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10.09.2021 Justice FLOOD OF TEARS: Inside Lagos Community Where Rainfall Is a Curse

Published 10th Sep, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

Mrs. Adebayo Rahman dreads the rainy season. Whenever it pours, the 57-year-old’s mood swings. Her worst moments come during this period. The last time it rained, rivulets trickled through her housetop, channelling down the rooms of her apartment at 36, Townhall Street, Ijora-Badia, Lagos.

The last stream of water that visited her left a brownish smear in her room, the colour of a rusted aluminum. Now, it is cloudy. Rahman peeps through the entrance of her house to see the sky and looks away disdainfully.

One of the flooded rooms of Mrs. Rahman’s house

“The rain has destroyed almost everything we have. But what can we do? We have nowhere else to go,” she says. “May we not be punished with this rain. May God have mercy on us.”

The backyard of the house looks like a dumpsite from afar. Moving closer, it is a similitude of a shallow river sand filled with squalor. The house has eight rooms but only one of them is relatively habitable. Others are flooded and preoccupied with aquatic displays.

Like many other houses in the area, Rahman’s house is sinking. The building paints are peeling; its porch is vanishing, bearing scars of decades-old flooding and sludge, a dangerous result of administrative neglect and rainstorm.

“Pull off your shoe, sir,” she says, welcoming me to the flooded expanse. As I wade in like a nomad struggling to remember his forgotten footpath, I am consumed to the rib by the flood.

“We’re glad to have you here. Help us talk to the government. We don’t have a good road network, no gutter and drainage. Everyone in this area hates rainfall. For many, rainfall might be a blessing, but for us, it is a curse.”

A junkyard of flooded room

THIS WAS WHERE WE RAISED OUR CHILDREN’

In the room, there are televisions which are obviously not functioning. The walls of the room are cracked and paintless, the roof is leaky and the bed is taller than everything in the room, including the wardrobe.

The bed is taller for a reason, Rahman says. When the room is flooded and everything is consumed by the visiting rivulets, the bed serves as the only solace, else, they will all be displaced and join others who sleep in the nearest mosque, hotel, or even brothel in the area.

A sleeping baby and his mother
The room where the whole family of six live

“This was where we raised our children,” the grandmother says, when I asked her how long she’s been living here. “This was where I raised my two daughters and they both are raising their kids here. There is nothing we can do. We’ve been destined to be together in this place.”

An infant is deeply asleep in the bed, with his mother lying beside him. He’s just six days old. The grandma recalls how it rained cats and dogs the day the baby was born.

“I waded into this room carrying the child and placed him on this bed. His mother also slept on the bed with him that same night. Then I went to sleep in the mosque.”

‘BADIA, THE BAD AREA’

As I venture into this bustling community, most residents wade through several refuse dumps to reach their destinations. Noise and fumes from generators fill the air, along with blaring music from the numerous brothels and film houses. Poor drainage and sanitation facilities leave a permanent foul odour in the flooded areas of Badia, an overcrowded slum in Nigeria’s commercial hub. 

Badia, Lagos

There was no Badia until 1971, when Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson, the first military governor of Lagos, evicted the inhabitants of Ebute-Oniru, Ebute Oloko and part of Ebute-Elefun. The evictees settled in Obadiya, now pronounced Badia. The residents of the community are predominantly from Kwara and Ondo State, according to Saturday Tribune.

The general complaint of people in this community is government neglect. Residents who speak to me agree the slum has become a haven for many criminals such as armed robbers and kidnappers. Continuous loss of societal values and civil behaviour, they say, contribute to why human lives are degenerating alongside the community environment.

The high level of moral decadence and thuggery of all sorts make many residents agree Badia is not a safe place to raise a child, but they have no other place to go.

“You want to know why this place is called a bad area?” a community leader asks me. “It is because it is a bad place to raise a child.”

THE BROTHEL THAT BENEFITS FROM FLOODING

Even some parts of the brothel is flooded

In the dry season, the brothel at the Townhall street in Badia is a base for betting, drinking, dancing and prostitution. But in the dry season, the business changes: the brothel serves as solace for many residents displaced by flood on the street.

Alfa Hakeem, an Islamic cleric in Badia, says he sometimes has no choice as “a man of God” but to pass nights in the brothel when his home is flooded.

It is no gainsaying that the owner of the brothel skyrockets the bill for accommodation whenever there is a heavy rain, knowing that many people would have no choice but to pay. Residents say the normal cost of getting a room in the brothel is N2,500, but people displaced by flood say they pay up to N3,500 to pass a night.

“Most times, the mosques and churches are filled when there is a flood,” Abiola Derele, a resident of Badia says. “So, people have no other choice but to sleep in that brothel at a very costly amount.”

Per night, the brothel generates nothing less than N70,000 from residents displaced by flood. Sex workers in the brothel also get more patronage from displaced persons who see nothing bad passing the night with them.

THE HOUSE OF DARKNESS AND FLOOD

The outside view of the house of darkness and flood

Some kilometers away, Iya Wahidi, as she is fondly called, welcomes me as I wade into Mosadolorun street. She has just resumed work at her canteen. Her shop was flooded six days ago and today, she is scared she might have to shut down again because of the cloudy sky.

Many residents of the street have been displaced by flood, and several houses abandoned. Iya Wahidi takes me around to see sinking and flooded houses. I take pictures of a number of sinking houses and flooded homes where residents struggle to survive.

As I attempt to enter an abandoned building on the street, Iya Wahidi steps back. She warns me not to go into the house because “angels of darkness” have taken over the place. But I will not listen.

What I saw when I checked the camera after attempting to snap the inner part of the house

After snapping the outside of the house, I trudge through the flood and make my way in. Cobwebs clog my face. I step back to reset my camera. Holding it firmly, I click the shutter to capture one of the rooms from the main entrance. But the camera will not give in. All I can see through the lens is darkness. 

When I place the camera outward, it captures the flooded part turned to a dumpsite by residents on the street. I turn the camera inward and it stops working again. Then, Iya Wahidi, who has been watching from outside taps me on the back.

“Reporter, come out,” she says in Yoruba. “I have asked you not to go into that house but you did not just listen. Curiosity kills the cat.”

She tells me how the landlord, simply called Alhaji, was chased out of the house by flood. 

“Since then,” she says, “about three years now, the house has been taken over by evil spirits. We hear strange voices from the house at night.”

FLOOD IS THE HEADACHE…

Jeremiah Daoversy, a pastor and community leader in the area, says the genesis of their plight is government neglect. Daoversy, whose church and home have been flooded many times, says he spends nights in the hotel with his children whenever his house is flooded.

“Flood is giving us all trouble. And the cause is drainage,” he says. “They don’t pack the dirt in the gutter. There is supposed to be a wide drainage that will direct water and dirt into the canal, but we do not have it. The drainage we have is too narrow and ineffective. When rain falls, there will be a flood.”

POOR DRAINAGE IS THE CATALYST

A flooded area in Badia

The community leader notes that the yearly flood has ruined many lives and properties in the area. He also says that party politics and lack of cooperation amongst the residents are contributing to the problem.

“Last week, when it rained, my house was flooded. Everywhere was filled with water. I stayed in a hotel for two days with the children. It happens sometimes every three years. It also happened last year.

He also said: “If a prominent person speaks on our behalf, the government will construct the gutter and connect it to the canal. But no one speaks for us.

“I also realise that many of the landlords who built houses in this area are not living here. That is why the problem of flood is compounding. The drainage we need is the one that will be wide so that water will be directed to the canal.”

THE FLOATING SLUM WORSENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

Although Lagos is vulnerable to climate change, experts say poor drainage systems and clogged street gutters escalating flooding challenges in the city. In many areas of Lagos, flooding has left scores dead and hundreds displaced. 

Mrs. Abdulrahman and daughter who also a nursing mother.

According to Nigeria National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than 2 million people were directly affected by flooding in 2020. At least 69 people lost their lives in flood disasters last year. In 2019, more than 200,000 people were affected by floods with 158 fatalities.

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President, said in January that the country was willing to partner with global allies in tackling climate change.

“We look forward working with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. We have great hope and optimism for the strengthening of existing cordial relationships, working together to tackle global terrorism, climate change, poverty, and to improve economic ties and trade,” Buhari says in a series of tweets.

In July, Nigeria’s presidency, through its Ministry of Environment, announced the approval for a revamped national policy on climate change, aimed at addressing “most, if not all, of the challenges posed by climate change and climate vulnerability in the country”.

Published 10th Sep, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

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