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My son’s body need for Proper burial – Father of missing four-year-old cry out
The community of Obawole and Onibata in Lagos State have been facing a difficult situation since April 11th when four-year-old Chukwuemeka Okoro fell into a water channel. Despite their best efforts, search parties have been unable to locate the child, and family members and residents have been working tirelessly for weeks to find him. It was a rainy day when the incident occurred, and Chukwuemeka and two of his cousins were riding a motorcycle to visit an uncle. When the rain started coming down harder, the rider stopped to seek shelter, and the children got off the motorcycle to wait out the rain in front of a gate. Unfortunately, the gate was only an inch away from an open drainage channel, which was covered by a flash flood. The toddler slipped and fell into the drainage channel, and his body was carried away through a nearby canal at Obawole.
The boy’s father, Ikechukwu Okoro, shared with Saturday PUNCH that his family has been visiting different water channels in the area since the incident, in the hopes of finding Chukwuemeka’s remains. Their only desire is to retrieve his body so they can perform the necessary final rites as required by tradition. However, they faced difficulties in reporting the incident to the police, who advised that they should have reported the incident sooner. But Ikechukwu explained that they were waiting to locate the boy’s body before making a report.
The community has come together to help with the search efforts, with over 50 people involved in each search. It’s a tragic situation, and the residents of Obawole and Onibata are hoping for a resolution soon.
The tragic incident of Chukwuemeka Okoro’s disappearance has left the residents of Obawole and Onibata communities in the Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State deeply troubled. Despite the collective efforts of search parties consisting of family members and residents who have toiled for weeks combing canals and drainage channels, the remains of the four-year-old child have not been found.
On April 11, the day of the incident, Chukwuemeka Okoro and two of his cousins were on a motorcycle, en route to visit an uncle when the heavy rain began to pour. The motorcycle rider stopped to take cover from the rain, and the children disembarked from the bike, standing in front of a gate just an inch away from an open drainage channel covered by flash flood. As Chukwuemeka slipped and fell into the drainage, his body was swept away through a nearby canal at Obawole.
Since the incident, the Okoro family has been searching for the body of the child, visiting different water channels in hopes of retrieving his remains. They expressed their desire to perform the final rites as demanded by tradition. Despite the involvement of the police and more than 50 volunteers in the search, the boy’s body has yet to be found.
Residents of the community have become increasingly worried about the community’s drainage system and have appealed to the state government for help. However, their appeals have not yielded any fruit, and the community remains at risk of another tragedy.
The residents have not given up the search for the boy’s body, and volunteer residents continue to comb the canals and drainage channels, expressing their concern that the water might have taken the child far away from the community. The tragic incident has left the community mourning and deeply worried about the safety of its residents.
When our correspondent visited the area during the week, the call for urgent construction of a proper drainage system was on everyone’s lips.
The state of the drainage was said to have forced many residents to abandon their homes for a safer area, while those who had no alternative lived in fear, especially during the rainy season.
Residents claimed that snakes and other reptiles raided homes frequently.
Chukwuemeka’s uncle, David, appealed to the state government to construct a proper drainage system to prevent a recurrence.
A resident of Onibata, who did not want his name in print, said the drainage posed serious danger to residents.
He said, “Over time, we have called the government’s attention to all these things. It has been one promise after the other. When we get to the height of the rainy season, water always enters people’s houses from the canal. Although the marking has been done by way of a barrier, work is yet to commence.
“This is the rainy season and the government should just come and do something before it gets to a stage where water will carry people away from their apartment.
“Sometimes, you see pythons and reptiles entering people’s homes. We hope urgent steps will be taken on this matter. There is a makeshift bridge between Onibata and Ogundimu; it is no longer passable.”
Whilst sympathising with the parents of the toddler, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Services, Mr Kunle Adeshina, said most of the tile drainage in Lagos were not covered.
He noted that the state government had the intention of tiling the Obawole Canal to allow free flow of water during the rainy season.
He said, “The Obawole canal is a earth canal. What this means is that the canal is in its natural state. It is not something that has been lined. However, the state government is preparing to line it. When we line it with concrete, it will enhance its capacity. This will be done soonest.
“However, when we had a rain forecast press briefing, one of the things we discussed was for the people to shun the idea of jumping into a flood when it is raining. It is very dangerous. People should remain wherever they are for the rain to subside before they jump into it. We will continue to educate our people on this. There is a level that water will reach even if it is a vehicle, it will move it.”
Our correspondent noted that despite promises by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency to support the family to retrieve the toddler’s body, the family had yet to hear from the agency.
When our correspondent contacted the agency’s spokesman, Nosa Okunbor, he said, “The family should have dialed 767 immediately after the incident happened. I will call the control room if there is anything they can do about it.”
Further enquiries and calls to his mobile line were subsequently ignored, as this report was being filed.
Several days after, the agency had yet to reach out to the family of the toddler.
Calls and messages to Okunbor were not responded to.
The Permanent Secretary, LASEMA, Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyitolu, did not respond to our correspondent’s calls as this report was been filed.
Destruction of property and means of livelihood, including loss of lives, to floodwater is a recurring decimal of Lagos State, one of Africa’s largest economies.
The National Emergency Management Agency, in a report on the flooding in Lagos in July 2022, said no fewer than seven people lost their lives, while 24,131 households were affected.
Three of the deceased were said to be siblings.
The three siblings were said to be residing at a church, Mercy of Christ Apostolic Church, situated in an uncompleted building.
The victims, Michael, 18; Elizabeth, 17; and Timi, 14, were swept away while trying to relocate from their room to the main church structure.
Timi, said to be asthmatic, slipped while trying to climb the plank linking their room to the church building.
The remaining two siblings, while trying to rescue their brother, were also swept away by the flood.
In September 2022, two men were also swept away by flood.
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