Rising Tides Threaten Ayetoro: Nigerian Community’s Struggle Against Coastal Erosion

Ayetoro, nestled along Nigeria's vulnerable coastline, has lost over 10 square kilometers of land in the past three decades alone. The remnants of stilt houses and submerged buildings now bear witness to a community in peril

AYETORO, Nigeria (AP) — Once envisioned as a Christian utopia, the coastal community of Ayetoro, founded in 1947, now faces an existential crisis as relentless sea erosion eats away at its land. What was once a “Happy City” has become a stark reminder of Nigeria’s struggle against the rising Atlantic Ocean.

Ayetoro, nestled along Nigeria’s vulnerable coastline, has lost over 10 square kilometers of land in the past three decades alone. The remnants of stilt houses and submerged buildings now bear witness to a community in peril.

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For residents like Thompson Akingboye, a church leader, prayers against the encroaching sea have become a solemn ritual, but faith alone cannot halt the relentless advance of the waves.

“Our church has been relocated twice due to the sea’s relentless approach,” Akingboye lamented, standing near the water’s edge, where the sea now threatens just 30 meters away.

Stephen Tunlese, a lifelong resident who has lost both his home and livelihood to coastal erosion, reflects the deep emotional and economic toll: “I lost $5,500 to the sea. Now, repairing canoes is all I can do. This land is my father’s; I cannot leave.”

The causes of Ayetoro’s demise are manifold. Marine geologist Olusegun Dada points to the compounding effects of underwater oil operations and the historical deforestation of mangroves, natural barriers that once protected the shore. “As oil is extracted, the land sinks,” Dada explains, “and without mangroves, erosion from ocean waves accelerates.”

The consequences extend beyond Ayetoro’s borders. A 2020 World Bank report estimated the cost of coastal degradation in nearby Nigerian states at $9.7 billion, highlighting erosion, flooding, mangrove loss, and pollution as significant factors exacerbated by rapid urbanization.

Despite sporadic government attention during annual floods, Ayetoro’s plight remains largely unaddressed.

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“This was once a paradise,” recalls Arowolo Mofeoluwa, a retired civil servant who has seen two of her homes swallowed by the sea. “Now, we live in cramped conditions, with four or five people per room. The sea has claimed two-thirds of our community.”

Efforts by local authorities have been sporadic and largely ineffective. Promises of “lasting solutions” from the Ondo state government have yielded little relief, leaving residents skeptical. Even environmental studies, hoped for by experts like Dada, have yet to materialize.

The Niger Delta Development Commission, tasked with mitigating the impacts of oil exploration, remains unresponsive. Despite listing a coastline protection project for Ayetoro on its website, locals attest that the project, awarded two decades ago, never commenced.

For Oluwambe Ojagbohunmi, Ayetoro’s traditional leader, the loss transcends mere land. “We are losing our socio-cultural and religious identity,” he laments, underscoring the profound impact of coastal erosion on community cohesion.

As the sea continues its relentless advance, the future of Ayetoro hangs in the balance. Despite the community’s resilience and determination to stay rooted to their ancestral lands, the specter of an impending environmental crisis looms large.

Without urgent and concerted action, Ayetoro risks becoming yet another casualty in the global battle against climate change and coastal degradation.

In the face of adversity, Ayetoro’s residents continue to hold on, their resilience a testament to the human spirit against nature’s relentless forces.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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