Half of the entire Ezira Community in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, was recently sacked from their homes by severe floods, writes David-Chyddy Eleke
Residents of Ubaha Ezira community and environs especially those living along and around Ezira Umuomaku, Enugu Umuonyia Road had close shaves with death recently. These were occasioned by a severe nocturnal rainfall which submerged their buildings and also pulled down most of it, leaving the members of the community homeless. Most of the members of the community who recounted their experience to THISDAY said it was the most devastating experience they have ever had.
Ozoemena Ikwukeme from Ubaha Ezira, an indigene of the community who was obviously still in shock when our reporter arrived the community said the rain started at about 5p.m., and poured late into the night. This he said gave rise to flood which pulled down his wall and destroyed his property including his documents and those of his wife and kids. He said he was yet to get a full grasp of the damages he incurred from the flood which includes more than 30 bags of rice he recently harvested and all his documents and those of his family members.
He said, “I am a large scale farmer as well as a staff in the Works Department of Orumba South Local Government and my documents are lost forever. All the certificates of my wife and my kids are lost. So are my efforts for the season. I am devastated. The activities of Arab Contractors, a construction company handling drainage work in the community was responsible for the incident. If the contract was real and not a political fraud, the contractors should have completed a standard drainage system along the road to channel the flood.”
Members of the community who could not stand the devastation quickly formed a rescue team consisting of youths, which divided themselves and went round the village that night to help victims rescue their properties. The rescue team also rescued women and children from their flooded residences. The group was said to have worked all through the night around the village in the houses of victims, until the morning hours when it announced that no life was lost to the flood.
A victim, 78-year-old Emmanuel Onyeleme, who spoke to our reporter on the incident also put the blame on the doorstep of the contractors. He observed that the occurrence was the first of its kind, and that such devastation had never been witnessed in the community. He lamented that the flood was severe because the only drainage along the road, which was built through community effort was blocked by the contractors on the excuse that they were going to build a bigger drainage. He said that six months into the contract, the company has not been able to build the drainage to channel flood water, and the only existing drainage has remained blocked.
He said: “We now live like refugees in our hometown. Government should take responsibility for this because they contracted these Arab Contractors who were doing a sloppy job that led to the catastrophe. They should construct a proper gutter along this road so that subsequent rains would not submerge us completely. And they should pay me for these damages,” he said.
Another Victim, Emma Nwakuba, whose wall was also pulled down by the flood was furious at the contractors questioning the governor’s sincerity in the contract. “I want to ask the governor whether he gave this road to be truly built or as a political strategy. All these Arabs did was drive around for six months now without doing any meaningful work on the road. We have a lot of strong youths who are idle and can be employed to build the gutters. But they won’t. It is quite frustrating and we are suffering as a result,” he lamented.
Also, Ubaha Ezira village chairman, Jude Umunnakwe in an interview said it was disheartening that such had to happen. He also confirmed that he had spear headed the building of a drainage system which controlled flood before the Arab Contractors blocked it without providing an alternative. He begrudged that the contractors could not complete up to half a kilometre of drainage system. “I appeal to the state government to hasten the contractors if they truly want to do this job or quit so the community can return to status quo they were at before they came in,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the community have hailed the Peoples Progressive Alliance gubernatorial candidate in Anambra State, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo for the support he has given to the people of the community since after the incident. Ezeemo who visited the community on hearing of the incident called on the Anambra State Government to hearken to the cry of homeless Ezira indigenes that had to be evacuated from their homes as a result of the flood. He also advised the contractors working on the road to increase the specification of the drainage as the incidence has shown that a larger capacity alone can handle the flood in the area.
Ezeemo condoled with the victims and commended the villagers for coming out en mass to help one another in the evacuation exercise. He also commenced intervention process to ameliorate the suffering of the flood victims by giving out undisclosed sums to the victims.
Ezeemo who was shown round the community while inspecting the damage by Chief Edison Umeh, the president general of Ezira Improvement Union told journalists that he could not enter his compound during the incidence because of the flood as his entire compound was submerged. “I had to go sleep in a hotel till the next day.” He said he would talk to the government to speed up the work saying that more rain falls might cause further damage, especially as more rainfall have been forecasted to come within the season.
Earlier, Ubaha Ezira village chairman, Jude Umunnakwe appreciated Ezeemo for his intervention noting that he was the first individual or corporate body to come to inspect the damage and offer helping hand days after the incidence. He extolled him for paying attention to the plight of his people, saying that the taste of the pudding is in the eating; inferring that Anambra people will fully enjoy him when he wins the governorship seat of Anambra.
An official of Arab Contractors who elected to speak under the cover of anonymity told THISDAY that his company did nothing wrong to cause the flood, saying the drainages it is building were according to the specifications given it by Anambra State Ministry of Works. He however promised that the company will step up work to ensure that it finishes the job and lay the minds of the indigenes of the area at rest as more rain is expected within the year.