The writings of an intense journalist

Monday, 25 October 2010

Global Climate Change Comes to Lagos with A Bang
I thought we in Nigeria could ignore global climate change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m aware of the increased rainfall over the past few years, the shorter dry season, the small span of Harmattan, the uncertain weather. But I still thought global climate change was not a major problem – at least not in our corner of the earth.

Not anymore. You need to witness what happened in Lagos, our commercial capital, over the past three weeks. It’ll make you a believer. Global climate change is real!

What happened. The Ogun River overflowed its banks continuously for two weeks. At first, experts thought it was because a dam on the river collapsed under pressure of increased rainwater. But as the days rolled by, they knew the situation was not as simple as this.

Then how does global climate change come in? Not such a tough a question to answer.

At first, global climate change was not linked to the issue, but investigations revealed it may be part of the problem. Ogun River drains into the Lagos Lagoon. However, the water level of the lagoon had been rising due to global climate change over the years, making it higher than the level of Ogun River. Due to this, water from the river, unable to get into the lagoon, flowed back into the surrounding plain, flooding it.

The result is not pleasant at all (and statistics confirm it).

* Areas such as Ikorodu, Ketu, Mile12, Thomas Laniyan Estate and others flooded, while people, like fishes, swam to their houses.
* Immediate relocation of 681internally displaced persons, including 405 children, by the Lagos State Government (it reminds one of a civil war)
* Over 1,000 people rendered as homeless as broad daylight
* Hundreds of pupils evacuated from schools, while parents, like camels, evacuated from their houses.
* Canoes (yes canoes), rather than cars and motor-cycles, became the means of transportation. * Thousands of men, women and children got trapped in their homes.
* People became afraid of home collapse due to flood weakening the foundations of their houses.

You must have heard bad news begets bad news. Well, same is true in this case. With this effect of global climate change, there were some unexpected consequences. Here is what happened (and you won't find this in any book):

* Because the flood chased away security officials, hoodlums, the new lords of the streets, took over the situation and attacked people in their homes, stealing mobile phones, money and other valuables
* Women trapped by the water at home got raped, as well as innocent girls coming from schools
* Workers who did not come home anything earlier than 8 p.m. (and it is difficult to so in Lagos) stayed outside so they won't get attacked and raped by hoodlums.

Assuming the dam on Ogun River collapsed, global climate change still had a role to play. It increased the water level of the Lagos Lagoon, preventing the water from Ogun River to come in.

The global climate change is real (and it doesn't have to come to your doorsteps before you recognise this). If the effect could happen in Lagos, it could happen anywhere, anywhere, in the world.
The global climate change, when it comes in full force, will have unexpected consequences!


Long and winding road
ADETOKUNBO ABIOLA - Oct 18 2010 08:27
(First published in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper

We had just settled down to enjoy the journey to Ouagadougou.

We were over the bumpy part of the road outside Accra and the luxury bus was air conditioned. But it wasn't the long distance ahead of us that began dampening my spirits. It was the driver.

When he got to a shopping complex near a town called Nsutan -- just 50km out of Accra -- he slowed down, turned off the road and stopped.

I did not know it was common for luxury buses to stop for passengers to refresh themselves during a journey. And even if they had to stop, I felt it was too soon. But the driver and his assistant got down and went into the complex, the passengers following on their heels.

Thirty minutes later, the driver came and announced: "Let's move on."

I was at the beginning of my journey to Ouagadougou to attend a conference of international journalists, which was starting the next morning. I did not want to be late and we still had more than 720km to go.

After the passengers got back into the bus, the journey continued. Buses like the one I boarded abound everywhere in the West African sub region.They are supposed to be comfortable, slow to break down and quick to get to passengers' destinations.

But things were not going as they should have. At Kumasi, 200km from Nsutan, the driver drove the bus to a filling station and stopped once again.

When I asked why he could not just go on, he snapped: "If you're so desperate to get to Ouagadougou, why didn't you take a plane?"

It was clear that this was going to be a tiring journey.

After the driver finished refuelling the bus, we headed for Tamale, a town more than 200km from Kumasi. As the bus crawled on, the driver stopped briefly at Tetina to pick up passengers.

I discovered this was normal practice for drivers along their routes. I wanted to ask him whether the money would go into his employer's coffers but I did not. Like bus drivers everywhere, the driver would oppose anyone who questioned his behaviour.

A few hours after we left Tetina, we encountered another bad piece of road. There were gullies, potholes and loose stones in and on the highway. To cope with them, the driver slowed down.

After two hours on the bad road, the bus got to a transit spot called Sawara in Katanpon, about 96km from Tamale in northern Ghana. The driver, who had been behind the steering wheel for 12 hours, stopped the bus, got down and sneaked into one of the joints in the place.

After 30 minutes, he emerged, refreshed. His assistant took his position behind the steering wheel. This too, I discovered, was standard practice.

Now that it seemed we were making progress I felt better disposed to appreciate the buses. A 40-year old Ghanaian acquaintance told me in Kumasi they had been around since he was a young boy. He told me a luxury bus could make as much as 35 00 cedis (more than $20 00) from an Accra-Ouagadougou return trip.

Our bus was typical of thousands of luxury buses that ply their trade in the region. They provide employment for drivers, ticket issuers, managers, clerks and canvassers, rescuing many young men and women from unemployment in the villages or from perpetrating crime in the cities.

Besides, when the buses stop at transit points, they are besieged by hawkers, who offer passengers all manner of goods for sale. The buses also carry traders and their goods around the region. They provide a reliable, regular service and so boost business.

By 8am we had crossed the border. When we drove into Po, a small town in southern Burkina Faso, the driver slowed down and stopped. He said that armed robbers were fond of attacking buses a few kilometres further up the road. He would not continue unless escorted by policemen through the area.

An hour later policemen escorted us past the trouble spot and we closed in on Ouagadougou, thinking there would be no more problems. But there were -- the bus hit an enormous pothole just before a narrow bridge some kilometres from our destination.

I hit my head against the window, bruising it. But the driver steadied the bus and crossed the bridge.

He stopped the bus at the Ouagadougou International Bus Station at 12 noon, 29 hours after leaving Accra. I was late for the conference, but I nodded to the driver and he gave a thin smile. As I moved towards a street, I sighed. It was the longest journey of my life.Adetokunbo Abiola is a prize-winning Nigerian journalist and author