The Okun Alfa community, which hosts the once-popular Alpha Beach in Lekki area of Eti-Osa Local Government in Lagos, has in numerous occasions been besieged by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, losing its attraction to settlers and fun seekers.
Council chairman, Anofiu Elegushi, attributes the tragedy to the combined effects of ocean surge, lack of drainage facility, poor urban planning and, most of all, the aftermath of the erection of a fence Chevron Nigeria Limited, which operates close-by. According to him, whenever there is a surge or excessive rainfall which results in flooding, the water gets trapped within the community without anywhere to flow out to, damaging properties and valuables worth millions. He laments that the perimeter fencing traps the flood water within the community.
He says: “Some years ago after Chevron acquired some land within our community and started constructing their fence, they made use of our only access road and heavy duty trucks plied the road. After the construction of the fence, they abandoned our road which is now in a bad state and constructed a new road to be used by them only. Also their fence is higher than the community, so whenever it rains Okun Alfa is at the receiving end. They are not concerned about the suffering they have put us into but are satisfied with their great wall fenced against the community. No iota of care about the host community.”
Efforts to speak to officials of Chevron over Elegushi’s allegation proved abortive.
However, another school of thought insists that the increasing level of surge experienced in the community has been necessitated by the ongoing Eko Atlantic City project by the Lagos State Government in the past five years. The new city is expected to accommodate 250,000 residents after completion.
A Professor of environmental law with the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and also Executive Director of the Environment Law Research Institute (ELRI), Lanre Fagbohun, has decried the manner of conception of the project, saying that before a project of such magnitude would have been proposed and earmarked for commencement, an environment impact assessment (EIA) should have been prepared and the report made available to the public. But, according to him, the EIA of the project was made available years after its commencement.
“An EIA is not a condemnation of a project but an assessment of the environmental consequences which could be good or bad, and how communities and institutions would prepare to accept and adapt to such a project. But this was not the case with the Eko Atlantic City project,” he stresses.
Elegushi has however refused to completely blame the Eko Atlantic City project as the main cause of the impasse because, according to him, community’s present location is its fourth point of settlement due to past surges. He believes that the solution to the surge is the construction of an embankment by the beach side to break the power of the ocean tide and a sustainable drainage system that would channel excess water outward from the community.
Lagos State commissioner for the environment, Tunji Bello, says the state government is working on constructing a drainage channel that would connect with a nearby drainage in the area and flow out through the Lagos Lagoon. Initially slow, but work on the drainage appears to have picked up.
The residents by the beach do not have electricity because the poles have been washed away, the community health centre has been destroyed by the ocean, while the access road to the community from the expressway is in a deplorable state and is always flooded. Indeed, business activities around the beach is a ghost of its former self.
While the drainage construction is ongoing, residents and community leaders want Chevron to play a key role in making life more meaningful for them.
By Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna