Flooding in Nigeria: How Lagos Govt’s Policies Expose Residents to Environmental Hazards

Flooding in Nigeria as a result of Government policies leads to massive destruction and exposes residents to environmental hazards.

The entrance of Tokunbo Street in the Agege area of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, smells of urine and fecal material. On the left axis of the street, there are plastic bottles flowing on dirty water. Behind the major signpost that showcases the name of the street are houses submerged by water. At the other end, there are shops and kiosks floating atop dirty waters, their owners watching helplessly from far away spots on the dilapidated section of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

It’s in the autumn of June and the rains have just begun to pour, with an attendant devastating effect of flooding. Many Lagosians, smarting from what has now become an annual ritual, have fled their homes in this part of the city. Others who had nowhere to go lived in fear and uncertainty. When this reporter arrived at Agege in the last week of June, residents spoke amid uncertainty and helplessness.

“We have accepted our fate,” began Lai Adejare, a 35-year-old roadside cobbler whose makeshift shop had been blown away by flood. “It is now an annual ritual; we witnessed the same thing in 2017, in 2018, last year (2019) and again, we have it this year.”

Mr Adejare explained that due to the high cost of housing in many parts of Nigeria’s commercial hub, it is near-difficult to relocate to better and safer places.

“We thank God that nobody was killed in the flood this week,” Mr Adejare said. “Government has abandoned us to our fate, largely.”

This reporter found out that unlike residents of Tokunbo Street, folks in other parts of the state were not so lucky.

flooding in nigeria

Flooding in Nigeria: Rains, Flood and Destruction

On June 18, 20 families were displaced at Orile-Agege area of the Lagos metropolis as a result of flooding.

Nosa Okunbor, the spokesperson of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), explained that a mother and her daughter residing in Papa Ashafa area were among those displaced.

“Many people were displaced beyond what the newspapers reported,” Chris Ambrose, a resident of the street, told this reporter during a visit a few days after the incident. “The destruction was grossly under-reported,” he added.

Residents said a fence fell on a bungalow boy’s quarters with six rooms located in the same compound with a 10-room bungalow that was submerged by water as result of flood at about 6 a.m. on Thursday 18th June, 2020. Many residents who craved anonymity confirmed that scores were injured in the incidents.

The devastating impact of flood isn’t peculiar to this part of Lagos. Many parts of the metropolis, including major highways in the state, are always flooded after every downpour.

In the recent flooding incident, the affected areas include Agege, Lekki, Ajah, Victoria-Island, Ifako, Oworo, Ogudu, Ayobo, Gbagada, Iyana-Ipaja, Ebutte-Metta, among others.

flooding in nigeria

Does Lagos Govt.’s Policies Aid Flooding?

For several years, experts have raised alarm on how the Lagos State Government’s policies on urban renewal, sea reclamation and dredging contribute to flooding in the city.

Lagos, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, is surrounded by waters. With a population estimated at about 24 million, the city is Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre. With increased attention on its growth potential, government often device means to meet infrastructural demands amid ballooning population.

In August 2017, the government announced that a part of the Lagoon would be transformed into a “transportation, tourism and entertainment hub.”

The entertainment and mega ferry terminal site was designed to be done through sea reclamation. The project would be in three phases, with the first phase being the reclamation of the 29.5 hectares of the project site, followed by provision of shoreline protection.

But experts expressed worry over this.

A former Surveyor-General of the Federation, Peter Nwilo, attributed the massive flooding of parts of Lagos to the construction and sand-filling works around the Lagoon and waterfronts in the state. To stop the incessant flooding, Mr Nwilo urged the government to stop sand filling works around Lagoon.

“I do not think the water level of the Lagoon has risen like this before in the state,” he said. “Look around you, Lagos Lagoon and all waterfronts in the state are being sand-filled for development of estates.

“This is being done without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on consequences of such development on the environment. The natural canal is being blocked all round the state and when this happens, the water stays with us and that is the flooding we are experiencing,’’ Mr Nwilo said.

Forlorn Hope; Uncertain Solutions

Amos Babatunde, a researcher on issues of climate and the environment at the Lagos State University, agreed with Mr Nwilo. He told this reporter that to address the issue of flooding, the government would need to fix drainages in the state and stop incessant dredging and sand filling around the Lagoon.

“The drainages in most streets are blocked or totally damaged,” he argued. “Government must fix them to stop flooding incidents.”

Efforts to reach Gboyega Akosile, Lagos Government’s spokesperson, on the immediate measures being put to address flooding in the state, were futile.

But for Kayode, who lives in Orile-Agege, residents have since lost hope in the capacity of government to address the concern.

“We have been experiencing these flooding incidents for decades, particularly during rainy seasons. We only hope that the government would intervene this time,” he said, his head slightly bent.

Oladeinde Olawoyin
Oladeinde is passionate about telling hidden stories of Climate, Environment and Development as they affect underprivileged people across Africa. First Class graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Lagos-based development-focused journalist open to collaborations that would impact humanity and make the world a better place to live.