The rainy season is here again, and over the last few weeks, the rain has been heavy, with heavy downpours all over Lagos.
So heavy has it been that it has left in its wake flood, which has taken its toll on Lagosians?
There have been reported cases of the havoc the rain has wreaked on the inhabitants of Lagos. There have been incidents of some people who have drowned and cars/jeeps submerged in water.
How can Lagosians cope at a time like this? How can Lagosians avoid disasters and accidents that usually come with a season like this?
The best person to provide answers to these questions is the No 1 Disaster Manager in Lagos, Dr Oluwafemi Damilola Oke-Osanyintolu, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA). What have been the major challenges facing LASEMA over the last few years and how has he coped?
“Challenges will always come. That is normal but the most important thing is that we are always on top of the challenges. We know the challenges. We are used to these challenges that Lagos State is vulnerable to and the policymakers led by the Chief Executive Officer of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu has taken care and ownership of Emergency or Disaster Management in Lagos State and he has provided all the facilities and practical ways to solve it. So, when you have the things in place, then you as an operational person, you will be happy.”
“You will realise that all the tools that you need to work, have been provided. Then you will be able to do the needful and the good people of Lagos State have been enjoying the full dividends of democracy under the watch of the Lagos State Government.
Now that the rainy season has come, what has been the shape of the challenge that LASEMA faces now?
“Yes, the rains are here and the challenge of flooding is quite understandable because of the topography, and position. The beauty of it is that if you look at our infrastructure, you will see that we have improved on our infrastructure to take care of this.
“Clearly, in terms of preventive aspect, we have put a lot of things in place. On the issue of early warnings, we have put a lot of things in place. We now have a weather forecast institute of agency, that is working with our Ministry of Environment, the Ministry has stepped up their activity in terms of clearing second drainages, and 3rd drainages, and you can see how we have sensitised our people, so much about what is going on, what they need to do, what they ought not to do, in trying to ensure the safety of life and properties.”
“And if you look at the way we are responding to emergencies, especially flood emergency, it is a way that you should give kudos to the Lagos State Government because our operations is seamless, effective, efficient, well co-ordinated among all the key stakeholders, that are important in managing emergencies.”
How can Lagosians stay safe with this heavy rain and floods ravaging Lagos?
“A few days ago, we issued what we call Press Release to the good people of Lagos State, to tell them that we are aware of the challenges associated with this flood. This is a natural disaster, really and what we have dome is to put a lot of things in place and the funding that is required.”
“We have told people that if you don’t have business going outside when it is raining heavily, stay home. Take care of your children. Take care of your wards. Take care of your space. Ensure that there is proper drainage around you and in front of your house.”
“Ensure that your gutters are well drained into a soakaway or to secondary drainage. Also, ensure that you take proper care of yourself, in terms of your health. Be safe. Make sure you close your windows.”
“Make sure you keep your wards and yourself warm. And ensure that the tires of your vehicles are good and well placed. Not only that. Don’t drive when there is a flood on the road. It is dangerous. Stay at home. Technology is very good now. You can act on what is being to you via Technology.”
Oke-Osanyintolu has been involved in disaster management for decades. He was made a Perm Sec. last March. Before then, he was DG/CEO of LASEMA from June 2019 to February 2022. Before then, he had worked with the Presidency as a Senior Technical Adviser on Disaster Risk Management from 2017-2019 after having been at the Presidency as an Adviser from 2016-2017 monitoring and evaluation Adviser on the IDP programme. His involvement in Disaster Management dates back to 2005-2016 when he was GM of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).
At that time, he was saddled with the formulation of policies on all activities relating to Disaster Management in the state and coordinating all plans and programs for effective and efficient response to Disasters at all levels. He also coordinated and promoted research activities relating to Disaster Management at the local level.
He monitored the State for preparedness of all organizations or Agencies which may contribute to Disaster Management in the State.
He collated data from relevant agencies so as to enhance forecasting, planning and field operation of Disaster Management.
He educated and informed the public about prevention and control measures.
He coordinated and facilitated the provision of the necessary research for search and rescue and other types of disaster curtailment activities in response to distress calls.
He coordinated the activities of voluntary organizations engaged in emergency relief operations in every part of the state. He received Financial and Technical Aid from International Organizations and Non-governmental Agencies for the purpose of disaster management in the state.
He collected emergency relief materials for victims of natural or other disasters and assisted in the rehabilitation of the victims where necessary.
He liaised with local emergency management committees established under Section 8 of this Act to assess and monitor where necessary, the distribution of relief materials to disaster victims.
He processed relief assistance to such Local Governments as may be determined from time to time.
He liaised with the United National Disaster Reduction Organization and other international bodies for the reduction of natural and other disasters.
He prepared the annual budgets for Disaster Management in the State.
Many don’t know that he is an accomplished Medical Doctor who left his medical practice for Disaster Management.
He was head of LASAMBUS from 2001 – 2005. He was responsible for all ambulance service activities in the state which provides medical/first aid attention to patients of emergencies/disasters in Lagos State.
He was the Senior Medical Officer, LASEMS, Ikeja from 1998 to 2001. He was Medical Officer, General Hospital, Gbagada from 1994 to 1998. He was Medical Officer (NYSC) Agege Local Government from 1993 to 1994. House Officer, General Hospital Ikeja, Lagos from 1991-1992.
He is an accomplished professional who has recorded many achievements as Pioneer Doctor of Ifako Primary Health care in Lagos State; Pioneer Members, Lagos State Emergency Services; Pioneer Head of Lagos State Ambulance Services; Pioneer General Manager/ Disaster Manager for Lagos State; the arrow Head of Doctors responsible for the evacuation of Lagos State Government patients for overseas treatment; he was the Disaster Manager/Coordinator of State response during Ebola outbreak in Lagos State. He was Team leader in Emergency Response to the Bomb blast disaster that occurred in Lagos State in 2001.
He has coordinated the state response in managing more than 20000 major and minor disasters in Lagos State and other States i.e Ogun State, Edo State, Oyo State and Borno State such as; Diana Plane crash, Associate Plane crash, collapsed buildings such as Synagogue building collapse, fire disaster in Ijegun in Lagos State, Abule Egba pipeline vandalization fire disaster, flood disaster in Oyo State, 3-storey building collapse in Ogun State, road traffic accident in Lagos, Ogun, Borno and flood disaster in Edo State, Oko-Baba fire disaster in Lagos State, major flood disaster and train crash in Lagos State.
He was a team member in the conceptualization and development of 3 digit emergency number in Lagos State.
He was a team member in the conceptualization and development of the Command Control Centre in Lagos State.
He was also a team member in the conceptualization and development of the First Burns Centre in Nigeria which is located at the Gbagada General Hospital in Lagos State.
He was a team member in the conceptualization and development of the Relief Camp for victims of disasters in Lagos State.
He was the Chief Camp Commandant for the IDPs that were associated with the flood disasters in Lagos State in 2010. 1600 IDPs were camped for more than 11 months.
He was a team member in the conceptualisation and development of the Lagos State response plan, contingency plan and syllabus for emergency/disaster management in Lagos State.
He has been on many ad hoc and standing committees involved in various important emergency/disaster management projects such as the development of the National Public Health Emergency contingency plan.
He was the Best Doctor, in Lagos State Emergency Medical Services 2000.
He got a commendation for management of disaster by His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State in 2002.
He was the Best and Most Proactive State Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria (LASEMA pioneer under his leadership) in 2010.
He is so good at Disaster Management. That is why successive administrations have retained his services? since 2005 to manage disasters and emergencies in Lagos.
He is ever ready to lead his team to prevent and manage emergency situations when they occur across the 57 Local Government areas of the state.
That was why City People got him to reveal strategies to help curtail emergencies in Lagos State, especially at a time like this, when the rainy season is back.