Lessons of the Lagos windstorm
By Wale Sokunbi (08056180228)
Wednesday February 22, 2012

If many Lagosians had a choice, the rainy reason is one period of the year they would be very happy to do without. The rains are necessary for life. They are refreshing after the scorching heat of the sun. Without rain, plants will not grow. Agriculture will not thrive, as it should.

But, the natural phenomenon that should be received with joy is fast becoming a cause for worry. The onset of the rains has become a period viewed with trepidation in Lagos, Ibadan and many other flood-prone parts of the country.

The July 2011 flooding disaster in Lagos, which claimed scores of lives, is still fresh in the people’s memory. The one that followed in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, days after, was even more devastating. Raging waters overflowed rivers and canals, and submerged homes and commuters, killing scores in the process. Apart from death, flooding disasters leave a trail of destruction of property.

Those who lost loved ones and property in last year’s incidents are still bemoaning their loss. The expectation is that the concerned state governments would have put everything in place to ensure that such incidents never recur in the two cities. But, it would appear that flooding is not the only problem Nigerian will have to contend with at the coming of the rains. If the windstorm of Monday, last week, is anything to go by, Nigerians will have to brace up for the reality of greater challenges from strong winds this year.
The windstorm began just like a normal early morning downpour; a mere nuisance for those who had to leave their homes early to be at work by 7 or 8 am. But then, it soon became obvious that the rain was not your ordinary, run of the mill downpour. It came with mighty winds that tore through roofs of many houses and pulled out window nets with their frames.

It was something of a hurricane that carried roofing sheets and debris and slammed them into humans, vehicles and other items. At the end of the storm which lasted no longer than 20 minutes in many parts of the state, while it did not even rain at all in others, 15 Lagosians were reported dead, a number of them crushed by falling masts of telecommunication companies. Most pathetic of all, 10 children on a boat ride to their school – St. Mary Anglican Nursery and Primary School, Igbede, in Otto Awori, Local Council Development Area (LCDA) — got drowned when their boat capsized. Two women also died in the incident.

The boat that was conveying the young children to school has been reported to be an open boat that did not have an engine, but was being paddled. It was also overloaded. The children and other occupants of the boats had no life jackets. They were entirely at the mercy of the elements. They had no one to help them when the raging storm came calling.

The loss of the ten children and the others who died in this mishap is sad. It is disturbing, indeed, that so many people died so suddenly and so unexpectedly on account of the windstorm. The casualty from the incident possibly, would have been significantly reduced if only the children in the boat had life jackets. It is bad that such young children have to travel across large bodies of water in open boats without life jackets. This is contrary to Lagos State laws that require anyone commuting on the waterways to wear life jackets, according to the state’s Commissioner for Rural Development, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi.

But, life jackets or not, such young children should not be riding to school in open boats. The government has a responsibility to make schools more accessible to them. No child should have to ride paddled boats to school because it is just too dangerous.
One lesson from the rainstorm and the havoc it wreaked is that Lagos and, indeed, the entire country must prepare for serious challenges from the rains and strong winds this year.

If such terrible windstorm can rage and cause so much havoc at this time, what should Nigerians expect at the peak of the rainy season? Let the incident be a warning to all on the need to prepare adequately for the rains this year.
The flooding incidents of the past which saw so many people lost to rain waters should not be allowed to happen again. There is no doubt that these are unusual times for Nigeria, as far as the weather is concerned. This period, apparently, does not leave room for anybody to ignore warnings on the dangers of building on waterways and clogging up their canals and other water channels with refuse.

Apart from flooding, the intensity of the windstorms suggests that houses that are not properly constructed will be at risk. There is no way that houses built on shaky foundations, or with weak and substandard materials, will survive the kind of strong winds that attended the storm.
The incident is, therefore, notice to occupiers of shanties and other makeshift structures to fortify them, one way or the other, against strong winds.
This is the time for government’s pronouncements on de-silting of canals and drainages to go beyond rhetoric. Something should be done and widely seem to be done in all parts of the country that are prone to flooding. The authorities should not wait until people are carried away by flood before acting. The appropriate agencies should study areas that experience severe flooding and make appropriate arrangements to keep them free of the ravages of windstorms and flooding.

Armed robbers at Kogi prison?
The nation had another incident of breaking into prisons to free inmates again, last week. Armed gunmen invaded a prison in Koton-Karfe, Kogi State, and freed about 94 prisoners. Since that incident, there have been conflicting reports on the circumstances surrounding the attack. While some reports described it as a Boko Haram attack to free its members detained in the prison, others said it was not. Boko Haram, itself, has admitted responsibility for the attack, but Internal Affairs Minister, Abba Moro, while breaking his resounding silence on the attack, few days ago, said it was carried out by armed robbers.

Armed robbers attacking a prison? Strange. Very strange, indeed. Very unlikely. Let us not say unbelievable. If armed robbers, truly, attacked the prison on such a serious scale, it must be one of the firsts of such incidents in the country.
What would armed robbers be looking for in a prison? Is it a bank, or the home of a moneybag? If armed robbers carried out the attack, that prison will have to be investigated. Perhaps, it is being used as a storehouse by some politicians, or as a warehouse by dealers in electronics products. Or, Perhaps, that is where our first ladies keep their jewelry.
This report from Minister Moro raises more questions than it answers. There is no need to deny the fact of involvement of Boko Haram in the attack if that is the case. There is really no hiding the fact that our prisons are prone to attacks and many have actually been so attacked. But, armed robbers attacking a prison?

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