The Lagos State Government claimed to have completed the construction of eight collector drains and the dredging of 14 channels across the state to address flooding. Daily Trust Saturday tracked about a dozen of the projects in eight local government areas and found that while the channels, also known as canals, have not been dredged in some communities as claimed, the collector drains failed to stop flooding in most places they have been constructed.
Memories of July, 2022, when flood sacked families from Moshalashi Street in the Sari-Iganmu area of Lagos still haunt Taiwo Oladimeji. For three days, the familial excitement in Oladimeji’s household turned solemn as water covered his apartment. He became a squatter in the community mosque while his wife and two kids relocated to a relative’s house.
“Many families left home for three days due to flooding and went to stay in different places. I was sleeping in the mosque while my wife and children were squatting in a relative’s home,” Oladimeji recalled, blaming the flood on a blocked canal in his neighbourhood.
Located in Apapa LGA, the noisome canal, a part of which has been turned into a dumpsite by waste collectors, is among the dredging and maintenance projects the state government claimed to have completed in 2021.
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At the grand finale of the historic 30th edition of the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA) – Africa’s foremost media excellence trust – held at the Eko Hotel on November 27, 2022, Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is seeking reelection in 2023, spoke glowingly about projects executed by his administration. The projects were displayed on a large screen and in a magazine distributed to guests.
The annual event, which honours distinguished journalists and personalities, was well attended by media leaders and government officials, including NMMA’s Grand Patron, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the president’s spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu.
The magazine cover parades pictures of some projects, Sanwo-Olu and his Deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, as well as a list of laurels the governor bagged in 2020 and 2021 for his “performance”.
A section of the magazine titled: “Constructed, Rehabilitated and Cleared Drainage Channels”, contains a catalogue of 22 projects.
Therein, the state government claimed to have completed the construction of eight collector drains. It also boasted of 100 per cent “maintenance and dredging” of 14 drainage channels – including the one in Oladimeji’s community – to solve perennial flooding in the affected areas during the rainy season.
Our correspondent contacted the spokesperson of the state’s Ministry of Environment, Mr Adekunle Adeshina, to ascertain when the construction and maintenance projects listed in the magazine were completed.
“All the projects you saw are projects completed in 2021,” Adeshina said in a response.
While the sums awarded for the dredging of the channels could not be ascertained, a document obtained by our correspondent shows that the state government approved N70m to N95m each for the maintenance of similar channels in the second quarter of 2020.
“This drainage channel was last cleared in 2018, not 2021,” Oladimeji, who is the chairman of his Community Development Association (CDA), said during our correspondent’s visit to the area.
“They cleared the canal that leads to this place recently and stopped here. We begged them to clear this one too, but they declined. They said it was not part of the contract awarded. They cleared a small portion after much pleading and left,” he added.
Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and the fifth largest economy in Africa, is a coastal city surrounded by water from the sea and lagoon, making it extremely prone to flooding. It is among coastal cities Climate Central predicted would be completely submerged by 2100.
This year, Lagos was among the 34 states affected by floods that displaced 1.3 million people and killed over 600 persons in Nigeria, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“The results of the assessment indicate about 24,131 households were affected by the flash floods, seven deaths were recorded, 920 houses affected, over 300 cultivated hectares of rice, cassava and yam submerged and livestock, including cattle, goats, turkey and pigs, were not spared,” Dr Bamidele Omonide of NEMA’s Lagos State Territorial Office said in October while presenting relief materials to flood victims in the state.
Evidently, regular maintenance of canals is one of the key measures to curb flooding, but this is not the case in many Lagos communities.
At Ilefunfun in Badagry LGA, investigation by our correspondent revealed that the drainage channel serving the community and environs was cleared more than two years ago, contrary to the government’s claim. The channel has drastically shrunk and become bushy, inhibiting free flow of water.
“The last time the government dredged this canal was in 2020. They did not clear it last year (2021). The little maintenance we do is through individual efforts. We have written letters to the government and they acknowledged them but they have not come to evacuate it,” a community leader, Adeshina Afolabi, told Daily Trust Saturday.
A landlord, Afeez Olatunbosun, corroborated Afolabi’s account, adding that the unkempt channel fuelled flooding.
“It was cleared in 2020, not last year. Everywhere gets flooded when it rains and for weeks nobody can access the canal’s axis. We have over 10 communities on the other side of the canal which serves as a link road.
“We are appealing to the government to clear it to ensure smooth flow of water. Last year’s flooding was horrible and we don’t want to experience such again,” he said.
A long stretch of the Ijora Badia channel, which the government said it dredged 100 per cent in 2021, is an eyesore. The channel is littered with waste and with weeds in sharp contrast with the other end of the channel across the bridge.
A landlord, whose house is about 10 metres away from the canal, Alhaji Fatai Oluwaloni, complained of flooding, saying the blocked path was last cleared about three years ago.
“The other side was done around October/November this year, but this place was not touched in the past three years. They brought an excavator recently but left because it couldn’t enter the place. Whenever it rains our houses are flooded and people can’t visit us,” he said.
Shop owners operating along the Signal Barracks drainage channel in Ajeromi-Ifelodun LGA said not all the stretch of the canal was dredged.
“I have spent more than five years here and not for once did the government bring an excavator to dredge this path. It is the market union that raises funds to clear it every two months,” a trader, Chinenye Ajaero, said.
A soldier showed our correspondent the blocked channel at the entrance of the barracks. He said since he was posted to the barracks six years ago soldiers had been clearing the canal themselves.
“This is where the canal starts, but you can see that it is blocked. So, when did they clear it 100 per cent? We clear this side ourselves, especially during the rainy season when we experience flooding here,” he said.
Constructed collector drains not working
Also, to control flooding in the state, the government in the second quarter of 2020 approved the construction of collector drains in some parts of the state and eight of such projects were listed as “completed 100 per cent” in the magazine distributed at the NMMA event.
They are the Station Junior Grammar School and Iju Senior Grammar School collector drains in Ifako-Ijaiye awarded to Midey Mides Unique Ventures for N12,268,487.28 and N13,495,336.12 respectively; Oke-Odo Junior College collector drain in Agbado Oke-Odo awarded to Wammuf Enterprises for N22,148,452.35; Monilola Adepoju/Odebiyi/Ameme collector drain, Ojokoro, awarded to Regeje Nig Ltd for N32,960,028.62.
Others are Bada collector drain in Mushin awarded to Creteage Nig Ltd for N43,494,852.36; Eletu-Odibo Junior High School collector drain awarded to AOD Company Ltd for N59,378,352.82; Lefi Awose Crescent/Afoyonde Street collector drain in Badagry awarded to QA Consultants Ltd for N69,173,552.15 and Omolade Oshilowo New Ewu Town collector drain awarded to Hayulat Nig Ltd for N75,911,241.06.
According to Longman and Oxford Advanced Learners dictionaries, to complete means “to finish making or doing something”; “to make something whole or perfect.”
Daily Trust Saturday tracked the locations of seven constructed collector drains worth N252,919,561.7, while the address of the eighth project could not be traced.
In the affected schools, teachers spoke to our correspondent on the condition that their identities would be protected to avoid sanctions.
At Station Junior Grammar School in Ifako-Ijaiye LGA, the collector drain was constructed close to the school’s fence and linked to the main drain on the road. But the teachers said the flood it was meant to solve had persisted.
“It was completed but is not working as it should. Water doesn’t flow freely through the drain,” a teacher said.
“The school has written letters to the Ministry of Environment. They promised to come and rectify it, but we haven’t seen them,” the teacher added.
Another teacher said the school premises got flooded whenever it rained heavily, adding that “we use a microphone to warn our students not to come out because everywhere is flooded and it is risky for them.”
Daily Trust Saturday obtained one of the letters from a source at the Ministry of Environment. In the letter, dated October 26, 2022, and addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Drainage Service under the ministry, the school’s Principal, Mrs Bilkis Oyebola Ogungbesan, raised alarm.
“I hereby write to intimate you with the flooding of the school’s entrance and premises during rainfall due to inadequate drainage system.
“The situation requires prompt attention as it is unsafe for all occupants of the premises, especially pupils and students to forestall avoidable occurrences,” Ogungbesan wrote.
Pictures taken on some occasions when the school was flooded this year were also obtained by this paper.
About 2km farther, at Iju Senior Grammar School, the drain starts from the middle of the premises and snakes into a discharge point at the end of the school’s fence. A teacher said it had failed to significantly serve the purpose for which it was constructed.
“When it rains, water washes off sand on the premises into the drain. We have to remove the sand before water can flow. In July, when the school was on holiday, it blocked again and the force of the water pulled down the fence at the discharge point.
“It was the parents’ forum that contributed to rebuilding the fence. The drain is supposed to cover the entire premises so that the water can flow well from one end to the other,” the teacher explained.
The sight of a collector drain replete with stagnant water comes to life as one walks into Oke-Odo Junior College in Alimosho LGA. Like the two previous schools visited, the lamentation at the college was the same.
“The purpose of constructing the drainage is defeated. Whenever there is a downpour, the school would be flooded.
“We experience flooding yearly. There are times we can’t hold assembly for pupils due to flooding. For two weeks, the premises will be waterlogged. We abandoned a block of classrooms because of floods. We told the contractor when the project started that it won’t work, but he said we can’t teach him his job,” a teacher said.
The principal of Eletu-Odibo Junior High School was not around on December 12, when our reporter visited. An official said the principal would need a letter from Daily Trust and approval from higher authorities before granting an interview on the project.
“I don’t want to be seen as indicting the government on what was constructed. What they did has not solved flooding. Water stagnates on the school premises after rain and it takes time to dry up.
“The principal wrote to the Ministry of Environment and a team came to inspect it about a month ago. Unfortunately, the principal was not around during the inspection,” the official said.
Ismail Ameme, a landlord and community leader was one of those the collector drain connecting Monilola Adepoju/Odebiyi/Ameme streets is supposed to serve, but he complained that, “The neighbourhood still battles serious flooding. Floods sacked my family and many residents in October, and we could not sleep at home for two weeks. Water was all over the houses and destroyed property.”
Kayode Sulaiman, Kudaba CDA Chairman in Mushin LGA where the Bada collector drain linking three streets was constructed, said flooding was still an issue in some houses on Kugbuyi Street.
“One of the landlords showed me his flooded compound some months ago. We wrote letters and a delegate from the Ministry of Environment came to inspect the drain last year. They promised to fix the problem but nothing has been done since then,” he said.
The complaint over the collector drain constructed on Omolade Oshilowo Street in Oshodi/Isolo LGA is not totally different from the others. A landlord and former residents’ association chairman, Adetokunbo Oshilowo, complained of poor water flow.
“I saw on the net that it cost N75m. Is this a N75m job? The water is not flowing well as you can see. The job was poorly executed. It provided some relief, but our N75m can be used in a better way.
“After the construction, I complained to the engineers that the end point is not lower. That is why water is stagnant. It takes several hours after rain has stopped before the water volume in the drain subsides,” he said.
Contractors inactive, not found on CAC site
Daily Trust Saturday ran checks on the contractors awarded the drainage construction on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) – the body established to regulate the incorporation, running and winding up of companies.
A search for Midey Mides Unique Ventures Nig Ltd which constructed the drain in two of the schools revealed that the company is “inactive”.
A further check showed the company’s description as “to undertake the business of transportation/haulage services, transportation of goods and services, movement of vehicles, car hire services, trucks, fuel tanker, luxury buses, lorries and contracting, sales and marketing, manufacturers’ representative, vehicle garage operator and general merchandising.”
No mention was made of construction work as its area of specialisation.
A search for Wammuf Enterprises which constructed Oke-Odo Junior College collector drain on the CAC site returned as Wammuf Nigeria Enterprises and Wammuf Nigeria Enterprises Ltd instead. While the former is listed as inactive, the latter is active.
It is not clear which of them executed the project or whether it was done by another company.
Also, the statuses of AOD Company Limited, Hayulat Nig Ltd, QA Consultants Ltd and Creteage Nig Ltd which constructed Eletu-Odibo Junior High School, Omolade Oshilowo, Lefi Awose Crescent/Afoyonde Street and Bada collector drains respectively indicated inactive on the CAC website.
According to the CAC Registrar General, Garba Abubakar, a company is marked inactive if it fails to update its records which include annual returns and audited financial statements.
“If they have done the right thing, the database will reflect the correct status. Most of them have not been doing that and any company that does not file its annual returns will be classified as inactive,” Abubakar told Daily Trust Saturday.
This means the companies mentioned above contravene Sections 417 and 423 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020 and are “liable to a penalty as may be prescribed by the commission.”
“Search not found”: checks on Regeje Nig Ltd which constructed Monilola Adepoju/Odebiyi/Ameme in Ifako-Ijaiye LGA revealed on the CAC site.
Our correspondent further tracked the Creteage Nig Ltd address – 7, Benedict Square, Surulere, Lagos – on the signboard mounted on the construction site at Bada. It turned out to be a residential place without any sign of the company.
“There is no company like that here,” an elderly resident on the street said.
Sensing something was amiss, he directed our correspondent to one Samuel of house No 7.
“They use this place as the company’s address, but the company has relocated,” Samuel.
When asked the current address of the company and the phone contact of the person in charge, Samuel said he needed to get approval before disclosing such information. He took our correspondent’s number and promised to call later.
Two days later, a caller, who identified himself as Chinedu Ntuka, phoned in. He said the Bada drain was completed as stipulated in the terms of contract.
“From what we heard, before we did that drain, the flood was so bad that water went into houses and swept away children. I have been there once after the project was completed. They said that when it rains heavily the water may rise above the culvert.
“I told those who awarded the contract about the complaint and they said the people should write and they will do further work there,” the caller said.
But contrary to Samuel’s claim, Ntuka said the company had not relocated.
“We use it (7 Benedict Square) for our office. I am the director,” he added.
We will do palliative work, revisit blocked canals – LASG
Reacting to the findings, Adeshina, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, admitted that Ilefunfun drainage channel was cleared in 2020 and not 2021 as claimed. He said due to the high number of canals in the state it was difficult to clear every channel yearly.
“We wanted to revisit the place this year but for paucity of funds. Possibly it will be cleared next year. Lagos might look small but there are so many contending areas and funding is a major issue. As for Doyin/Moshalashi drainage, it is a complete dumpsite but we will revisit it later. The last time we cleared it, two weeks after it was back to square one.
“As regards Ijora Badia channel, let’s assume it is a stretch of 3km and one and a half or 2km has been done, it is an ongoing process. Next year, it will be considered. Signal Barracks is a stretch of 3.9km. One thing is to make an effort to do something; another thing is not doing it at all. We will try our best to make sure everything is done,” he explained.
On the “completed” but defective collector drains, Adeshina said the drainage system was interconnected and that the problem could emanate from a secondary channel.
“If it is constructed but the drainage where it is supposed to discharge into is blocked, they will experience flooding.
“However, all these ones that you itemised, they will be taken as a point of duty. We have resident engineers all over the local government and local council development areas in Lagos. Palliative measures will be done next year,” he explained.
Asked why the companies were awarded contracts despite being inactive and one not found on the CAC website, Adeshina said, “Before any company is awarded a contract by the state government, there are some prerequisites that must be met. You must be registered with the Lagos State Procurement Agency and have evidence of tax clearance and a bank account. Ours is to ensure that the contractors complete the work given to them.”
Experts warn of serious environmental, health crises
Magnus Ojeifo, a professor of environmental management, warned that when drains were blocked or not properly constructed they caused heavy flooding and the impact could be worse in a coastal city like Lagos, noting that buildings in flooded areas were prone to collapse.
“It is a big challenge. The drains need to be constructed to standard. In residential areas that are well populated, drain collectors between 10 and 25 feet wide and up to 10 feet deep are good enough to carry water elsewhere.
“Drainage channels should be cleared twice a year: at the peak of the rainy season and during the dry season to prepare them for the next rainy season. But if they can’t be cleared twice, at least once in a year,” he said.
A fellow of the Academy of Public Health, Dr Rotimi Adesanya, also warned that poorly constructed drains and blocked canals had remote and immediate public health implications.
He said plastic waste thrown into drainage channels found their way into the ocean and contained chemicals aquatic animals could ingest.
Adesanya said people would end up indirectly ingesting such chemicals, some of which he described as carcinogenic, through consumption of sea creatures such as fish.
“For the immediate impact, blocked drainage channels breed refuse that contain contaminated food that allow bacteria and viruses to grow. Flies will live inside them and carry the bacteria to human beings. Also, rodents like rats look for such places to feed on and they will carry the bacteria to the people indoors.
“It can lead to epidemics of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever and amebiasis. A closed drainage system is the way to go but it will cost the government. There should also be public health education. Drainage channels need to be cleared regularly. Environmental officers need to go from house to house and educate the people on proper waste disposal,” he explained.