Clipping the wings of Alapere canal - Bola Bolawole

Akure is the Ondo state capital. The panegyric of the people runs thus: Akure l’omi meji/O p’ejeji l’Ala/ Ala se bi ere bi ere/Ala d’omi ebo. Translated: Akure has two rivers/It named both Ala/Like play, like play/Ala became rivers you must worship.

In those days, human beings were offered as sacrifice to the gods. So, Akure might have sacrificed two human beings to its two Ala every year. That was double jeopardy. What could have been responsible: Carelessness, carefree attitude or lack of deep thought and reflection? Akure indigenes to the rescue, please!

It could also mean that Akure did not act fast enough to nip a looming disaster in the bud. It allowed the problem to fester until it became a calamity it had to live with. Mercifully – and hopefully – humans are no longer used as sacrifice to the gods in this digital age. The gods themselves must have gone digital and would, if asked, prefer dollars and pound sterling or holiday in Dubai to human sacrifice!

A note of warning is being sounded here today that Lagos State Government must learn from Akure and clip the wings of the Alapere canal before it becomes something else! A decade or so ago, the canal was just a stream. The locals crossed from one side to the other with the help of a plank thrown over it. No more! The Alapere canal is now a river. Boats can sail on it right now.

The problem is caused by the incessant, persistent, and continuous dredging or clearing of the water hyacinth and other debris that clog the canal, leading to the flooding of the areas lining the course of the canal from Agiliti to Alapere and into the Lagos lagoon. Properties and high premium land have been lost and continued to be lost. As the canal widens due to dredging, structures along its course are demolished.

What the authorities ought to do is shrink the canal, line it on both sides with concrete walls, and reclaim all the land it has swallowed up. This is a clear case of canal encroachment on people’s property and not of people-encroachment on the canal. It is the mountain going to Muhammed and not the other way round. The people whose property and structures are demolished now and again as a result suffer double jeopardy. They need help!     

I have taken up this issue with the relevant Lagos state authorities and I must appreciate their prompt action. My brother, friend, and professional colleague, Mr. Tunji Bello, who is the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water resources, deserves special commendation. He responded quickly to complaints and gave assurances. He also followed up; making good his promise that something urgent would be done. Last week, the clearing of the Alapere canal was so thoroughly done like no other time in the past. In the event, however, physical structures close to the canal lost a swathe of land to the canal again.

One of my church buildings is by the canal. In the past we had a respectable distance from the canal before it was dredged again and again to become the river that it now is. As the dredging persisted, we lost half of a property we had designated as car park. Then we lost a portion of one of the church buildings. Last week again after another round of dredging, the authorities came again asking for another pound of flesh. But we think we have had enough! Not only that; we think now is the time to apply the final and full solution to the menace of the Alapere canal by putting a stop to its creeping confiscation of people’s property; reclaim the land it has swallowed up; and line it with concrete walls on both sides.

For sure LASG is aware of this solution. I have written to the appropriate authorities in the past on this issue. I have met with engineers of the Ministry of the Environment. I wrote to the then governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, through my brother, Mr. Tunji Bello, who was then Secretary to the State Government. I met with Ambode, who promised to act. Not only would he line the canal with concrete walls, he also promised he would tar Bakare and Ori-Ola streets. I must thank my friends in the government who facilitated the meeting – Tunji; Steve Ayorinde, then Commissioner for Information; and the then Chief Press Secretary, Abib Aruna. My brother, Kehinde Bamigbetan, who succeeded Steve, thank you.

Lining the Alapere canal with concrete walls will not come cheap. That is the snag. According to the project drawing I was privileged to view on the laptop of one of the engineers at Ministry of the Environment, the project some 17 years back was estimated to cost over N100 million. You can imagine what the cost will be today. But there are no viable alternatives. The palliatives of dredging and clearing only worsen the problem. Procrastination and delay also only make the project more costly. Better, then, if the bull is seized by the horns. Government can do this project piecemeal. In a matter of three to four years the whole length of the Alapere canal can be effectively lined with concrete walls and this perennial problem can become a thing of the past.

More than enough lives have been lost to flooding along the course of the Alapere canal. Last year, two persons were washed away. Enough havoc has also been wreaked by dirty water, debris, refuse and dangerous reptiles emptied into the community from the canal. The health hazard suffered by the people in the communities concerned is better imagined than felt. Only last Sunday while service was on, a snake making its way from the canal was accosted and killed right under the staircase of my church.

Do we appreciate the gargantuan nature of the task before the government of Mr. Governor – as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said we should now address him? Of course! Those who should know say Ambode did not touch drainage in the four years that he was in the saddle. That is why, they reason, drainage and flood problems have accumulated to these terrible proportions. Ambode has played his part and has departed, leaving his marks in the areas he chose to. History and posterity will judge everyone. Now the baton is in Sanwo-Olu’s hands and he has started to run his own race. Flood control, opening up of blocked drainages, and removing obstacle to free flow of flood waters are said to be one of his priorities.

In this wise, Mr Governor has a good combination in his deputy; in Tunji; and in Joe Igbokwe. I have full confident in their ability to help Sanwo-Olu get this job done.

Next, Sanwo-Olu must address three issues. One: The day Alapere canal was cleared, it was swept as clean and neat as Grandma had taught me to sweep the floor. You remove your slippers when sweeping the floor and if a grain of sand sticks to the sole of your feet, then, you start all over again. That was what the canal looked like from my vantage position on the staircase of my church. The next day, however, an avalanche of empty bottles and cans of table water and soft drinks, sachets of “pure water” and all manner of refuse had taken over again! It was like no job was done at all the previous day!

Until something is done to the menace of empties, we will find it difficult to solve the problem of drainage blockage and perennial flooding. There are some businesses we must term “silent killers and destroyers” Their products are harmful to health; and their waste products a nuisance to the environment. Pity, we have no reliable statistics here; otherwise, it may as well be that the cumulative damage that such businesses inflict soars far above their positive contributions.

Two: Vision Scope or PSP, Lagos is yet to arrive at the winning formula for refuse disposal. Until everyone is captured in the configuration and made to pay for refuse disposal; until indiscriminate dumping of refuse is thereby discouraged, the problem of blocked drains and of flooding would not have been solved. Methinks the banning of cart-pushers should be re-visited. They should be the first leg in a chain that will deliver a cleaner Lagos while also providing thousands of jobs if properly galvanised and modernised.       

Three: Lagos must now take its IGR to the next level rather than rest on its oars. By international standards, the IGR it boasts of at the moment (as local champion) is mere peanut. It must now begin to think, act, and grow its economy to compare with other mega cities of the world if Lagos is not to move in the direction of a mega slum that stares everyone in the face right now.

      FEEDBACK

Your article of 27th November (What goes round comes around/Between Secondus and Modu Sheriff) moved me. It’s like a movie. Please let me know when you write; I want to follow – 0705 711 7418.

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