9th November, 2010
About 1,000 victims of the recent Ajegunle flood disaster have been relocated to theÂ Relief Camp in Agbowa by the Lagos State government. MOYO FABIYI was there andÂ 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-EjinrinÂ Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria. The 1,003Â residents are victims of a recent flood that ravaged Ajegunle on Mile 12-IkoroduÂ Road.
The 50 others occupants of the Fashola Estate, as the camp is now known by AgbowaÂ 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 onesÂ were playing football on a mini soccer pitch beside the Relief Camp. But theÂ basketball court was idle. The kitchen was busy with the preparation of the inmates’Â dinner. A pastor and some other workers of the Mountain of Fire and MiraclesÂ Ministries, MFM, had taken over the main auditorium hall, praying for the inmates.Â One of the inmates later informed our correspondent that the MFM crew brought loavesÂ of bread, toothpaste and packs of sachet water for them.
All the inmates who spoke with P.M.NEWS commended the Lagos State governor,Â Babatunde Raji Fashola, for creating the camp within such a short time, though theyÂ complained that the food ration they were being served was small and could not fillÂ them. Playing Oliver Twist, they pleaded that the quantity of their food should beÂ increased.
An inmate who didn’t want to be named summed up by saying, â€œplease, tell Fashola,Â the one or two slices of yam served us cannot fill us. He should please tell theÂ officials to increase our ration. We are grateful for his efforts to resettle us. WeÂ are happy to be here. The only request we have is for an increase in the quantity ofÂ the food we are served.â€ The woman, however, did not complain about the quality ofÂ the food.
According to the Ebonyi State-born Mrs. Gift Ogechi Joh, who is nursing aÂ month-old-baby, her two weeks stay at the Agbowa Relief Camp has been comfortable.Â Her husband, Ogechi, a clearing agent has since been moving from the camp to hisÂ work place at the Apapa Port. But the former petty trader who sold farm productsÂ like Ugwu leaves and fruit has been idle.
â€œWhen the food they served us can not fill, I go to the town to augment it withÂ garri. At home, I used to eat one de rica (a tin container) of eba. Since I donâ€™tÂ have baby milk to give to my baby, I breast feed her a lot. Thus, Iâ€™m usually hungryÂ and need a lot of food. But we like this place. I have discussed with my husband. IfÂ we can get monetary assistance, we can rent a room in Agbowa and live here. ThereÂ will be no need for us to run to Ajegunle or any other flooded area of Lagos. We areÂ okay here.â€
Mrs. Lateefat Coke, who trained as a hairdresser lamented that she lost herÂ apprenticeship certificate to the flood. Household items including television set,Â mattress and furniture were also destroyed. But most of them were afraid of leavingÂ Ajegunle because the landlords threatened that any tenant who moved to the AgbowaÂ Relief Camp will automatically be ejected.
Recounting her familyâ€™s loss, Mrs. Coker recounted, â€œI was not at home when theÂ water came. All my clothes, inside a Ghana-must-go bag on the floor, were destroyed.Â Similarly, my babyâ€™s clothes, cooking utensils were also lost; we only managed toÂ raise our bed above the water.
â€œBut as we continued to manage the room, one night my baby fell into the water. MyÂ husband promptly lifted her. A few days later, the baby fell into the water again.Â Immediately my husband lifted her up, he said, â€˜woman, we cannot afford to lose thisÂ our 13-month old baby to this water. Now, its time we moved to the Relief Camp.’Â There and then we decided to come here. All the people you see here are tenants fromÂ Ajegunle. The landlords said they will not leave their houses because if they do,Â 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 goodÂ quality but was not enough. In addition, she complained that the cooks were alwaysÂ heaping insults on the inmates. She quoted one of them as saying: â€œHunger drove youÂ to the Relief Camp after flood drove you from Ajegunle.â€ As Yoruba, she pleaded thatÂ the cooks should not â€˜feed them with food and insults’. But she finds theÂ environment conducive.
Mrs. Coker said, â€œfrom here, my husband goes to Ebute Ipakodo for his loggingÂ business. We have agreed to make Agbowa our home. If we get enough money to rent aÂ room in Agbowa town, we shall be happy to reside around here. We find the atmosphereÂ very pleasing.â€
When P.M.NEWS contacted the camp deputy commandant, Mr. Simeon Olatunbosun Fakolade,Â on the complaint of the inmates, he debunked their claims. â€œThe food we serve is ofÂ high quality. Officials of the United Nations International Children’s EmergencyÂ Fund, UNICEF, were here and they commended the quality of the food we served. TheyÂ should not compare the quantity of the food they eat here with what they were eatingÂ in their homes. There, they prefer quantity. But here we serve quality food.â€
Fakolade said children, women and men were served in order of priority. But someÂ women by-pass the system by exchanging bowls with their kids. Thus many of them areÂ served more than twice. They then throw away the excess food. â€œThey were overfed andÂ were stooling around. Can one who is underfed has excess to throw into the wasteÂ bin? Or stool around?â€ the deputy camp commandant asked.
Speaking on the childrenâ€™s education, Fakolade said through the assistance of theÂ Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Education, all the 300 students haveÂ been placed in primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in Agbowa, including theÂ prestigious Model College, Agbowa. The nursery and primary pupils and otherÂ 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 fourÂ other smaller ones, three hospitals, aÂ main auditorium hall and smaller 20-roomÂ hall buildings. The administrative complex serves as office of the 50-LASEMA staffÂ overseeing the camp. There are computer systems with internet in the office.
Fakolade said how long the inmates will be accommodated will depend on theÂ government. He commended Governor Fashola for providing the facility while similarÂ ones have been planned for the remaining two senatorial districts in Lagos State,Â one at Igando and the third one at Lekki. When these ones are completed, he said,Â each of the three senatorial districts will have a relief camp.
Notable personalities that have visited the inmates include commissioners and theÂ traditional ruler of Agbowa, the Aigbowa of Agbowa-Ikosi, Oba Joseph Odumeru OgundeÂ III, who assured them of security and comfort. â€œThe kabiyesi told the people thatÂ Agbowa indigenes are happy to receive them and that they should feel at home. TheyÂ are free to make Agbowa their homes, if they so desire,” Fakolade quoted Oba OdumeruÂ as saying.