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How poor waste management worsens flooding in Ekiti

Bisola Ige, 43, woke up on 20 September to find her bedroom flooded after a heavy rain in 2021. Her home was transformed into a waterlogged nightmare, with her children stranded in the rising floodwaters.

Mrs Ige, a mother of three, had no option but to move her family out of the house. To avoid casualties, they left everything behind.

“It has been about three years since we left. The flood was heavy that year, and it still happens every year. It took away the home my husband and I laboured to build,” she said with sorrow in her teary eyes. 

Mrs Ige in front of her flooded home

In 2022, flooding hit Nigeria, claimed over 662 lives, injured 3,174, and left 90,000 homeless. The flooding displaced 2.4 million people, who now reside in camps for the internally displaced.

Casualities reported in Nigeria’s 2022 flooding

In Ekiti, the flooding displaced countless residents, including damaging property and the loss of valuable livelihoods. This year, the National Emergency Management Agency enlisted the state as one of the regions to experience flooding due to excessive rainfall.

While Governor Biodun Oyebanji assured mitigation of the flooding, improper water disposal poses a more significant challenge, which might exacerbate the flooding during the rainy season.

Our flood experiences 

On a visit to Oshodi, a suburb in Ado Ekiti usually affected by flooding, numerous Oshodi residents echoed their sorrowful encounters with the recurring flood problem.

The residents all pointed to the Elemi River Bridge as the cause of their predicament. The dam, which was recently renovated, is very narrow in comparison with the large water body, rendering the borderless communities helpless, flooded and stranded during rainy seasons. 

Ariyo Joel Oluwadare, a resident of Oshodi, Ado-Ekiti, who works as a civil servant, shared his plight as one of the individuals greatly affected by the flood. Despite having lodged complaints about the issue, he expressed frustration over the government’s inaction.

“We make these complaints on the radio every year. Sometimes, it gets so bad that members of a family endanger their lives to stay back in their flooded houses to throw out the belongings and properties of their family so that they do not get damaged or consumed by the flood, while the others run out for safety,” he said.

The stream where the water lingers after the flood. Photo Credit – Samuel Sodunke

Abiodun Kayode, another resident, said that despite taking preventive measures during the construction of his brother’s house, such as elevating the German flooring to prevent flood water from entering, the flood destroyed the entire flooring.

The floodwaters also engulfed the car parked in front of the house, causing irreparable damage to the engine and other belongings. 

As a result, his brother had no choice but to abandon the house he built and relocate to a rented property in a different area. This unfortunate incident affected approximately sixty buildings in Oshodi 1 alone, leaving many residents in dire circumstances.

Mr Kayode said that on a particular day, the floodwater rose so alarmingly that his brother, wife, and child clung to the ceiling for survival.

Fortunately, courageous neighbours eventually came to their rescue and evacuated them from the house. The scale of destruction and displacement caused by the flood in Oshodi 1 is truly distressing, impacting numerous families and leaving a lasting mark on their lives.

The case of Mrs Ige and other Oshodi residents raises questions about how the N16.7 billion budgeted for flooding in the state in 2020 was spent.

The role of waste management

As of 2018, waste management in Nigeria was mainly relying on informal methods including unregulated dumping, open-air burning, or waste burial — that are not overseen by waste management officials. These informal methods constitute approximately 59% of the total waste. Another 29% of waste was disposed of within residential compounds. Merely 4% of the refuse was collected and managed by the government.

Bisola Ige’s house affected by flooding in Oshodi 1. Photo Credit – Samuel Sodunke

Inadequate management of solid waste plays a significant role in exacerbating the issue of flooding. Frequently, drainages are utilised as dumping grounds, impeding the natural flow of water as seen in the areas in Ekiti like Bashiri, Odo-Ijigbo, and Adebayo, where residents empty their waste when it rains, thereby implicating places like Ureje and Oshodi.

Despite the environmental laws and few prosecutions, Ado-Ekiti residents are still actively practising illegal waste disposal in canals, waterways and gutters, implicating people like Mrs Ige living in Oshodi.

According to Job James, a resident of Ajikanko, Ado-Ekiti, part of what the government has done to control the waste around his area is that they introduced the waste management body that helps to pack the trash instead of residents throwing them in the gutters and drainages, to avoid blockage.

Illegal dumping of waste inside carnal in Odo Ijigbo Street. Photo credit – Peace Oladipo

Bola Ojo, a roadside foodstuff seller at Odo Ijigbo, Ado-Ekiti, said the area is polluted by residents, making the government’s efforts ineffective. 

“But, the government is trying. They are there now, packing the waste people throw there. In this canal, the people that sell in the market pour the dirt they sweep off from their shops into it. Most of the dirt from the market is swept by the rains into the canal.”

Illegal dumping of waste inside carnal in Odo Ijigbo Street Photo Credit – Peace Oladipo

On solutions, she said waste bins should be provided at strategic places by the government to enable a clean environment in Ado-Ekiti and attach stringent laws.

“We are in the corn season now, and people will drop the leftover part of the corn they have eaten on the road because there is no other place to drop it.”

Mrs Ige relocated to Atorise, where her family stays in a rented apartment and hopes for a restoration of their house, although it is two years after the sad incident. The hairdresser expressed hope for the intervention someday soon. 

Waste management is a collective effort – Expert

Barrister Oluwaseyi Ebenezer, an environmental lawyer and founder of Triple Green Environmental Development Foundation, said improper waste management is a significant driver of the flood in Ekiti.

“Flooding happens due to the waterways being blocked; if this water has a better way to flow, then there is a high possibility that we will not experience flooding.

“Improper waste management contributes to climate change by generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and improving the chances of flooding. Waste management is a collective responsibility, considering the unavailable manpower and resources of agencies. In Ekiti State, where industrialisation is limited, the predominant waste type is food waste. To address this, individuals must find solutions to convert these wastes into fertilisers and manure for agricultural purposes instead of dumping them inappropriately”.

In May 2023, the National Emergency Management Agency raised the alarm on Ekiti State as being among the states expected to experience flooding based on an increased volume of rainfall during the latter part of this year, which led to residents screaming for help from the government. 

Some residents lamented that the flood started earlier than expected this year, in the second week of June.

“We are begging the government to help reconstruct the bridge between Elemi to Ogbese, to stop leading the water here”, Ariyo said, pleading to the Ekiti to take charge and pay attention to their community so the flooding can end.

SEMA

Mr. Jide Borode, the General Manager of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), emphasised that the government is trying to prevent flood crises this year.

“For now, we have not had severe cases of flooding in Ekiti; we only have flash floods. There has been dredging of all the canals in significant parts of the state. And then the removal of refuse from the drainages. The government has awarded that, and agencies are working on it. 

“And sensitisation is ongoing in the media on the need not to pour refuse into the canals and drainages. These are the measures the government is taking.”

While speaking about bridges and construction, he said that ongoing bridge construction is underway in specific regions like Irewumi. Additionally, in areas like Oshodi and Afao Road, complaints regarding flooding are yet to be received this year. 

Mr Borode further emphasised the dedication of the waste management agency in their work on waste management, stating, “The waste management agency is working round the clock to ensure they are clearing debris in the community.

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