Residents cry for help as estate sinks below sea level *Neighbourhood taken over by drug addicts
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BINTU RAHMAN dreads thunderstorms. The early drizzle pounds fear through her roof into her fragile frame. When it pours, the 86-year-old feels a rare chill to the bones; rivulets trickle through her housetop. It channels down the living room wall, leaving a brownish smear in its wake, the colour of rusted aluminium and dusty slates.
“The rain destroys everything. It leaks through the roof and the flood takes over our homes. Our houses are sinking and falling apart, but we have nowhere else to •Ganga paradise: Unidentified teenagers and young adults smoke Indian Hemp in the open to the Chagrin of Phase I residents. go. I have been trapped inside since four days ago. I couldn’t step into the flood,” she said, staring outside her second-floor apartment at Block 67, Adeniji Adele Phase III Housing Estate, Lagos.
Outside, the spatter of rain had subsided to a sprinkle, the note of each drop playing into the tenor of filth below. The buildings look derelict from afar. Closer, the peach-coloured flats bleed into the bleak, dark, expanse. The sinking houses, peeling paint lines, vanishing porches, roads and sidewalks bear insolent scars of decades-old flooding and sludge, a menacing fallout of administrative neglect and torrential rainsquall.
A journey through the flooded expanse is akin to a pilgrimage of sort. Venturing out of her apartment to receive the reporter, Rahman, 86, seemed like a wayfarer seeking to rediscover the forgotten footpath to the neighbourhood in its prime. However, she couldn’t advance beyond the rickety bridge made of a broken plank, which connects her house to the river of muck bordering her front yard.
At four feet, it’s too shallow to pass as a river, but it was deep enough to instill caution in the 86-year-old and her five-year-old neighbour, Mariam. The latter, cleverly, avoids the pool by taking a detour to her block.
“It’s quite sad,” said Rahman. “Every time I stare down my window, I am besieged by memories of this estate back when it was habitable. Then, we all felt privileged to live here. Little kids (like Mariam) do not have to suffer any ordeal while running an errand. But that was 25 years ago when my late husband, Rasheed, bought our apartment and we moved in thinking we had made a good buy. Today, I can’t bear to live here anymore. There is no pipe-borne water. We have to buy water from vendors.
Nonetheless, she raised her children there. “They used to live on the ground floor, but the persistent flooding sacked them from their apartment,” said Rahman.
Corroborating her, one of her sons, who pleaded anonymity, said that he had to flee his flat on the ground floor and relocate to his parents’ apartment on the second floor.
“It’s so sad. We live here like animals. They can’t keep neglecting us. This place has become very dangerous to live in,” he said.
The ‘Lizards of Lagos’
There is no gainsaying that flooding constitutes a major challenge to residents of Adeniji Adele Housing Estate Phases 1 to 4. The low-income housing estate, which comprises 120 residential blocks of two bedrooms and three bedroom apartments in four phases, was established in 1983. At the period, it was considered an attractive residential project thus making access to the housing units very competitive.
The proximity of the site to the Lagos lagoon, its low lying terrain, and external, physical development infractions have caused the estate to be decimated by floods over the years.
“I moved here as a bachelor in 1985. I also got married here. Those were the glory years. Today, this estate has gone to the dogs,” lamented Yinka Adekunle, 58. The widower and father of four stated that but for his undying attachment to the community, he would have relocated abroad to live with his son.
“I tried it once but I could not bear to live anywhere else. Soon after my wife passed away, my first son invited me over to London to live with his family but I couldn’t. Life over there was too boring and regimented. I missed my friends back home. I felt constantly harassed by the laws over there. I returned home four months later. And I never had any cause to regret until now,” he said.
Residents like Adekunle comprise what is known in coastal city parlance as Alangba Eko, meaning the Lizard of Lagos. The moniker connotes a subtle barb at residents of flooded parts of the Adeniji Adele estate, most of whom have refused to vacate their quarters for more habitable places on the mainland or outside Lagos.
“They do not mind the perils of living in a flooded slum,” said a shoemaker and resident of the estate’s Phase 2 commune.
A short history of neglect
Alhaji Rasaq Noibi, Chairman of Phase 2 residents association and also the Social Secretary of Adeniji Adele Phase I-IV Housing Estate and Oko Awo, stated that the flooding happened due to the neglect of the canal structure that ran through the four phases of the estate.
“By the time we came here, this estate was a great place to live, but in time, there was a sand-filling in front of the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) office across the road. That was when this problem started. It, however, worsened by the time of the filling of the Ilubirin building site; all the water began to flow back here. It worsens during the rainy season, then there is a blockage and flooding became the order of the day here,” he said.
The first flood happened in 1994 and continued ever since. Residents alleged that the major contribution to the persistent flooding is the “sand filling” of the Ilubirin area behind the estate. The sea level rose and water flowed backward. The canal structure is three-quarters-filled with sand, as it is not maintained.
According to Noibi, former Lagos governor, Babatunde Fashola, noticed the dilapidated state of the estate towards the end of his tenure. “He noticed that most of our houses were about collapsing when he came to inspect the canal and he instructed the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) to intervene.
“The agency staff came, and during deliberations, we agreed on relocation. But before we can relocate, we stated that we would hand over our buildings to them for regeneration. After the regeneration, our flats would be given back to us, free. The project commenced in Phase 1 of the estate, where five blocks were demolished to pave way for the exercise.
“At the sitting with LASURA, it was decided that residents whose houses were billed for regeneration (renovation) would be relocated to the LASURA Transit Camps at Iba and Amuwo. Before the exercise commenced, they were given N25,000 each to finance their relocation to the transit camps. But there were some who insisted that they are lizards of Lagos (Alangba Eko); they said they were not living the vicinity of the estate,” said Noibi.
“So, we agreed that those ones should be given money to rent houses in the area and each family was given N1.2 million as rent for three years. Subsequently, the figure was reviewed to N550, 000 per year. But as we speak now, their rent is due and they are yet to receive the next instalment.
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office, said Noibi, “he said he would not spend government money on the scheme and suggested that we involved a private investor. Then we (community heads) contacted the United Africa Company (UAC), who were more than willing to help out, but Ambode refused to put pen to paper. This is why we are here today,” he lamented.
It will be recalled that the Lagos State Government paid N6.6 million to the 12 families who were displaced due to the ongoing redevelopment project of Adeniji Adele Phase 1 as rent for the 2017/2018 period.
The 12 families who received the payment were reporteldy among the 30 families living in the estate before the demolition for redevelopment.
The government was said to have paid an initial N18 million as rent for the 12 families in 2014, while the N6.6m served as payment for the 2017/18 period with each family collecting N550,000 as against N500,00 previously collected due to increase in rent.
The families were given two options of resettlement: either they moved to LASURA’s Transit Camp within Iba Housing Estate or get paid to secure a convenient accommodation in a location of their choice, pending the completion of the project.
Eighteen families opted for resettlement at the transit camp while the remaining 12 families chose to receive money to rent an apartment of their choice in a preferred location.
Drug dens and marijuana divide
Those left behind, that is, current residents of the estate, however, have to contend with greater challenges. Besides the persistent flooding, decrepit infrastructure and lack of potable water supply, they have to deal with the invasion of the community by aliens and shady characters.
“A major fallout of our flooding challenge is the invasion of our community by criminal elements. Since many of the apartments here are deserted after flood sacked the occupants, criminals have moved into the empty buildings; they have turned most of them into drug dens where they sell and smoke hard drugs,” disclosed a member of the estate’s Community Development Association (CDA), who pleaded anonymity.
The Nation’s tour of the area revealed the depth of the estate’s brewing drug crisis. The reporter encountered gangs of youths brazenly smoking and selling Indian Hemp in the open, particularly near the clogged canal of the estate’s Phase 1 region.
Why govt, other stakeholders must intervene
Worried by the crisis posed by the estate’s environmental challenges, among other habitats, stakeholders came together recently to address the challenges at the climate and habitat conference on Flood Resilience and Housing in the City of Lagos. The event, which was convened by development guru, Lookman Oshodi’s Arctic Infrastructure (AI) and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Nigeria, at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) building, Alausa, Ikeja, on Thursday, June 20, highlighted the climate change factors affecting the city.
Speaking at the event, Engr. Sunday Omoniyi of the Lagos State Public Works Corporation/Ministry of the Environment reviewed the flooding situation in Adeniji-Adele, Lagos Island and Divine Estate Idi-Ori, Ajegunle as ponderous case studies.
Reacting to flooding and housing challenges in Adeniji-Adele/Ilubirin, he said that the government improved on the state’s drainage Master Plan in 2015 to “de-flood” the entire state, including Adeniji Adele Housing Estate, but gross environmental mismanagement hindered the functionality of the basic drainage infrastructures within the area.
Omoniyi linked the causes of flooding in Lagos to global climate change and poor urban planning.
He stated that according to the drainage Master Plan 2015, there are three primary drainage channels and other secondary and tertiary drain networks within Adeniji Adele neighbourhood proposed to “de-flood” Lagos Island, and they are mostly concrete lined.
The primary channels are the Jankara/Adeniji-Adele channel which runs through the Ilubirin reclaimed land area with 10 meters bottom width, 15 meters top width and 1.5 meters depth; the McGregor channel, which runs within Osborne estate having a 10 meters bottom width, 15 meters top width and 1.5 meters depth; the Mandilas/Ebute Elefun channel, which runs along with Sura Market and Osborne extension.
Omoniyi recommended total urban regeneration of the estate due to the structural state of most of the buildings and its poor planning at the time of conception.
Funding the master plan may, however, pose a problem going by the claim of Abiodun Oyeshola of the state’s Ministry of Finance that the budgetary provision for drainage—both construction and maintenance—is declining. The major cause of setback in fighting flood in the state, argued Oyeshola, is government policy and lack of political will.
Further expert analysis of the flooding at the Adeniji Adele Housing Estate revealed that the community was built below sea level. Arctic Infrastructure recommended that the estate should be raised at least 3.5 meters above sea level as opposed to its current 0.6 meters, due to its closeness to the Lagos lagoon.
In an earlier attempt to improve living conditions in the estate, Lagos authorities mooted a major urban renewal project billed to see the transformation of the estate into high-rise buildings. As part of the efforts of the state government to get rid of slums in the state, it projected a reduction at five per cent per annum basis of its slums in the Lagos State Development Plan 2012–2025, similar to the first and second phases of the Lagos Island redevelopment that involved Isalegangan and Ojo-Giwa areas.
At present, the estate houses 15,000 people with 720 housing units, but in the swift urban renewal project, the state targeted 2,500 housing units in a high rising building format.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation, the General Manager of LASURA, Sholebo, disclosed that the redevelopment of Adeniji Adele Housing Estate Phase I-IV will commence soon.
He cited UACN Property Development Company (UPDC) Plc and ATO/Integra Architects Consortium as prospective developers, who have indicated interest and submitted designs for the projects.
He said that the state targets the construction of 2,500 housing units with all infrastructural facilities including alternative power supply and recreational facilities. According to him, “The redevelopment of Adeniji Adele Phase I-IV Housing Estate will be using a combination of various house types at various heights to achieve the required density for the redevelopment. The project consists of commercial and community development as well as provisions for elevated parking spaces would make it one of the iconic estates in the state.”
He said the project, when completed, will further meet the housing needs of residents in fulfilment of the government’s promise to provide shelter across all divisions of Lagos.
Although the United Nations (UN) pegged the city’s population at 14 million, Lagos government estimates it nearer 21 million, as rural Nigerians are drawn by the hope of a better life to its congested mainland and coastlines, daily.
To contain the surge in population, the new administration of Babajide Sanwoolu would be banking on the Lagos Drainage Master Plan 2015, drafted to address necessary factors such as area topography, tidal variations and climate change, among other variables, to ensure that the city of Lagos and Adeniji Adele Housing Estate Phase I-IV in particular, is flood-resilient.
Amid the misery of flooding and failed drainages, Bintu Rahman, 86, is a woman older and wiser. Her mind gradually adapts, like a channel of coarse memories and forms, through which beauty once raged.
Her five-year-old neighbour, Mariam, on the other hand, presents a perfect opposite to the widow and grandmother. Innocence enshrouds her as she meanders, running errands through rivers of muck, daily, like a light-walker on pond scum.
In the estate, the five-year-old cuts the perfect mould of what may pass as the beauty of things after a rainstorm. Yet it cannot be said that the storm has eluded or besmirched her. For she is of the storm.
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