Drainages all over the world especially in civilised societies and urban cites, are dug through streets to flow to the, lagoons, rivers, streams, swamps, underground reservoirs and so on. It is only in Badagry, particularly at Ibereko, that a baale (High Chief) in a bid to save his house and the house of the indigenes would put his foot down and order people to dig gutters across several streets with no particular place to direct the water to. Rather, in the name of ”we-own-the-land” would by-pass major streets and ask landlords of other tribes who are not Ogu or Awori to open up their compounds/fences and allow water to flow through it not minding whether they have building approvals. The Baale has been doing this with reckless abandon despite warnings from well-meaning citizens.
By Ovie Edomi
In fact, the Baale of Oke-Oko community in collaboration with some persons living on his street has made life meaningless and brutish for the voiceless in the last six years and all efforts to get him and his collaborators to change their minds have failed. The resultant effect is continuous flood and destruction of properties including fear of outbreak of major epidemics. This is because gutters were dug deliberately and channelled into non-indigenes’ compounds. The none indigenes, mainly from Delta, Edo, Kogi states, and so on, refused and insisted that water should be channelled through the streets to the swamp or the Lagos Lagoon via the Badagry-Ibereko Lagos Expressway to Ggbaji Bridge to link the Lagoon. Well-meaning citizens including the Oba of Ibereko told the Baale of Oke Oko but the Baale has refused to listen to good council and allow good reasons to prevail. This is so because the Baale and his collaborators had built their houses encroaching on government approved streets and they want non-indigenes to suffer for their lawlessness.
I wish to recall with nostalgia how in 2012 a professor friend of mine visited me from France. We drove to see my vast land in the same community located near Badagry but precisely under the traditional control of Oba of Ibereko. My friend came with a view of establishing a factory in the ancient town. The investment was to run into millions of dollars. He changed his mind when he discovered that there was a tendency of robbing Peter to pay Paul going by what he saw.when he met one of the Baales( High Chiefs)
The example particularly coming from a high chief who should exercise caution in the discharge of his responsibilities calls to question the high office he occupies as a custodian of the people’s heritage, culture and so on.
Every year especially during the rainy season hundreds of landlords suffer simply because a Baale and some people who built their houses encroaching on government approved streets insisted that drainage must not pass though the streets rather they claimed that in the days of their fathers they use to channel waters though certain routes and water should still pass though those routes in the 21st century. This is in spite of the fact that they have sold the land and collected development levy from the landlords and more importantly, the landlords not only have government approved survey plans but equally have building plans approvals. A visit to the area shows that urbananised is at its peak with hundreds of beautiful structures with government approved building plans adorning the community.
The question is where was the Baale and his men when government gave approval for the construction of these buildings. Besides, does it means that because Kirikiri town was water-logged in the 30s, it must remain so in 2016? Was Apapa not a reclaimed swamp? Is Banana Island and major parts of Victoria Island not reclaimed land? Why must the Baale of Oke-Oko make his community appear as if it is not part of Lagos State or far from urbanisation? Besides, which law is supreme? Is it the law of the Baale or what the law of Lagos State states? It is important to say at this stage that the town planning office in Badagry and men of the Ministry of Environment have gone round the community and they measured one of the streets where people built their houses encroaching on government land. The town planning officials asked all landlords to come with their titled document. Curiously, the same people who are collaborating with Baale of Oke Oko are now crying to high heavens and asking why government officials should get involved whereas it was Baale of Oke Oko, Lagos that took the matter to the Sole Administrator of Olorunda local government development area. Now the Council boss has invited the necessary agencies of government. Though the indigenes are not happy with the Baale on one hand the non-indigenes are worried if indeed, this is the one Nigeria our forefathers fought for. Whatever happens after now is on record that the people who bought the land from the indigenes, have gone ahead to survey their lands as well as gotten approval from the town planning authority to build their houses. To insist on the era of kingdoms and empire where the kings and power chiefs owe the land is to think that one can eat his cake and still have it. The Land Use Act is very clear on who owns the land. Lagos State is what it is because the state has made those who dwell in it to feel homely as well as provided an enabling environment for dwellers to do their business. No Baale should spoil the good works of the past and present governors of Lagos state – The Centre of Excellence.
In my view, the flood in Ibereko particularly Oke Oko, Seme, Badagry should be left to the necessary agencies of government to handle. The Baale of Oke-Oko community in Ibereko should restrict himself to his traditional functions and those supporting him should know that the law is no respecter of persons.