Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

FLOODS: Consequences of Lack of Planning

FLOODS: Consequences of Lack of Planning

By Bosah Chinedu

The downpour across the country and its attendant flood has continued to leave behind loss of billions of naira worth of properties, deaths and homelessness. Floods are the Nigeria’s tsunami or hurricane, even though it could have been avoided if society was well planned. The states which are the worst affected are Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States, Edo, Taraba, Borno, Yobe and Bauchi. About 5,000 houses and 125,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed in Taraba, Bauchi, Yobe, and Borno leaving 5,770 displaced as a result of recent 5-hour heavy rain. Residents of Benin City, Edo State are no strangers to flooding as it is commonplace that every wet season, some residents are forced to abandon their houses.

The July 10 2011 heavy rainfall has exposed as myth the so-called “giant stride” and “megacity performance” of Governor Babatunde Fashola. Virtually, all areas of Lagos were affected in one way or the other cutting across both highbrow and poor working class areas. Areas like Agege, Lekki, Apapa, Alimosho, Ajegunle etc., were overtaken by flood, vehicular movement was paralyzed, many cars were damaged in the process and property worth billions of Naira were destroyed. Even human lives were not spared as about 25 persons, including 11 children, died across the state.

Friday August 26 heavy rain in Ibadan left about 100 people dead and billions of Naira worth of property destroyed. Communities such as Apata, Oluyole and Owode Estate were completely cut off from other parts of Ibadan. The bridge linking 7UP area in Oluyole to Mobil area collapsed while Odo Ona bridge was completely submerged rendering the road impassable. The most affected areas are Oke Ayo, Yemetu, Bodija Estate, Olomi, Eleyele, Apete, Odo Ona-Elewe and Onipepeye section of Old Ife Road. All 6 children of the same family were reported dead at Oluyole area.

Some have blamed the Ibadan flood on dumping of refuse on drainage while others said that the breakage of the dam wall or opening of the dam gate was responsible. Different reasons have been adduced to the cause of the deluge that took place in Lagos, some have ignorantly stated that what happened was natural and could not have been otherwise. Truly, flood could be caused by the river or ocean which over flow its banks as a result of heavy rainfall. The recent flood in Lagos was not as a result of overflow of the Atlantic Ocean but by the absence of adequate or good drainage system.

The response of Governor Fashola and his Oyo state counterpart, Abiola Ajimobi, to the flood is the usual martial and fire brigade approach. Both had stated that some identified buildings on drainage and refuse dumping in drainage by residents were responsible for the flooding and as such they will be demolished. Blaming the crisis on the poor, mostly the victims, is the standard response of governments at all levels. On the surface, it may look reasonable because there are some houses built on drainages while many have been filled with refuse. However, these reasons are not the root cause of floods, they are just consequences of lack of planning. Where were government officials when these houses were erected on drainages? No one should lose sight of the fact that the flood also affected highbrow areas like Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos and Oluyole in Ibadan where it is not common practice to throw refuse into drainages.

Besides, many of the drainages and canals across the federation were not properly built and have overtime degenerated to the extent that they could not properly serve their purposes; most of the canals have been silted and overgrown with plants; most are filled with refuse and sand. Lagos, like in most cities like Ibadan and Port Harcourt is increasingly densely populated. The more population increases, the more the challenges of basic infrastructures. Lagos like other parts of Nigeria was never planned in a holistic manner. Planning means every area of life is put into consideration when putting and expanding basic infrastructures. When houses were built without putting into consideration a central water system, a central sewage, electricity, drainages, canals, roads, bridges, pipelines, rail lines, dams etc., there is bound to be a problem.

The level of physical development today is largely as a result of self-help or private investment. A planned society would take into account effective channels of waste water from a building to drainage linking possibly to bigger drainages or floodways and to canals. And all the drainages, canals, roads etc., would be built to live up to the challenges of a low or high land and the environment in its entirety. However when a government leaves everybody to build his or her houses, possibly drainages and roads, it is encouraging a state of anarchy! As a result of neo-liberal policies the government has abandoned housing scheme which used to provide some measure of low cost housing for some workers and poor masses. Today, the governments build houses and rent expensive houses with public resources for the rich who could afford the expensive houses.

The government must immediately provide alternative houses for the victims of the flood and those people whose houses have been marked for demolition. The labour and the pro-masses’ platforms like Joint Action Forum (JAF) must show interests and campaign around the plight of victims of the flood and those that will be affected by the demolition. As experiences have shown just as in the case of Maroko in Lagos, the government would acquire the affected areas and share the land among the rich and its yes men without adequate compensation for the original owners.

It is the thieving elements in the government, irrespective of the political parties, who have failed to use the public resources for the provision of decent mass housing, functional drainage system and urban planning that are primarily responsible for the flood. The Nigerian parasitic pro-capitalist elite make their fortunes from public resources. Hence their drive for primitive accumulation deprive the public the resources for proper physical development. This has meant that the campaign for adequate compensation for victims of the flood, mass housing schemes, functional drainage system and urban planning should be linked with the need for a working people political alternative armed with socialist program and method. Such a party in government can guarantee meeting those demands on a lasting basis and use the public resources for the benefit of all.