“We know about it. We hear it on the radio. They announce it, that we should evacuate, but we have no alternatives,” said Akinremi Ademola, secretary to the chairman, Agiliti II Community Development Association (CDA).
On March 30, the Lagos State Government issued a flood advisory, asking residents of low-lying communities to move to higher ground. Agiliti was one of the spotlighted communities.
Agiliti comprises seven communities. With two of its settlements, Agiliti II and Olaoluwa, by the Maidan River, the community is exposed to flooding during periods of excessive rainfall and the opening of the Ogun State dam.
Last year, in Olaoluwa community, an entire family of four was swept into the river when heavy flood tides upturned a canoe. It was four days later that two bodies were found at another end of the town.
Six months after the incident, it is still fresh in the minds of residents.
The people are clear about what they need and how they want the government to help them, but government officials barely come to the ground to intimate them about infrastructural development.
Ademola, for instance, said that last year, the community wrote a letter to the government, pleading for an embankment by the river, among other things, and was preparing to send another soon.
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He said other than the four lives lost, a young boy jumped into the river in search of his ball and drowned.
“During the canoe mishap, if there was an embankment, the tide would not have been able to carry them directly into the river, and community members might have been able to save them,” he added.
“They should help us with an embankment of the river; there should be a kind of barricade that will prevent people from going directly towards the river.”
Climate activists have said that communities are the first responders to disasters, and therefore there is a need for governments to engage them on how to monitor and respond to disasters like floods.
This advice seems to be lost on the government of the state when it comes to strengthening the disaster resilience of Agiliti community.
‘ACTIVE WITH ALERTS, INACTIVE WITH ENFORCEMENT’
Aare Haruna Omolajomo, the chairman of Agiliti Central CDA, said, “The government is only active in alerting us of the floods, not in enforcing preventive measures.”
The route from Agiliti II connects directly to Magodo on one side and Berger on the other, both of which are well-developed locations in the state. Nevertheless, due to the road’s poor condition, it is unused because motorists cannot proceed past a certain area.
Residents have repeatedly begged the authorities to repair the road, but all of their requests have gone unheeded.
They also asked the government to dredge the Maidan River, which runs through their town, as well as expand and dredge their canal, as the existing capacity is insufficient to handle the volume of water brought by the floods. However, this has also not been done.
When natural disasters of significant magnitude occur, governments at all levels are wont to pass the buck amongst themselves to shield themselves from accountability.
It happened in 2022, when floods took over 600 lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The federal government and its agencies blamed state and local governments. State governments blamed the federal government. Local governments blamed the state and federal governments.
This year, however, the Lagos State Government swung into action with a flood forecast, a scheduled stormwater drainage project, and an early advisory for endangered communities to move upland. But community members report that these measures are insufficient to permanently solve the problem.
Agiliti isn’t a high-brow area where people can afford to make such moves. It is a mostly trading town; most of its inhabitants are petty traders at the Mile 12 market.
“I was expecting the officers to be on the ground to guide us on what needed to be done and to enforce resident evacuation of the area,” the Central CDA chairman said.
The state government has asked residents to evacuate without first attempting to strengthen the community’s resilience to floods by building the supporting infrastructure or even engaging with residents on where, when and how to evacuate.
Many residents report that the floods have worsened as the years go by.
Formerly once every three years, it has become an annual occurrence, thanks to non-effective and late interventions and climate change. The effects are dastardly, from loss of lives to holding economic activities at a standstill, forcing residents to carry out property repairs and home renovations every year.
Alhaji Afolabi, one of the elders of the community, said every year he was forced to renovate his home. He has lived in the community for about 20 years and has elevated the ground level of his home twice in two years to prevent floods from entering and destroying his properties.
Like many residents, Afolabi seemed both weary and hopeful, exhausted from government visitation, situation assessment and press coverage with no corresponding action. Yet, he was welcoming and hopeful that the government would heed them soon.
“From Tinubu’s administration, governors have been coming to assess the situation. Even Babatunde Raji Fashola came to visit. But look at. The government really needs to come to our aid,” he said.
HEALTH CENTRE ABANDONED FOR OVER A DECADE DUE TO FLOOD
More than anything, it is the lack of a health centre that worries the residents the most. Agiliti has no functional health care centre or hospital. In 2008, the state government approved a grant for the construction of a health centre in Agiliti II. It was, however, never completed.
Fifteen years later, in 2023, Agiliti II is yet to have a health care facility. The building is in a poor state. Everything is dilapidated. The tiles are broken, as is the fence. The surrounding area has been overrun by weeds, and there is a large crack in the wall.
“During the floods, the hospital is also affected,” Charles Abimoloye, one of the community’s foremost settlers, said.
“We’ve written a series of letters to that effect, to the commissioner for health and to the house of assembly in Lagos State, so that the government can do something.”
This place is completely out of tune, he said, pointing to the walls. How can patients be here to receive treatment? He asked.
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