10 October 2012

Nigeria: A Marathon Race to Save Lagos Shorelines

The plight of residents of the coastal areas of Lagos State over consistent danger faced as the shorelines erodes further, was brought to the fore in a marathon race they oganised at Lekki beach to draw attention to the growing menace. Chiemelie Ezeobi writes

Without doubt, the eroding shoreline in the coastal areas of Lagos State is a concern for its residents.  Lagos  State had been flooded before. Lives have also been lost to the floods.  In the face of the incessant rainfalls, fears are rife and so also is  the call for drastic measures to be put in place by the appropriate authorities to stem the tide.

Although climate change has been a major reason for the surge according to the experts, there are also some human activities behind the climate change. For instance, the Lagos waters have scores of abandoned shipwrecks that now obstruct the free flow of water. This, environmental experts warned that there is an impending doom, if prompt actions are not taken. "It would trigger a huge devastating loss to the entire area," says Desmond Makekodunmi.

Shipwrecks which prevents the normal flow of water and causing erosion instead of even distribution of sand along the shorelines is blamed for the continuous degradation of the coastal areas over the years.

The residents of Lekki, one of the coastal areas that dot the Lagos Island have never been silent, they have protested to the government of Lagos State in a 'save our soul' message over the eroding of about 100 meters of the beach area within the last one year.

Led by renowned Environmental Rights Activist and Convener, Save Lekki Coast (SLC), Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, the protesters had placards that read; 'Disaster looms in Lekki; Mr. President, please save our soul; water no get enemy but nature dey vex and Lekki free flood disaster zone among several others.'

Despite the numerous promises that were made by both the Federal and State Government, the residents who spoke to THISDAY over the weekend during a visit to the Lekki Beach, said there has been no concrete action from the government.

To reinforce the need for strategic measures in the coastal areas as well as draw government's attention to the area, the Maiden edition of the Lekki Beach Marathon was organised and held at the Lekki Beach.

Conceptualised by the founder of Community Agenda for Peace, a non-governmental organization, Mr. Philip Oguesi in partnership With Majekodunmi with support from RIG, a communications firm in Lagos, the exercise had scores of youths who ran through the length and breadth of the sandy shores. As provided by the RIG, the winners in the male category went home with cash prices of N75, 000, N50, 000 and N25, 000, a galaxy tablet, a C17 phone and G8 phone shared amongst the the first, second and third persons respectively.

According to Majekodunmi, the beach marathon was just one of the ways to draw attention to the area. Henoted that the marathon also helped celebrate the green independence of Nigeria, but however said that the bottom line was to advocate for support over the scourge of the ocean erosion along the Lagos shorelines.

"The Lagos coast is being seriously threatened by the erosion caused by man's activity which started over 80 years ago with the construction of the Bar Beach and lighthouse beach groins by the British Colonial Government to protect the natural ports of Apapa and Marina.

Since then, it has been tales of woes for communities along our coast. They have not even helped matters with their incessant sand digging and removal of thousands of tons of protective sea shells. This erosion scenario has been exacerbated with dozens of shipwrecks stranded on our coast and of course more violent sea movement and sea rise occasioned by climate change, " he said.

Feeling nostalgic, he recalled the past when wonderful shows were held at the beach with thousands of people having fun under the coconut trees. Sadly, he said the same cannot hold true today because the shorelines are practically gone.

Majekodunmi, said the area is worse hit each time the rains come down, while lamenting that flooding is considered a big threat to the lives of inhabitants and properties scattered in the Lekki area.

"Very soon Lekki and other coastal areas with all the monumental investments will be run over by water if urgent steps are not taken to save the shorelines," he declares. He advocated that the Federal Government should join hands with the Lagos State Government and immediately start building a coastal defense system such as the Great Blue Sea Wall.

Although he admitted that same has started at the Bar Beach with the Atlantic City Project, he stressed that it needs to be extended down to the other coastlines to avoid disasters of unimaginable proportions.For Oguesi, the idea to start a beach marathon to reinforce awareness for the environment stemmed from the need to prevent a similar re-occurrence of the disaster that happened in Alpha and Kuramo Beaches recently.

He said, "Our NGO is basically advocacy-inclined especially in peace building. So we volunteered to use this platform to advocate and appeal to the government to heed to the cry of those living in the coastlines.

"I remember in the 70s, before you get to the shoreline, you would walk miles upon miles but sadly, that is not so today. It might get worse and unless a strategic and drastic action plan is formulated, these places might not be in existence in the near future."

In an interview with THISDAY, Mr. Philip Latilo whose organisation is the major sponsor of th event explained that the reason his organisation supported the marathon race is to show commitment to protection of lives.

According to him, RIG bought into the idea because it is youth-inclined, environmentally-friendly and people-oriented. He said, "We stand for making our youths employable and that is one of the arms of our business. We train them in ICT and make them employable by either absorbing them or fixing them somewhere where they can be happy. It is no gainsaying that for any business to thrive, there has to be an enabling environment."

We partnered to make this happen because we are not here just to create wealth for ourselves, but rather for the entire society. We believe that when the awareness is created on the state of the coastlines, those responsible for it will pick up the gauntlet."

Also speaking, the Baale (traditional ruler) of Okun Alfa, Mr.Yusuf Atewolara told THISDAY that they are calling on the three tiers of government to save the residents of the area. He noted that work has been done the Bar Beach and requested for the extension of same to other beaches.

Since their properties and families are at risk, he urged the government and other authorities to expedite action on the removal of the shipwreck as they obstruct the receding ocean surge. He lamented that lives as well as properties worth millions of naira had already been lost to the fast encroaching sea.

While lauding the initiative, a resident of the area, Mr. Erekaye Osho, stated that they were quite handicapped in tackling the degradation. "We are facing a very huge challenge that portends great danger for those of us living along the coastlines. We are calling on the government to come to our rescue because we stand the risk of losing our lives as well as our properties," he said.

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