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500 lives lost in 10 communities: The tragic tale of abandoned N2.7bn canal project

*Residents seek Ambode, Speaker’s intervention

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

RESIDENTS of Abule Oki and nine other adjoining communities in Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, in old Alimosho LGA, Thursday, staged a peaceful protest to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s office and the state House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja, over an alleged abandoned Aboru, lower Akinola canal/Arigbanla-Abattoir channel dredging and concrete lining project.

Claiming that the abandoned project had claimed the lives of  about 500 community members, the worried residents appealed for urgent state government intervention. According to them, the non-completion of the concrete lining of the Arigbanla canal has exposed them to danger, leaving them at the mercy of a deluge of flood which at its peak often rises up to nine feet, submerging and destroying lives and property.

The residents first raised alarm over the dangerous development by dispatching several petitions to the erstwhile state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, urging him to “Save us and our property from the confluence of fury of the flood in our neighbourhood.” They argued that they had continued to suffer environmental degradation as a result of government’s effort to deflood some parts of the state.

According to a resident in the community: “Many more canals have been channeled into the area, leaving Abule Oki, Akinola, Raji Rasaki and adjoining communities more devastated by the flood abatement activities of the government”.

Flood abatement activities

The Chairman of the Committee on Canal Dredging of the communities, Alhaji Kamarudeen Bamidele, said Abule Oki which is the confluence point for all the flood water channeled to the area became worst hit after the contractor, Messrs Dully Dredging and Construction Company, abandoned the work even after collecting N1.9 billion of the N2.7 billion earmarked for the project.

The chairman said residents were not happy that the 12 months tenure project, which was awarded in February 2012 and ought to have been completed since January 2013, had been abandoned with dire consequences for the people.

*Protesting members of Abule Oki and other affected communities
*Protesting members of Abule Oki and other affected communities

Bamidele, a Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, retiree, said several lives had been lost, while others lost their means of livelihood due to the perennial flooding as a result of the neglect of the canal dredging. According to him: “Personally, I lost over N14 million in a fish pond investment in 2011 when we experienced the worst devastating flood that necessitated this canal dredging. Several landlords lost their homes to the flood and many tenants relocated because the entire area became submerged. So many houses were submerged, several abandoned and were overgrown with weeds as if they were virgin lands.”

According to Superior Evangelist Stephen Oduntan of the Celestial Church of Christ who is also the Vice Chairman of the Canal Dredging Committee: “This area was never prone to flooding when I moved in in the 70s.”

He added: “We were never troubled by flood. In fact, this canal  that is now heavily polluted was where we baptized new converts. Everything changed a little over a decade ago and since then things have never been the same again.

“Sequel to the flood disaster of 2011, government decided to dredge all canals around the state and Arigbanla was dredged and the concrete lining was done; since then they never experienced flooding in those areas again.

“When they met with us, we were assured that our canal would be dredged and a concrete lining carried out at three different locations. We were told a gang would work from Ahmaddiya Area at Oke-Odo down to Agbelekale, while the second gang would work from Pleasure Bus-stop along Abeokuta Expressway to link up with Arigbanla, from where waste water from Abattoir and other canals have been channeled into Abule Oki; the third gang was to work from Akinola Area towards Command.

“While work started at a slow pace at the Ahmaddiya/Agbelekale axis, nothing was done at the Abule Oki/Akinola end, and this axis, especially Abule Oki, is where you have this heavy flood confluence.

“One of the assurances we were given then was that a concrete median lining would be constructed along this confluence to channel the flood water; but nothing of such has been done.”

The chairman wondered why the contractor would fail to address the dredging and concrete lining of the Aboru canal from Abeokuta Expressway (Arigbanla end). “We do not know our fate anymore; we have lived with this neglect for over two years now, and that is why we are appealing to the government to come to our aid before the next rainy season,” he said.

Another community leader, Mr. Solomon Agboghoroma who has been living in Abule Oki since 1979, said flooding was alien to the community until the last decade when government’s activities became more pronounced.

“Now, I spend between N300,000 and N400,000 yearly to reinforce my fence and protect my house from flood; yet my house got submerged every time it rained heavily in the area. I no longer have tenants because the entire ground floor has been taken over by flood,” he told VM.

He said government should come to the aid of the residents to prevent further loss of lives and property.

All attempts to get the reaction of the supervising engineer, Mr. Ajadi, proved abortive as he neither picked his calls nor responded to the text messages sent to his mobile telephone device.

Speaker of the Lagos State House Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, while responding to the protesters through Lanre Ogunyemi, assured that the matter was already before the house and receiving prompt attention.

Ogunyemi commended them for the peaceful conduct of the protest saying, the investigating committee set up to   look into the matter would soon submit it report for further and appropriate action..


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