Flooding: A Blast from the Past

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Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja, David-Chyddy Eleke in Anambra, Adibe Emenyonu in Edo and Yekini Jimoh in Kogi, who examined the effects of the recent flooding across Nigeria, write that it was a blast from the past destruction left in the wake of the 2012 flood

In the last two months and counting,
high volume of rainfalls have impacted heavily on several communities across Nigeria. From Lagos, to Imo, Federal Capital City (FCT), Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers, Kebbi and Bayelsa, the list is endless.
However, it was not the first time a disaster of such magnitude would happen in those states, especially those on the banks of River Niger. In 2012, a similar occurrence took place and the devastation it left was yet to heal; lives were lost, houses and farmlands submerged and properties destroyed.

When the recent flood came, it was with a lot of fury, sparing nothing on its path and the effect was all the more devastating.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), since late August, heavy rains across Nigeria have caused large-scale flooding that has already impacted 441,251 people. However, numbers are expected to rise further as assessments are still ongoing in some states, including Rivers and Bayelsa which are believed to be amongst the worst hit. In total, 12 States and 50 Local Government Areas (LGAs) have been identified as frontline states likely to be affected by the flooding.

Toll on FCT
Abuja was not left out of the flooding. In the FCT, heavy rainfalls affected many communities, resulting in flooding and human and material. In the last two months and counting, some communities were cut off as a result of persistent downpours, which also damaged roads and bridges. There were also many reported cases of human casualties, who were either drowned or declared missing as a result of flooding.

The flooding strained economic activities in the Kwali Council Area following the substantial destruction to the 16 kilometres long Ashara Bridge in area.

The Ashara Bridge is strategic as it provides access for people in over 100 communities particularly along the Lokoja-Abuja Road to carry out their commercial activities.

Its destruction prompted the intervention of the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) which awarded a contract valued at N1.3 billion for its rehabilitation. The Permanent Secretary EFO, Office of the Secretary to the Government of Federation, Dr. Habiba Lawal, said the rehabilitation of the bridge would ease the burden on the affected communities.

Lawal, who led a team of engineers and management staff of FCT Administration to the scene, said the federal government had earlier approved the award of contract for the construction of bridges and a 16 kilometers road to Yaba community in Abaji Area Council.

She noted that with the recent development, additional scope of works will be done to accommodate other damaged portion of the bridge, assuring that the federal government will not rest on its oars in ensuring that the job is completed.

“The bridge gave way due to over flooding and the contract for its rehabilitation has been awarded and the contractor mobilised. The original cost was about N1.3billion, which includes the road work. But whatever the cost is, government will handle it and ensure that value for money is derived,” Lawal said.

FCT Permanent Secretary, Christian Ohaa, expressed the concern of the FCT Administration over the collapsed bridge, which he said had made it difficult for farmers in the area to convey their farm produce to the larger markets.

On September 14, two children in the Orozo Community in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), were drowned in the Orozo River, which had risen as a result of a heavy rainfall. They were among a group of 12 children that went to swim in the river. The FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recovered one body and launched a search for the other.

One of the survivors, Chinenye Uche, said they were swimming when the rain began and flooded the river. She said 10 of them were rescued by some passers-by while the remaining two were overpowered by the deluge. She gave the names of those drowned as Divine Favour (10) and Bobo Emmanuel (19).

The Director FEMA, Alhaji Idriss Abass confirmed the incident. He said when the agency was alerted, its search and rescue team responded and succeeded in recovering the corpse of Divine, a female, while the divers were still searching for the missing boy. Abass said that FEMA had hired local divers to swim across the Ozoro channel, further down to Nasarawa State until they recovered the body.

In another reported incident, two children were declared missing and one person swept away in the in the Kpaduma and Kpebi communities of Asokoro Extension in Abuja. The flooding, caused by a heavy downpour, damaged many houses along the bank of Godna Stream and also resulted in the loss of many poultry animals.

The name of the victim at the Kpebi Makaranta flooding incident is Uche, said to be in his 20s. He was said to have drowned while making frantic effort to salvage his asset and pigsty.

The incident was confirmed by FEMA spokesman, Emeka Iwuagwu. According to Iwuagwu, FEMA succeeded in recovering Uche’s corpse after a search team combed the water channels down to Gurudu and Karshi. He added that three persons were also rescued alive after the agency received distressed calls and visited the communities.

Flooding in Anambra

In Anambra, about six local government area have fallen to flood. Most parts of the six local government areas have been submerged by water, leaving residents in either IDP camps or in upland areas, by the road side. Awka North, Ogbaru, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum and Oyi local government areas are some of the affected places.

Though the state government had earlier created over 30 IDP camps for those that would be likely affected, some of the camps have remained empty with victims of flood refusing to move into them. This has prompted a call by the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, asking displaced people to immediately move into the camps to avoid incidences of death, but the call has however not yielded the desired fruit.

THISDAY correspondent who visited Osamala in Ogbaru local government area reports that most of the bungalows in the area were totally submerged, with residents bringing out their properties along the roadside, where they now live. A resident of the area, Mrs Ogoo Unekwe in an interview said, “This is where we now live. These are my properties, and we cook here too. We are calling for help from the federal government in any way they can.”

Asked why they are staying just close to the water instead of moving to the safety of the camps, she said, ” This our area is riverine area, it is not as if we are afraid of water, because all round the year there is water here. What we fear is for our property that are being destroyed by the flood.”

In Anambra West Local Government, Anam precisely, Mrs. Chinelo Ibe, an indigene of the area speaking on their refusal to move to the IDP camps said, “We are begging government to help us, because we are in big difficulty. We sleep by the roadside, cook here too and live our lives. We are afraid of going to the IDP camps because thieves will come and loot our belongings. That is why we refused to go.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who visited the affected areas on a certain Thursday announced the support of the Federal Government for the victims, stating its unending support in supplying food and relief materials to the victims of flood disaster in the state. Osinbajo who visited Umueze Anam, said the federal government had declared the affected areas as natural disaster zones, adding that it would deploy more federal resources to alleviate the plight of the people.

Havoc in Kogi

In Kogi State, it was a harvest of havoc in over 200 communities as the River Niger overflew it’s banks. This year’s flood was not different from what happened in 2012 when 10 local government councils was ravaged, many lives lost and properties worth several millions of naira got destroyed too.

This year, the flood has already taken its toll as over 200 communities in 10 local government councils were affected. The local government councils are Lokoja, Kogi, Ajaokuta, Idah, Ibaji, Ofu, Omala, Bassa and Igala-Mella.

In Lokoja, most of the roads have been cut off while electricity supply have also been shut down in some parts of Lokoja. The Greater Water Supply has also suspended water supply because of the flood, thus forcing people to look for alternative water supply.

In Idah, corpses have been washed off from their various graves following a flood disaster in Ofu Local Government Council. This was as a result of heavy downpour that lasted for many hours. Houses were submerged, properties destroyed and washed away into Ofu River. The flood also destroyed the only road linking Ugwolawo to Obagu and other suburbs of the local government. The massive volume of water flowing from Oda area cut the major road from Idah to Anyigba.

Some of the bodies washed away from their graves include Pa David Akogu, and his two sons Omale and Akebe Akogu, who died over 20 and 30 years .
Other washed away tombs, which was intercepted by youths, was that of Late Mama Omaji Idachaba, but her body was rescued and repackaged and taken to Idah her ancestral home for reburial.

At Kogi Local Government Council, many houses were also submerged by the river. Even the only State High Court situated in Koton-Karfi was submerged by the river. The Chief Judge of Kogi, Justice Nasir Ajanah, when he visited the area said the submerged Koton-Karfe High Court complex would be relocated to avoid the perennial flooding and the attendant challenges in administration of justice.

However, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has called on the Federal Government to assist the over 200 affected communities. He made the call after assessing the affected places. He personally appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assist the state government’s effort at containing the natural disasters.

According to the governor, the State Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources as well as the State Emergency Management Agency have been on top of their game. He commended their “proactive efforts at ensuring the effects of the situation are minimised”.

Bello had visited the Koton Karfe IDP Camp 1 and while there, two women who had been in labor were delivered of their respective babies. The governor further commended the joint efforts of the State Ministry of Health and Medical Associations for setting up clinics at various IDP Camps to attend to the health needs of residents.

He assured victims that government will do everything within its means and in collaboration with the federal government and relevant non governmental organisations to make the experience less painful for them. He however frowned at those he said are trying to cash in on the unfortunate situation to exploit victims. He urged them to desist or risk facing the wrath of the law.

On the part of the state government, it has commenced the distribution of foodstuffs and other relief items to victims. Mr. Sanusi Yahaya, the state’s Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, announced this at the official flag-off of the distribution in Lokoja.

According to him, NEMA had also sent some relief items such as matresses, blankets, and mats, among others, to be distributed to the flood victims at the IDP camps across the state. He however commended the Rotary Club and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), in the state for supporting the victims with medicare, foodstuffs and other items.

Mr. Hassan Ayegba, the Executive Secretary of Kogi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said the state government had established over 25 camps for flood victims across the state. On his part, Mr. Yakubu Ocholi, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Emergency, said the state government would ensure the items donated got to the real victims.

Flood of Fury in Edo

In Edo, over 1,000 houses and farmlands were also destroyed by floods in Etsako Central and East local government areas in the last few weeks. Although the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) had recently warned about torrential rains and flooding in some parts of the country, the people of Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State certainly did not envisage the magnitude of floods and destruction that occurred in about seven communities in the council area.

The flooding, which occurred because of the upsurge from River Niger, affected communities like Udaba, Ofukpo, Agbaburu, Osomegbe, Ukpeko, Ugochi and Anegbette. Apart from houses that were destroyed by the ravaging flood, farmlands with crops such as cassava, yam, rice, maize, and groundnut, were not spared, as the flood washed all away.

The Village Head of Udaba, Chief David Inetape, said over the years, government at all levels had not been favourable to them.

Inetape said they could not relocate from the place due to lack of access roads, as the major roads in the communities were already flooded, adding that they now use ferry boats and canoes to access their houses.

For crop farmers in the community, it was a double tragedy. They lost their farmlands where they invested a lot of money in acquiring seedlings and fertilisers. Some had even borrowed money for the planting season. With the flood, the anticipation of a bountiful harvest was ruined as their farmlands were submerged totally, forcing some of them to carry out premature harvest of their crops to avoid total loss.

THISDAY checks around the affected communities revealed how the residents were trying what they could to ameliorate their suffering, with little government assistance. The state headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) was not left out. Over 3,700 card readers were destroyed at the office.

Meanwhile, as an emergency measure, the Etsako Central Local Government Authority has cleaned up the Oghomere resettlement camp with the aim of relocating the flood victims in the area. The chairman of Etsako Central Local Government Area, Mr. John Akhigbe, said the council was doing all it could to relocate the victims after the proper cleaning of the building and fumigation is completed.

Similarly, at Etsako East, a sister local government, more than 20,000 hectares of farmland and houses were ravaged. In Etsako East, affected communities include Okpekpe, Ebelle, Okpekpe, Ukhomedokhai, Amugbe and Ekpeli, all in Okpekpe Kingdom. Over 2,000 were rendered homeless in those six communities.

A similar development occurred in Etsako Central, as the roads leading to the floodedcommunities in Etsako East were washed away, thereby making access to the communities nearly impossible.

All over the affected communities, it was a tale of groaning, as they spoke of the perennial pain they went through yearly. Some of the affected persons, who spoke, said their means of livelihood had been affected and appealed for assistance form relevant government agencies.

Mrs. Rose Akinabor, a farmer in Osomegbe community said: “The flood destroyed my life savings because I took loan to farm this season, not knowing that my labour was going to be in vain.”

According to Mr. Nigeria Afomede, “If we don’t harvest our crops now, as you can see, they will spoil and we will suffer. So, we decided to harvest our six-months-old cassava. You know we don’t have any farm that is up to a year now because the flood of last year also destroyed our farmlands.”

Tony Enike, a farmer, said his 10 hectares of yam and cassava farm were affected by the flooding. Also, David Omozufo, who lost his building to the flood, said, “Only until few days ago, I was a landlord, but now I am a homeless man. I really do not know where to start from.”

But the state government said it is trying to find a lasting solution to the perennial flooding. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Sixtus Omokhagbor, the government will do as that is to be done to take care of the affected people.

Devastation in Imo

Residents in flood-prone communities in Imo State have been advised to relocate by NEMA. The affected communities, according to NEMA, fall under the Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas of the state. The agency listed the communities under threat as Ossemotto, Oguta, Eziorsu, Orsuobodo, Opuowa, Mmahu and Etekwuru.

Head of Imo/Abia Operations Office of NEMA, Evans Ugoh, said the precaution was to forestall any danger. “Residents in the area must be ready to quit to avoid major casualties should there be any flooding,” Ugoh said, during his visit to flood-prone communities to assess the river level on a certain Tuesday.

He said farmlands in the seven communities had been submerged by the Oguta Lake and Orashi River which had risen above the normal level, adding that the Oguta Lake and Orashi River had also risen above the level that caused devastation casualties in the country in 2012.

He added, “You must continue to monitor movement of sea constantly and report to us where necessary for immediate action.
Flood-prone communities must be alert and always monitor the movement of rivers in their areas and report same to the agency promptly for immediate action.”

NEMA’s Declaration
Meanwhile, in September, NEMA hadcdeclared Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta states as National Disaster following flooding that has been ravaging the four states since last month. The Director General of the agency, Engineer Mustapha Maihaja who made the declaration in Lokoja shortly after he assessed the level of devastation in some parts of Kogi State, stated that other eight flood prone states were placed on the agency’s watch list depending the outcome of the flood situation .

Maihaja stated that based on the recent information received from Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency, the water level has reached 11.06 metres as at Monday September 17.
“The recent forecast by NIMET indicated that the rain falls will continue. With this investigation
all indices for flooding has already manifested with Kainji and Jebba dams spilling excess water continually.
It is also worthy to note that the Africa Regional Climate Centre in Niamy, the capital of Niger Republic has also forecasted the above average precipitation, it is likely that most northern states in Nigeria will experience precipitation from August to November, 2018.

Maihaja disclosed that the current situations in the four states with the growing consequences and devastation requires the cooperation of international organisations to ameliorate the suffering of the flood victims.

As at last week, NEMA updated the affected states to nine. According to the DG, the newly affected states include Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers, Kebbi and Bayelsa. They joined Niger, Kogi, Anambra and Delta as states marked as national disasters.