On June 15, Isa Lawan was taking cover from the heavy downpour at a church opposite the Habibatu Mogaji market in Agege, where he supplies dog feed to his customers, when he spotted a tricycle rider struggling against a ravaging flood, close to a canal.
He felt uneasy so he went back inside the church to wait for the flood to subside. After a few hours, Lawan stepped outside and found a large crowd close to the canal. He was shocked to learn, he told The Record, that the tricycle had been swept away by the flood, along with a couple of other people.
This is a common occurrence in this community, according to residents who spoke to The Record. Whenever it rains heavily, the road close to the bridge, which crosses the canal just beside the Total filling station at Abattoir, gets submerged. The flood covers the road and makes it impossible for pedestrians or motorists to navigate through.
The Punch Newspaper had reported that about eight persons, a yet-to-be-identified mother, her baby and six other persons went missing as they got swept into the canal by the flood.
However, many of the eyewitnesses who spoke to the Record, stated that only four people drowned: a mother and her child, a tricycle driver and a young man.
One of the traders, who wanted to remain anonymous, started by narrating the incident to The Record with a prayer to God, asking Him to prevent a recurrence of such an unfortunate incident.
She claimed to have witnessed the incident from her shop. According to her, the tricycle got stuck in the middle of the submerged road while the driver was trying to push it out of the water. Then the current of the murky flood water swept him and his vehicle away.
“The person who was trying to assist him to push the tricycle out also got carried by the flood,” she told The Record, speaking in Yoruba.
The financial secretary of the Habibatu Mogaji market, Diamond Lanre, confirmed the incident to The Record. He said the tricycle driver was rescued and taken to the hospital.
“It was yesterday I later learnt that he died or something like that too,” Lanre said.
No missing report filed, Police say
The police said they were not aware of any drowned bodies at the canal on June 15.
“This is what we have been hearing but for me, I cannot establish it up till now, nobody has come to tell us that they have a missing case,” the Divisional Police Officer at Abattoir Police Station, CSP Olatunji Oladimeji told The Record.
During the dry season or whenever it isn’t flooded, the canal is usually flowing with wastewater and produce from the nearby abattoir, which takes the waste water towards Orile-Agege, Abekoko, Aboru, and Iyana-Ipaja axis.
One look at the canal shows how much havoc the flood has caused. The soil of the underground canal has been eroded, eating deep into the ground and making it a death trap for anyone who mistakenly falls into it.
The assistant secretary of the Habibatu Mogaji market, Mr Adeboye Fasonyin urged the state government to build a sustainable drainage for the community, citing that one of the causes of the flood is the bad drainage system.
“They should dredge the place and do the drainage, a very big one at that,” Fasonyin said. “It seems the drainage is too small for the water.”
When The Record visited the Orile-Agege Local Council Development Area, the works and infrastructure department said it was aware of the problem.
“It is under state management, it is beyond what the local government can do,” head of the department, Ogundairo Olusoji, said.
He added that work has started in some areas. “They started like early last year. We can’t say when they will be done,” he said.
In 2022, the Lagos state government budgeted N8.5 billion for flood control and erosion.
In the Agege area, the government earmarked N266.5 million for the construction of a drain to de-flood Government Senior College, Agege and N1.8 billion for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Oko-Oba channel.
The Government Senior College contract was awarded to First Bellings International Limited. The trio of Rege-Je Limited, Ganee Ventures and Windsor Wood Furniture and Fittings were assigned the Oko-Oba channel project.
A recurring decimal
Like many parts of Lagos, flooding in the Agege area has a long history. Whenever it rains, fears of an impending catastrophe heightens. For years, residents and stakeholders have called for a drainage system that allows the free flow of water. The government has also advised residents against indiscriminate dumping of waste which leads to drainage blockages.
In Orile-Agege, the Arigbanla canal was designed to solve the flooding issue but it has proved inadequate. In 2016, residents protested the abandonment of the canal dredging and concrete lining project.
Since then, the tragedies have continued to pile on. In 2019, flood overran a public primary school in Agege. In 2020, about 20 families were displaced from their homes due to the rise in water levels; a four-year-old girl also went missing in the flood disaster. Last year, at least two persons went missing after vehicles were submerged in flood water. This year’s floods are projected to be worse.
Earlier this month, some residents in the Orile-Agege area for the umpteenth time urged the state government to come to their aid.
One resident told Punch Newspaper that drainage and road work in the area has been haphazard. “Sometimes, we see workers there as if they are really doing something about it, and later, we don’t see them anymore,” the resident said. “Government officials have been coming and promising to do something about this bridge but we don’t see them anymore. Even the gravel poured over there, the rain has been gradually washing it away into the canal.”