By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
It’s almost a year ago, exactly on Sunday, July 10, 2011, a day residents of Arigbanla community in Agege would hardly forget, as a 10-hour downpour nearly sacked their communities.
The rain started very early and gradually filled the banks of the Arigbanla Canal, which cuts across three communities starting from Agege Abattoir to Pleasure Bus Stop, until it overflowed and caused untold hardship.
At the end of the day, about 10 people died in the flood while property worth millions of Naira were destroyed. Uncountable numbers of residents were displaced from their homes and many businesses destroyed.
On that wet Sunday, it was one flood disaster too many, which prompted the Lagos State government into action, to construct the canal.
For over two weeks after the July 10 flood incident, Arigbanla canal and neighbouring communities became a disaster area where several people, including federal and state lawmakers, visited. The construction of the canal was immediately awarded to Sparta Contractors with directives that it “must be completed on or before July 2012.”
However, when it first rained in February this year, there were fears by members of the community that the horrible disaster of a year ago might be repeated going by the rate at which the construction project was going.
Some of them did cry out but the governor, Babatunde Fashola, and the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, who were at the sight to inspect the project, gave the assurance that: “Under no circumstances whatsoever will the community experience such disaster they witnessed a year ago during the rainy season.”
A young boy ponders into the future as rain water flood their homes after a heavy downpour in Lagos… last week.
Meanwhile, the community members are jubilating and appreciating the governor and Sparta Contractor for a job well done on the canal. “There had been no flood since the rain started this year. There is not even any sign there will be flood due to the standard and design of the canal,” said a member of the community.
According to a resident, Olusola Taiye, “my family was affected last year and that took my interest in the work the contractor was doing. As it is now, it would be difficult if not impossible for another major flood to ravage our community.”
Taiye noted that the very first step that the contractor took that showed signs of a quality job in the offing was the destruction of illegal houses along the water channel.
Another resident, Sunday Dada, who grew up in the area, said: “It was a good step to have awarded that contract within the shortest time frame; otherwise, if by any chance what happened last year repeated itself this year, then the entire community is doom.”
He added that when a bulldozer belonging to Sparta Contractors commenced work on the canal, members of the community welcomed it with open arms.
“When the bulldozer started demolishing structures along the bank of the 1.5 kilometre canal, there was not a single security agent or Lagos State Task Force member present. We all gave our support, including members of the Community Development Association (CDA) led by Elder Emmanuel Alegbe, to ensure that work was not impeded.”
The lawmaker, representing Agege Federal Constituency, Babatunde Adejare, has also commended the construction, but urged the people to desist from destroying what government had put in place to save their lives.
He noted that the devastation in Arigbanla last year was severe because the natural flood-channel was completely blocked by illegal buildings and structures; “but the state government has done its best and the contractor, I learnt, who also constructed Gbagada/Atunrase canal, did a very good job on the project.”
Adejare appealed to Lagosians to desist from erecting illegal structures, particularly on canal and drainages. “It was so devastating last year because while residential houses were built right at the edge of the water channel, some companies constructed high-walled fence across the channel,” he said.
A resident of Gbagada at the scene, Kehinde Ashalu, said for the 15 years he had stayed in Gbagada, the last two years after the construction of the canal were the best.
“Before the canal was constructed, we were always apprehensive of the rainy season. We were always worried at what may likely happen as a result of flood. But since the canal was completed by this firm, the flood menace has become history, even on the Gbagada-Oshodi Expressway.”
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Sparta Contractors, Mr. Femi Oshoniyi, said the dredging and clearing of Arigbanla canal, which started from Agege, will terminate at Pleasure Bus-stop, on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, covering a distance of 1.5 kilometres and passing through Arigbanla, Aboru, Abule-Egba, Katangora and Fatokun street.
He noted that the company is looking critically at the design of the canal in such a way to save many structures that would have been demolished, adding that the company has solicited the support of push-carts, auto technicians and the CDA executives, “whom we intend to commit with the responsibilities to monitor the area so that people will no longer dump refuse into the canal.”
Nearly completed Arigbanla Canal, Agege at the weekend.
However, efforts invested by the state government in the construction of the canal may be defeated in the long run except the Federal Government takes an urgent step to expand the bridge on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway through which water, flowing through Arigbanla, discharges to the other side of the road.
The water passage under the bridge is too narrow to contain the volume of water traveling through the canal. A resident, Semiu Oshiniyi, said: “There was a little flood on Wednesday in the area. This is not because the contractor has not done a good job but the fact is the water channel under the bridge is too narrow.”
Oshiniyi also said unless the Federal Government expands the bridge to contain the torrent coming from the canal, it would destroy the bridge and cause untold hardship to residents around the area.” He called on the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to do something fast, to reconstruct the bridge to match the size and strength of the canal.
The attention of the state government has also been drawn to the need to put a barbed-wire fence along the Ladipo Canal because of the indiscriminate dumping of refuse, including discarded vehicle parts, into the canal.
The Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello, in a statement at the weekend, warned that the administration would no longer tolerate any form of environmental nuisance.