Flood Victims' Find New Home


About 1,000 victims of the recent Ajegunle flood disaster have been relocated to the  Relief Camp in Agbowa by the Lagos State government. MOYO FABIYI was there and  reports that the inmates are willing to make Agbowa their new home

Life is indeed bubbling for inmates of the Relief Camp at Agbowa in Agbowa-Ejinrin  Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria. The 1,003  residents are victims of a recent flood that ravaged Ajegunle on Mile 12-Ikorodu  Road.

The 50 others occupants of the Fashola Estate, as the camp is now known by Agbowa  indigenes, are the officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA.

When P.M.NEWS visited the camp on a sunny afternoon last Thursday, the youthful ones  were playing football on a mini soccer pitch beside the Relief Camp. But the  basketball court was idle. The kitchen was busy with the preparation of the inmates’  dinner. A pastor and some other workers of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles  Ministries, MFM, had taken over the main auditorium hall, praying for the inmates.  One of the inmates later informed our correspondent that the MFM crew brought loaves  of bread, toothpaste and packs of sachet water for them.

All the inmates who spoke with P.M.NEWS commended the Lagos State governor,  Babatunde Raji Fashola, for creating the camp within such a short time, though they  complained that the food ration they were being served was small and could not fill  them. Playing Oliver Twist, they pleaded that the quantity of their food should be  increased.

An inmate who didn’t want to be named summed up by saying, “please, tell Fashola,  the one or two slices of yam served us cannot fill us. He should please tell the  officials to increase our ration. We are grateful for his efforts to resettle us. We  are happy to be here. The only request we have is for an increase in the quantity of  the food we are served.” The woman, however, did not complain about the quality of  the food.

According to the Ebonyi State-born Mrs. Gift Ogechi Joh, who is nursing a  month-old-baby, her two weeks stay at the Agbowa Relief Camp has been comfortable.  Her husband, Ogechi, a clearing agent has since been moving from the camp to his  work place at the Apapa Port. But the former petty trader who sold farm products  like Ugwu leaves and fruit has been idle.

“When the food they served us can not fill, I go to the town to augment it with  garri. At home, I used to eat one de rica (a tin container) of eba. Since I don’t  have baby milk to give to my baby, I breast feed her a lot. Thus, I’m usually hungry  and need a lot of food. But we like this place. I have discussed with my husband. If  we can get monetary assistance, we can rent a room in Agbowa and live here. There  will be no need for us to run to Ajegunle or any other flooded area of Lagos. We are  okay here.”

Mrs. Lateefat Coke, who trained as a hairdresser lamented that she lost her  apprenticeship certificate to the flood. Household items including television set,  mattress and furniture were also destroyed. But most of them were afraid of leaving  Ajegunle because the landlords threatened that any tenant who moved to the Agbowa  Relief Camp will automatically be ejected.

Recounting her family’s loss, Mrs. Coker recounted, “I was not at home when the  water came. All my clothes, inside a Ghana-must-go bag on the floor, were destroyed.  Similarly, my baby’s clothes, cooking utensils were also lost; we only managed to  raise our bed above the water.

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“But as we continued to manage the room, one night my baby fell into the water. My  husband promptly lifted her. A few days later, the baby fell into the water again.  Immediately my husband lifted her up, he said, ‘woman, we cannot afford to lose this  our 13-month old baby to this water. Now, its time we moved to the Relief Camp.’  There and then we decided to come here. All the people you see here are tenants from  Ajegunle. The landlords said they will not leave their houses because if they do,  government will come and demolish their houses and take over their land.

Like the other inmates, Mrs. Coker said the food served the inmates was of good  quality but was not enough. In addition, she complained that the cooks were always  heaping insults on the inmates. She quoted one of them as saying: “Hunger drove you  to the Relief Camp after flood drove you from Ajegunle.” As Yoruba, she pleaded that  the cooks should not ‘feed them with food and insults’. But she finds the  environment conducive.

Mrs. Coker said, “from here, my husband goes to Ebute Ipakodo for his logging  business. We have agreed to make Agbowa our home. If we get enough money to rent a  room in Agbowa town, we shall be happy to reside around here. We find the atmosphere  very pleasing.”

When P.M.NEWS contacted the camp deputy commandant, Mr. Simeon Olatunbosun Fakolade,  on the complaint of the inmates, he debunked their claims. “The food we serve is of  high quality. Officials of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency  Fund, UNICEF, were here and they commended the quality of the food we served. They  should not compare the quantity of the food they eat here with what they were eating  in their homes. There, they prefer quantity. But here we serve quality food.”

Fakolade said children, women and men were served in order of priority. But some  women by-pass the system by exchanging bowls with their kids. Thus many of them are  served more than twice. They then throw away the excess food. “They were overfed and  were stooling around. Can one who is underfed has excess to throw into the waste  bin? Or stool around?” the deputy camp commandant asked.

Speaking on the children’s education, Fakolade said through the assistance of the  Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Education, all the 300 students have  been placed in primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in Agbowa, including the  prestigious Model College, Agbowa. The nursery and primary pupils and other  students, he disclosed, are moved to their schools in a bus every morning.

The facilities in the Agbowa Relief Camp include a 50-60 KVA generating set and four  other smaller ones, three hospitals, a  main auditorium hall and smaller 20-room  hall buildings. The administrative complex serves as office of the 50-LASEMA staff  overseeing the camp. There are computer systems with internet in the office.

Fakolade said how long the inmates will be accommodated will depend on the  government. He commended Governor Fashola for providing the facility while similar  ones have been planned for the remaining two senatorial districts in Lagos State,  one at Igando and the third one at Lekki. When these ones are completed, he said,  each of the three senatorial districts will have a relief camp.

Notable personalities that have visited the inmates include commissioners and the  traditional ruler of Agbowa, the Aigbowa of Agbowa-Ikosi, Oba Joseph Odumeru Ogunde  III, who assured them of security and comfort. “The kabiyesi told the people that  Agbowa indigenes are happy to receive them and that they should feel at home. They  are free to make Agbowa their homes, if they so desire,” Fakolade quoted Oba Odumeru  as saying.

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