who narrated their ordeal to Saturday Vanguard stated that sleeping in flooded rooms was enough agony.
Elizabeth Ajayi, 28, who stayed in a rented one room_apartment and nurses a six month- old baby, showed this reporter her wrinkled legs which she said was as a result of staying in water for long period of time.
“I had to stay longer hours standing at nights so that my baby could sleep on my back. I don’t have any other place to go to.” She vowed never to go back there again while also imploring government to relocate them quickly so that they can start a new life again.
The 5000 capacity relief camp located at the Agbowa new estate site is built on a large expanse of land, equipped with necessary facilities as a temporary measure in the rescue of flood victims.
The Camp Manager, Mr Wewe A, who was trained by an Israeli company on rescue management, said about 1000 victims have so far been registered.