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While countries fight over who should be responsible for the climate crisis in the world, a community on Lagos Island has been swallowed by sea.
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While countries fight over who should be responsible for the climate crisis in the world, a community on Lagos Island has been swallowed by sea.


Elegushi stated that the area where our tarred roads were located before was over there. Elegushi said, pointing out the debris, that “we also had our electricity poles there” and a hospital.

The resort’s extinction has left the Okun Alfa community and those around it paralyzed, and is just one of many losses for the people here, whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by frequent tidal surges fueled both by ​the climate crisis and questionable urban planning.

This is no sleepy island, but ​rather Lagos’ buzzing central business district​. It is densely packed full of high-rise and residential buildings. Okun Alfa residents fear that their community will be submerged.Okun Alfa residents are concerned that complete submersion of their community will not be a matter if but when.​

Huge swaths of Okun Alfa’s landscape ​have been consumed by the sea, says the convener of the community’s ocean surge response, Oladotun Hassan. It is now half its size. It’s just a few steps from properties that were far from the ocean ten years ago.

Elegushi said, “Many years ago we took long treks in order to reach the sea.” “There were no houses near the shore.”

He explained that Okun Alfa’s residents have been moving farther and further away from the shoreline over the decades as floods, sea level rise, and erosion of the coasts they once enjoyed a view of, for decades. However, there is a limit to how far they can move back.

Elegushi stated that there is no more land available for them to move to.

The coastline of Lagos Island is so close to the palace of Chief Elegushi Atewolara Yosuf, Okun Alfa’s traditional ruler on the island, that it even approaches the palace. And this is his latest one — his older one was washed away in the sea.

“I lost my palace. This (new palace) is clearly visible. The former palace is now inside the ocean.

Chief Elegushi Atewolara Yusuf sits in front of his palace on Lagos Island.

The most contentious issue at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow is the money required for developing countries to adapt to the climate crisis. This is the most intense phase of negotiations.

The COP26 presidency aims to get rich nations to pay their fair share of the promised $100 billion per year by 2020 so that the Global South can adapt to changes such as those on Lagos Island.

Despite contributing more to the crisis than developed nations, they have failed to meet this target. Even though more money has been pledged in Glasgow it is only trickling in.

Problems with climate, management or both?

A projection of sea-level rise by the University of Plymouth A study by scientists found that a rise of just 1 to 3 metres “will have a devastating effect on the human activities in Nigeria’s coastal environments,” including Lagos, a low-lying port on the Atlantic coast. ​Scientists say that a rise of up to one meter could happen by 2100 if emissions levels do not decrease dramatically.

Another study, published in Nature, found that some of the world’s low-lying coastal cities could be permanently submerged by ​then.

But, like so many of the worst impacts of ​the climate crisis, humans’ management of the natural and built world are exacerbating problems like receding coastlines.

Lagos Island community leaders slam the construction of a new coastal city. called “Eko Atlantic.” They claim that the project has made it more difficult for water to surge towards their area of the coast, pushing their homes underwater.

The land on which the city is being built is being reclaimed from Lagos’ Victoria Island, on an ex-beach on the Atlantic.

Dilapidated buildings are seen along the coast of Lagos Island.

A Nigerian environmental activist, Similade Adeodun, told CNN the construction of Eko Atlantic was making the usual methods ​of adapting to sea level rise in Okun Alfa more challenging.

Adeodun said that land reclamation is a significant problem in building resilience and combating rising sea levels. “Eko Atlantic project pushes water that was occupying their area back to the coastal communities. This has caused an increase in sea surge at Okun Alfa. He said that the greater the water flow, the more severe the impact.”

David Frame, Eko’s managing director, denies these problems are being created by the project.

Frame stated that this is not the case in an interview with CNN. “We hired consultants for the design of the sea wall and the reclamation of Ekoatlantic, and they have closely followed that progress from the beginning.”

He explained that consultants were there to make sure contractors didn’t take sand from seabed beyond the “Minus 15 Contour.”

“That is where you will see the coastline if you drag closer to it.”

He stated that the method was in accordance with international standards.

“So the dredging operation had not caused any erosion of the coastline.”

However, Tajudeen, another Okun Alfa community leader, doesn’t believe it.

“Eko Atlantic is a very serious issue,” he stated.

“The ocean has been disturbing our lives, destroying houses even if they are not near the shore. It just comes and takes them apart. People have built concrete block houses with multiple rooms, but now they sleep in plank-made structures.

CNN spoke with Tajudeen that the protective barrier built by government officials ten years ago has helped reduce the tidal surges at Okun Alfa.

“After numerous complaints, government set up breakers in certain parts of the ocean. He stated that without the breakers, there would have been no one left in this village.”

It is evident that the barriers were never completed.

Elegushi stated that seawater is still being absorbed into the soil.

“The job was stopped. This is why water is still permeating. The government promised to do more. He added that this was only half.

Jidah Saed, another resident, stated that Okun Alfa isn’t yet safe.

“When they began the breakers in 2011, their whole goal was to extend them by approximately 1,000m. They were unable to complete the project. Jidah stated to CNN that if they had completed it, we would have been safe.”

Stone breakers can be seen along Alpha Beach on Lagos Island.

CNN reached Lagos officials for comment. However, a statement by the Lagos State Government 2018 stated that “the construction of the building is a continuous project subject the availability of funds” but urged communities to “exercise their civic responsibility towards the government by promptly paying their taxes.”

A statement made by the state surveyor general in June on the official Lagos website stated that Eko Atlantic City was “a unique megacity built upon new ideas and innovation for Greater Lagos that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

Eko Atlantic developers say the project is a ​way of preventing parts of Lagos Island from being eaten away by erosion.

Frame of Eko Atlantic said that Victoria Island, V.I extension and Phase One Lekki are permanently protected by Eko Atlantic.

Nigeria needs more climate funding

Okun Alfa’s ocean surge response convener Hassan explains that local financing will be insufficient in addressing Nigeria’s climate issues​. He also stated that the country needs to have access to more ecological financing.

Garba Shehu (a spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari) stated in a statement to CNN that more funding was essential to adapt to problems such as receding coasts. This has been a key request from Nigeria at COP26.

“We are 100% committed to the overall ​(goal) of zero-emissions … Then, of course, we want the rich nations to fulfill their obligation by paying ​the $100 billion in the Paris Accord,” Sherbu said.

On Lagos Island, buildings that were nowhere near the ocean 10 years ago are now just a few steps away.
​In 2009, developed countries agreed to transfer $100 billion a year ​by 2020 to developing nations to help them reduce their greenhouse gases and adapt to the climate crisis. This target has not been met, and the developing countries at COP26 complain that not enough money is going towards adapation.

Shehu stated that “We have already committed to 20% reduction in emissions as a national goal; with funding support, it is possible for us to reach 45% or more by 2030.”

Adeodun, an environmentalist, argued that Nigeria has not been able to receive sufficient funding for climate adaptation because of “mismanagement”. He is very careful to not say directly where ​he believes previous funds allocated for Nigeria’s efforts have gone.

Adeodun stated, “Due to mismanagement, Nigeria is unable get enough funding that will accelerate resilience and adaptation projects and programmes.”

“Nigeria should be asking for support in terms of climate solutions and upscaling projects.”

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