‘Lagos should empower residents associations to enforce environmental laws’

PROF. Olumide Ajose

The leadership of Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos has blamed the new local government administrator’s licensing of Okada riders and the bus operators for the unkempt environment in the estate. The most serious concern, according to PROF. OLUMIDE AJOSE, Chairman of Lekki Peninsula Phase I Residents Association is poor attention to proper sanitation and springing up of illegal structures from undeveloped plots. He told VICTOR GBONEGUN that government should empower the residents associations to enforce environmental laws.

Recently, the issue of flooding in Lekki, Lagos became a cause for concern among residents and professionals in the built industry. What do think prompted the disaster?
When we talk about Lekki axis or peninsula, it includes; Victoria Garden City, NICON Town, some other estates along this corridor. There is now a pressure group, called, “Flood abatement group”, which we formed for proper coordination of all the estates. The association now includes; Lekki, VGC, NICON Town, Parkview, Osborn 1, Osborn 2,Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Every estate has their concern too.. Our worries in Lekki may not be too serious as the concerns of some other people living in VGC.

For instance, in VGC this year, we could see that entering the area when it rained was like getting a Carmel to pass through a needles’ eye because the whole place was flooded and causing traffic. They alleged that it is because of the sand-filling going on in that place and some people who blocked their drainage channels. That was a serious concern and for us in Lekki Phase I, it is more of the drainages that are unkempt.

We as an association cannot handle the primary drainage channels because it is capital intensive, it is government that should do that for us. For the secondary and tertiary ones, which are some of those drainages passing in front of our houses, residents could handle them. I think government is making a move but slow in the real sense. They have started clearing some of the primary drainages and shanties, but the government needs to do more.

How has the residents responded to this situation with regards to preventing future occurrence?
Regrettably, I am not too impressed about the response of residents. The flooding that occurred entered so many homes. For example when the July 8 incidents first happened, I had so many calls. There was a lady who called me to say that she had a construction site with about 1,000 bags of cement, which was flooded. She didn’t know what to do and even told me that each household should contribute N100, 000 to handle the whole incident. Others also suggested that we should get something done quickly. For example there were some people whose homes were flooded including their living rooms and so they had to buy new sets of furniture.

People have spontaneously come to say; let us do something but we  wrote to the government to come to our aid and that we would do our part too. Government has started. I am not happy that our people have not been proactive enough to help themselves.

When the General Manager of New Town Development Authority (NTDA) came here, he said that we should realize that government would do the big projects but the people must address the challenges of drainages in front of their homes.  I agreed with him that we should also participate since it’s our life and not that of government that is danger.

What do you think government and other stakeholders could do to nip in the bud flooding in Lekki?
I have proposed that we should get some of the corporate bodies to come together with us to get it done. The experience which people in VGC had is very pathetic. Their property are been destroyed by flood and I think the minimum that government should do right away is to deflood their drainages so that blocked channels could drain off. Government should take that initiative first.

The people believed that it is the people carrying out sand filling that are blocking their drainage. For us in Lekki phase I, government should come to our aid by clearing our major drainage channels because they are big canals which some of them are not even cemented. Government should construct proper concrete canals.

I am the chairman of all the affected areas, the problem they have in Osborne I, is also serious because during the rain, the water now flows back to Osborne and the residents are proposing through their consultant that government should construct what is called levels, the type that exists in New-Orleans in the United States or the type in Netherlands to make the water not to return.

Aside from flooding, what other challenges are the people facing in your area?
Our major problem is government’s carefree attitude towards things like transportation in Lekki Phase 1. For example; as you enter estate from the first gate, if you look right, the situation is even worse than what you have in Oshodi. You see all these food vendors, the Okada riders, and Motor Park touts. Unfortunately for us, the local government has licensed the Okada riders and the bus operators.

The buses are ramshackle buses, which are distasteful for the environment. Our demand is that the government should scrape them and partner with us to provide seven seater buses, which would be partly owned by the government. It looks as if it is outside our power and that is why we are putting the blame on government. The beggars at the Ikoyi Link Bridge also constitute an eyesore. The question that comes up each time we tried to drive them away and they come back is that; do we really have the power to drive them. I think it is the government that has the power.

There are also the issues of shanty markets scattered all over the place, which deface our area. We have tried to clear them but some operators say, they have the license from the Local Government. The shanties arise from undeveloped and allocated lands.  Government should force people to develop their property in Lekki. Some of the property has been there for 20 years and they have not been developed, thereby flouting the two years mandates to do that.

Clean environment is central to prevention of communicable diseases, how are the people keying into the cleaner Lagos initiative?
That is a big question. I can only say that a situation in which government has provided the Private Sector Participation (PSP) trucks to clear refuse and the people are not participating is undesirable. People must have to participate because they have to pay for the wastes to be cleared.

There are some people here who don’t pay N4,000 per month charged by the PSP operators , rather they prefer to call truck pushers to carry their refuse and dump the waste into the canal. This is the time for government to bring back the Sanitary Inspectors in Lekki as well as to arrest the truck pushers who dump waste indiscriminately and the people who engage them. I have seen some of the waste bins from the State’s Ministry of Environment but in terms of support from individuals, it is very low. The bins are for pedestrians. The individual houses do not patronize the initiative. It looks as if some people only need to do the right thing when there is a cane before them. Government should empower residents’ associations to enforce environmental laws and establish more mobile courts that dispense justice without wasting time.

How is your association tackling the issue of insecurity in the locality?
We have what is called the security chiefs called the sheriffs at the gate and those who go on parade at the night but the funds are not enough to cater for them. Before, we used to get some funds from the trucks that enter Lekki by issuing tickets to them. We used the funds to patch the road, for the running of patrol vehicles in the night, pay the street cleaners but all of a sudden, the new local government administrator said the money we are collecting belongs to the local government and they took over and so right now we don’t have the funds.

Most fire accidents in this area, once they occur, our sheriffs with the fire engines we bought would have put off the fire before the state’ Fire Service would arrive. We are no more running fire engines because we don’t have the money to run them. We don’t even operate the patrol vehicles anymore and so we keep our fingers crossed. We still manage to continue to be friendly with the Police.

Specifically, how are you engaging the Ambode government to solve some of your challenges and what is the level of relationship between the community and the state government?
When we came in, we wrote to the government several times to show friendship, but it looks as if the government has turned its back on us. Our problems here are supposed to be the duties of government. Government should encourage us more and subsidize some of the things we are doing. Government is doing the roads but there are challenges on the maintenance, which we have taken up.

In terms of road infrastructure, how satisfied are the residents in your area?
Government has done well on the main roads but in terms of the inner roads there are some that are really impassable.

What are your desires for the residents?
I expect that residents to be more concerned about the environment. It is not when disaster happens that they should show solidarity. They should be mindful of their security and know that we are working with the government to  create an ambient of perfect living environment where life is completely easy for everyone.

In this article:
Lekki floodOlumide Ajose


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