Monday, 24 June 2024 04:47

Nicknamed ‘Happy City’ decades ago, now this Nigerian community is helpless against rising seas

Rate this item
(0 votes)

The coastal Nigerian community of Ayetoro was founded decades ago and nicknamed “Happy City,” meant to be a Christian utopia that would be sinless and classless. But now its remaining residents can do little against the rising sea.

Buildings have sunk into the Atlantic Ocean, an increasingly common image along the vulnerable West African coast. Old timber pokes from the waves like rotten teeth. Shattered foundations line the shore. Waves break against abandoned electrical poles.

For years, low-lying nations have warned the world about the existential threat of rising seas. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, struggles to respond. Some plans to address shoreline protection, even for Ayetoro, have come to nothing in a nation where corruption and mismanagement is widespread.

Prayers against the rising sea are “on the lips of everybody” in the church every Sunday, according to youth leader Thompson Akingboye. But they know the solution will require far more.

Even the church has been relocated away from the sea, twice. “The present location is now also threatened, with the sea just 98 feet away,” Akingboye said.

Thousands of people have left. Of those who remain, Stephen Tunlese can only gaze from a distance at the remnants of his clothing shop.

Tunlese said he lost an investment of eight million naira, or the equivalent of $5,500, to the sea. Now he adapts to a watery future. He repairs canoes.

“I will stay in Ayetoro because this is my father’s land, this is heritage land,” he said.

The Mahin mud coast where the community is slipping away has lost nearly four square miles, or nearly 60% of its land, to the ocean in the past three decades.

Researchers studying satellite imagery of Nigeria’s coast say a number of things are contributing to Ayetoro’s disappearance.

Underwater oil drilling is one reason, according to marine geologist Olusegun Dada, a professor at the Federal University of Technology in Akure who has studied years of satellite imagery. As resources are extracted, the ground can sink.

But he and colleagues note other reasons, including the deforestation of mangroves that help anchor the earth and the erosion caused by ocean waves.

“When we started coming to this community, then we used to have fresh water,” Dada said. Today, the freshwater ecosystem is transforming into a salty, marine one.

The transformation is enormously costly in Nigeria. The World Bank in a 2020 report estimated the cost of coastal degradation in three other coastal Nigerian states — nearby Lagos, Delta and Cross River — at $9.7 billion, or more than 2% of the country’s GDP. It looked at erosion, flooding, mangrove loss and pollution, and noted the high rate of urbanization.

And yet dramatic images of coastal communities slipping away only capture Nigeria’s attention from time to time, as when the annual flooding occurs — another effect of climate change.

But Ayetoro residents can’t turn away.

“Ayetoro was like a paradise, a city where everyone lived joyfully, happily,” said Arowolo Mofeoluwa, a retired civil servant.

She estimated that two-thirds of the community has been slowly swept under the waves, along with some residents’ multiple attempts to rebuild.

“This is the third house we are living in, and there are some living in the fourth house now, and we do not have enough space for ourselves again. Four or five people living in a small room, you can just imagine how painful it is,” Mofeoluwa said.

“If you look where the sea is now, that is the end of the former Ayetoro.”

For the community’s traditional leader and head of the local church, Oluwambe Ojagbohunmi, the pain is not only in the loss of land but also “what we are losing in our sociocultural and religious identity.”

Some residents say even burial grounds have been washed away.

Early this year, the Ondo state government announced a commitment to finding “lasting solutions” to the threat to Ayetoro. But residents said that’s been vowed in the past.

It might be too late for efforts to be effective, Dada said. For years, he has hoped for an environmental survey to be carried out to better understand what’s causing the community’s disappearance. But that’s been in vain.

The Niger Delta Development Commission, a government body meant in part to address environmental and other issues caused by oil exploration, didn’t respond to questions from The Associated Press about efforts to protect the community’s shoreline.

The commission’s website lists a shoreline protection project in Ayetoro. A photo shows a sign marking the feat with the motto, “Determined to make a difference!”

The project was awarded two decades ago. Project status: “Ongoing.”

Residents say nothing ever started.

“Help will come one day, we believe,” youth leader Akingboye said.

 

NBC News

July 20, 2024

Dangote’s quest for import ban on diesel bad for Nigeria’s energy security, competition, FG says

Aliko Dangote has asked Nigeria to suspend imports of diesel and aviation fuel in a…
July 19, 2024

LG autonomy is guise for state capture, overtaxation - Afenifere

PRESS RELEASE Afenifere has stated that President Bola Tinubu administration's push for Local Government Autonomy…
July 20, 2024

Married men are revealing the ‘hardest parts’ of marriage that no one talks about

We recently asked married men of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the hardest parts…
July 20, 2024

Husband uses drone to catch wife cheating on him with her boss

A Chinese man reportedly caught his wife cheating with her boss during work hours by…
July 16, 2024

Driver, 18 passengers abducted on Akwa Ibom highway

The driver and 18 passengers of a Port Harcourt-bound Akwa Ibom State Transport Corporation bus…
July 20, 2024

Here’s the latest as Israel-Hamas war enters Day 288

Top UN court says Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories illegal The United Nations' highest court…
June 19, 2024

Chips maker Nvidia rises to world’s most valuable company

Nvidia has become the world’s most valuable company following a staggering rally in its shares,…
June 18, 2024

Amusan secures fourth straight national title in 100m hurdles

Tobi Amusan has claimed her fourth consecutive national title in the women’s 100 metres hurdles…

NEWSSCROLL TEAM: 'Sina Kawonise: Publisher/Editor-in-Chief; Prof Wale Are Olaitan: Editorial Consultant; Femi Kawonise: Head, Production & Administration; Afolabi Ajibola: IT Manager;
Contact Us: [email protected] Tel/WhatsApp: +234 811 395 4049

Copyright © 2015 - 2024 NewsScroll. All rights reserved.