Uduaghan inspecting one of the flooded areas in Asaba
Following the frequent destruction of lives and properties each time there is heavy downpour in some parts of Delta State, the state government has put measures in place to arrest the ugly experience, writes Victor Efeizomor
Mr. Stepson Obiawuna, 34, is a road-side mechanic. He sat in his make-shift thatch roof workshop in deep reflection, his legs resting on a tiny stone that provided temporally relief for him as the entire place was submerged by flood after the early morning down pour. Obiawuna, who operated an improvised mechanic workshop close to Inter- Bur junction, Asaba, wondered aloud what he was going to take home for the family up keep as the torrential rain had kept customers away from his workshop. Customers could not access his workshop because the flood from Okpanam road submerged the entrance to his work place.
Madam Rebecca, a petty trader at the popular Ogbe Ogonogo market in Asaba, resides at Umuagwu area of the town, with a family of five. She waited patiently for the early morning rains to subside before going to the market but she got more than she bargained for. Within few minutes, her house was flooded, destroying her valuables.
A fortnight ago, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), worried by the growing incidents of flooding in some parts of the country and its resultant effect, warned that about 23 states will experience serious flooding and other ecological problems due to heavy rainfall that will occur in the coming weeks.
This warning, no doubt, spurred the Delta State government into action, to put measures in place not only by enforcing environmental laws but also to ensure early completion of roads and drainage construction in some towns and villages in a bid to minimise cases of flooding that have wreaked havoc in recent times in the state.
Before now, residents of Asaba, the state capital have been groaning because of erosion problems each time it rains as the major roads and streets are usually flooded, while homes and buildings and personal belongings are washed away by flood.
Last week, many residents of Asaba were trapped in their homes as the roads and streets in the town were flooded following early morning downpour that lasted nine hours. The rains which started around 3am did not stop until about 6.00am. It was the third heavy downpour since the beginning of the month.
At Biose Mantu Street, off the Direct Labour Agency (DLA) road, pedestrians removed their shoes to wade through the flooded road. A portion of the road very close to the Oshimili South Local Government Area secretariat was divided into two by flood, forcing road users on that road to divert through either feeder roads or the Benin-Asaba expressway.
Similarly, at the Jesus Saves, Okpanam and Anwai Government House road, the story was the same; the flood slowed down vehicular movements on the roads with many vehicles breaking down. The Ezenei Avenue and the popular Nnebisi Road were not spared by the flood. This was in spite of the huge funds, the Delta Government had expended on the flood control in the state.
Also, some parts of the state such as Boji Boji Owa, Agbor, Warri, Ughelli, Oleh and Sapele have suffered serious flooding in the past, with many homes submerged, properties destroyed and lives lost.
Apparently disturbed by this development, Governor Emmnauel Uduaghan, recently constituted an ad-hoc committee to immediately tackle the problem of flooding in the state.
The Committee chaired by the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Frank Omare, is to proactively take measures that would address the challenges of flooding before it gets out of hand.
Addressing the committee members against the backdrop of ravaging floods in some parts of the country, Governor Uduaghan said that it has become necessary to take urgent measures because no part of the country could claim to be secured without adequate measures in place.
According to him, the administration in the state would brace up to the challenge by mapping out strategies that will effectively tackle the menace.
Uduaghan who disclosed that a warning had already been issued by experts in the field that most of the coastal states in the country would be hit with flooding, said his administration was prepared to put up plans on how to check it.
To check the menace in the state, Governor Uduaghan stressed that waste dumps in different areas of the state must be evacuated and every obstruction along natural water ways cleared.
“Two issues will be looked into in order to avoid flooding in the state. Waste dumps in different areas of the state will be cleared and every obstruction along the natural water ways be removed. Waste Management Board has started clearing waste dumps in different areas of the state,” he stated.
Explaining further, the Governor observed that urgent attention would be given to the recommendations of the committee saying “urgent attention will be given to the recommendations of the committee to avoid flooding problems, if not we may have flooding that may be worse than that of Lagos state.”
The Governor had two weeks ago, directed the local government councils in the state to clear all water drains and dump-sites in their domains.
Members of the committee include the Commissioners for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, Environment, Mr. Frank Omare, and Bureau for Special Duties, Mr Tony Nwaka and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mr. Willams Riabele, among others.
Uduaghan who inspected several canals and other filth-blocked flood channels undergoing clearing with swamp boats at Iyara, Odein, Okrikpen and Okwagbe streets in Essi Layout, attributed most of the flood incidents to the blockage of water channels by those who carried out illegal construction and those who threw dirt into drainage.
Against this back drop, he ordered the immediate demolition of all illegal structures, including residential fences without approval blocking drains, particularly in Asaba and other parts of the state as part of measures aimed at solving the flood problem in the state.
“Any house or illegal structure standing in flood channels or drainage system will definitely be pulled down, no matter the size and owner of the structure,” Uduaghan threatened, while promising the commencement of rehabilitation of the affected areas by providing infrastructure that includes tarred roads and modern drainage system.
“Please, let us change our dirty habits,” Uduaghan appealed while speaking with residents at Essi Layout. “Why should we be adorned in beautiful clothes whereas our surroundings are dirty and we shamelessly dump our refuse or waste materials in the streets and gutters?”
Commenting on efforts to rid the state of filth, chairman of the state’s sanitation board, Chief Olori Magege, said: “We have stepped-up efforts to ensure that Delta State becomes cleaner and brighter in the months and years ahead.”
He added that public sanitation enlightenment "are being organised for the people on how best to manage their wastes, especially in view of the global effect of climate change.”
The Commissioner for Information, Ogeah said, “Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has taken a hands-on approach to checking flooding in the entire state. He is personally supervising the exercise. First, right of ways and drainages and streets are being cleared, buildings and illegal structures obstructing drainages are being demolished, drainages are being de-silted, additional drainages are being constructed.”
Ogeah further explained that “the governor has been personally supervising the exercise through regular visits and inspections to project sites, he has instructed that illegal structures be demolished irrespective of ownership.”
Also, Senior Special Assistant on Communication (Government House), Mr. Paul Odili, stated that “Governor Uduaghan as an environmental activist is very conscious of the impact of climate change as it triggers ocean rise that inevitably causes flooding, destruction of lives and property.”
He further explained that “it is this awareness that led him to enter partnership with UNDP to initiate the Territorial Approach to Climate Change (TACC) programme, part of which is to raise awareness of climate change, the challenges of flooding and the importance of change of attitude of our people to their environment to prevent this catastrophe,” adding that “his boost on the ground approach is his deep concern with mistreatment of the environment and to direct on the solution that needs to be effected as his marching order to the commissioner of environment is clear as to his intentions.”
Omare while addressing journalists, said his ministry has a comprehensive plan to address the issue of flooding in the capital city, blaming the flooding problem on climate change and the low-lying nature of the state.
According to him, “Delta State is a coastal state and if we do not have good drainage system to absorb flood waters there will be a big problem during any downpour. Areas around Okpanam road and the legislative quarters is the point where we have the biggest problem, we are capturing that area in phase four of the drainage construction work. It will be linked to the Okpanam River. Completion of the drainage system is being delayed because of climate change. Contractors are slowed down due to heavy rains. Asaba drainage master plan is broken into five phases.”
Omare pointed out that government is satisfied with the quality and level of work done by the contracting firm handling the drainage project. As her put it, “We are satisfied with speed and quality of the work done. I want to assure residents that between now and the next rainy season the issue of flood will be a thing of the past, because drains designed with internal roads are being linked to the master drainage project.
Currently, the contractor is working on phases 1, 2, 3 of the drainage project. Along Okpanam road by the new secretariat, the drains are narrow so government is building wider drains, we have already taken the gradient and construction would commence that will go to Okpanam River and residents in that neigbourhood will no longer suffer flooding. We sympathise with the people directly affected by flooding, but there is hope.”
He said government has embarked on educating the populace on the dangers of blocking drains and building homes on natural water courses in the state, adding that “The Ministry of Environment is educating the citizens on the danger posed by throwing refuse into drains. Government proactively cleared blocked drains in Warri that action saved some parts of Warri from being submerged. Many watercourses have been built on. Government is going to bring down houses in the interest of the public and open up major canals. But the people must stop dumping wastes in the median of our roads. We have a solution for this social problem. I am going to lead an enforcement team to deal with this problem in our major cities; people’s attitude to waste disposal must change.”