• Asks agency to spend N3bn on victims’ well-being
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
President Muhammadu Buhari last night in Abuja authorised the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja, to declare a “national disaster’’ if anticipated flooding in some parts of the country becomes a reality.
This is coming on the heels of NEMA placing all Disaster Response Units across the country on red alert so as to avoid any catastrophic disaster in the country as 12 states have been identified as flood prone.
Also in Edo State, communities and the lawmaker representing Etsako Central Constituency at the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Damian Lawani, weekend relocated to the only resettlement Centre In Ekperi in Estako Central Local Government Area having been sacked by flood.
According to presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s directive was the fallout of a warning by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency that Rivers, Benue and Niger had almost reached levels which resulted in flooding in 2012 and led to destruction of lives and property.
He said the president’s authorisation, contained in a letter to the Director of General of NEMA, was titled: ‘Situation Report on the River Flood along the Banks of Rivers Benue and Niger’, and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
He cited a portion of the letter as: “Delegation of authority to the Director General of NEMA to activate the Disaster Response Units of the military for possible search and rescue missions, and the procurement and proportionate stocking of relief materials and health related items up to N3 billion to provide for the needs of possible victims.’’
The statement added that the letter also instructed the head of the emergency agency to provide regular updates to the president.
Already, the agency said that, it had identified 12 states in the nation that may likely be prone to flood disaster.
Maihaja disclosed this on Friday in Ilorin, Kwara State capital when NEMA team paid a visit to the 222 Battalion, Sobi Military cantonment, Ilorin and 303 Medium Airlift Group Nigeria Air Force, Ilorin.
Represented at the event by the NEMA Director of Search and Rescue, Air Commodore Akugbe Iyamu, noted that water level across the country has been rising consistently as a result of heavy rainfall.
He said, “As at yesterday (Thursday) the water level was 10.84 at the confluence in Lokoja, this is approaching the level experienced in 2012 which was about 12.
“Putting that into focus and looking at that in perspective that is why we are building a response team to adequately address it.
“The DG has put all the response agencies on red alert to be mainstreamed if the situation gets to catastrophic disaster.
The DG added that, the agency has identified 12 frontline states that may be prone to flood this year, adding that flood in those states may occur any time.
“The DG has formed six teams to go round these frontline states to ascertain the preparedness of the Response Agencies there and to ensure that those that are vulnerable and threatened by flood are evacuated to safe areas,” he said.
According to the Director, NEMA team was in Ilorin to assess the preparedness of the Army Disaster Response Unit in case of disaster in Kwara, Kogi and Niger states.
Iyamu described the military as a key player in disaster management in the country, hence the visit to the 222 Battalion.
He said there were two types of disaster; minor and catastrophic, adding that when catastrophic disaster occurred, government would call the Disaster Rescue Unit (DRU), across the country to the rescue.
Iyamu, however assured the people of Kwara not to exercise any fear in case of any disaster especially flood as the Agency was up to the task.
“You in Kwara have nothing to fear, we are ready, we are prepared to deploy our team whenever disaster occurs,” he said.
The director of Search and Rescue at the Defence headquarters, Vice Admiral Dolapo Kolawole, in his remark said the military is an important component of disaster response.
He added that military work in synergy with NEMA, adding that there is a military unit designated as Disaster Response Unit.
Kolawole said he was in the NEMA team to Kwara to assess the response team at the 222 Battalion.
Earlier, the Commanding Officer, 222 Battalion, Major Emmanuel Okoye highlighted the disaster situation in Kwara and the area most prone to flood.
He said over 2, 000 hectares of farmland were destroyed by flood in Patigi, Lafiaji and Shonga, particularly on the bank River Niger.
The Commanding Officer also said a cemetery and school in Oloje area of Ilorin were affected by flood.
Okoye, however, listed the challenges of the response unit to include lack of resources, vehicles and communication equipment.
He called for adequate synergy between NEMA and all response agencies in the country.
The team also visited the 303 Medium Airlift Group (MAG), Nigerian Air Force, Ilorin, where the Commander, Group Capt. Patrick Obeya presented the readiness of the Response Unit to any disaster or emergency.
Group Capt. Obeya told the team that the response unit was in need of qualified personnel in disaster management, rescue, airlifting and air dropping of relief materials.
Air Commodore Iyamu expressed satisfaction at the response plan of the 333 MAG and the brief which he said was not ambiguous.
The Edo lawmaker who is from Udaba, one of the 12 communities submerged in the flood noted that over 12,000 inhabitants had been rendered homeless.
He said he was moving to the internally displaced camp to encourage others to move to upland while expecting government intervention.
He said the health condition in the community had worsened as corpses were washed out of graves which posed serious health challenges to the people.
According to him, “Most of the affected persons in the communities now take shelter on trees and suspended platforms.
“Some of the affected victims were seen in canoes harvesting their rice and cassava from the flood.
The Chairman of Etsako Central local government, Mr. John Akhigbe, who visited all the affected communities in a boat told journalists that the federal government Resettlement Camp for displaced persons was ready to accommodate the flood victims and appealed to spirited individuals to come to the aid of the council.
He described the flood disaster as monumental and pathetic, noting that the loss cannot be quantified.
“It is pathetic and sad seeing the condition of the people. Even the hardest man will be moved to tears. Initially, most of the victims are not ready to move because of their farm produce. However, we are ready to help them because governance is about the people.
“That is why we are doing everything possible to make sure the IDP camp is ready. As I speak to you they are now ready to move. We are expecting about 15,000 of them.
Akhigbe said beside the ederal government resettlement camp there are also five centres for the flood victims adding that no council can adequately provide entirely for the victims.