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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Ocean surge: We’ve no place to go, lament Okun-Alfa residents

A flooded street in the community
A flooded street in the community

Kayode Aboyeji attempts to capture the challenges faced by residents of Okun-Alfa, a coastal community in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, which the Atlantic Ocean is threatening to wash away

When 56-year-old Lukuman Olowu was a teenager in the 1970s, it was fun to play under the palm trees that beautify the beach, with the cool and refreshing sea breeze that accompanied the waves. But all of that is gone now, no thanks to the unrelenting surges that have wiped off all these nature’s endowment.

Olowu shakes his head in amazement and disbelief at the transformation which, over the decades, the community was helpless to halt. Then he spotted the Community Health Post, or what is left of it. The facility was commissioned in 1999 to provide primary health care for the people. Battered as a result of flooding from countless ocean surges, it is now abandoned.

A representative of the Baale (or traditional ruler) of the community, Mr. Tajudeen Atewolara, says: “We want to see the end of this place, I do not have a house anywhere, this is my origin and we have nowhere to go.”

Atewolara laments that almost half of the community has been washed away by the ocean including mosques, churches, a burial ground, access roads, palm trees and homes. Asked where all these were located before, he pointed to a distance of about 100 metres away into the lagoon where the first road in the community was reportedly located. He explained that though the community has been experiencing ocean surges in the past but the ongoing dredging of sand for development of Eko Atlantic City project seems to have worsened the trend, worsening the already perilous impact on the community.

His words: “When the governor and Oba of Lagos came to this place about two years ago, they realised that the ocean surge challenge was due to the ongoing project on Victoria Island area. They insisted that the stone wall must be constructed first to save the community from danger of frequent surges. This is a very prosperous community, many people that live here have achieved a lot; we can’t leave this place because this is where our forefathers were born.”

Snapping out of his reverie, Olowu, who is an indigene of the community, expressed displeasure with what has been happening in recent times.

Says he: “We no longer have rest of mind with the rate at which the ocean surge is affecting the community. Those who want to build houses cannot do so any longer. We don’t know what may happened again.”

He narrates how the beach used to be prior to the negative effect of ocean surges, saying: “Before, we used to play under the palm trees here. A lot of people usually visit the beach to have fun but all of that has virtually disappeared. We cannot sleep well again because the ocean surge can occur at any time.”

Olowu underlined the need for government to come to the community’s aid to tackle the problem of the ocean surge permanently.

Another resident of the community, Mr. Lawal Salisu, who also linked the problem to the dredging activities on Victoria Island, opines that if it were to be in other climes, the community would have been taken to consideration.

He says: “They are punishing us with this project they are doing. If it were to be America, they would have protected this place before the project.”

Nonetheless, residents of the community are optimistic that the stone wall under construction from the Victoria Island when completed would prevent the community from further ocean surge. Other coastal communities facing the threat of ocean surge in the area include Owode, Lafiaji, Okun-Aja and Monko. Residents of these neighbourhoods have appealed to the government to provide drainage facilities in order curb frequent flooding whenever it rains – when the Atlantic Ocean surges.

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