Adibe Emenyonu writes that given the pains suffered by victims of windstorm and flood disasters in Edo State, the state government has taken measures not just to cushion the effects, but to also avoid future occurrences
Recently in Edo State, windstorm ravaged some communities in Ovia South-west Local Government Area of the state. Those severely affected were Ofunama, a riverine community and Iguobazuwa, headquarters of the local government. Apart from rendering some of the inhabitants homeless, economic trees and livestock were also affected.
Disaster in Ofunama
Narrating the ordeal of his community, Godspower Ebiere, a native of Ofunama said he was just outside his compound trying to mend his fishing net when the entire community was enveloped by heavy winds, which forced him to run into his house for refuge.
He said he was hardly inside the house when a portion of his roof was destroyed by the windstorm forcing him, his wife and three children to run towards the remaining part of the roof, which was still standing. He said they were murmuring prayers that the roof should remain because they don’t have elsewhere to go except his neighbour’s house or the school compound that was quite some distance from his house.
Ebiere pointed out that while they were contemplating a better alternative, the said neighbour suddenly rushed into his house because the windstorm had destroyed his home.
“I couldn’t ask them to go based on moral grounds but we continued to supplicate to God to allow the storm subside so that we can all run to the primary school. Luckily for us, it stopped and all of us had to run to the primary school where we met other community members taking refuge and we had to join them”, he said.
Great Loss at Iguobazuwa
At Iguobazuwa, the community housing the administrative headquarters of Ovia South-west was not spared either in the disaster. A resident of the area, Orobosa Igbinovia, whose building was affected by the storm, lamented the great loss he suffered.
While calling on the local authorities to come to their rescue, he said apart from his building that was affected, he also lost some of the economic trees, including domestic animals to the storm.
Palliative Measures by Government
Fortunately, help actually came their way when the state government through the SOS message it received from the local government council authorities sent a delegation to visit the affected areas for an on-the-spot assessment, to enable it deploy men and materials to cushion the adverse effects of climate change in the rural communities.
Based on the report made available, the state government first donated relief materials to Ofunama community. The Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Special Duties, Hon. Yakubu Gowon, handed over the relief materials on behalf of the state government to representatives of the local government council in Benin City, the state capital.
Gowon said the first batch of relief materials comprised food items, while another batch of materials to include building items are being processed for distribution.
“This is in continuation of the state government’s commitment to provide succour to people affected by natural disaster in the state. We have completed an assessment of the impact of the disaster and submitted our report to Governor Godwin Obaseki and it has been approved.”
“Although the windstorm happened last week, we are already sending relief materials to those affected from what we have in our warehouse. The victims are displaced and living in a primary school,” he said.
Apart from the relief materials, Gowon also disclosed that the state government had deployed a team of medical personnel and officers of the Edo State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to the community to prevent the outbreak of diseases.
A representative of Ovia South-west LGA, Mr. Inneh Christopher, who received the material on behalf of the council executives, commended the prompt response by the state government, noting that, “after completing an assessment on the damages which followed the windstorm, the state government wasted no time in sending relief materials to persons, who are affected. This is commendable”.
Inneh assured of the council’s resolve to ensure efficient and equitable distribution of the materials to the affected persons.
At Iguobazuwa, the state government assured victims of the windstorm of government’s support in ameliorating the impact of the incident, which caused severe damage in the area.
Also, Gowon gave the assurance when he led the government’s delegation to Iguobazuwa, for an impact assessment of the incident, which occurred on Sunday, March 24, 2019. He said a report containing findings by the team will be forwarded to the governor after which the required relief materials would be dispatched to cushion the effect of the windstorm, which reportedly damaged 21 buildings, including a public school.
Similarly, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on SEMA, Salami Lukman, urged residents of the area to take precautionary measures as the state government is now adopting disaster risk reduction approach to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
Lukman said part of the state government’s plan is the introduction of emergency response lines to enable it respond quickly to disasters. Elsewhere in the state, the governor also paid a visit to flood disaster victims and approved the distribution of relief materials which includes food items and building materials to five affected local government areas namely: Ikpoba-Okha, Oredo, Ovia North-East, Uhunmwode, and Etsako East.
Addressing the media after presenting the materials to representatives of the affected local government areas, Gowon Yakubu, Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties, said the exercise is the second donation of materials to victims of the 2018 flood disaster.
He recalled that sometime last year, rainstorm affected about five local councils where some materials were giving out.
According to him, “We gave some relief materials to victims last year and today, we have perishable and non-perishable materials to give to the communities. The items include bags of rice, garri, beans, gallons of red and vegetable oil, bundles of roofing sheets, nails, and noodles.”
Meanwhile, the governor’s aide said the state government is putting flood control measures in place in the affected areas to prevent future reoccurrence.
Mr. Orobosa, one of the victims of the flood disaster on behalf of others, expressed appreciation to the state government for responding to their plight. He said: “As the delegation from the governor has visited us to take records, I am confident that materials would be sent to help us through these tough times.”
Also, the Protocol Officer to Uhunmwode Council Chairman, Mr. Lucky Idehen, on behalf of others, expressed appreciation to the state government for the donations, assuring that the distribution committee set-up last year would ensure the materials get to the affected victims.
Idehen said, “We thank Governor Godwin Obaseki for ameliorating the plight of the people of the council, who were affected by the rainstorm. The governor has brought succor to us and we are grateful to him.”
Mitigating Impact of Flash Floods
Similarly, the state Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, who was in acting capacity given that the governor had proceeded on leave, assured of conducive resettlement camps for residents of the state in flood-prone areas, as part of proactive measures to mitigate the impact of flash floods as predicted by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET).
Shaibu gave the assurance when he visited the Internally Displaced Persons’ camp at Ekperi in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area, Edo State.
Following NIMET’s prediction of possible isolated flash floods due to high-intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding, the acting governor said the visit to the camp was part of the Obaseki-led administration’s proactive measures to prevent a reoccurrence of last year’s experience when residents in some part of the state were displaced by flooding.
He noted, “as the rainy season approaches, there is a need for the Edo State Government to put modalities in place in order to safeguard the life and property in Edo State.”
Shaibu who assured that adequate arrangements have been put in place to ensure a conducive environment for persons who will be camped at the facility when the need arises as the state government anticipates heavy downpour, urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to collaborate with the state government in sustaining the proactive measures and work to ensure that the impact of the flood is limited.
During a visit to Illushi, a community on the bank of the River Niger in Esan South-east LGA, the acting governor said there is urgent need to prepare ahead of time and watch out for early warnings signs, as the rains approach.