Lagos Impacts On Riverine Communities


For over two hours, we were on water, we were on a journey to several riverine communities in Otto-Awori Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria. These communities are not accessible by road but only through canoes and boats, while they seem to be cut off from civilisation as not many people knew several communities abound in the area.

Some of the communities make use of solar electrification given to them by the Lagos State government, while the allures of city life were conspicuously missing.

Officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Rural Development led by its commissioner, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi, who hailed from one of the riverine communities, visited four villages, whose mainstay are farming and fishing.

Having phobia for water, many of the journalists were scared, especially as the journey dragged, but at the same time, it was fun and adventurous.

The riverine communities visited are Ishagira, Ponpoku, Ibode and Irewe, the village of former deputy governor of Lagos, Princess Sarah Sosan.

Ishagira village, with a population of about 2,000, burst into life as the boats conveying the commissioner and his team got to the harbour. Locals who had been waiting all day for officials of the ministry to formally commission the solar-powered modified Type ‘A’ water project welcomed the tourists, singing in local dialect, kabo, kabo, meaning welcome.

Despite the presence of a big river in the area, the village, for over a century, never had potable water as the people drink well water and as a way of alleviating their plight, the ministry provided the modified Type ‘A’ water project for the community.

“The water from the river is not drinkable. Members of the community lodged a complaint to us last month and we were able to complete the project this month. Because of the epileptic power supply from PHCN, we decided to power the water project using solar energy. There are six outlets where the people could fetch water,” said Abiodun Ayeni, Director, Rural Water, Ministry of Rural Development.

Handing over the project to the community, Ojelabi said government was concerned about the poor quality of water the rural populace consumed, while urging them to maintain it so that it could last long.

“You have to embrace the culture of maintenance; maintain this facility and you have to support the government so that it could also support you,” he said, while encouraging the people to contribute to build a town hall.

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The commissioner also urged the villagers to form themselves into cooperative societies so that they could collectively sought assistance from the state government to boost food production.

At Ponpoku and Ibode villages, the commissioner inspected the ongoing rural electrification project meant to service the community. On completion, the two riverine villages will be hooked to the electrification project at Irewe, which has just been connected to the national grid by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

At Irewe village, Ojelabi inspected the ongoing rehabilitation of the micro water works in the area.

Speaking after the tour, the commissioner said that the vision of the state government was to open up rural roads and provide social amenities for the dwellers in order to stem rural-urban drift.

According to him, when social amenities enjoyed by those living in the city were also found in rural communities, it will take away the allures of city life, thus, curbing urban drift.

He said in 2012, the state government would lay emphasis on opening of rural roads, saying that the budget would take care of this, adding that the government was determined to impact on rural dwellers in the state.

According to Ojelabi, the budget allocated to the ministry this year was N2 billion, saying that during the last budget re-ordering, the governor added more funds for rural development.

The commissioner disclosed that N900 million was spent this year on construction and rehabilitation of rural roads, culverts and drainages, among others.

He added that over N900 million was expended in providing rural electrification for rural dwellers this year, while lots had also be spent on rural water and agriculture.

Ojelabi stated that 2012 would witness massive transformation in rural communities across the state as government is going to pay more attention to meeting their needs.

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