By Ayodele Olu Peters
From 8th Friday to Sunday 10th July, Lagos was hit by heavy and perennial rainfall that fell continuously for no less than 8- 10 hours over the weekend. One of the natural and inevitable consequences of such heavy down power was the flooding in many areas of the state and damage of property as well as loss of lives in a number of places. [/b]Cynically seizing on this occurrence as an opportunity to play politics, the media team of [b]the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Dr Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, also known as Jandor, issued a statement not only subtly blaming the state government for the flood but purportedly claimed that he was setting up a Disaster Recovery Team across the state to come to the aid of flood victims.
According to the statement, “Jandor has reached out to some of the victims earlier in the week, but the situation became worrisome today with the torrential rain that has lasted for about 7 hours. It is disheartening to see the good people of the state suffer such neglect and huge discomfort. This disaster is preventable and avoidable at least to the bearable minimum”.
What exactly does this mean? Does Jandor know the difference between flooding and flash flooding? Did he ask his team to undertake the.necessary research before issuing the statement that amounted to political grandstanding and a display of comical ignorance? surely, more more is expected from one who aspires to become the governor of Lagos State and must be known to be diligent, profound, meticulous and refraining at all from frivolity in his public discourse.
Jandor himself in his statement admits that there was “torrential rain that has lasted for about seven hours”. The question is, for how long did flood water remain on the streets and drains across the state when the rain eventually stopped? The flood water had subsided and cleared within 24 and at most 48 hours in heavily hit areas. This is a natural and routine occurrence in several especially low-lying areas across the world both in developed and underdeveloped countries.
What does Jandor really know about Lagos? Is he aware of the relationship between the geographical location of Lagos relative to the sea and the vulnerability of many parts of the state to flooding? Experts estimate that Lagos is less than two meters above sea level and that some parts of the state may well be below sea level. That means that flooding is a phenomenon that the state must continue to cope with even as it strives to continue to improve on the knowledge, skills and technology to mitigate its effects.
According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “Over the last 30 years, urban flooding, a natural disaster in many parts of the world, has continued to rear its ugly head. Across both developed and developing countries, flooding has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced about 650 million”.
Wikipedia explains further that flash flooding occurs when heavy rainfall exceeds the ability of the ground to absorb it and that flooding is a longer term event that may last days or weeks while flash flooding, which is caused by heavy rainfall, lasts for a short period of time generally less than 6 hours. It also noted that “Flooding along rivers is a natural and inevitable part of life. Some floods occur seasonally when winter or spring rains, coupled with melting snows, fill river basins with too much water too quickly”.
So does Jandor intend to magically elevate Lagos much higher above the sea level if he is lucky to become governor? Or will he relocate the state away from the sea and the lagoon? Had the PDP candidate done his research as expected of a serious politician who aspires to occupy an office as critical as the governor of Lagos State, he would have discovered that the kind of flash floods experienced in Lagos and some other parts of Nigeria is a frequent phenomenon across the world.
Again, for instance, Wikipedia reports that “In July 2021, several European countries were affected by severe floods. Some were catastrophic, causing deaths and widespread damage. The floods started in the United Kingdom as flash floods causing some property damage and inconvenience. Later floods affected several river basins across Europe including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg,the Netherlands and Switzerland. At least 243 people died in the floods including 196 in Germany, 43 in Belgium, two in Romania, one in Italy and one in Austria”.
Other well documented incidents of flooding include a stormy weather which affected several areas of Poland including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow and Poznań and flash flooding in some parts of western Poland on June 22, 2021, after 60mm of rain fell in just one hour that day.
And in China, the country has this year experienced its heaviest rains since 1961 with downpours causing serious floods and landslides. In July 2022, London was hit by two serious flash floods just two weeks apart.Some parts of the city reportedly received more than twice the average monthly rainfall in just two hours with the floods causing massive disruption with homes and properties flooded by rainwater and sewage.
According to the National Weather Service of the United States, South East Alaska experienced flooding and landslides in December 2020, which destroyed four houses, killed two people and damaged property worth nearly $30 million. Other flooding reports in the United States occurred In Nashville in March, 2021, Hawaii in March 2021, Alabama and the South East United States in May 2021, Louisiana in May 2021, South East Michigan in June 2021, South East Pennsylvania including Bucks County, Bensalem, Croydon and Bristol Township on July 12, 2021, in Coconino County, Arizona, on 14 July, 2021, in Middle Tennessee across the Counties of Stewart, Houston, Dickson, Humphrey and Hickman on August 21, 2021. And in June 2022, large areas of Montana including Yellowstone National Park was affected by heavy flooding.
The Lagos State government must be commended for constructing and maintaining what is perhaps the most expansive and modern network of drainage channels across the state especially since 1999. At the assumption to office of governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in 2019, the gains made in the area of waste disposal since 1999 had been allowed to dissipate by the previous administration and the state was once again confronted by mountains of refuse a lot of which blocked drainage channels and created flooding problems. The administration had however remedied the situation within six months and refuse no longer remains a significant cause of flooding.
In a commendably proactive move, the Lagos State Ministry of Environment had as far back as March 2022, alerted residents about the predicted high rainfalls this year and the socio-economic implications for the people. To mitigate the extent of flooding, the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Tunji Bello, said the Ministry had put in place an all-year-round drainage maintenance mechanism for effective flood control as well as a functional and efficient solid waste management system.
As if Mr Bello had a premonition of the kind of antics mischievous politicians like Jandor could be up to, he had in March urged the media to help educate the public that “sometimes when it rains heavily, it is natural to have flash floods which will percolate or drain off quickly, as is the case in different parts of the world. It is only when flood remains several hours after the cessation of the rains that one can report that flooding has occurred. I therefore wish to plead with the media to be more circumspect in the manner they report issue of flash flooding with banner headlines that could create panic”.
Jandor’s claim that he has set up a Disaster Recovery Team across the 20 LGAs to assist victims of floods is also most laughable. Suffice it to say that Local Government Councils across the state routinely address such issues in their areas of jurisdiction and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) is one of the best equipped, staffed and motivated in the country to perform such functions which it has been doing exemplarily to the admiration of all. As Mr Bello said in March, “All emergency agencies, responders and Traffic Management outfits are also on standby to assist in reducing the negative impact of thunderstorm associated with rainfall in the state”.
-Olu Peters, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Ikeja