BBN Special

Ajegunle-Itowolo annual flooding: A tale of strife and survival

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Safiu Kehinde & Aishat Ibrahim

Laid along Ikorodu-Lagos road were rows of sinking houses and floating ones. They are all pegged by the Ogun river bank looking fadish and gloomy — a revelation of years of being out washed by the flooded river during rainy season.

Majority of states in Nigeria are increasingly suffering from annual flooding which is mainly human-induced with poor urban planning practices and nonexistence of environmental infrastructure.

Admitted that Ajegunle-Itowolo axis is historically a riverine area, but the annual release of water from the Oyan dam contributes more to the flooding than the rain itself. Situated in Ogun State and managed by the Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority, OORDA, the dam is the key player to the annual flooding which according to a resident, Mr. Ahmed, have rendered a lot of landlords homeless.

Sitting by the river bank with a bowl of worms and a string of fishing line stretched into a potion of what supposed to be a building foundation, Mr. Ahmed blamed the covetousness of land owners on the calamity that befell them.

“Some people built houses here based on management. They do not consider raising the foundation of the house before erecting. And as such, they bear the brunt whenever the flood arrives. So many foundation lies deep under this river and so many houses have been swept away. There lot of landlords who have developed partial stroke as a result of this flood,” he said.

The flood, according to Mr. Ahmed, usually submerge the area for three months, destroying residents’ property and affecting their day-to-day activities.

He added, “Whenever the dam is opened, the residents of Ajegunle suffers from flooding for at least three months covering house foundation, damaging houses, denied residents means of livelihood and render people homeless for long period.”

In July, OORDA stated its intention to release the Oyan Dam, proposing to write to Lagos and Ogun State governments respectively in an attempt to alert residents before releasing the dam.

According to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of OORDA, Mr. Olufemi Odumosu, the agency had planned to write to both Lagos and Ogun State governments having received data from their dam team.

The management proposed the release of six to eight million cubic metre (mcm) per day in July, four to six mcm per day in August, seven to nine mcm per day in September, 13 to 15 mcm per day in October, and one to three mcm per day in November and December till the eventual closure of the dam for the year 2021.

Coupled with the awareness created by OORDA in July, was the effort of Ogun State Government in ensuring that there was less flooding through putting in place right measures such as identifying the cause of the flood, dredging excess sand of the river, and sending warning signs to those who farm and live along river banks and lowlands, urging them to vacate such places. These were all attested by Mr. Ahmed when he spoke to BlackBox Nigeria.

However, a teacher at Itowolo community Primary school, Mr. Agbaje (aka Uncle Dodo), shrugged off the idea of residents vacating the area on account of flood. He established the fact that Itowolo is known to be a riverine area and had been in existence for over eight decades.

According to him, the indigenes of the flooded area in particular, are usually happy when the flood comes. They do take the advantage to engage in more fishing which they use as source of livelihood.

Though flooding is a disaster, doing more harm than good, which people suffer from but fishermen make good twist of the natural disaster into their own merit. They set for fishing and display their catch, which ranges from fresh fish to reptiles, by the roadside.

“Fishermen are usually happy during the flood because they are able to fish and enjoy profits made from fishing during the period,” Uncle Dodo added.

He further claimed that the evacuation of residents from the area might lead to seizure of the land by the government and in due time, it becomes government property.

An indigene of Eti-Osa, Uncle Dodo shared his hometown history with BlackBox Nigeria. He narrated of they were evacuated from Takwa Bay due to similar issue of flooding. The colonial masters as at then allegedly seized the land and turn it into government residence for top officials. Such, according to him, can also happen at Ajegunle-Itowolo axis if the government are to embark on sand filling and renovating the community.

Speaking on the impact of the flood on education in the community, Mr. Agbaje revealed that the students are less bothered about the flood. But other teachers who are not residents and not from riverine area like him do find it challenging when flood arrives.

“We have to hold most teachers whenever they are crossing the makeshift wooden bridges that lead to their respective classes,” he said.

Meanwhile, representatives of OORDA did not respond to requests for comments.

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