Floods: Build Dams, Desilt Major Rivers, Okowa Urges FG
•Diri seeks FG’s support, directs workers to go on one-week break
•Niger Delta Affairs Minister promises medical, infrastructural relief to Bayelsa, Rivers, others
Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa and Peter Uzoho in Lagos
Worried by the devastation caused by floods in many states in the country, Delta State governor and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday called on the federal government to build new dams and desilt major rivers to check flooding, especially when neighbouring countries opened their dams.
Okowa also urged the federal government to make efforts at desilting River Niger and River Benue to deepen the depths of the rivers to accommodate high volume of floodwater.
In response to the widespread flood disaster in the Niger Delta, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, yesterday, disclosed plans to collaborate with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and other federal and state government agencies to offer medical and infrastructural assistance to affected communities.
Umana, who spoke with newsmen, sympathised with the thousands of persons displaced by the floods and the families who lost loved ones.
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, appealed to the federal government for assistance, saying the floods in the state were overwhelming and beyond what his government alone could handle.
Okowa spoke when he visited flood victims at some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state.
Camps visited by the governor included those at Ogbe-Afor Primary School and Oneh Primary School in Asaba and Ewulu Mixed Grammar School, Ewulu, in Aniocha South Local Government Area.
Okowa told journalists during an interview at the end of the visit that the best way to end the loss of life and valuables to flood was for the government to take proactive steps towards stalling perennial flooding each time neighbouring countries opened their dams.
While commiserating with families that lost persons and property to the flood, Okowa disclosed that five persons died in various communities, adding that 11 holding camps have been established to take care of those displaced by the flood.
To make the camps comfortable, he said daily feeding of the IDPs was a priority, and that medical facilities and personnel were in the various camps to take care of the medical needs of the inmates to avoid possible outbreak of diseases.
The governor stated, “I was informed by the SSG, when the team briefed me yesterday, that as a result of the flood, five deaths were recorded, although not inside the camps but across the state, and that is very unfortunate.
“We have 11 camps that are currently in place and some of them are in schools and some others are in high places in some locations where the schools have been overrun by the flood water.
“Climate change, obviously, is becoming very impactful globally and it is beginning to affect a lot of issues. The sea levels are rising and so is the water level.
“Another issue is the dam in Cameroon. It always causes a major overflow in our river. From the preliminary information I have, what could be done is to build our own holding dams here in Nigeria and a regular desilting of our rivers.
“And that is not going to be the state government’s function. It is that of the federal government because of the type of dam that will be built across the river. So, it is going to be a major dam.
“So, I believe that it is important that the federal government will look into it very quickly and begin to start the process.”
Okowa affirmed that the PDP government that would, by the grace of God, be headed by Atiku Abubakar from 2023 would spare no effort in ensuring that the construction of dams and desilting of Rivers Niger and Benue got the desired attention because of the suffering of Nigerians due to flood.
He said, “When we look at the pains that come to our people cumulatively as a result of the flood and the destruction it brings, it is so huge and runs into several billions.
“So, I think that it is something that the federal government would consider building a dam across River Niger to prevent this from happening and I believe that the PDP government under the watch of Atiku will truly take that as a priority.
“We are immediately taking care of the people in the camp, which is the first thing to do, by providing food, security and healthcare for them here.
“They have been organised into groups and they are cooking for themselves and we ensure that there is regular supply of food items to cook. So, we are sure that they are not suffering from any form of hunger.
“We can see doctors and nurses here, living under the same conditions as the IDPs, just to provide health care. In two of the camps, some pregnant women have already been delivered by the medical personnel.
“You can see that they are well taken care of. In previous years, after their return to their homes, we have always provided some form of assistance and we will also do so this year. We are always compassionate.”
He called on donor agencies and well-spirited individuals to partner with the government in alleviating the plight of those affected by the flood, adding that his administration would give assistance to those in IDP camps as soon as the flood was over.
Ogbe-Afor Primary School camp has 1,548 IDPs; Oneh Primary School has 1,684 IDPs; and 1,475 are in the camp at Ewulu.
During the governor’s visit, some of the primary school children among the IDPs were seen receiving lessons from teachers in an improvised classroom at Ogbe-Afor Primary School camp in Asaba.
Diri Seeks FG’s Support, Directs Workers to Go on One-week Break
Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri said the effect of the flood was overwhelming and beyond what the state government alone could handle. The governor appealed for assistance from the federal government, local and international organisations, as well as public-spirited individuals.
He made the appeal yesterday in a state radio and television broadcast.
According to him, the current flood has severely affected lives and livelihoods, with nearly a million people in over 300 communities displaced and some deaths reported.
He stated that he had toured some of the ravaged communities and seen first-hand the extent of the destruction.
Diri said, “Over the last few days, floods have overwhelmed our communities and severely impacted the lives and livelihood of our people. This is a natural disaster that has affected many other states of the federation to various degrees.
“I have toured several of our communities to see first-hand the extent of destruction. Our experience has shown that the floodwater empties into our state.
“From my personal assessment, the situation is dire. Nearly a million people in over 300 communities in the state have been internally displaced. Unfortunately, some deaths have been reported.
“The narrative is the same across Sagbama, Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Yenagoa, Nembe and Kolokuma Opokuma local government areas. Businesses have been shut, properties lost and farmlands destroyed.
“Critical infrastructure, like hospitals, roads, bridges and schools, including the state-owned Niger Delta University, Amassoma, the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, and the University of Africa, Toru-Orua, have been severely affected.
“Without exaggeration, the sheer scale of the devastation is not such that the state can handle on its own. We urgently solicit the support of multinationals, international donor agencies, the Red Cross, diplomatic missions and people of goodwill to come to the aid of our state.
“I appeal to Mr. President to consider special grants to the state from the Stabilisation Funds, Ecological Funds and Natural Resources Fund.”
The governor announced that all civil servants, except those on essential duties, should proceed on a one-week break. He appealed to vendors, particularly of fuel, food, water and pharmaceuticals not to exploit the situation.
Niger Delta Affairs Minister Promises Medical, Infrastructural Relief to Bayelsa, Rivers, Others
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, disclosed plans by his ministry to collaborate with NEMA, NDDC, and other federal and state government agencies to offer medical and infrastructural assistance to communities in the affected states.
Umana said his ministry was vigorously working with NEMA to assist communities in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and other states by providing relief materials to displaced persons, with plans to rebuild damaged infrastructures across the region.
The minister said he was in touch with President Muhammadu Buhari on the immediate action to be taken once the flood receded, “but we are working with SEMA and NEMA on the provisions of immediate relief materials to people in their various states.”
Umana said they were able to provide relief materials to persons affected by pipeline fire explosion, flood and windstorm disasters in Ukwa East/West Federal Constituency, Abia State. He said they provided relief materials to flood victims in Ofombongha, Osopong, Obubra urban in Obubra of Calabar, the Cross Rivers State capital, and to many communities across the nine states of the Niger Delta.
Umana added, “Both the president and I, including the staff of the Niger Delta ministry, wholeheartedly commiserates with the families of those who have lost loved ones due to the flood, and we sympathise with families of those displaced by the flood.”
Floods Kill Hundreds, Displace Over One Million in Nigeria
In a related development, New York Times in a report stated that Nigeria was suffering its worst flooding in a decade, with vast areas of farmland, infrastructure and 200,000 homes partly or wholly destroyed.
The report said many lives had been lost due to the natural disaster.
At least 603 people have died, more than 2,400 other people injured and over 1.4 million displaced, according to the report.
It said residents of the affected states carried their belongings up to the tops of their houses and got around by canoe on roads now deluged with water. The report said trucks full of food and fuel had been stuck for days.
The report said in some areas, water levels were almost up to the roofs, making them appear to float. In other places, it said, the tops of cars were just visible but the water around them rippled with raindrops, closing in fast.
The report disclosed that rain was not the only factor responsible for the floods. Every year, neighbouring Cameroon — which runs along the length of Nigeria’s eastern border — releases water from a dam in northern Cameroon, causing flooding downstream in Nigeria, the report said.
At the time of the dam’s construction, in the 1980s, Nigeria and Cameroon had allegedly agreed that a twin dam would be built on the Nigerian side to contain the overflow. But the second one was never realised.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, blamed the scale of the disaster on the failure by branches of government other than her own to take action. “There was enough warning and information about the 2022 flood, but states, local governments and communities appear not to take heed,” the minister wrote on Twitter.
Another critical factor is climate change.
The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for the country, Matthias Schmale, said in a briefing last week that this largely explains the extreme flooding.
“Climate change is real, as we are yet again discovering in Nigeria,” he said.
According to the report, “The phenomenon is causing ruin across Africa, and as the continent is heavily dependent on agriculture, the effects are particularly devastating economically.
“Nigeria, which is by far Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people, lists in a national climate policy document, droughts, poor air quality, imperiled human health and habitat loss alongside floods as the effects of climate change.”
A recent paper on climate justice by the non-profit Africa Centre, together with the Energy for Growth Hub, a Washington research institute, said almost all African countries have contributed “essentially nothing” to climate change.
The paper said the United States, the European Union, China, India and Russia were the big emitters of carbon, known to contribute to climate change. But despite pledges to help fund climate adaptation in Africa, rich nations had produced very few funds.