When the heavens opened up last Sunday, sending floods all over the Lagos metropolis and beyond, no government presence came to the succour of the victims except some muted press statement from Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government. It is doubtful if they even knew that in such cases, the various governments and institutions come to the aid of the victims. It rained for 17 hours.
The Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research said the 264-millimetre rainfall recorded in Lagos is the volume expected for one full month. Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) earlier in the year predicted that rainfall this year would be more in the South, putting the volume at between 1200 and 2700mm as against 300 and 1100mm in the north. An Assistant Director in the institute, Dr. Regina Folorunsho, disclosed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
“The exact amount of the rain that fell on Sunday was meant for a whole month, but we had it in just one day. “There was no way anyone could have prepared for such amount of rainfall,” she said.
But many Nigerians are saying that in such cases, the institutions and government charged with such responsibilities virtually abandoned their duty posts.
For example, as rains terrorised Lagos, the internet was abuzz with stories and pictures about it. That the story was all over the world prompted Mr. Kayode Ogunmola in London to ask his friends what the state was doing to save them from the disasters.
He asked if the ubiquitous LASTMA was clearing the streets after the flood? The answer was no. “Did the federal government send the National Guard in a canoe saving lives in Lagos? No! Did you see the National Emergency Agency flying helicopters to check on you? No! Did you get a bloody text and Black Berry message from the government telling you everything is under control and a declaration of a holiday to go with it? Make your government accountable. Think!”
The government did not even come to the aid of the high brow Victoria Island and Lekki, described by CNN as the most expensive slum in the world, which was also flooded that Sunday.
A victim of the floods in Alagbado area of Lagos said, “One can only trust that the government has trusted structure in place to respond to this distress call,” he said. It was not to be.
By the time the floods subsided, unaccountable lives had been lost, including properties worth billions of naira.
Perhaps, it was because of such comments that the senate President last Thursday said the Federal Government’s response to natural disasters, especially flooding, was too slow. He asked the government to expedite action in addressing the problem.
Mark, who spoke when the motion on flood disaster in Lagos was presented before the Senate, stressed that it had become imperative for the Federal Government to double its action in nipping such disasters in the bud as they were far beyond the capacity of state governments to tackle.
He also called on the Federal Government to make itself available to affected states when the need arose by assisting them, adding that the two tiers of government must also be proactive, if they must meet with the challenges of natural disasters in the country.
The Senate President who noted that problems associated with disasters in the country had become very worrisome, however, canvassed a state of emergency to enable the Federal Government address the situation. The Senate urged NIMASA to remove all wrecked ships from Nigeria’s Inland water ways, even as it also observed a minute silence for those who lost their lives to flood.
It called on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, to, as a matter of urgency, carry out repairs of affected roads across the country.
By Monday, Lagos counted over 10 dead residents, businesses, and the government is still counting losses, as flood water rendered thousands homeless, cars damaged, and shops and roads filled with silt, in what the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) described as the most devastating flood in the centre of excellence. All public schools and several private ones were closed on Monday, on the orders of Governor Babatunde Fashola, to facilitate the assessment of the damage.
Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) Vice Chairman, Austin Arogun, said at least 10 persons drowned in a canal because they could not distinguish between the roads and the drainage channels covered by flood. Those who drowned included a woman and her baby aged a few months.
Thousands of others were sacked from their homes by the overflow of water in Agege, Agbado, Ijaiye, Aboru, Ojota, Ketu, and Apapa. Some are temporarily sheltered in churches and mosques.
A building on Utility Street in Ifako Ijaiye Council collapsed and buried a teenager in the rubble.
In Akera, Alagbado, a man died instantly when a fence fell on him.
The corpse of a 22-year-old boy, Muri Olanrewaju, was retrieved on Monday morning from a sewage cistern at 16, Adesokan Street, Dopemu. Five girls, one of them a three-month-old baby, were found dead in a restaurant on Allen Avenue, Ikeja after the rain forced them to pass the night in a poorly ventilated room, where they inhaled fumes from a power generator.
Ajao Badmus, a resident of 10, Odejobi Street in Iju, said: “We did not sleep in our house yesterday (Sunday) night. The rooms were taken over by flood; we were scared because the rain did not stop until about 11 p.m.
“We had no choice than to run to our church at Cement Bus stop area, where we passed the night.”
Another resident, who gave her name as Chichi, narrated how she came back from church service at about 7 p.m. to meet her one-room apartment in Alapere, Ketu overtaken by flood.
“I don’t know where to go from here, I have lost almost everything I have. I could only retrieve the clothes I hung before I left for church. If I had known that rain would fall the whole day, I wouldn’t have gone out.”
Kehinde Bashir, a businessman, rued stepping out of his home on Sunday.
He recounted: “I drove from my house on Jakande Estate, Isolo to Mile 12 around 3 p.m. to drop my friend and his wife who came to see me. Coming back through Ojota, I wanted to go through Oworonshoki, but just decided to pass through Ojota.
“It was one experience I regretted. I spent six hours from Ojota to Anthony and did not get home until 11:45 p.m. My friend kept calling and wondered what the problem was.
“It was like the end of the world. The flood at Ketu was scary.”
Another resident narrated: “I trekked from Cele Express to Ikotun; I wouldn’t have done that for a million Naira on a good day, but yesterday (Sunday), I had no choice.
“I had waited for over two hours for a bus, but it didn’t come. When I saw people trekking – women, men, boys and girls – I decided to join hoping I would get a bus along the way. But I ended up trekking for another two hours until I got home around 12:30 a.m. on Monday morning.”
The Lagos floods is coming just a month after meteorologists warned that there would be heavy rain in Lagos. The the state government had warned residents of flood-prone areas to relocate to avoid being swept away. It blamed the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos Lagoon in the aftermath of the heavy downpour, advising residents to keep within the confines of their homes that Sunday. This, the government said, would avoid congestion on the roads and highways.
In Surulere, streets such as Ajao, Randle and Ojuelegba were flooded with vehicular movements obstructed. In Akinola and Alabede under the Agbado-Oke Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), residents had to battle with the surging flood as many of them whose house were situated along the canal used buckets and other materials to evacuate flood water from their houses.
Other affected areas include Awolowo Way in Ikeja, some parts of Oshodi, Ejigbo, Owode Onirin and Ajegunle in Ikorodu.
A resident living in Casso area of Alagbado, said that the water level on his street as in the evening was above kneel cap level. He expressed fear that if the rain continued overnight, there would be problems for the residents.
While the downpour continued last night, Bello appealed to residents to remain calm as the water would soon go away. He said the downpour had been heavier than normal as the state government had earlier warned.
“The water level has risen incredibly so that the channels that are meant to discharge water from the roads and drainages are completely locked because of the high tide and because both the Atlantic Ocean and Lagoon that receive water from the channels have risen more than usual.
“Please, be calm and do not panic. Once the rains subside, the water on the roads would gradually disappear. Our men are on the field working to manage the situation,” he assured.