A cry for help from Residents of Idumagbo Avenue off Ojo Giwa Junction led SaharaReporters to investigate the cause of flooding and water stagnation on the Idumota, Idumagbo Axis and other parts of Lagos Island.
Initial Cry for Help
Shop owners and residents in Idumagbo Avenue, off Ojo Giwa Junction, Lagos Island Local Government Area, called on the state and federal governments to come to their aid by draining water that has been stagnant for more than 10 years, causing a stench and obstructing business and traffic.
Speaking with SaharaReporters on the condition of anonymity, one of the residents said: “This problem started when Fashola went to the other side and started sand-filing the river there; they blocked the river and its passage but it got worse three or four years ago when the Water Corporation’s piped water burst somewhere on the road. We have complained to them; we even went to the local government to lodge a complaint.”
On efforts to reach government at the local level, he said: “The local government Chairman told us that it is beyond him and it is the state government that will do it; we have been waiting since then. This is a state that prides itself as centre of excellence; this is a major road leading to the Third Mainland Bridge. We don’t know what else to do. We pay our tenement rate, our trade permit, waste permit; but we are hoping that God will touch them and they will do the needful.”
A shop owner, whose shop is opposite the blackened water, said: “This has been a burden for quite a while now. When it starts, it will come with force and then recede. This area used to have a mosque where people could pray in, and on Sundays, kids would play freely. Parts of the street were also used for social events. A leaking pipe of the water corporation adds to the water levels; the stench is so disturbing our customers keep asking us, ‘don’t you vote? Don’t you have a government?’ We are ashamed.”
As SaharaReporters spoke to people in the community, some road users plying the route called out desperately from their shops and cars: “Help us, please”, “10 years like this”, “help us show the world, is this good?”
As residents gathered to voice their grievances, one of them, whose surname is Oyewole, spoke on the community’s efforts towards resolving the situation: “We have been to the local government chairman, there was a time they came and evacuated all the garbage on the gutters, but this is the result. We told the chairman to cut the road into two so that the gutter towards the main road will be flowing but he said he could not do it because it was not in his power. He explained that to do that, he would need to lodge a complaint to the state government.”
Another resident questioned governments desertion of the area, saying “We have been facing this for quite a long time; we have been asking the government to come and intervene. If you look at this vicinity when it’s the rainy season you won’t be able to stand here. Look at where refuse is, look at that drainage; it has been there for how many years?
“We have been calling on the attention of the people we voted for that they should come and do something here because it is not good.”
The Open Secret
When SaharaReporters reached the Local Government Chairman, Lagos Island (Isale Eko) Olusi Tijani Adetoyoshe, at the Lagos Island Local Government Office, he assigned the Local Government Supervisor on Environment Mr. Eletu Moshood, who worked on the project, to talk to us.
“We know that Lagos State is below sea level so obviously our drainage is still somehow below so when the Water is filled, it comes back,” Moshood said.
SaharaReporters disproved this with evidence (provided by local residents) that the problem started when the contract for the Ilubirin Luxury Apartments was commissioned by Babatunde Fashola, former Governor of the state and Minister of Works, Power and Housing.
Eletu, confirming the allegation in a resigned tone, said: “Well, like I said, the major outlet is blocked, which is Ilubirin to the Lagoon.”
He then went on to reel out efforts by the local government to clean up the drainage: “Since we assumed this government two years ago, in December 2017 we embarked on evacuation efforts in that same area, Ojo Giwa… Also in February 2018, we went back to that axis to evacuate the drainage…in August we still went back and started from Ile Wura down to Jankara, Idumagbo Avenue, Colins, Onola and Bombata Market and evacuated the drainage that was blocked.”
A source within the local government who begged for anonymity revealed to SaharaReporters that the drainage is located on a state road.
“When it became too burdensome on the local government, we wrote a letter to the state to support and clear the place,” he said. “The Instrument to clear the place resides with the Ministry of Environment and it’s sitting there doing nothing. They know what is causing those blockages on the Island; it is because the state government is responsible in part for the construction of Ilubirin on the state road, which is the main outlet of the drainage into the Lagoon and the Ooni is involved, so no one is talking”.
At this point, the testimony from locals as well as government officials pointed to one major source of the problem, Ilubirin Luxury Estate.
Ilubirin is a sprawling Luxury Apartment contracted to Messrs First Investment Property Company (FIDC), which SaharaReporters authoritatively confirmed is owned by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.
On October 9, 2016, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had stormed Ilubirin, a poor fishing community, to ask residents to evacuate within seven days or face forceful eviction; the occupants were eventually evicted.
According to the Lagos State government, the project, which is on the waterfront, will be developed as an active promenade with restaurants and bars. A shopping mall will be located by the eco-park and will be a destination for visitors and sight seers.
SaharaReporters followed the drainage system with help from the locals.
The trail led to the first canal, which stood beneath the underpass, Road B (which belongs to the state government) is visibly blocked by refuse, sand and invasive weed, as seen in the picture below.
The water emits a stench similar to the one on Idumagbo Avenue, off Ojo Giwa, Lagos Island. It was also stagnant and the wind ripples on the water showed that it seeps back into the Island as opposed to flowing back into the Lagoon.
SaharaReporters tried to gain undercover access into the construction layout.
This quest failed after the security guard on duty became apprehensive and turned the team back. “Come back tomorrow,” he said sternly.
It was obvious at this point that the promise of tomorrow might be rebuffed again so SaharaReporters went to the neighbouring settlement and boarded a fishing boat.
From the fishing boat, Ilubirin was visible.
The crew navigated it’s way until Ilubirin was in full view, along with the extent of damage it had caused to the drainage system of Lagos Island, the eco system around Ilubirin as well as Marine Wild Life.
As SaharaReporters approached, the water faded from light brown to a thick pasty metallic black, complete with unimaginable stench and fishing nets and poles where houses once stood remnants of what used to be a bustling fishing community.
“This point we are currently docked on used to be a very deep point, lots of fishes and other sea creatures,” said one of the locals whom we recruited (also a former resident of Ilubirin). “In short, it was so deep that if you tied five full-length ropes into one and threw it in, you would still not hit the surface. But now all that is gutter, dirt!”
From a very close angle, SaharaReporters could see the outlet of what was supposed to be the canal flowing into the Lagoon. It was visibly blocked by dirt, grime and sand, with no water flowing in or out.
The locals continued: “We used to work there last year; it became blocked because of the construction of this building. They wanted to make access road for the cars conveying materials within the site, so they blocked the drainage and made the road. If you go inside, you will see where they blocked it to make the road; nothing can flow”.
Efforts by SaharaReporters to reach the management of Ilubirin Luxury Apartments at No. 37 Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Nigeria, which is still undergoing renovations, proved abortive after several attempts at visiting his office. Calls made to him was also left unanswered.
One senior official at the office, who asked not to be named, stated that “indeed the drainage is within our premises and it is blocked”.
“It is supposed to flow into the Lagoon,” he added. “I cannot tell you if the Safety Officer In charge, Engineer Sam, has other plans; please speak with him.”
Efforts to reach Engineer Sam also proved futile at the Ilubiring construction site was also rebuffed by security guards.
SaharaReporters also contacted Moses Olafare, the Ooni of Ife’s Director of Media and Public Affairs, but he neither responded to the calls or a text message asking for official comments on the matter.