Lagos Flood Victims To Smile Again

Jonathan, Fashola and others

•Jonathan, Fashola and others

The President Goodluck E. Jonathan on Wednesday visited the flood victims in  Ajegunle along the Lagos-Ikorodu Expressway. KAZEEM UGBODAGA reports…

•Jonathan, Fashola and others

Rresident Goodluck Jonathan is certainly a man of luck. The luck that saw him become  governor, vice president and president of Nigeria has not yet deserted him. With the  scenario that occurred on Wednesday when the president paid a visit to the  flood-ravaged communities at Ajegunle area of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, luck  may come his way next year when he seeks to retain his presidential seat.

On learning that the president would be visiting the Ajegunle flood victims,  thousands of Lagosians who had never seen the president trooped to the Lagos-Ikorodu  Expressway, standing on both sides of the highway to catch a glimpse of their  president.

Both sides of the highway, from Ketu to Ajegunle, were jammed-packed with people  including market women, school children and area boys, among others. After the  event, as the president’s convoy moved by, thousands of Lagosians on both sides of  the road waved to him.

Jonathan would certainly be surprised with what he saw from Ajegunle to Ketu, with  the sea of  heads rejoicing that their president identified with a flood-ravaged  community. The crowd was not rented, like most politicians do at their rallies.

As the convoy drove by, area boys on motorcycles followed it, entertaining the  crowd, and riding their bikes dangerously. It was a day the president would not  forget soon. The enthusiastic crowd showed that he has large army of admirers in  Lagos State, which may help his political ambition.

Five hours to the president’s visit, traffic was light on the Ikorodu-Mile 12  axis  of the Lagos-Ikorodu Expressway, while security was tight.  Police anti-bomb  vehicles were on ground to avert a recurrence of the 1 October, 2010 Abuja bombing.  Abandoned vehicles around the area were towed away. Hundreds of policemen, civil  defence corps, men of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, and others were on  ground to ensure smooth traffic flow.

At about 5:30 p.m. the president arrived.  Pressmen were not allowed near him but he  used a public address system while making his speech.

In his address, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola told the president the  danger residents in the area faced as a result of the perennial flood and how  several people have been displaced. He then  asked the Commissioner for the  Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire, to brief the president on the findings of experts who  surveyed the area.

Banire said the victims might have to be relocated for government to engage in  serious work in the area, adding that government had written three separate letters  to the Federal Ministry of the Environment on the dangers facing the residents.

He stated that about 1,000 people had been rehabilitated at the Agbowa Relief Camp,  while some still chose to remain in the area trying to eke out a living, adding that  “many have lost farmlands and properties to the disaster.”

Banire explained that studies undertaken by the state government had shown that  dredging may be one of the solutions to employ to solve the perennial flooding in  the area.

According to him, the low casualty figure in the disaster was due to the early  warning from the state government to sensitize residents to prepare for high tide  this year between September and October.

He stated that the flooding had been a re-occurring one, stressing that the flood  that occurred some weeks ago was the worst so far as several people were sacked from  their homes and their businesses.

Spokesperson of the communities, the Baale of Odogun, Chief Olutayo Ibrahim, said  his people were not ready to leave the area as they had been there for a long time,  adding that they wanted to remain on their forefathers’ land.

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Hundreds of residents hailed their leader for his bravely in telling the president  that they do not want to be moved from their fatherland, where they had lived for  centuries.

According to Ibrahim, “I am now 67 years old. My forefathers were born here. We  don’t have problem with the water.” He added that what they wanted the president to  do was to scale up infrastructure development in the area. He called on the  government to assist in improving the decayed infrastructure in the area and also  raise the level of Ikorodu road to stem the flood.

He also wants the government to find ways of controlling traffic in the area and  suggested that the dam should have been opened in February rather than September  when water level would be high, adding that “we want to remain here.”

The president commiserated with the victims of the flood and assured that the  Federal Government would find urgent solution to the flood problem in the area, but  added that the people must be willing to discard the fables of their forefathers and  move out of the area.

“My purpose of coming is to listen to you and commiserate with you and those of you  who have lost your properties. Just like the Environment Commissioner noted, every  September and October, you experience high water level and its normal, but this  year’s own is more than it used to be.

“My coming is to see things for myself and also with a team of NEMA to see how we  can walk with the state government to make sure that we see what we can do to  ameliorate the situation and also address the issue of the yearly high water level.  I would also plead with you that you should cooperate with the state government,” he  said.

Jonathan added that “to address your present condition, the Federal Government is  going to work with the Lagos State Government to see what can be done in that  regard. As for the immediate problem, the Federal Government is going to send a  little assistance through the Lagos State Government, and as you know, NEMA has also  been directed to send relief materials to you; but aside that, we would also send  something special this time around in terms of cash for  some of you who need to be  assisted.

“We would work with those in charge to see how we can manage the situation. But the  most important thing is that Fashola has been briefing me before we came and what he  is suggesting is a long term plan. We cannot tell you that our system is to evacuate  you every year, the world is changing and we can no longer live in those times.”

The president countered the decision of some residents in the area not to leave,  saying that “when I was small in my village, every year, we move out because water  would cover the road, and we would move to the centre, but that has stopped. We  cannot continue like that, and because of technology, that has stopped.

“So, we must find a way to solve the problem. We cannot continue to say that if our  forefathers were moving every year, then we must continue to move our children and  families every year. This is a generation that must change things.

“So, we would work with the state government to make sure that things are changed so  that this issue of moving people out every year to a friend’s place which might not  be decent enough is stopped. The federal and state governments would work hand in  hand to look into it.”

The president also visited some communities ravaged by the flood in Ogun State and  promised that pro-active measures would be adopted to avert future occurrence.

Some communities in Lagos and Ogun States were sacked by flood as a result of the  rise in water level occasioned by the release of water from the Oyan Dam into the  Ogun River by the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority about three weeks ago.

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