Michael Alaje woke up early Saturday to his house being submerged by ocean flood. It was about 2 a.m. and the resident was more concerned about survival. He could not save any of his properties in the house.
This flooding happened at Ayetoro, a riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, leaving Mr Alaje displaced.
Hundreds of homes and properties including schools, and hospitals were destroyed while over 2,000 persons were displaced by the Saturday incident.
Our correspondent who visited the community located in the southern senatorial district of the state, on Saturday afternoon, witnessed the damage the water incursion had caused to many homes.
Counting his losses, Mr Alaje said the ocean surge occurred in the midnight when no one could save any of their properties.
“It was a terrible scenario for us, as many of us have lost our belongings to the sea incursion. As you can see, many of us have been rendered homeless now. The government has abandoned the community to be at the mercy of ecological disasters.”
Another resident, Ikulajo Adesola, said people in the community are scared that they may be wiped out by the sea in the next few days.
“As at this morning (Saturday), the ocean surge has wiped out some parts of Ayetoro community. Asides homes and properties that have been destroyed, the residents now live in fear of getting wiped out by the sea in the next few days.”
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from residents that Saturday’s incident was not the first of its kind.
“We have long called the attention of the government to our challenges but nobody is listening to us. We are asking that government should put in place ocean control mechanism like it was done in other civilised parts of the world or relocate people to other safer areas,” Bamidele Aiyadatiwa said.
He explained that Saturday’s incident submerged over 200 houses and shops.
Also speaking on the incident, the secretary of Ayetoro Youth Congress, Emmanuel Aralu, said the community has been battling with the challenges for over 15 years.
“The surge is the failure of the state government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to complete the shoreline protection contract awarded to Atlantic Dredgers Limited (DAL) in 2006. No life was lost but the economy of the community will not be the same again,”
He called on the government to immediately give residents of the community necessary assistance to avoid future occurrences.
PREMIUM TIMES in an investigation published in August exposed how the rise in sea level has led to repeated floods in the community, claiming many homes, a cemetery and the iconic worship centre of the town.
A N6.4 billion shore protection project aimed at rescuing the community from ocean surge was awarded by the NDDC 16 years ago but nothing has been done.
The NDDC awarded the project to Gallet Nigeria Limited in 2004 and 25 per cent of the contract sum was paid. Years after the payment, Gallet was found to be incapable of handling the project and it was re-awarded to Dredging Atlantic Limited at an undisclosed cost in 2009.
Despite evidence to the contrary, a representative of the new contractor, Dredging Atlantic Limited, Olusola Oyinloye, claimed his company has not abandoned the project.
Our report further explained how the sea incursion, which has claimed more than a three-kilometre length of land in the community has continued to render many families homeless.
Since Saturday when the latest flooding occurred, the state government is yet to react to the incident. Repeated calls and text messages to Donald Ojogo, the state commissioner of information were not responded to.
But in our earlier report, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu through his chief press secretary, Segun Ajiboye, said the community has not been forgotten. He insisted that the state government is “exercising patience in order to see a durable project executed in Ayetoro.”
“The Ayetoro shore protection project involves huge resources and it is better we tackle the challenge once and for all than doing shoddy work,” he said then.
Meanwhile, an expert in Marine Biology, Ecosystem Health and Risk Assessment, Lucian Chukwu, said the ocean surge is both a natural occurrence and a consequence of human activities.
“Ocean surge usually happens during the rainy season. Oftentimes, between the months of April and October, but usually more in August. It is usually as a result of meteorological changes which are caused by something called roaring forties – strong winds that we normally have in the southern hemisphere,” he said.