Residents of communities ravaged by flood at Ajegunle area of Lagos State, SouthÂ West Nigeria have told President Goodluck Jonathan that they do not want to beÂ relocated from their fatherland, saying that the flood was nothing to them.
Jonathan visited the area yesterday with Governors Babatunde Fashola and GbengaÂ Daniel of Lagos and Ogun States respectively to assess the level of havoc wreaked onÂ the communities by flood.
Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire had told the presidentÂ that one of the options the state government was looking at was to relocateÂ residents in the area to another place pending when there will be a permanentÂ solution to the flood in the area.
Baale of Odogun, a community in the area, Chief Olutayo Ibrahim when asked to tellÂ the president what the area needed vehemently opposed Banireâ€™s recommendation thatÂ they be relocated from the area.
Hundreds of residents present hailed their leader forÂ bravely telling the presidentÂ that they did not want to be sent out of their fatherland, where they had lived forÂ decades.
According to Ibrahim, â€œI am now 67 years old.Â Â My forefathers were born here.Â WeÂ donâ€™t have problem with the water,â€ adding that what they wanted the president to doÂ was to scale up infrastructure development in the area.
Ibrahim called on the government to assist in improving the decaying infrastructureÂ in the area and also raise the level of Ikorodu road to stem the flood.
He also wanted the government to find ways of controlling traffic in the area andÂ suggested that the dam should have been opened in February rather than SeptemberÂ when water level would be high, insisting that â€œwe want to remain here.â€
Fashola was displeased with their response, but consented to them, when he said theÂ voice of the majority tells to story.
Responding, the president commiserated with the victims of the flood and assuredÂ that the Federal Government would find urgent solution to the flood problem in theÂ area, but added that the people must be willing to discard the fables of theirÂ forefathers and move out of the area.
â€œMy purpose of coming is to listen to you and commiserate with you and those of youÂ who have lost your properties. Just like the Environment Commissioner noted, everyÂ September and October, you experience high water level and its normal, but thisÂ yearâ€™s own is more than it used to be.
â€œMy coming is to see things for myself and also with a team of NEMA to see how weÂ can walk with the state government to make sure that we see what we can do toÂ ameliorate the situation and also address the issue of the yearly high water level.Â Â I would also plead with you that you should cooperate with the state government,â€ heÂ said.
Jonathan added that â€œto address your present condition, the Federal Government isÂ going to work with the Lagos State Government to see what can be done in thatÂ regard. As for the immediate problem, the Federal Government is going to send aÂ little assistance through the Lagos State Government, and as you know, NEMA has alsoÂ been directed to send relief materials to you; but aside that, we would also sendÂ something special this time around in terms of cash forÂ some of you who need to beÂ assisted.
â€œWe would work with those in charge to see how we can manage the situation. But theÂ most important thing is that Fashola has been briefing me before we came and what heÂ is suggesting is a long term plan. We cannot tell you that our system is to evacuateÂ you every year, the world is changing and we can no longer live in those times.â€
The president countered the decision of some residents in the area not to leave,Â saying that â€œwhen I was small in my village, every year, we move out because waterÂ would cover the road, and we would move to the centre, but that has stopped. WeÂ cannot continue like that, and because of technology, that has stopped.
â€œSo, we must find a way to solve the problem. We cannot continue to say that if ourÂ forefathers were moving every year, then we must continue to move our children andÂ families every year. This is a generation that must change things.
â€œSo, we would work with the state government to make sure that things are changed soÂ that this issue of moving people out every year to a friendâ€™s place which might notÂ be decent enough is stopped. The federal and state governments would work hand inÂ hand to look into it.â€
Earlier, Banire said the victims might have to be relocated for the State GovernmentÂ to engage in serious work in the area, adding that the state government had writtenÂ three separate letters to the Federal Ministry of the Environment on the dangersÂ facing residents of the area.
He stated that at least 1,000 people had been rehabilitated at Agbowa Relief Camp ofÂ the State Government, while some still chose to remain in the area trying to eke outÂ a living, adding that â€œmany have lost farmlands and properties to the disaster.â€
Banire explained that studies undertaken by the state government had shown thatÂ dredging might be carried outÂ to solve the perennial problem in the area.
According to him, the low casualty figure in the disaster was due to the earlyÂ warnings from the state government to sensitize the residents of the community toÂ prepare for high tide this year, which occurred between September and October.