The Nigerian Meteorological Agency months ago issued warnings on impending floods this year. Anambra was one of the states named that may possibly experience it. David-Chyddy Eleke reports on the level of preparedness of the state and its residents
Flood is no longer a new happening to residents of Anambra State, at least not after the 2012 disaster which claimed properties worth several billions of naira, accompanied by loss of lives, in which Anambra State had its fair share.
This year similarly, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has raised the alarm over flood that may likely occur in some states of the country, and Anambra was also listed. In Anambra State, however, 10 local governments have been listed to be among those that will suffer the effect of the impending flood should it happen, and the state and all its agencies responsible for disaster management have gone to work already.
Among the Local Government Areas penciled down are; Ayamelum, Ogbaru, Anambra East, Anambra West, Onitsha North and Onitsha South. Others are Ihiala, Ekwusigo, Idemili North, Idemili South and Awka North. On hearing of the prediction however, the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, moved swiftly, directing the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA to commerce sensitisation in the riverine areas of the state to mitigate any hardship, which might result from the flood disaster.
As measures to ensure that this year’s flood would not be as disastrous as what was registered in 2012, the Anambra State government, using the Ministry of Environment and the State Emergency Management Agency, in collaboration with Red Cross have put in place a number of ways to save lives should it come to pass.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Engr. Romanus Ejikeme, told THISDAY during a visit to his office that, “the governor is very careful to ensure that what happened in 2012 does not repeat itself. He has directed that we go into partnership with SEMA, and we have done so, and the results are already manifesting.”
The commissioner said that already, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps have been set up in the areas that have been predicted to experience this year’s flood, so that once there are signs of flooding, the people of every area that is affected will know which IDP camp is nearest to them and run for help to such places. The commissioner said, “Camps have been designated for IDPs in all these places, and government foreseeing what would constitute challenges of the IDPs when they resume camping has set up toilets and other facilities in such places, and also made security available for them.”
When THISDAY visited some of the areas that were named as among those to experience flood later this year, it was found that in some areas, residents have moved some of their sensitive belongings out of their homes so as not to feel the full impact should the flood come all of a sudden. The same is not the case in some others areas as residents even feigned ignorance of any impending flood, accusing government of not doing enough to sensitise them.
In Enugu Otu, Aguleri, in Anambra East Local Government for example, Boniface Okagbue, a youth leader of the community who though resides in Awka denied that the community has enough information about the impending flood. He said the people of the community are still living their normal lives because no one has informed them. He denied also that any form of information or sensitisation campaign going on, or being been passed to the people, except if the sensitisation team is still going round and may come to their community later.
But Comrade Dominic Nnamdi who also spoke to THISDAY from the same Aguleri Otu disputed Okagbue’s assertions, saying that sensitisation seminars have been held. Nnamdi said he was one of those nominated to attend a seminar on flood and fire safety in Awka, and that the measure was aimed at equipping the people with the right knowledge to help them stay safe in the event of flood. He added that as one of those who represented the community at the seminar, he and his team have also reported back to the leaders of the community, hoping that the information gathered would be disseminated round the community to arm the people on how to avoid the impending flood.
In Ogbaru, another town known to be on the banks of the River Niger, the residents told THISDAY that they regularly experience flooding because of the location of the community, but being that they have been warned about the impending flood this year, most of the residents of the area have moved their valuables. Mrs. Florence Onyike said, “you can see the kind of houses we live in here. We are very familiar with the activities of flood, so our valuables are not here, so in the case of any flood, we will simply leave this batcher and move to other places. The experience of 2012 even taught us that it is better to live in cheap houses like this, so that you will not suffer a heart break in the case of your house being submerged,” she said.
On how the state is monitoring the level of water in order not to be caught unawares, the commissioner said his ministry has deployed the stick signal, which has been set up, and personnel deployed to read the level of the water and to raise the alarm when signals are clear. He added that the committee set up by the governor has also been working assiduously to ensure that early detection and quick evacuation was complied with.
In addition to the effort of the committee, the SEMA speaking through the Executive Secretary, Mr. Paul Odenigbo told THISDAY that the agency has trained 10 persons in each local government on ways of staying safe in the event of flood, with the charge to help disseminate information to people living in areas prone to flood. Odenigbo said the agency has also taken its sensitisation drive to the areas penciled down to experience flood, with a call on the people to begin early to move away valuable properties from their homes to places where they can be safe, and to also remain on red alert, especially in the night and be ready to leave in a hurry.
To add its voice, the Willie Obiano Support Group said it has begun to sensitise people living in riverine areas. Chief Jude Emecheta, the coordinator of the support group, told journalists in an interview that his group, though a political pressure group has joined in the campaign to ensure that the people are adequately sensitised on what to do should there be sudden flooding in their area. Emechata said the group needed to do this because as a support group for the governor, and seeing the seriousness of the governor to ensure the safety of the citizens, the group decided that it was also a form of support to help reach the people as the governor would desire.
Beyond this, the state governor recently engaged the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) for a one-day sensitisation seminar of safety during fire, flood and other household disasters that may occur. During the seminar, the president of ISPON, Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba took time to teach a large crowd of attendants some of the safety and precautionary measures to apply in the case of emergency involving, fire, flood or any other.
Ilodiuba marshaled out various techniques that would ensure safety for the people, while the governor who also graced the seminar charged residents of the state on strict adherence to the principles taught as a way of staying safe. Obiano while addressing the people said, “The major role of government in the society is safety of lives and property. It is my job to ensure that you are safe, and that your properties are also safe. That is why we put together this seminar in collaboration with the ISPON people to teach you how to take the safety of your lives and those of your property seriously. Even as flood has been predicted to be a problem in some parts of our state this year, we hope that what you have learnt here will help you to safeguard yourselves. We are not praying that the flood should come, but we must take every step to ensure your safety,” the governor said.
From the response of most people of the state who attended the seminar, and their manifest confidence that they can better deal with flood now, it is hoped that should the prediction of NIMET come true in Anambra, its effect may not be anything near what happened in 2012. For this the governor and his team, Chief Odenigbo, the Executive Secretary of SEMA in the state believe will be to the credit of the governor.