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INSIDE STORY: How 25-year erosion crisis in Lagos community keeps pupils out of school

INSIDE STORY: How 25-year erosion crisis in Lagos community keeps pupils out of school
October 02
11:25 2022

Esther Olarenwaju was 10 years old when she was returning home from an errand to buy a sachet of pure water on a rainy day in June 2019. Unfortunately, she slipped and fell inside one of the huge gullies that dominated the landscape of the Gafaru community located in the Ikotun axis, Alimosho LGA of Lagos state. By a stroke of luck, she was quickly rescued by some young men before the gushing water passing through the gully swept her away.

However, it was discovered that she had broken her right arm and she was quickly rushed to a traditional bone setter for treatment. When the traditional bone setter could not salvage the situation, Esther was transferred to the Igando general hospital, Alimosho LGA, for immediate treatment, as the condition of the arm had deteriorated.

At the general hospital, her family members were told that there was no form of medical treatment that could save her arm. To avoid further complications, the lower part of Esther’s right arm was amputated. That was the beginning of her travails.

13-year-old Esther

Esther, who is now 13 years old, said the incident has caused her irrevocable damages and sadness due to the amputation of her right arm.

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“As I was returning home that day, the rain started falling. So, I quickly tried to get home and I slipped and fell inside one of the big holes. I was unable to lift myself after the fall,” she told TheCable.

“Some boys in Gafaru quickly came to lift me up from the big hole before the flood would sweep me away. After that, I could not feel my right arm again on my body. That was how my right arm was amputated.

“Since then, our lives have not remained the same. My grandma used all her money for my treatment and we were left with nothing.”

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The 13-year-old appealed to the state government and well-meaning Nigerians to provide her with a prosthetic arm so that she can have a feel of two complete hands.

A major road in Gafaru community

Narrating how the incident has affected their family, Adiatu, Esther’s 70-year-old grandmother, said she spent all the money from her fish business to cater for Esther’s medical treatment.

Esther’s 70-year-old grandmother

Adiatu said the incident led to the collapse of her business as Esther’s mother did not have enough money during the period.

“Now, I can’t continue with the business because I exhausted all the money I saved up,” the grandmother said in Yoruba.

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Like Esther, Adiatu said many residents have suffered varying degrees of injuries owing to the deplorable condition of the road in the community.

The deplorable condition of a road in Gafaru community

When TheCable visited the community, the huge gullies had completely destroyed the major road passing through the community. The residents said the community has been battling decade-long erosion challenges, which had torn apart the drainages and roads in the community.

During the rainy season, many residents of the community stay indoors in order to avoid being carried away by floods. The residents had to construct wooden bridges to navigate the gullies.

Wooden bridge to the rescue

RESIDENTS PARK THEIR CARS IN FILLING STATIONS

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Speaking with TheCable, Busari Balogun, secretary of Ikotun central community development association (CDA), said the community has written several letters to the state government and LGA requesting the construction of drainages and tarred roads.

Balogun said the state government has refused to grant the request.

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“At Gafaru community, we have been experiencing this problem for over 25 years,” he said.

“We have also appealed to the local government, but it appears that the local government is not capable of resolving the problem.

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“We have experienced a lot of troubles in this community owing to bad roads and drainages — a child fell inside the gully and broke her arm; the flood swept a resident away, the remains were recovered later and another was rescued from being carried by flood.”

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Speaking further, the CDA secretary said because of the erosion troubling the community, landlords find it difficult to rent out their apartments to people. He added that residents have to pay N500 daily to park their cars at filling stations.

“You can see that the road in this community is not motorable. School children don’t go to school whenever it is raining to avoid being swept away by floods,” he said.

“If a landlord fixes the monthly rent of a one-room apartment for N3,000, nobody will take the offer.”

Iyaafin Adeyeye, another resident of the community, told TheCable that the perennial floods have destroyed properties in the community.

Aderibigbe Abiodun, an environmentalist, said the lack of infrastructural facilities in the country has caused negative impacts on the environment and citizens.

Abiodun believes that many of the environmental disasters witnessed in the country would have had minimal impacts if there are facilities like good roads and drainage systems.

The environmentalist urged federal and state governments to invest in the construction of roads and drainages in order to minimise environmental disasters.

“Lack of infrastructure is a major problem that we are facing in the country for a very long time. The problem of lack of infrastructure in our society has manifold implications, including environmental impacts,” he said.

“For example, when there are no effective drainage systems, what do we have? Flooding in most cases. You see a lot of houses are inundated with water after heavy rainfall.

“When there are no effective drainage systems and situations where people build houses on waterways, all of these lead to flooding.”

STATE GOVERNMENT’S EFFORT

Some residents told TheCable that earlier in the month, some persons believed to be officials of the state government erected a signboard showing a contract award for the construction of drainages in the community.

 

The residents of the community, however, said it was not the first time the state government would make an effort to carry out the construction of drainages in the community.

In an interview with TheCable, Kunle Adesina, director of public affairs at the Lagos state ministry of environment and water resources, said the government is committed to the project in order to ameliorate the plights of the residents.

Adesina noted that he cannot state the exact time that the project will commence, adding that there are some engineering processes that should be carried out.

“The first stuff is that if the government has erected a signpost on a project site, it signifies several things. Number one, that is a commitment that a project will be undertaken,” he said.

“That project has been awarded to a contractor. When a project is awarded, there are several steps involved. It is an engineering project. You will notice that the area has been ravaged by erosion; the engineering process takes time. We will do some preliminary studies — surveying of the area, enforcement and other things.

“After all that is done, the contractor will move to the site and start the formal construction. I cannot tell you the exact time the project will start but we have that signpost there. If the government won’t do it they won’t come and put a signpost there that they want to do the project — it is not possible.”

It’s still the rainy season and the suffering continues. But the residents of Gafaru await the state government to make good on its commitment to end the pain they have endured for almost three decades.

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