Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan
Victor Efeizomor writes that the Delta State government, through its Technical Committee Reports, has developed broad-based clinical strategies to tackle post-flood rehabilitation scheme, despite challenges on the people
Flood disasters are among the most destructive natural disasters in history. The recent incidence of flood disasters in the country, that swept away many coastal communities in six states of the Federation, destroyed lives and properties.
These included farm-lands and fishing implements, leaving sour memories on the minds of the victims; some of who are yet to recover from the devastating trauma.
Worried by the magnitude of the impact of the floodwater, that resulted into developmental and governmental challenges in Delta State, the Government promptly set up a Technical Committee on Flood Impact Assessment; to determine and appraise the extent of damage, those affected, a resettlement scheme and how to prevent future occurrence.
The government, in its determination to find a clinical solution to the flood incident, also set up another 12-man committee to manage a N50 million Flood Fund, which was released by the Federal Government.
The Technical Committee led by the Vice-Chancellor of the Delta State University, Prof. Eric Arubayi, made a public presentation of their findings to a cross-section of Deltans recently in Asaba, who had been curious to know the outcome of their findings, the short and long-term recommendations and the impact of the flood that affected communities in the state.
Arubayi said the technical report is in two volumes that can be of benefit to both national and international agencies on the flood. He said the study included interactions with the locals and opinion leaders.
Professor C. Orubu, who read the committee technical report, described the floods as the most catastrophic event in the past 50 years, saying about 231 communities were affected, including farmlands and poultry farms numbering over 500,000 were displaced and wiped out.
In terms of costs, the fish farms destroyed totaled N3.1 billion and the final figures were yet to be arrived at, especially, as most of the estimates were for the period of the flooding season.
He pointed out that some 831 block houses were affected, 599 houses belonging to the people on the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder suffered, while some 433 market stalls were damaged.
Roads were washed away, public electricity poles and wires were pulled down and portions of the East-West road came under heavy floods, while the expressway was cut in several areas that made transportation impassible for the duration of the flooding.
The education sector also suffered some collateral damage as over 231 primary and secondary schools were overwhelmed by the floods, temporarily truncating learning and teaching in those schools.
According to Orubu, “the total impact of the flood in Delta comes to a staggering sum of N9.6 billion”, adding, “for all practical purposes, this was still a conservative estimate”.
“The impact of the flood was so devastating because it was the first of its kind and nobody anticipated it to be so voluminous, both in speed and volume. And no one had any previous experience of tackling it and everybody was caught unawares”.
The report attributed the causes of the flood to two factors – first the early rains in the Northern part of the country and the other, the trans-boundary effect where some countries on the Rivers Niger and Benue like Cameroun opened their dams, which sent large volumes of flood water down the lower parts of the River Niger.
Areas affected were Udu, Ughelli South and Ughelli North local governments, Ndokwa East and West, Oshimili, Bomadi, Patani, Burutu, Isoko North and South.
Orubu said the depth of the flood was put at 1.6 metres and each metre is 3ft 4 inches and in some places within the lower Niger Plains up to 5 feet of flood, which covered whole houses and farms. The impact was put at 1- 4 on the scale. Homes were vacated.
He opined that “If the intention of the study was to arrive at the tangible effects of the flood, then we must ensure that, mostly those with mud houses were the hardest hit during the flood; the most vulnerable class of the society, the fishermen and the farmers who built their houses on the lower Niger plains.”
The technical committee, in its report, recommended the cleaning and the fumigation of the affected communities and homes, while clean water and sanitation must be regular across the state.
It also recommended the dredging of the Rivers Niger and Benue, adding that the Federal Government must liaise with other countries to achieve the dredging project. The report also advised against the use of the flood plains for both agricultural production and residential buildings in the future.
In the estimate of the report, Orubu said that for those with mud houses, they might need a modest amount of N100,000 to help rebuild their homes, while those with block houses would need some N2.2 million to rebuild their homes. Each of the health centres would also need some N500,000 to rehabilitate them.
The report confirmed that it is impossible to stop flooding in any part of the world but accurate predictions could help people relocate from the flood-prone areas of the state.
Calling on FG
Receiving the report, the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan appealed to the federal government, corporate organisations and individuals to assist the state government to enable it contend with the enormous problems the flood disaster heaped on the state.
Uduaghan disclosed that it would be difficult for the state government to raise N10 billion for the reconstruction of infrastructure and resettlement of flood victims, and promised to send the report to the Alhaji Aliko Dangote-led national committee on flood disaster as well as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for study.
He however assured citizens that his administration would work in collaboration with the State House of Assembly to raise more funds to deal with the situation.
“This problem is enormous for the state government to shoulder alone because it is not going to be easy for the state government to raise N10 billion for the reconstruction of infrastructure. The Federal government gave us N50 million grant but we have not touched the money as we have been spending funds from our coffers,” he said.
Explaining that the state government had put measures in place to check flood occurrences, Uduaghan said “We are going to remove all structures blocking all waterways and any building permit on natural waterways will be revoked and the building pulled down with government sanctioning the officer responsible.”
Governor Uduaghan has commenced the post-flooding rehabilitation of flood victims in the State, with the distribution of inputs such as seedlings, fingerlings, fishing gears, cassava cuttings and work tools to internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are farmers and artisans.
Determined to tackle similar challenges in the state, Uduaghan signed into law a Bill establishing the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) with a warning that the State is yet to escape the problem of flooding.
He said that it was in recognition of this fear that the state initiated the Bill to address flood issues and other natural disasters in future. He said he never envisaged that last year’s flooding would be of such magnitude but assured Deltans that his administration has put measures on ground to avert any further occurrence.
The governor hinted that the federal government was planning to construct two buffer dams in the country as measures to check future flood disasters especially to accommodate floods from dams opened by neighbouring countries.
“As measures to check future flood disaster, the Federal Government plans to construct two dams to check flooding in the country especially the kind of flood that came from dams opened by neighbouring counties,” he disclosed.
In its effort at ensuring that the flood victims are properly rehabilitated, the state government constituted a 12-member committee headed by Justice Francis Tabai, to advise the state government on effective utilisation of the Federal Government’s N50 million grant
Recently the committee also distributed materials to eight local governments in Delta South Senatorial district in Burutu, Ughelli South, Ughelli North, Patani, Bomadi, Warri South, Udu and Isoko North L.G.A.
A 72-year old farmer, David Ogadi from Oko Community, near Asaba, who spoke to THISDAY, painted a bleak a picture of poverty, neglect and resignation of a people unsure of their fate and what to expect from government in their rehabilitation.
He said, “They (Government) gave us a bag of rice, N5,000 for the elderly, and junior persons got N3,000 for transportation back to our communities. Afterwards, Government brought us seed yams which were divided and each family got three seed yams.”
Another farmer, Ifeanyi Igumbo, praised the Delta State government efforts so far but stressed that returnee flood victims have huge financial challenges, adding that the money provided by government to victims was insufficient. He suggested that government provide soft loans to residents in order to facilitate the rehabilitation process.