Residents of communities ravaged by flood at Ajegunle area of Lagos State, South  West Nigeria have told President Goodluck Jonathan that they do not want to be  relocated from their fatherland, saying that the flood was nothing to them.

•President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and Gov. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, during the visit of Mr. President to victims of Ajegunle-Ogolonto, Lagos State.

Jonathan visited the area yesterday with Governors Babatunde Fashola and Gbenga  Daniel of Lagos and Ogun States respectively to assess the level of havoc wreaked on  the communities by flood.

Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire had told the president  that one of the options the state government was looking at was to relocate  residents in the area to another place pending when there will be a permanent  solution to the flood in the area.

Baale of Odogun, a community in the area, Chief Olutayo Ibrahim when asked to tell  the president what the area needed vehemently opposed Banire’s recommendation that  they be relocated from the area.

Hundreds of residents present hailed their leader for  bravely telling the president  that they did not want to be sent out of their fatherland, where they had lived for  decades.

According to Ibrahim, “I am now 67 years old.   My forefathers were born here.  We  don’t have problem with the water,” adding that what they wanted the president to do  was to scale up infrastructure development in the area.

Ibrahim called on the government to assist in improving the decaying infrastructure  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 and  suggested that the dam should have been opened in February rather than September  when water level would be high, insisting that “we want to remain here.”

Fashola was displeased with their response, but consented to them, when he said the  voice of the majority tells to story.

Responding, the president commiserated with the victims of the flood and assured  that the Federal Government would find urgent solution to the flood problem in the  area, but added that the people must be willing to discard the fables of their  forefathers and move out of the area.

“My purpose of coming is to listen to you and commiserate with you and those of you  who have lost your properties. Just like the Environment Commissioner noted, every  September and October, you experience high water level and its normal, but this  year’s own is more than it used to be.

“My coming is to see things for myself and also with a team of NEMA to see how we  can walk with the state government to make sure that we see what we can do to  ameliorate the situation and also address the issue of the yearly high water level.   I would also plead with you that you should cooperate with the state government,” he  said.

Jonathan added that “to address your present condition, the Federal Government is  going to work with the Lagos State Government to see what can be done in that  regard. As for the immediate problem, the Federal Government is going to send a  little assistance through the Lagos State Government, and as you know, NEMA has also  been directed to send relief materials to you; but aside that, we would also send  something special this time around in terms of cash for  some of you who need to be  assisted.

“We would work with those in charge to see how we can manage the situation. But the  most important thing is that Fashola has been briefing me before we came and what he  is suggesting is a long term plan. We cannot tell you that our system is to evacuate  you every year, the world is changing and we can no longer live in those times.”

The president countered the decision of some residents in the area not to leave,  saying that “when I was small in my village, every year, we move out because water  would cover the road, and we would move to the centre, but that has stopped. We  cannot continue like that, and because of technology, that has stopped.

“So, we must find a way to solve the problem. We cannot continue to say that if our  forefathers were moving every year, then we must continue to move our children and  families every year. This is a generation that must change things.

“So, we would work with the state government to make sure that things are changed so  that this issue of moving people out every year to a friend’s place which might not  be decent enough is stopped. The federal and state governments would work hand in  hand to look into it.”

Earlier, Banire said the victims might have to be relocated for the State Government  to engage in serious work in the area, adding that the state government had written  three separate letters to the Federal Ministry of the Environment on the dangers  facing residents of the area.

He stated that at least 1,000 people had been rehabilitated at Agbowa Relief Camp of  the State Government, while some still chose to remain in the area trying to eke out  a living, adding that “many have lost farmlands and properties to the disaster.”

Banire explained that studies undertaken by the state government had shown that  dredging might be carried out  to solve the perennial problem in the area.

According to him, the low casualty figure in the disaster was due to the early  warnings from the state government to sensitize the residents of the community to  prepare for high tide this year, which occurred between September and October.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga

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