Nigeria’s richest residents spend $2 billion to save their homes from sea-level rise

Not too far from Lagos Island, a community of 100,000 homes is crumbling beneath the waters.

The waters are making an intense loop around the island’s shore, taking small amounts of land and giving it back, all the while swallowing some communities all at once. Between 2002 and 2010, Obudu Ranch, one of the biggest private ranches in Africa, flooded every year. In 2015, people were told it would happen again in two years. On October 5, 2018, the first alarm sounded, which means the waters will now go on to erode the property for the next 40 years. The mansion built by Cadbury’s heir Sebastian Wolsey Jones, which took 100 years to complete, is already gone. A reporter last visited in 2015 — he was told by a security guard that the water had gotten up to the front door. Jones rebuilt and brought up new houses. By then, though, it was too late.

The glacial melt in the Mediterranean — and on large parts of Africa, North America and South America — means that “the sea level rise of Lagos Island is going to be a lot bigger than people think,” John Vidale, a Canadian geographer who has been researching the Delta area, told The Guardian. This area is becoming increasingly precarious at the same time as richer countries squabble over their climate change liability, and nations such as Bangladesh are facing the prospect of what scientists have dubbed the massive Ganges basin deluge — the threat of climate-induced flooding and sea-level rise will never come in one big storm, but will be a complex and gradual process that will ultimately destroy much of the delta.

In 2018, the floods will flood the first of the ranches, which cost nearly $1 billion to build. The next stage is to destroy the next batch of homes, which cost an additional $1 billion. So the landowners who built them will spend $2 billion to restore the community, and then another $2 billion to do the same to house and feed their remaining 1,500 people. Each resident will stay put — in the best case scenario, there are more people on the property than there are houses. In the worst case scenario, those people will become exiles. “If this area gets flooded in the next 20 years, by when it has been displaced, we are not sure where the people are going to end up,” Rob Brady, the director of the region of the British-based charity, the UK-based organisation, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, told The Guardian. The residents are mostly poor, and the owners of ranches are mostly wealthy, according to The Guardian — so there’s no profit to be made from selling the property. “It’s very unlikely that the people who built ranches around here are going to inherit these land leases and sell them,” Vidale said. “The biggest thing in Lagos is that nobody is getting rich from this.”

The federal government of Nigeria has since announced an investigation into “acts of omission and commission” in respect of the ranches, and is working to return lives and property back to the entire Lagos Island. But there is no way they can foresee the entire process.

“We are already dealing with misinformation,” the Green Party’s James Hall told The Guardian. “And once this information is out there about the spending of millions of dollars to prevent flooding, there is nowhere to go and nobody there to help.”

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