Construction, climate change to blame for Nigeria’s erosion crisis 03:12
While countries wrangle over who should pay for the climate crisis, a community on Lagos Island is being swallowed by the sea
By Nimi Princewill, CNN Photographs by Yagazie Emezi for CNN
Updated 4:54 AM ET, Thu November 18, 2021
Lagos Island, Nigeria (CNN)Standing on the sand next to a building hollowed out by the churning sea, Sheriff Elegushi points far out into the Atlantic Ocean to where his ancestral home once stood.
“Over there was where we had our tarred road before,” Elegushi said. “We also had our electricity poles there and a health center … You can see the remaining particles,” he adds, pointing to the debris.
Elegushi — a leader in the Okun Alfa community on Nigeria’s Lagos Island — spoke to CNN some 1,500 meters from where Alpha Beach, a popular tourist destination, used to be. The people here no longer even call this stretch of sand Alpha Beach. They consider it long gone.
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 with residential homes and high-rise buildings. The residents of Okun Alfa worry that complete submersion of their community is no longer a matter of 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’s half the size it once was. Properties that were nowhere near the ocean 10 years ago now sit just a few steps away.
“Many years ago, we took long treks to get to the sea,” said Elegushi. “There were no houses close to the shore.”
He added that for decades, Okun Alfa’s residents have been moving their homes further and further back from the shoreline, as floods and sea level rise erode the coast they once looked out over. But there’s a limit to how far back they can move.
“There is no more land for us to move to,” said Elegushi.
On Lagos Island, the coastline is even approaching the palace of Okun Alfa’s traditional ruler, Chief Elegushi Atewolara Yusuf. And this is his new one — his older one has already been washed away by the sea.
“I lost my palace. You can see that we just built this (new palace). The former palace is inside the ocean.”