BREAKING: 10-hour rainfall: Lekki, Ikoyi residents flee luxury mansions as flood ravages homes, streets - Reportgist

BREAKING: 10-hour rainfall: Lekki, Ikoyi residents flee luxury mansions as flood ravages homes, streets

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GODFREY GEORGE tells the story of residents of highbrow Lekki, Ikoyi and Ajah areas in Lagos who have had to suffer losses after flooding caused by heavy rainfall>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

Streets became streams. Reptiles came out to play in the floodwater that overflowed roads and seeped into the homes of the rich, forcing them to leave their palatial mansions for hotels. On Wednesday, July 4, 2024, the skies didn’t stop to cry for more than 10 hours. The rains continued that evening and caused relentless flooding. By Thursday, floating furniture, TVs, mattresses and children’s toys were sighted in several videos posted online.

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In several of those online videos, many residents showed how they had to wade through murky waters to leave their homes.

A particular woman, who said her name was Mrs Shade, lamented how she had lost everything in a home she paid a rent of N3.5m every year for. A short tour round her house showed it was a two-bedroom apartment with a balcony and an extra bathroom.

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When contacted on Facebook, she told our correspondent that she paid an agent fee of N250,000 when she moved in October 2023.

“I haven’t even stayed up to one year in the house. I have lost everything. From my TV, to my new fridge, my furniture, my mattress and every valuable I have used more than 10 years of my life to build are all gone,” she said.

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Shade’s experience mirrors that of many residents in the area that has had to battle this recurring nightmare which has become a distressing hallmark of living in some of Lagos’ most affluent neighborhoods, raising questions about urban planning, infrastructure, and the responsibilities of government and residents alike.

Roads were impassable when our correspondent visited a popular estate in the Lekki Phase II area on Wednesday evening. Homes were left opened and residents, our correspondent learnt, had fled as their havens had become uninhabitable.

Several residents were seen navigating the floodwaters, attempting to salvage their belongings.

In many cases, properties worth millions were damaged or destroyed, with cars, furniture, and electronics among the most common casualties.

In one compound, three cars which were parked outside a parking lot had been half-submerged. It would take an experienced car mechanic to perform his/her magic to make those cars start.

Upstairs, a man and his wife pointed down to the flood downstairs. It seemed they had resorted to remaining up there. But, for how long? The situation was chaotic.

As our correspondent waded through to assess the level of damage, the couple upstairs shouted, asking our correspondent to move back. According to them, there are reptiles in the water.

“Hey, go back. Snakes and alligators might be in the water. This morning, a young boy was beaten by a reptile. Please, go back,” she said.

Our correspondent, now afraid, waded backwards with a phone torch till he got to the beginning of the street upland.

An environmentalist, Mrs Peace Tommy, told our correspondent that the presence of reptiles, such as snakes, is common in flood-prone areas.

She said these reptiles sought refuge from the rising waters, creating additional hazards for the already beleaguered inhabitants.>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

Fine architecture

It is no news that the Ikoyi, Lekki, Ajah areas are synonymous with affluence and wealth for many Lagosians. In movies and modern social life, several people have associated with the areas, referred to as ‘the Island’ as the evidence of status and class.

Fine architecture and expensively-built homes are a regular sight. Gated estates and high security are also characteristic of the area. But once it rains, the place becomes an eyesore. Floodwater moves into homes and destroy the fine buildings which are often very expensive.

A popular home agent in the area, Mr Babashola Ogunshola, told our correspondent that the cheapest anyone would get a studio apartment (one room with toilet and/or shared kitchen) on the Island would be N1.2m.

“Even in the Ajah area which is not as developed as Lekki Phases I and II, you will not get a good home for anything less than N1m, including agent and caution fees,” he said.

Asked why, he simply said, “It is Island life! If you won’t be able to pay, stay in the mainland.”

A grim recurrence

Wednesday’s episode of flooding is not an isolated incident but part of a troubling pattern that has plagued these highbrow areas for years.

Despite the exorbitant property prices—where a single-room flat can command rents as high as N3.5 million or more—the frequency and severity of flooding have only increased. The root causes of this persistent problem are multifaceted, involving both natural and man-made factors.

One of the primary reasons for the recurrent flooding, experts have noted, is the construction of buildings on floodplains and inadequate drainage systems.

The Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tokunbo Wahab, had, on several occasions in 2023 warned residents from building on drainage setbacks.

Several buildings which were built on these setbacks despite government’s repeated warnings were brought down during a routine exercise in October 2023.

Also, environmentalists and town planners have noted that many properties in Lekki, Ikoyi, and Ajah are built on reclaimed land, which is naturally prone to flooding.

Tommy, commenting on the topography, said, “The drainage systems in these areas are often clogged with silt and debris, severely limiting their capacity to manage heavy rainfall. According to experts, around 75 per cent of the drainage capacity in some parts of Lagos is lost due to neglect and poor maintenance.”

The frustration

A resident in one of the homes in Lekki, Mrs Adebola Akinwunmi, recounting her ordeal, said, “I woke up to find my living room submerged in water. Our home is a two storey building. The bedrooms are upstairs and the living room, downstairs. I knew it was raining but I didn’t know it would breach my home’s defences and enter into my livingroom.

“As I speak to you, nothing in that livingroom is salvageable. Everything is gone. Outside, it was as if the flood wanted to carry our cars away. My husband did not know what to do. Our mechanic said he had so much work to do and could not come in the flood. I won’t even let him because I know there are several reptiles in the area.

“My children are still scared. We simply locked the building and found our way to a calm hotel without the chaos. We’ll be here till it all blows over and we’ll then see how we can save the mess. I am sure there is nothing we can do, but we’ll work something out,” she said.

On how she got out, she said, “My husband carried the children and I and crossed the flood. Very brave man! I was so scared for him. He had to climb onto furniture to stay dry. All our appliances are ruined, and the damage is beyond repair, but we thank God for life.”

Another resident who is an executive of the Lekki Residents Association, who did not want to give his name, said he is beyond devastated.

“I knew the floods were coming so I prepared myself since January. I called a mason who came and did some reconstruction on the fence. He also did some form of reinforcement, so that, come what may, the floods would not enter my home.

“All those were nothing. As the rains poured, it was as though I was outside. The water in my house is almost at knee level. I wanted to get my staff to bail it out but then, we don’t know how safe the connections are. It could lead to electrocution. It is very sad and confusing situation, I must say,” the source said.

In Ajah, residents used canoes to navigate flooded streets.

Marketplaces were abandoned as traders scrambled to save their goods from the rising waters. Schools and businesses were forced to close, and many commuters were stranded as major roads became impassable.

Warning from agencies

According to the 2024 Seasonal Climate Prediction for Nigeria released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency on February 20 in Abuja, coastal states like Lagos will have a high amount of rainfall in 2024.

NiMet said, “In 2024, the annual rainfall amount is likely to range between 418 millimetres in the far northern states and over 3000 millimetres in the coastal states.

“The annual rainfall amount is predicted to be below normal over Yobe, Jigawa, Bauchi, Kano, Kebbi, Gombe, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross River, Delta, and Bayelsa states when compared to their long-term averages. However, other parts of the country are likely to observe normal to above normal annual rainfall amount.

“The prediction of the year 2024 indicates a normal to below normal rainfall activity across most parts of the country. Coastal cities and low-lying areas of Nigeria, Benue, Kogi, Rivers, Bayelsa and Anambra states are at higher risk of flooding. Several disasters can occur during the onset and cessation period of the rainy season due to violent storms associated with that period. Flash floods cannot be ruled out because of excessive rainfall expected in some areas.”

The National Emergency Management Agency, on May 3, published an advisory video on its website listing some flood-prone states.

These states include Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Lagos, Kwara, Oyo, Taraba, and Sokoto states.

“Clear away solid waste that blocks drainages and waterways to mitigate flooding. Do not build on waterways. Do not walk through flood waters. Evacuate from flood-prone areas to safe higher grounds. Listen to weather forecasts and comply with safety instructions,” announced NEMA.

In response to the recent flash floods affecting some areas in Lagos State, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency issued a directive urging residents to remain calm and exercise caution as they go about their daily activities.

This was contained in a statement shared by the Agency’s Permanent Secretary, Damilola Oke-Osanyintolu, and made available to our correspondent on Wednesday.

Oke-Osanyintolu said seven people were rescued on June 3 from a collapsed building due to the heavy and incessant rainfall in Ewenla in the Mushin area of the state.

The permanent secretary advised that citizens should minimise outdoor activities and travel only when necessary.

He said, “The Agency and other key responders are on high alert while urging the good people of Lagos to remain calm and refrain from any non-essential travels due to the incidence of flash floods across the State.

He added that all emergency services are available to respond to distress calls and provide necessary assistance

Lagos cannot escape flash floods – Govt

The Director of Public Affairs of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Kunle Adesina, during an interview with our correspondent said the Ministry is aware of flash floods cases in some areas, adding that there are measures in place to prevent loss of lives and property.

Adesina explained that flash floods should be expected because Lagos state is a coastal city surrounded by waters. He however noted that the water levels would normalise a few hours after heavy rainfall.

He said, “It was not about the response of the ministry to the recent flash floods. We have always put proactive measures in place for times like these. We have year-round programs and measures regarding drainage maintenance and construction. Lagos is a coastal city and one-third of Lagos is under water.

“We know that there is rainfall on a yearly basis and there are seasonal rainfall patterns released at the beginning of each year. This serves as a guide to all the states including us. We also have weather stations that we have created including a water level monitoring group. Lagos is at the receiving end of about seven rivers from different states. So, we are at the receiving end whenever rain falls.

“Lagos will have more than normal rainfall. That is why we had a major press briefing early this year to disclose what is likely to happen for us. We also sent an advisory, telling people who have houses in flood-prone areas to vacate their homes when heavy rain starts. They can stay with their relatives for the time being.

“What we experience in Lagos is flash floods and this happens when the magnitude of rain is so much on the Island which is discharged into the Lagoon, the water level of the Lagoon rises.

“So, you will have flash floods in some areas. But the truth is that two or three hours later, you will realise that the flash flood is gone, and everything returns back to normal.

“During the recent rainfall, we deployed our emergency responders to some areas like Olopomeji where the water paths had been blocked by refuse and are experiencing flash floods. After clearing the paths, we discovered that everything was back to normal some hours later.”

Adesina noted that while flash floods should not cause panic as it is manageable, residents could worsen the situation by constructing buildings or dumping refuse on water paths. This, he said, could block water flow and result in flooding.

He said, “People drop refuse on water paths, and it is because they don’t want to patronise waste collectors. These are the same people that wake up very early in the morning and drop their refuse on the road. That is why the state waste management agency deploys its taskforce to go round, and they have been seeing people coming out at 12 midnight to dump refuse on the road. Many of them are elite. At the end of the day, the act will come back to hunt them and the whole environment.

‘Get a place before moving to Lagos’

“Thousands of people are coming into Lagos without considering where they want to live, the infrastructure they will depend on, and other factors. There is freedom of movement so we cannot prevent them from coming in. but these people do not have anywhere to live. They build shacks and defecate on the road. People also build houses in flood-prone areas. These among other habits are endangering the people and the environment. People know what is right but don’t do it,” Adesina added.

Speaking on the long-term measures by the ministry, the spokesperson said, “Part of what the ministry is doing is the construction of infrastructure to aid water movement. Contracts have been awarded for the construction of new canals and repair of already existing ones. Since Lagos is a coastal city, there will be flash floods when there is torrential rainfall but we continue to ensure that necessary infrastructure is in place to allow the waters to pass.

“We also make sure that people are enlightened from time to time. What is safer is that they should not build houses on flood plains. Some people have decided to go and meet the water in its natural habitat. When you push water away from its habitat, the water will fight back when it rains.”

‘Remove illegal structures’

Meanwhile on January 31, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Olumide Oluyinka, in a statement, said the government would commence the removal of illegal building attachments and conversions across the state by February 15.

“The state would not tolerate the spate of lawlessness witnessed in commercial centres such as Lagos Island, Ikeja, and Iyana-Ipaja, where shops are illegally extended with sheds and steel external stairways in a bid to attract customers,” he said

Oluyinka explained that those who erected structures within the right of way of power lines, canals, and pipelines to prepare for massive enforcement by the ministry, adding those who erected structures within the right of way of power lines, canals, and pipelines to prepare for massive enforcement by the ministry in two weeks’ time.

Similarly, on June 23, the Commissioner of Environment and Water Resources, Wahab Tokunbo, issued a 14-day ultimatum for owners of buildings in the Sangotedo in the Lekki, Okota, and Isolo areas of the state, noting that some places in the area had been identified for the construction of drainage channels.

Tokunbo made the announcement while conducting an inspection to some sites in the areas where constructions had begun.

The commissioner said, “The era of environmental indiscipline and nuisance are over in Lagos. We will not shy away from enforcing all relevant laws irrespective of whose ox is gored. Lagos despite its peculiarities as a coastal state with low-lying terrains and a high population density among others has remained afloat because of various measures put in place by the government.

“Climate change is real and there is a cholera outbreak. We must know that all these things are interwoven. We must all be responsible and responsive as a people. People cannot continue to brazenly abuse the environment and expect that there will be no consequences.

“A 48-hour contravention notice has been served to owners of buildings lying within the channels and 14 days abatement and when that elapses the law will take its course.

“We will commence full enforcement after the expiration of all notices with an option of voluntary compliance.”>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

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