The floods have gradually crept further southward since the beginning of the year, swallowing what was left of the community of Creek View and flooding a sandbank that had grown to protect a promenade, local residents say.
From May 2011 through December 2016, the storm surge reached a peak of 4.9 feet, according to government figures. On Tuesday, this level was 5.2 feet, making the Lagos-Lagos Island area – a region of 2.8 million people and home to some of Nigeria’s biggest skyscrapers – one of the most flood-prone cities in the world. “Most parts of this area are already under water, but the situation is worse in Creek View because of the encroachment on the promenade which has already been affected,” Mark Iwan, the commissioner for housing and urban development in Lagos, told the Associated Press.
The 10,000 inhabitants of Creek View face an existential dilemma: They desperately need to move, but they may never be able to afford a house in other parts of Lagos because of the encroachment of neighboring communities.
Just 18 months ago, residents of the community were decrying the unsightly scar on their coast that had left many makeshift homes covered in floating trash – a consequence of a recent flood that forced up to 60,000 residents of Ikorodu to shelter with other residents, displaced by coastal erosion.
To this day, to this second-wave flood, most of Creek View is still covered in trash. But now, residents are concerned that a new wave of menace will soon greet them: rising sea levels.
“On an average, every month, there is more flooding,” resident Adeoye Adedoyin told The New York Times in October. “This year so far, we’ve had 5 to 7 times the floods.”
The coastal erosion and flooding in Creek View is largely the result of the encroachment of adjacent communities and evaporation of the water supply, said Ismail Adesanya, a historian of Lagos and Lagos Island. “It’s part of the natural process,” he said. “But to have people building up the sand where the water used to go is not good.”
While the world has long emphasized how climate change will affect the environmental problems facing large metropolitan areas like Lagos, the growing possibility of a flood is particularly troublesome for a nation that has made pledges to the United Nations to act on climate change. Last week, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, signed a supplementary national climate change action plan, which, among other things, committed Nigeria to curb carbon emissions and foster renewable energy. The UN has called for pledges from every country to increase its renewable energy production as part of a five-year framework aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
“The world needs to begin by tackling our own emissions, and, to date, Nigeria has a responsibility to cut its emissions by one-fifth,” said the UN’s Urvi Singh. “This is a big step for Nigeria, which produces the most carbon in the African region, and is one of Africa’s largest fossil fuel-generating economies.”
Still, many residents of Creek View wonder whether Nigeria has the capacity to keep its beach and the coastline habitable. The governor of Lagos has indicated that the state government will use the next two weeks to look into how much aid is needed to prepare the beach and remove illegally constructed houses – or how much money is needed to construct and fund something new. But residents are pessimistic, saying the climate crisis is nothing new and merely worsening.
“Every time, we have a major flood here,” said Osas Kolade, a resident of Creek View. “The government has done nothing for us. For us, it’s nothing. There is no possibility for us to get help from the government because all we have is the trash we dumped on the sand and the beach. No one cares about us. We are farmers. We do what we have to do to make a living, but we cannot really plan long-term.”