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Devastated by erosion, Lagos coastal community faces extinction

The depletion of Lekki coastal communities in Lagos has continued unabated due to ocean surge triggered by several human activities along the coastline. Idotun in…

The depletion of Lekki coastal communities in Lagos has continued unabated due to ocean surge triggered by several human activities along the coastline. Idotun in Ibeju Lekki is one of such communities currently on the edge and fast losing its space to erosion, Daily Trust reports.

From Victoria Island to Lekki and Ibeju Lekki, Lagos State coastal communities have been challenged and devastated by ocean surge over the years, with several houses, pricey trees, especially coconut, destroyed, and even lives lost.

Amidst reclamation and urbanisation activities taking place on the coast of Lagos, destruction has been very monumental. Residents of various communities, as well as stakeholders, have ceaselessly cried out to authorities to come to their rescue.

In Idotun, one of the ancient towns in Ibeju Lekki Local Council Development Area (LCDA), the erosion challenge has become a nightmare. In fact, members of the community, which has been in existence before the 17th century, fear it is just a matter of time for the town to go into extinction if nothing is done urgently to reverse the situation.

The community is a short drive from the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery and the Lekki Deep Seaport within the Lekk Free Trade Zone (LFTZ). Apart from these two milestones, several projects and real estate developments are fast springing up in the area.

It is located in the coastal area but demarcated by miles of coconut plantations. The seawater makes the town greatly attractive to locals and foreign visitors.

The beach has been a source of livelihood for the indigenous people of Idotun as almost all her old and young are fishermen. Some also engage in selling seashells, which buyers convert to ornaments and other decoration symbols.

Apart from relaxation spots and tourist attraction sites in the community, a piece of land located some miles from the coconut plantation was used as burial ground for indigenes for many decades.

Our correspondents observed that the natural attraction and serenity of the community is fast giving way. Submerged houses, tombs, shops and many other destroyed properties dot the community. The beachfront is virtually depleted, and the natural ambience and attraction the locals used to enjoy are giving way to trepidation. To them, survival is minimal with the pace at which the beachfront is being eroded.

In 2002, during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a company called Lekki Deep Seaport was given a license to work on the sea very close to Idotun town, but the project did not start until 2018.

The Lekki deep seaport is designed to be one of the most modern ports in West Africa, offering enormous support to the burgeoning commercial operation across Nigeria and the entire West African region. It is estimated to have a capacity of handling about 6 million TEUs of containers and a significant volume of liquid and dry bulk uncontainerised cargoes.

In the midst of building this multibillion naira port, the community said since the project started four years ago, the natural endowments of the town has been diminishing gradually.

They lament that their natural environment has been drastically contaminated.

Chief Okanlawon Waheed Tubeko, the traditional ruler (Baale) of the community, told Daily Trust that the natural tragedy had befallen the town since the construction of the project started with filling of the sea.

He said the water from the filled space and the other pressure from the sea had made the water to forcefully occupy the shore and destroyed all the natural attraction sites, including the coconut plantation; the burial ground and some houses.

Tubeko added that representatives of each street in the town went along with him to hold a meeting with the management of the Lekki Deep Seaport on Monday, January 25, 2021, on how the disaster could be addressed with a permanent solution.

He said the company had promised that a permanent solution would be found in two weeks, adding that if nothing is done, they would protest.

He said, “Lekki Deep Seaport knows that it has been the problem behind the calamity that has befallen us as a result of its pumping and dredging sand. So it has given a year’s rent to the occupants of the affected houses.

Some people were paid some money to take the corpses of their late family members to another land for proper burial.’’

The secretary of the town, Mr Adesanya Adeshina, said the Government of Lagos State, the Ministry of Waterfront precisely, came to inspect the town, but they were yet to see the result of the visit.

“The Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure under Malam Kabiru Ahmed should please assist us in overcoming our problems. We need a permanent solution,’’ he said.

Another street representative, Mr Kadir Miskiu, said residents of the town would be grateful if the Lekki Deep Seaport could stand with its promise to find a solution to the calamity within two weeks. “If the promise is not fulfilled before the rainy season, the sea would consume the whole town,’’ he said.

The Lekki Deep Seaport company may have paid the fishermen some money, but it would be better if the management could employ them because they don’t have other means for livelihood,” he added.

Another resident, Tugbobo Moruf, said some of those that were paid one year rent could not use the money on house rent; rather, they used it to pay their children’s school fees while some used it for feeding.

He added that it would be better for the Lekki Deep Seaport to fill up the area that had been occupied by water for the owner of the affected houses to have land to build, after they might have been compensated as the company promised.

“If the owners of the affected houses were later compensated without having land to build on, they will still spend the money on other necessities,’’ he said.

Moruf said the chairman of  Ibeju Lekki Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr Mukandasi Ogidan, visited the shore with his entourage, but he said restoring the community to normalcy was beyond the financial capacity of the council.

The chairman of Ibeju Lekki Local Council Development Area said the development was caused by the failure to carry out environmental impact assessment prior to the commencement of the project.

“They started doing it after occupying that place. I have been there several times with the state government, the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure and Ministry of Commerce and Industry to see the extent of damage done to that community by erosion. What is happening there is coastal submergence caused by the over-dredging of the coastal jaw of the sea shores of Idotun area because of the establishment and construction of deep seaport,” he said.

According to him, the conduct of impact assessment would have saved the communities around the area.

“This is why I have written to the state and the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Transportation, which gives the license for the construction of the seaport, as well as the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to come to the rescue of the community,” he said.

Other communities in the Lekki coastlines have also suffered degradation and erosion.

In 2018, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) warned that Lagos may go into extinction in the next 32 years if the devastation occasioned by erosion in the Lekki coastal community was not halted. It also presented a video evidence to show the speed at which the shoreline had been eroded.

The Victoria Island axis of the Lekki was protected following the construction of the Eko Atlantic City, which drives the erosion eastward.

 Daily Trust on Sunday recalls that following the alarm raised by the NCF on the devastating erosion on the coastline, the Lagos State Government, in 2013 constructed 15 groins that protected the coast for up to 14 kilometers.

But following the pause in the construction of groins, the beach is being eroded due to the east-west currents of the Atlantic Ocean, and between December 2017 and July 2018, 47-meter length of the beach had been eroded, according to an NCF report.

The director of technical programmes of the NCF, Dr Joseph Onoja had said, “The scary part of it is that once the beachhead is eroded, it goes to the lower part. You can imagine what would happen. It took 24 hours for a whole community to be wiped off in Kuramo beach. So a strong wave can do this.

We have only 45 meters remaining for the beachhead to be eroded. If this happens, first the groundwater would be contaminated by saltwater and livelihoods and biodiversity would be affected.”

Idotun community awaits the intervention promised by the management of the Lekki Deep Seaport before taking the next action. It is hoped that the firm would walk its talk by providing a sustainable solution to the menace of erosion in the area.


Lekki Deep Seaport Management’s response

The Management of Lekki Deep Seaport in its reaction said it is aware of the challenges and it is working closely with the community to resolve it.

The firm also denied insinuations that there was no environmental impact assessment conducted before the commencement of work.

In response to our correspondent’s enquiries, the firm in a statement by a PR consultant, Mr. Bolaji Abimbola said, “Lekki Port is aware of the situation in Idotun Community which is one of the host communities of the Lekki Deep Sea Port. However, we are working closely with the leadership of the community, Lagos State and our Board Directors to ensure that the matter is resolved expeditiously.

“Lekki Port has tried a combination of strategies to tackle this problem. Short term measures included sand filling the area and we are now close to being able to provide a more permanent solution with the arrival of a dredger. The community is carried along on our plans as we have held several sessions to provide them with all relevant information. Also, plans are almost concluded to make compensation for losses suffered by the community members.”

On the EIA, it said, “There is no iota of truth to this allegation. Lekki Port is a very responsible corporate citizen with shareholding from both the federal and state government levels and also international equity and debt investors.

“So we have obtained all necessary permits, including environmental approvals of which the EIA is the most important one. As a matter of fact, we host the Federal Ministry of Environment on yearly visits to monitor the implementation of our EIA plan, and it is a valuable opportunity to run minds with experts and even the local authorities are represented at these forums. Perhaps we are being mistaken for another organization, but Lekki Port is definitely not operating without an EIA.”

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