That the Lagos State government has stepped up its environmental regeneration and urban renewal drive is quite logical and laudable. As a result of certain awkward practices that defile the environment, the rainy season is usually a harrowing period in some parts of the State.
Tenements get flooded, structural stability of buildings are threatened, while some even give way completely. This, in most cases, is the direct consequence of compromising the drainage channels.
Water channels are encroached upon, thereby constraining its capacity to discharge high volumes of storm water. Equally, drainage setbacks, alignments and canal bank ways are compromised by property developers who in most cases appropriate and annex them.
Traders and artisans build shanties in the way of storm water, thereby obstructing its flow. The drainage channels from the primary, secondary and even the tertiary ones (gutter) in front of various tenements have been turned to receptacles of waste. The result is that it overflows and spills onto the adjoining environment.
Yet, the topography of the State is one that makes flash floods inevitable. Our nonchalant attitude, however, compounds the woes. Wetlands are daily being sand filled and no one seems to be bothered.
Ordinarily, the wetlands ought to serve as buffer and retention camps for excess storm water until such a time that it can flow into either the lagoon or rivers. However, we encroach them, displace the water, disrupt the ecosystem and compound the problem of flooding.
Ironically, when the consequences of our recklessness stare us in the face, we turn round to blame the government. What did we do when neighbours dump refuse into the channels because they don’t want to pay LAWMA for refuse collection? We turn blind eyes to the activities that we know will have untoward consequences on our livelihood.
Today, many roads have been washed away by storm water. We all suffer the effects of bad roads in a bid to move from one place to another in search of daily bread. The government will have to go back to repair the same roads that were rehabilitated last year. Not because the job was poorly done, but because we expose the roads to uncultured abuse.
It is common knowledge that asphalt and water are not the best of friends. The implication of this is that other roads, especially those in the rural communities that should get attention won’t get it in good time as efforts and resources are concentrated in repairing the ones in the metropolis.
The gross abuse of the State’s urban and regional planning is legendary. Shanties and illegal structures are attached to perimeter fences of public and private properties, thus defacing otherwise eye-popping properties all in the name of trading. While cities and towns are being made to look like jungles, it is sad that some still oppose the prevention of such abuses.
You can walk the stretch of a whole street and not find a single house with a parking lot. All the plots are built up without regard for urban and regional planning laws. Shops cover the main buildings, while access remains just the foot paths.
There is little or no consideration for the safety of occupants in times of emergencies. Property owners cherish and value the revenue from the shops more than the lives of the residents.
As if that is not bad enough, vehicles are parked on either side of the road, thereby making it very difficult for vehicles to navigate their way. Petty traders take over the walkways designed for pedestrians, thus forcing pedestrians to compete with vehicles on the major axial roads at the risk of their personal safety.
Perhaps, most astonishing is the fact that this is done even in properties adjoining and contiguous to the offices of law enforcement agencies. Area G Police Station, Ogba is a typical example of where hops are built on drainage channels with impunity, making the law looks impotent.
Even those who hire shops are never satisfied with the size of the tenement they paid for. They prefer to display their wares including products that should not be displayed in the sun on the walkways. In their thinking, everywhere is a market.
Sadly, those who should know better, the supposedly elite, who have widely travelled throw dirts out of their luxurious cars onto the roads.
They park on the roads, thus obstructing other road users just to buy from hawkers, and when the government insists on doing the right thing some emergency activists would begin to blackmail the government.
They play to the gallery, whip up sentiments and emotions, while actually embarking on self-serving motives aimed at garnering cheap popularity, they pretend to be fighting the battle of the poor and downtrodden.
It is, however, gladdening to note that the government of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has demonstrated the political will to reverse this ugly trend. Thanks to the renewed efforts to regenerate the environment, illegal structures are being separated from drainage channel sand, the drains desilted, while popular markets like Computer Village, Ladipo, Alamutu, Mile12 and Jankara among others have been shut for various degrees of environment impairment. They were only reopened having fully complied with necessary environmental requirements.
As part of the efforts to restore the state of the environment across the State, clearing of shanties is ongoing, while rail line corridors and road setbacks are being rid of nuisances of varying modes.
The admonition here is that if you are in contravention, it is the time for self-compliance as no one will be spared. The major challenge here is the willingness of the people to cooperate with the government to achieve this goal, which will ultimately be of benefit for all.
Lagos residents are urged to join hands with the government in its bid to build a ‘Greater Lagos’. There is, perhaps, no better way to do this than to embrace attitudinal change toward the environment.
It is whatever we give to the environment that it gives back to us. Therefore, community leaders, traditional rulers, NGOs, the media and other stakeholders should partner with the State government to ensure that current gains in the sector are sustained.
It is only in doing this that the government’s massive investment in the environment would not be a waste. God bless Lagos and Lagosians!
Ogundeji is Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information& Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.