Communities along the Lagos coastline in Eti Osa Local Government Area may be used to flooding incidents but definitely not the kind they have been experiencing in recent times. The inundations that now come unannounced have been particularly disturbing due to their frequency and the quantum of land that the locals must cede to the raging Atlantic with every incident.
The informal fishing communities of Okun Alfa, Okun Ajah, Lafiaji, Okun Mopo are the most affected by climate-induced rising sea levels and have lost more than 1000 meters of land to the sea incursions. They now seem helpless as what they call home is now on the verge of extinction.
On 20 September 2023 the Atlantic greeted the locals very early in the morning, leaving many seething with anger and frustration as their buildings and the little property they had got submerged.
Sheriff Adekunle Elegushi, a 45 year old community mobilizer who was born in Okun Alfa explained to News Arcade that the flooding that morning and much of the day reached thigh-levels in the streets directly opposite the ocean and forced many to hurriedly relocate to safety. Those who had nowhere to go just looked on despondently.
Sheriff explained that the early settlers in his community usually recounted stories of ocean surge and inundations which happened at certain times of the year and necessitated their relocating upland. He pointed out that the floods used to recede, making it possible for the locals to go back to their former environment to continue with their lives. But all that has changed.
Like Sheriff, locals who bared their minds argue that while climate change is a major factor behind their plight, the Eko Atlantic City project and the Twin Lakes Estate, a heavily fenced Chevron project being constructed by building giant, Julius Berger are also contributing factors.
“There have been barriers set up to check the waves but they have been useless because of the dredging activities to fill the Eko Atlantic City where the rich will live. So it is practically robbing Peter to pay Paul that is happening here”, Olaosebikan Laide explains.
The Lagos State government and private developers embarked on the Eko Atlantic City Project in 2009 with a pledge that at completion it will house at least 250,000 residents and witness a steady flow of 150,000 commuters daily. But many residents along the Lekki corridor have raised concerns about the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that the Lagos State government says it carried out before the Atlantic City project was approved.
Chevron’s Twin Lakes Estate project very close to Okun Alfa is a mixed-use development on 200 Hectares of land along the Lekki-Epe expressway and directly opposite Chevron Nigeria Limited Head Office. It was built to accommodate offices, educational facilities, medium, high density and single family housing resort and a Convention Centre. Like the Eko Atlantic City, the waters around the facility is diverted into the adjoining suburbs.
The challenges are double whammy for the locals as the development project has locked them in place.
Tales of Woe
A 64 year old resident, Yakubu Wahab explained that the sea level rise has been gradual, starting in the late 1980s and steadily increasing. He believes the government at state and federal levels have abandoned them.
“The Federal and state governments have failed us. There is no clearly defined intervention strategy or plan to stop the projects that are worsening the rising sea levels”
Echoing Wahab’s position, Amuda Alayande, a centenarian said that promises by government to address the menace have not manifested and the hopes that anything positive will happen deems as more inundations occur.
Not only the environment in the communities have been altered; businesses have also taken a hit as many fisherfolks and beachfront tourism managers have not only lost their houses but also their sources of income, leaving a large army of unemployed youths, many of whom, now engage in illicit activities such as smoking of controlled substances and for the young girls, prostitution.
“These young men and ladies used to solicit tourists who pay for the tents they used to set up when the Atlantic was still at a distance but now that the sea has eaten into the community there are no longer tourists so most of them have resorted to illicit activities to survive”, Yemisi Adetola, a 34 year old mother of two explains.
Their destinies in their hands
After many failed efforts at getting the Lagos and Federal government to come to their plight, the four key communities affected by the ocean surge have decided to go beyond talking in their enclaves.
Sheriff revealed that he is currently mobilizing about 300 community members to storm Alausa Secretariat in Ikeja to get the attention of the governor.
He said that the visit will be the first time the affected communities are forging a common front to address what they now view as a life and death situation.
Their demands are clear – A halt to the destructive projects that have made their lives miserable, installation of wave breakers to minimize impacts of the sea current and loss and damage compensations.
“Our situation is a peculiar one because we have been hemmed in on all sides. The Atlantic is pushing us back while the Chevron Twin Lakes project is pushing us back to the sea. If nothing is done we will become extinct in a short time”, Sheriff insists.