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Nigerian community threatened with extinction

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By Mercy Kelani

Atlantic ocean gradually submerges Ayetoro, displacing residents.

Ayetoro community, a coastal area located in Ilaje Local Council, Ondo State, and on the forefront of climate change and exploration activities of oil companies, is currently threatened with extinction. This is because it is constantly faced by worsening sea incursions and rising sea levels. The waves of the Atlantic ocean terrified the people of Ayetoro as it is a reminder that it is gradually creeping into the midst of the ocean; unlike tourists who find it attractive to behold tides at shorelines.

In 1947, Ayetoro community was established and regarded as the “Happy City”. It has its location along the Atlantic coast in the southern region of Ondo State. It used to be well known for its prosperous riverine settlement across the country, owing to its successful fish trade. The political and social framework of the community also contributed to its prosperity, as it ensured equality and a sense of belonging for every indigene. However, terrible sea incursions and surges turned the “Happy City” into a “Sad City” for its residents.

A 2020 surge displaced about 2,000 people & destroyed 200 homes.

Without urgent intervention, the theocratic community is on the verge of being completely submerged by the Atlantic ocean. Although research stated that the sea incursions are majorly caused by climate change which arose sea levels in the coastline, residents of the community believe the community’s nightmare began in the 1970s, when there was a discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities in the seabed. According to indigenes, turbulent sea incursions and oil spillage began with the quest for oil, rendering inhabitants jobless, helpless and homeless.

Since the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) awarded Ayetoro community a multi-billion naira shore protection project about a decade ago, there have been nothing to prevent the surges from washing away almost half of the community. Towards the end of 2020, a surge reportedly displaced about 2,000 people and destroyed about 200 homes. The traditional ruler of the community, the Ogeloyinbo of Ayetoro, Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo, also asserted that activities of oil firms have spurred frequent surges in the area.

The community has lost over 10KM of land to turbulent sea surge.

Secretary of the Ayetoro Youth Congress, Emmanuel Aralu, said the most recent sea incursion occurred on April 16, 2023, displacing many residents and causing damage to about 500 houses. The secretary added that the community has tried its best possible to call the attention of state and federal governments to address these ecological disasters but to no avail. From 2015 till the present moment, the community has forfeited more than 10 kilometers of land and properties worth millions of naira to the turbulent sea surge.

Commenting on the delay in tackling this issue, Commissioner for Environment in the state, Sunday Akinwalere, asserted that the New Map arrangement of World Bank is part of the funding intervention for Ayetoro. But due to an insufficient time frame, Ayetoro missed the N19 million fund intervention. The West Africa Coastal Area Management Programme — an arrangement of the World Bank for coastal erosion in West Africa — is also aware of the community’s predicament as the state government enlisted for it.

N30m is needed to save Ayetoro from extinction.

Although Ayetoro has been considered for intervention, there is a need for the Federal Government, under the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Finance, to discuss execution with the World Bank. The Commissioner affirmed that the project cannot be handled by the state government. The 2020 estimation of the project was 19 million naira, but now it would have skyrocketed to 30 million naira. However, the governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has established a committee to investigate all areas affecting this coastal region.

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