Published On: Mon, Jul 31st, 2017

The flood Next Time…

Recent flooding across five states in the country leaving in its wake tales of destruction and loss of lives has again brought to the fore issues of planning and national response to emergencies and natural disasters. The floods followed days of torrential rains which forced the rise in sea levels and tidal waves bringing them to the shore and making impossible flow of water from the land to the sea.
Nigeria has become a perennial victim of flooding and this should be a source of concern to both government and the people. In the recent past, every year has brought the angry sea goddess to torment inhabitants of the land and make nonsense all the ingenuity put into development planning exposing our collective incompetence and unpreparedness to disasters.
Lagos as a coastal area has become most vulnerable to this annual visitation from the sea. Every year during such periods, government officials shed crocodile tears promising prompt action to solve the problem and threatening fire and brimstone against perpetrators of actions that exacerbate its damage. Sadly after the water recedes to make way for normal life again, it becomes business as usual awaiting another visit next year.
Such has been the hypocrisy of our fate in the state regarding the problem that people are genuinely and sincerely worried about government capacity to address this matter in an effective and sustainable manner. The truth of the matter is that government, which often blames the bad behaviours of people for the problem is also complicit and indeed directly responsible for the yearly anguish and suffering visited on the people.
Ironically the worst hit areas are the so-called affluent havens of millionaires and billionaires, and the middle or upper middle class people such as Ikoyi, Lekki to Victoria Garden City, Badore and Ajah to Banana Island – the whole Island was under lockdown.
“We have witnessed our most prime estates flooded with water; we have seen our roads taken over by floods, and we have painfully watched how many homesteads have literally become pools. These indeed are trying times for any government, especially our own administration, which has determinedly pursued massive infrastructural development, to improve standards of living of our citizenry,” Gov. Akinwumi Ambode said, after assessing the damage.
“Our intention is to explore a wide array of technological advancements and possibilities, to ensure that we obtain the best solution to a rather nagging problem. No matter how well a society may be prepared, we can never rule out the element of the natural or if you like, the supernatural”.
First, flooding don’t just happen; there is usually sufficient and advance warning of what is coming by the NMET, the weather and metrological agency that oversees such matters. Their views are based on scientific and satellite data of natural changes as a result of global warming and consequent. Characteristically, these warnings are often ignored by the government until disaster hits as it usually did and suddenly government wakes from self induced slumber and begins fire brigade response.
Government would blame the people for building on water ways and channels and for throwing refuse on drainage system and blocking. After all the hue and cries, and officials wading through the waters on roads and houses it is forgotten and nothing is done. Indeed, the people take part of the blame. We have proved consistently and habitually that our actions do not attract consequences. It is irresponsible that reasonable adults do things without any consideration of the immediate and long term implications.
It is bewildering that to see the way and how people build houses in-discriminatorily in unauthorized areas without official reprimand and retribution. There is no building in the state without an official permit or town planning approval. So the question is who approved those buildings and why government does nothing about it? Why won’t government remove such structures as illegal and punish those responsible for them?
The truth is that bad behavior pays in the country as long as the culprits can afford to compromise those in power. When a similar situation arose in Abuja during the Obasanjo regime, then Minister of the FCT, and governor of Kaduna State, Mallam El Rufai, took the bull by the horn by embarking on a comprehensive demolition exercise to restore the city’s master plan and save it from becoming another mega city slum like Lagos, people cried blue murder; but today the city is better for it.
Lagos should do likewise. Illegality should not be justified or condoned in anyway and those involved in such practice should be made to face the consequence. When criminal behaviours are not punished the hand of men are strengthened to persist.
And what we are suffering in the instance is the prevailing of illegality in our individual and public life. The question is why does government find it easy and convenient to descend on the poor and demolish their dwellings for whatever reason and purpose while at the same time turning blind eyes to abuses by the rich which causes collective destruction?
Also parts of Lagos, such as Victoria Island, is a table and plain land below sea level, which demands not only special environment attention but also development plan. It shows lack of vision for the leadership to be concerned only with the present in its policies and plan for the city, because every present action has direct or indirect future consequences. What the state is suffering today are repercussions of past actions by both government and individuals.
It is good and great to plan for the future but what are the expected trade-offs and have we taken environment due diligence of such? For instance, the Eko Atlantic city and all the reclamations going on to turn the city into Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai put together may be visionary but has enough environmental impact assessment (EIA) been done and what will be their effect in future? Of course, we cannot predict the future but present facts can give us sufficient insight and understanding of what future to expect based on present actions.
This perennial visit of agony should be addressed concertedly but this may not happen unless government rises up to the challenge to deal with the menace. It is not enough to only collect money from residents and doing nothing about their plight. Huge investments have gone into developing those areas which are the choicest parts of the state and unless something is done to reverse this ugly trend, such investments may come to waste and the state will be the worse for it.

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