I lost G-Wagon, Escalade, Bentley, others to flooding – Lagos landlord

Lagos landlord and businessman Daniel Okereke tells EMMANUEL OJO how his home in the Maryland area of ​​the city was flooded, causing the loss of property

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Daniel Okereke. I was a banker and at one point voluntarily resigned from my job to pursue other real estate business. That’s what I do. The property that is said to have sunk is my personal property on Akinwunmi Street in Mende. I bought the land in 2007 and developed it in 2008. It’s actually the first house I’ve ever built and it’s very personal and dear to me. It’s something I built at a time when I practically scratched it out and hoped in God and eventually I was able to achieve that. So it’s different from having a ready-made fund somewhere that you use and then build up the way I want. So this is very personal to me because it was something I built in my twenties; that’s why it’s very personal for me. I know how to go through all kinds of legal channels to raise money and finally God helped me to get there.

What is the situation at the house that is said to have sunk in a flood?

There is actually no incident that is out of place. Where I live in Mende, Maryland, from time to time, when it rains very hard, we have this wave because we have a canal about 150 yards from my home and other homes in the area, and so on. So if it rains really hard, if the government doesn’t dredge the canal, water will flow back out of the canal instead of flowing through it, destroying us. As I speak to you I have lost at least five cars in this residence of mine, but as it is my baby project it is very dear to me and more important than any other property I own or ever will own. I’ve been here since 2008 and when this wave comes it pours out of the canal and floods our homes and everything. It floods the streets and in some cases the house.

How often does the flood occur?

While staying here since 2008, the surge that happened a few days ago is quite unusual. We have over 100 landlords in this estate and other landlords have also confirmed that it is quite unusual. The president’s house was flooded, to places it had never been before. So we started to inquire and we realized that this particular wave action was allegedly due to the ongoing construction work on the Opebi Link Bridge to Maryland by Julius Berger. It is ‘supposed’ because we have not reached an end point with our research. That was the reason for the unusual increase, according to our ongoing findings. The drain and canal at the Opebi Link Bridge were blocked to allow the project, which is highly commendable, to continue. It’s a landmark project by this government, so we appreciate that, but at the same time, the government needs to help us connect with Julius Berger and the authorities so that at the end of the day, while enjoying the groundbreaking projects that the government has carried out, nor will it fire us from our homes and endanger our lives and property.

How much damage has the flood caused to your property and to the building?

As I speak to you now, not to sound immodest, I’ve lost at least five cars, and when I talk about cars here, I’m talking about cars like G-Wagon. I’ve lost a G-Wagon here, I’ve lost a Bentley here, I’ve lost a Chrysler, a Prado Jeep, Range Rover Jeep, Escalade Truck and even an E-Class.

Was it in this incident or in previous events?

From the moment it started when I moved here. I moved from Ikeja GRA where all these things don’t happen. I’ve never really experienced flooding or known anything about it. This took place in 2008, 2009. When I stayed at the property I started seeing all that and of course it is my savings and I am not going to run away from the property because the water has receded from the canal which is a natural occurrence , although the government can help us dredge the place and make it easy for us to live. When I realized the water was coming through my gate I had to build a levee there, so over the years I haven’t experienced any water coming through my gate. It flows into the street and after a while it goes away and life returns to normal. So it went back and forth that way.

Can you describe the height of the water at this latest incident?

My house is a two-storey building. The water rose to about half the height of the ground floor. It was above the knee, so it wasn’t life-threatening.

Did you get professional advice before buying the land?

When I bought the land, the seller sold it to me, sold it during the dry season and then sold it at the normal price I buy land in a dry place and told me all I had to do was dig the ground and start building like any other normal dry place. I didn’t know I had a channel there until one day after I moved in. I was in my house and it started raining and because I didn’t know the terrain I was stuck, my cars were stuck and that’s how I lost everything but you know in this climate there’s no one to go to for compensation as in other climates. I lost a lot, I sat in this house and cried, but I couldn’t do anything. It was as if all the fruit of my labors over the years had just been swept away in one day.

How big is your building there?

What I have here is a storey building. It’s four flats, but because of the disturbing water, I didn’t want to develop the down flats because I thought it was unfair to rent the house to people that if it rains, the house will be flooded and all. So, as a man who knows what it means to toil and earn money, I have decided not to develop the ground floor. It was last year that I realized that I was able to solve this problem of this water entering the house. I decided to develop just one flat but with this incident that just happened now, that place is flooded and all I have in there are millions of naira gone again.

Can you estimate how much you have now lost to this particular incident?

To estimate what I lost in this incident apart from the previous ones that lost my cars, I will talk about N8m. That’s for the furniture, the TVs, air conditioning and so on and documents. It’s just a very pathetic place to see but by God’s grace the water has withdrawn and I was able to use the pumping machine to pump it out. I have an automated pumping machine that I use most of the time. The water even wore away the one I used, I had to go and buy two new ones. It’s dry everywhere now, but we live in Lagos and flooding is a common occurrence we see in other climates like Australia, New York and so on. So it’s just a natural phenomenon. The floods have meant that our properties are not worth the value they should be, but if the government helps to dredge the canal and build a levee, we will be happy and the value of our property will increase. With this recurring problem, it’s only one SUV I have, for emergencies.

How did you escape from the flooded building?

(laughs) I didn’t just walk away; I walked away by the road where the water was. It’s water, it doesn’t kill. I was just wearing my normal safety boot because I had a doctor’s appointment, so I had to go out at that particular time. I walked through it, but there is a tenant. I later told who when I left that it was a bit inconvenient to walk through the normal way because the water had risen so I called estate security to bring a ladder and stuff so she could get out in comfort but being a new tenant, seeing that there was water everywhere, she may have panicked. Other tenants who had been there longer, who knows it would be history in a few hours, left for work, but this one panicked. She apologized, but I said no apology was necessary. There is no problem. If they are able to deliver a call to the government to come and help us and it is your call that can make them come then that is a blessing to us. There is nothing to hide. I am not the cause of the flood.

So when NEMA came they just got to the ladder I kept, but trust Nigerian rescue services, they put on a show of the whole thing, taking pictures and stuff, the people were trapped, the building sank and so on and so forth. If you know and anyone who knows me or has visited my residence know that anyone can be hosted here. I can’t be in a place that’s in danger. So when they came and they saw that the building was a bit skewed which was due to the separation that was done based on it being a swampy area and they had to do some mechanical piling and stuff. My house is 20 feet into the ground. Just for the foundation like then, I spent about N20m.

And for your tenants, what is their reaction regarding their rent there?

As I speak, they are already sleeping in their different apartments. I charge the lowest rent in this entire area. I have not increased the rent in the last four years, even with COVID-19. As I speak to you, some tenants still owe me rent up to seven months, and I have not evicted them from my home.

How many tenants do you have?

I have four tenants. I am a Christian, but I don’t make that a requirement to rent out my apartment. As long as the person is responsible and has a job that can pay their rent. I have Christians and Muslims as my tenants. I don’t play a tribalism card either. I take people for who they are. A good man is a good man, but if I interview a potential tenant and find out that he is a Yahoo boy, I will even be the one to call the police for that person.

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