Tension in riverine communities as flood threat grows

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Millions of Nigerians living in coastal and riverine communities across the country are bracing up for further flooding following the September 14 warning by the  Nigeria Hydrological Services  Agency (NHSA) that tougher days were around the corner.

Many have already fled their homes ,not wanting to be caught napping, according to an investigation by our team ofTONTRENDS reporters.

Some farmers have hurriedly harvested their crops to minimize their losses.

The Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has set aside over N1.5 billion to take care of provisions for victims of the floods,its chairman Alhaji Sani DoDoDo said in Birnin Kebbi,the state capital.

The Director General of the NHSA, Clement Nze,had warned that river water from six of the eight countries that make up the Niger Basin had arrived Nigeria, increasing the risk of flooding in 10 states,.

He named the states as Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa , Kogi, Edo, Anambra, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.

Already,some families in flood prone areas of Anambra State have relocated to the Udama Primary School,in Anambra West Local Government area,  designated as an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.

More residents are expected to relocate following the advice of Governor Willie Obiano.

The Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said  places like  Ayamelum, Anambra West, Ogbaru, Awka North, Onitsha North, Onitsha South stand the risk of being flooded.

Many houses in Inoma community in Anambra West are already  submerged.

A resident, Edojor Ekwembili, said he has  lost all his farm produce for the year.

He was similarly hit in 2012.

The Anambra State Chairman of Red Cross Society of Nigeria, Professor  Peter Katchy, told The Nation that his organisation was ready for the floods.

Katchy said Red Cross was not taking any  chances in making sure that the victims were taken care of, adding that the care unit would work with the Police and other para-military outfits to keep victims in good condition.

However, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)  had expressed worry over  the adamant disposition of victims of flood disaster in the state to relocate to safe and higher grounds to avert impending disaster.

The agency attributed most erosion flood cases in Nigeria to the refusal of people living in riverine communities to heed warnings from relevant agencies in disaster management.

NEMA’s Acting Director General, Air Commodore Akugbe Iyamu,  spoke at Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Arearea, after assessing the level of flood at Odekpe and Atani communities.

He wondered why flood victims would insist on safeguarding their homes rather than fleeing for their lives.

He maintained that it was only the living that could claim possession of  his or her abode.

He said: “How will someone say it’s my ancestral home and wants to die there? This is not a time to defend whether the area is your ancestral home or not.To be able to push the narrative, you need to come out first and get saved before defending whether it’s your ancestral home or not.”

40 Edo communities under threat

No fewer than 40  communities spread across  three Local Government Areas of Edo State may be affected by the floods.

Sources said flooding has become almost an annual occurrence in Udaba, Ofukpo, Agbaburu, Osomegbe, Ukpeko, Ugochi, Ifeku island and Anegbette. Others are Uneme-Ekwuekpele, Uneme-Ogwoyo, Uneme-Ukpeku, Uneme-Ogbethaya, Uneme-Yeluwa and Uneme-Unubu, all of which are in   Estako East, Estako Central and Esan South East.

Last year, some residents in 14 of the communities refused to move into the resettlement shelter and five other centers provided by government. During the flooding period, schools and health centres were shut down.

In Udaba, the residents claimed they could not leave their ancestral land to go and live off government.

But the  Commissioner for Youth, Hon. Damian Lawani, who hails from Udaba, said the people have been sensitised on the need to temporarily relocate as the flood water rises.

“They are ready to move and they will move. This year will be  difficult. We have sensitised them and I have inspected the camp they will be taken to,” he said.

Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Special Duties, Hon. Yakubu Gowon, said IDP camps in some areas have been fully furnished and fumigated in case they have to move the people to higher grounds.

“Everything is in place. We have medial facilities, boat operators and divers to help bring people out,”he said.

Another Special Adviser to the governor, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said shelters have been built where the affected flood victims are to stay pending when the flood water recedes.

His words: “We are proactive. We have been taking measures to tell people living in flood-prone riverine communities to move upland and take refuge in safe havens that have been provided in selected local government areas across the state.

“This is to alert people living around river banks and riverine areas across Edo State that water levels are rising as a result of downpour.

“Government has prepared the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IGP) camps for possible evacuation of residents living in these areas. They should be ready to relocate to the camps when the order is given by the government.”

Fear grips Yenagoa residents

Residents of Yenagoa have appealed to the state government to clear the drainage channels to allow for easy flow of rain water and save them from flooding.

Mercy Abali of  Captain Ayeni Street , Yenagoa said: “The problem about this street is that  if there is a rainfall for close to two hours, the place will be flooded because there is no good drainage system.

“In fact, the drainage does not lead to anywhere, so when there’s heavy rain the street will be flooded.For three to four days there will be  no movement.That’s what we go through here.”

A resident of Igbogene  does not want to experience what he went through during last year’s flooding.

Desmond, as he simply identified himself, said: “We don’t have good drainage system in Yenagoa. You can imagine a capital city without planned drainage. Most of the streets don’t have drainage. So even before flooding, everywhere is waterlogged. No government has paid attention to the perennial floods.

“I think the government knows better; they know what to do better because when it rains the whole place will get flooded and our houses will even get flooded and we don’t know what to do about it, which is why I think the government knows better.”

Niger clears waterways, drainage

Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State    has directed the relevant agencies to clear all waterways and drainage of refuse.

He blamed flooding on indiscriminate  dumping refuse in  drainages.

The governor,speaking at a stakeholders meeting in Minna, said a massive sensitisation was  on to discourage residents  from dumping waste  in drainages.

He said: “Flood in most parts of Niger State is being caused by dumping of refuse and building on waterways. We have set out to mobilise and ensure that the people stop dumping refuse in the drainage channels.

“These drainage channels were built and cost a lot of money. If we invest a lot of money in drainage  and we turn them into dumping bins, then we should expect the flood that we get. We have to discourage the people from dumping wastes in drainages.”

Kwara too

A similar clearing of drainage channels is in progress in Kwara State, particularly  Ilorin,the state capital, to avert disaster.

The Permanent Secretary for  Environment, Amosa Al-Amin said: “Kwara State falls within this axis and this administration felt compelled to officially alert the people to this development and to appeal to Kwarans to cooperate with the state government on the various measures to mitigate the effects of what is often a combination of natural phenomenon, human activities and failure to heed warnings.

“Government hereby appeals to communities located in and near flood plains and other vulnerable areas are to relocate to safer locations.

“Identified communities in Edu local government areas such as Iyeluwa,Belle Gbako, Liptata, Edogi, Chewuru are specifically advised to relocate to safer places for a while.

“Communities in Jebba and Bacita are also urged to take this very seriously for safety reasons. Farming along riverine areas should be discouraged for now.

“Resettlement centres located at Godiwaji in Patigi constructed by the Federal Government could be a safer place during this period.

“Residents of communities in Kwara Central like Isale Koko, Dumon, and

Abata Sunkere, among others, are advised to heed this warning.

“Government urges residents of the state to avoid dumping of wastes into river channels or drainage to allow for easy flow of water,while illegal structures along water ways should be demolished.”

Kogi residents on red alert

Many parts of Kogi State, including  Lokoja/Kogi, Ibaji, Igalamela-Odolu, Idah, Ijumu and Dekina, are flooded already and further flooding is expected.

The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (KOSEMA), Julius Mejiyan, told The Nation that the authorities have already alerted  all those living around flood prone areas to evacuate.

His words: “The prediction was that there might be flood.The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET) brought their seasonal rain prediction that we were going to have light rain at the beginning, then, maybe heavy rain towards the end, and it’s not likely to flood, but they’re not ruling out flood.

“ Flooding may come due to excessive rain from the Sahel zone, but within us, at least Kogi axis, the rain might not be much, but unfortunately, we started having even flash flood before the end of the raining season, and now, we are expecting flood. The water level is above 10metres now and is already Red Alert.

“KOSEMA (Kogi State Emergency Management Agency) is already preparing all the camps. We have gone round to see some of those areas, especially the river plains, where they normally have flooding.

“There are about nine LGs. The KOSEMA people are there liaising with the local organising committee and seeing what they have in place. At that moment, we now mobilise our people; profile them and relocate them to camps, and then, we now invite NEMA, if it is getting out of hands. But, as it is now, it is still within the range of what the state government can take care of, and we are doing the best.

“We cannot permanently put affected persons in any secured area. IDP camps are supposed to be temporary. So, as soon as the flood is over, everybody will want to go back to their former abodes, especially where flooding has receded and there is no much damage.

“If we discover that there is much damage, that stage we call recovery stage. At that stage, we take care of whoever is homeless, and before we get to that stage, immediate response, quick action; profile them, relocate them, put them in a camp and give them the necessary initial support.”

Ahead of the impending flooding, stakeholders in emergency management have called on the  state government to begin preparation towards mitigating victims’ suffering, should the disaster hit the state.

The stakeholders, in a communique issued in Lokoja, urged the state government to immediately begin the renovation and cleaning of all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state, in readiness for the impending flood, most particularly in all the affected local governments.

In their communiqué, they said that schools should be provided as camps, where necessary, with health facilities and welfare packages provided for all the camps.

It’s wait and watch in Delta

Many residents of Otu-Ogu community, Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta  State,  say they are seeking God’s intervention to stop the rapidly rising River Niger from causing  havoc.

And they have no immediate plan to relocate.  Many said they heard the warning from government to relocate to higher grounds  on radio, but are prepared to wait until the last minute before moving.

Octogenarian farmer, Pa Edward Ogu, said: “I have heard about the impending rise of water on the River Niger, but what can I do without money? My family will not relocate yet. But if the water rises too high, we will move in  with our relations.”

Another resident, Nnamdi Nwachukwu, said: “I have heard on the radio that the river will overflow its banks, but we are continually praying that God  should intervene and stop the water from entering our homes. We are praying that it does not exceed this level.”

But Dennis Ogu, chairman, Asaba Community Policing (ACP), said the option open to residents when the river threatens is to relocate to higher grounds.

He said any community on the side of a large body of water must be prepared for any eventuality, stressing that although many homes are being threatened by rising water, residents will wait until the last minute.

According to him, the River Niger, from experience, will continue to rise until middle of October, but should it not recede, families near the banks will have to relocate.

The state government plans to  establish 10 camps for those likely to be displaced by the floods,according to Information Commissioner Charles Aniagwu.

Aniagwu said five camps will be immediately established in Asaba, Patani, Kwale, Ozoro and Ashaka, and  as the flood intensifies, government will find suitable sites for the five other camps.

 Kebbi earmarks N1.5billion for  possible flood victims

The Kebbi State Government  has earmarked N1.5billion to cater for the needs of those likely to be affected by the floods.

The Chairman of the state Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Alhaji Sani DoDoDo, said in Birnin Kebbi that apart from the money, the agency was also stockpiling  food items,and other essentials for victims.

“We are  fully prepared for   emergency  at any time and all necessary  items are fully in place in case of any eventuality,” he said.

He said the agency has met with stakeholders and traditional rulers on the need to get residents of flood prone areas  fully prepared for any possible emergency.

Rivers farmers begin harvest of crop

Following signs of possible  flooding,farmers in Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni,have started harvesting their crops before they are washed away.

Mr. King Abbey, a farmer in Abua/Odual, said: “As you can see, the floods are beginning to come, but what we cannot say now is whether or not it will increase to the level that we will begin to look for safety on higher grounds and camps.

“There are signs that it will increase  because rivers have begun to wash out big fish  and crabs, which is one of the obvious signs that there will be flood.

“Already, the  communities’ residents are harvesting their cassava and other crops to save them from the flood.”

The executive chairman of Ahoada West, the LGA, Mr. Hope Ikiriko, and his counterpart in Ahaoda East have already constituted a Flood Disaster Management Committee to manage and oversee the preparation, prompt evacuation of victims to safe places and the   coordination and provision and distribution of relief materials to those that will  be  displaced  by the flood.

Canals and drainage in the communities have also been cleared to  minimize the impact of flooding.

The South-South Zonal coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA), Mr. Walson Ibarakumo Brandon,  told The Nation in Port Harcourt that a massive public education has been launched to avoid unnecessary losses in the event of any emergency.

“We have been on sensitisation outreaches to high risk communities and LGAs in the zone, comprising Rivers and Bayelsa since the forecast of the year’s flood was released early this year, to prepare them for evacuation when the need arise,”  he said.

“We have visited each of the council areas and the main communities that are flood prone to inform them and instruct them on what they need to do at the community, LGA and state levels by engaging in constant  desilting of the canals, gutters and waterways to at least shift the doom’s a bit forward.

“We have equally urged them to go round their communities and villages and identify higher grounds where they can possibly run to safety when the water comes to the unbearable level, while NEMA and the Governments come to prepare them  to a habitable state.

“The sensitisation lectures also include health and general environmental sanitation lectures in order not to contract or disseminate communicable diseases in the camps.”

“Basically, NEMA is ready to receive the flood if it finally comes and equally ready to evacuate affected persons.

“But for now, we are monitoring water levels in all the rivers around the zone in readiness for response.  We are visiting communities in Ahoada East,  Ahoada West, ONELGA and Abua/Odual for possible   evacuation of displaced persons,  where the need arises.”

Lagos residents cry out

Residents of Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Somolu and Bariga council areas of Lagos State have urged government to save them from the looming danger of floods.

A resident of Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Wasiu Malami, said: ’’Our environment is very bad. Whenever it rains, many houses are submerged and we would have to swim in and out of our houses. We don’t have a good drainage in my area and our roads are in terrible conditions too.

‘’Many houses have been abandoned or deserted as a result of the effect of flooding, we want the state government to come to our aid by providing good collector drainages and passable roads.’’

A resident of Amukoko, Bukola Ayoka, said: “Life is usually hellish here when there is a downpour.

“The gutters are usually overflown with flood water to the extent that we would not be able to go out.

“We are calling on the state authorities to provide better drainage system that can contain the flood water.

A trader, Paul Uzor, who lives in Somolu,  said he does not have sufficient  money to move his family out of his one room apartment despite the perennial flooding in his neighbourhood.

“Life has been so horrible and challenging for me whenever it rains here, water flows into my room and destroys all my properties. I am usually scared whenever rainy season approaches.

‘’Last year was a very bad experience for me. I was sleeping when flood water swept through my room destroying my properties.

An aged woman in Bariga, Madam Florence Adekunle, recalled how she was almost sacked from her residence by flood last year, saying: “I run helter skelter with my five children whenever it rains because my room is usually flooded. The flood was a very horrible one last  year. I never pray for such this year.”