By Tope Templer OLAIYA
IT is about another time Lagosians would begin to sing the old nursery rhyme Rain rain, go away. While many look forward to the rainy season as a huge relief from the searing heat of the last few weeks, the prediction of a heavy downpour spanning over 200 days is already raising anxiety among residents of Lagos.
Last week, in an address that signaled an admission to providence, the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, called on residents to take necessary precautions to avert dangers, while bracing up for heavy storms.
The alarm bell is already ringing. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has predicted the probability of 236 days of heavy rains, with the possibility of heavy storm. And the reason for the alarm is justified. July 10, last year is a sad reminder of the day a heavy downpour shut down Lagos.
“The implication is that Lagos shall experience a rainy season of about 234 to 238 days. A break is expected in-between, while the rains will start again in late August or early September, before the season finally ends in November 2012. So, the end of rainfall is November 12, with marginal error of two days between November 10 and 14,” Bello said.
The wave of torrential rainfall was last year extended to other states, including Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Edo and Rivers, alongside its attendant destruction of lives and property.
If July 10 is a distant memory, it was an unusual gust of strong wind that descended on Lagos in the morning of February 13, killing seven and wrecking havoc on so many buildings. The rainstorm pulled down the roofs of not less than 200 buildings.
However, the commissioner noted that government would not relent in ensuring the completion of ongoing rehabilitation and clearing of the canals, disclosing that the state is collaborating with the local governments in this regard.
“We want to assure residents that all the needed measures would be put in place to ensure a flood-free rainy season.”
General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the state “is on top of the situation.” For him, government will not be caught unawares unlike the previous season.
He said the administration of Babatunde Fashola “is taking the battle against flooding more seriously, at least to save residents from its grave cost.”
Osanyintolu, however, acknowledged that flood “is the main natural disaster Lagos metropolis is susceptible to.” And bearing this in mind, he said the state “has fine-tuned its early warning system, intensified sensitisation campaign against flood disaster, and taken multi-pronged approaches to contain its imminent crisis.”
CURIOUSLY, unlike previous attempts at warning residents, the state government is silent about the fate of some communities in the north-eastern part of the state. Last year, residents of over 10 communities were directed to relocate uplands in order to avoid the grave consequence of flood disaster.
The flood-prone communities listed as disaster zone areas include Ikosi-Ketu, Mile 12, Agiliti, Thomas Laniyan Estate, Owode-Onirin, Agboyi-Ketu, Owode Elede, Maidan and Isheri North.
But for residents of the affected areas, there is no cause for alarm, as they insist people at risk of flooding are those living on the bank of the river, which runs through the communities. A resident of Agiliti for three decades, Mrs. Victoria Omidiji, said “we are not suffering from the rain, it is the dam from the Ogun River, which is opened once in three years, that floods this area. And the dam was last opened in 2010. So, until 2013, we have no reason to fear.”
Omidiji, however, thanked Governor Fashola for coming to the rescue of the community with the construction of a bridge, which before now had been the nemesis in Agiliti. In the past, whenever there is heavy rainfall, the whole area is cut-off from Mile 12, while a canoe is used to come in or go out of the area.
“The only thing that can make us leave our homes in panic is only if God cancels the decision he made between himself and mankind that He would not use flood or water to destroy the world again like it was in the days of Noah. If that covenant does not fail, there is no rain that can destroy us,” Omidiji said.
Another resident, Ademola Ibrahim, described most of the areas designated as disaster zone as an island surrounded by water. “It is only those on the wetland that can be affected by rain water. Those who bought land close to the riverbank were lured because of the price.
“They also saw other people already inhabiting there, but they forgot that majority of them are from a particular tribe who live on water. These Itsekiris and Ilajes are comfortable with water and they built their house with palm fronds and wood, instead of blocks, meaning they are prepared for any eventuality without warning.”