Lekki Floods: When The Rich Also Crie

Following the recent flooding that wrecked many parts of Lekki, Wale Sokunbi, has explained why the canals must be cleared immediately. 
File photo: A flooded Lekki area
The incessant raining in Lagos throughout last week exposed the underbelly of the city’s flood water management system as Lekki, the playground of the city’s rich and powerful, was almost submerged on Saturday. It was a day the rich also cried. Images of a young man swimming freely along the flooded Lekki Expressway; those of two men, one of them a white man, leisurely sailing their boats along the flooded expressway, and yet another of a baby crocodile caught in the flood water on the road, literally burst the internet. The pictures will, for long, remain iconic of the unprecedented flooding of the Lekki/Victoria Garden axis, and the need for the Lagos authorities to urgently address the problem to avert a recurrence.
Lekki was not, however, the only theatre of the weekend flooding. In Suleja, near Abuja, about 20 people were reported to have died in heavy floods. A woman and her two children had also reportedly earlier died in another part of the country when a building undergoing reconstruction near her house collapsed on her own house during a heavy rainfall and crushed them dead. In Suleja, a picture of a crowd surrounding a tree as efforts were ongoing to rescue flood victims who took refuge on it, will also for long underscore the danger of poor flood management in the country. Also, similar heavy flooding was recorded in parts of Awka Etiti, in Anambra State.
What these ugly developments portend is that all levels of government in the country and even the ordinary citizens must begin to take the problem of flooding more seriously to avert disaster and avoidable loss of lives.
The problem of flooding requires all the more attention in Lagos where the state government has, over the years been reclaiming a lot of land from the ocean. This incessant sand-filling of the ocean to create choice land for the city’s rich and influential citizens needs to done with some caution, if the state is to avoid the disaster of the ocean, one day, totally swallowing up the reclaimed areas.  This would appear to be inevitable, since the water thus pushed back to create land, will likely come back one day to find its level.
Flooding is mostly unavoidable in coastal areas and responsible governments make concerted efforts to deploy the best flood management measures to combat it. Since the weekend flooding, many Lagosians and environmental rights bodies such as Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) have blamed the state for its “environmentally unfriendly” projects such as the Eko Atlantic City and indiscriminate sand dredging. But the state government insists that the flooding was caused by indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the drainage channels.
So, what exactly is responsible for these floods? There is no doubt that indiscriminate dumping of refuse in flood channels can lead to flooding as flood water will be displaced. This phenomenon has been occurring in many parts of Lagos over the years and it has become necessary for Lagosians to begin to properly dispose of their waste. But then, can dumping of refuse in gutters and canals cause the unprecedented level of flooding that was witnessed in Lekki, Ajah and their environments at the weekend? That is doubtful. That is why many Lagosians are more inclined to believe that the floods are a direct consequence of the massive displacement of the lagoon and ocean waters to create new estates for the rich.
Instead of the Lagos State Government hiding its head in the sand with its talk of the dumping of refuse in the flood channels, as if the Lekki/Ajah axis is the only area in Lagos where such dumping is taking place, it should consider conducting another environmental impact assessment to ensure that its reclamation projects, including the very ambitious Eko Atlantic City, do not end up being the undoing of Lagos. 
It is not enough for the government to just dismiss this angle as borne out of idle tattling by its lazy detractors. It must conduct its investigation to reconfirm that the reclamation projects and dredging are not placing Lagosians in that part of the state at risk of flooding.
Even if the Lekki floods were caused by the filling of the flood channels with silt, the state government has a responsibility to de-silt the canals. Clearing the canals and other water drainages have been a regular activity of past Lagos State governments at the outset of each raining season. But, for reasons that are not clear to the people, the current administration in the state has not done this. Many of the canals, gutters and other flood channels in different parts of the state are yet to be cleared and they are now posing grave danger to the city dwellers.
Going forward, these canals should be cleared immediately. It is nothing but the mercies of God that the incessant raining last week which only ended on Monday did not lead to flood disasters in many other parts of the state.
The government should not wait until tragedy happens. Let the canals be cleared immediately. 
By Wale Sokunbi/The Sun News

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