You can’t miss the community along Ikorodu Road. But the people of Ajegunle have for 12 years missed what it feels like to live a comfortable and happy life due to flooding caused by an abandoned canal. Efosa Taiwo writes.
He was seated in front of the shop, which he operates with his wife, who is seen lying on a bench inside the shop. It is a small canteen, and the man’s countenance is reminiscent of worry and forlorn.
“It is affecting us badly. When the rain comes, nobody will be able to pass through here again. All the roads will be blocked. And everybody will suffer for it.
“There was a time when Ambode came to rake down the canal. But he didn’t go for the second term, and everything now became worse. If the man was still there, I know it would have been better. But since Sanwo-Olu’s administration, the canal has just been abandoned and we have been forgotten, “Kingsley Okike, who has been living in the community for 32 years, said.
When I arrived in the slum community and took a walk around it, I was met with the deplorable state of houses that had been filled with filthy water that had turned grey beneath them, with tyres strategically placed in front of some houses to serve as footholds to prevent people from dipping their legs into the water before entering their houses.
A woman with her three sons in her shop, distracted by her frying of puff-puff in the verandah of her shop, complained bitterly about the situation.
She said, “For three months, me and my children don’t get to eat. Three months whenever the rainy season comes. My children and I will be inside the flood. And as you can see, the rain has started coming. Before July, everywhere will be filled with water.
Asked how they feed during those months, she said it is a terrible situation as nobody will be willing to walk on water to come and buy anything.
“It is a very terrible situation. Nobody will enter the water to come and buy something. For those three months, we did nothing. We just stayed in. Feeding is very hard, and we will still pay for the shop,” she said.
When told that everyone stays indoors for three months, this reporter was curious to find out about the schoolchildren if they, too, don’t go to school.
“It is the canoe that carries some who are hell-bent on going to school, while the majority of children will just stay at home. Because the school and surrounding area are always flooded. And the thing about this water is that it is harmful. If you dip your leg into it, the next day, your skin will start peeling,” Oike disclosed.
‘The government caused the flooding.’ – Baale
Meeting up with the Baale of the community to find out the genesis of the canal and what has been done to fix it, Chief Moyosola Oladunjoye recounted that the canal was the result of the 2010 flooding that affected three states in Nigeria.
Chief Oladunjoye chronicled how the then President of the country, Goodluck Jonathan, and the then governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, came over to the community to inspect the flooding.
He said that the Fashola government then decided to break down all the houses on a street known as Dadewo to allow the flooding to have a passage, only for such a decision to lead to the man-made canal that has been a thorn in the flesh of the community.
He said, “It actually started during the time of the 2010 flooding, which affected three states, namely Jigawa, Ogun, and Lagos. The President, Goodluck Jonathan, visited us here. The governor, Fashola, visited us too. He came and saw the flooding in the area, so they prepared a solution. It even came to a point that the Ministry of Environment wanted to come and demolish some houses here, but I told them that the Ogun River has its own tribute. They decided to break down some houses to have access for the water to pass. They mapped some houses in Lawal. I now went to the Ministry of Environment, accompanied by three or four of my people. Upon getting there, we were ready to forgo Dadewo Street so they could open the canal. Houses there were demolished, and no compensation was paid to them. They were all looking for a way to empty the water during that time. It was during that time that our secondary school was relocated to Mile 12.”
He continued, “Since then, we have tried our possible best to see that it was cleared. During the time of Fashola, they cleared it, but during the time of Ambode, they didn’t clear it, and we have been writing a series of letters. Because since you have opened up that place, you are supposed to take care of it. And I don’t know why they are not doing that. If the canal had not been opened, this water would not have come here. They contributed to the flooding.
“We have been telling them to come and clear the canal as it has been affecting us. If we have gutters, rain falls, it all goes there and spills over the whole community, and everywhere becomes flooded. That is the reason we have been agitating for them to come to help us clear it. By May, there will be very little rain. But if it is cleared, we will not have a problem. “
The Baale, in recounting remedial efforts over the years, emphasized that the NGO, Lots Charity Organization has played a key role in leading the agitation of the people at getting governmental attention.
Though, efforts have not yielded any positive result but their support remains the only support they have received from an external body, Chief Oladunjoye said.
‘The rights of the present and future depend on a healthy environment’ – UNESCO
It will be recalled that part of the UNESCO sustainable goals for 2030 is sustainable cities and communities, and recently, on March 9th, 2021, in its 46th session of the Human Rights Council, it called for a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
It says that environmental preservation is essential to fulfilling the rights to take part in cultural life, to science and education, and the long-term projection of human dignity for future generations. It claims that the rights of the present and future generations depend on a healthy environment.
Government has refused to come to our aid – CDA Chairman
Speaking to the CDA chairman of the community, Sunday Awobona, he reechoed that the Fashola government created the problem and yet no government ever since has been able to fix it.
“By May’s end, everywhere will be flooded. We have been on the neck of the government to come and clear the canal for us, but nothing has heard from them. It is the government of Fashola that created the problem for us. We have never had it before.”
He pleaded that the government should come to their aid as the people of the community are really suffering as a result of the canal.
The area needs serious intervention – Environment Expert
Olawale Thompson, an environmental expert with Planet Savers, has said that the area needs serious intervention, although he submits that the community themselves contribute to their problems.
“Some of them wish to have a cleaner community, but most are not of that school of thought.
“You won’t believe there used to be a time when some of the area boys would stop the trucks from lifting the bins unless they tipped them.
“Having said that, the area needs serious intervention. It is a riverine community. They don’t have clean water, a sewage pit, drainage, and so on. Hence, they find it hard to properly manage their waste. Most of them just throw them in the canal. This is peculiar to all riverine areas, even Makoko. They do all their domestic activities on that body of water that they live on. It will cost a lot of money to fix such areas.”
However, Thompson, however, asserted that the residents are not supposed to be there in the first place because it is a riverine area and, just like the pipeline and or powerline area, structures there are illegal.
“There is no approval for building structures in such communities. No government will spend money on an illegal settlement area. Sooner or later, they will be kicked out. It is not safe to be there. It is for their own good.
He, however, expressed optimism for them as he confirmed that there is an ongoing canal clearing project. “They may clear it soon because there is a major canal clearing project ongoing. The state is clearing canals and preparing for the rain ahead,” Thompson said.
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