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Making of a natural disaster, repeat of the 2012 great flood

By Sony Neme, Asaba and Julius Osahon, Yenagoa
21 September 2018   |   3:32 am
He who feels it, knows it. That is the untold pains that cannot be fully captioned in words but which has become the dire reality of over two million people displaced by flood and families of the more than a hundred people who already lost their lives to flood this year alone in 10 states…

Osinbajo at the flooding in Otuocha, Anambra State

He who feels it, knows it.

That is the untold pains that cannot be fully captioned in words but which has become the dire reality of over two million people displaced by flood and families of the more than a hundred people who already lost their lives to flood this year alone in 10 states across Nigeria.

The current flood pattern, which experts say has shown indices of a similar natural disaster of 2012 in many parts of the country, has left hundreds of victims with tales of woes, with many others living in fear.

A survey shows that some lives have been lost while farms, houses and livestock were destroyed as floods ravage communities in most parts of North-Central Nigeria, the region said to be most hit in this year’s flood.

The worst hit states are Kogi, Niger, Taraba, Benue and Plateau with Kogi having Lokoja, Ibaji, Koton-Karfe, Bassa, Igalamela, Omala, Ajaokuta, Ofu and Idah councils so far affected.

Residents of the affected local government areas have been relocated to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps or taking refuge with friends and relations house.

Parts of the Lokoja-Abuja road has also been threatened by the ever increasing floods.

According to Alhaji Alhassan Aiyegba, Executive Secretary,Kogi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), 64 communities have been submerged by the flood.

“There are camps for the displaced persons, but the situations gets worse every minute,’’ he said.

Yesterday, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, took a break from his TraderMoni market rounds to visit flood victims in Delta and Anambra states, a day after he made similar trip to Niger State.

This commiseration visits was his second this year after the earlier round of visits in July to Katsina and Ogun states, where more than 60 people were washed away but only 49 bodies recovered.

The Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) yesterday said flood has destroyed over 200 hectares of rice farm at Omor in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra.

Cyprian Agupugo, the Executive Director of the agency disclosed this to newsmen in Omor, Anambra.

Agupugo said the major river in the area, Okpoto River, burst its banks, destroying the Ojagbo rice farm worth millions of naira.

According to him, some of the farmers took bank loans while others borrowed from relatives.

He, however, gave an assurance that the agency would assist the affected farmers.

He described the flood challenge as unfortunate but expressed the hope that the visit of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) would bring succour to the affected communities.

Agupugo said that the level of flooding in the state at moment was beyond the SEMA.

He reiterated the call for people living in flood-prone areas to move to holding centres provided at various locations of the affected communities.

Only on Monday did NEMA declare a national disaster in four states of Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta following heavy rains that caused the Rivers Niger and Benue to overflow.

Eight other states were also being monitored to be listed in the red zone states.

They are Taraba, Adamawa, Kebbi, Edo, Rivers, Benue, Bayelsa and Kwara states.

This didn’t, however, come as a shock to the Federal Government, as on May 10, 2018, the Nigeria Hydrological Agency (NHSA) released the 2018 flood outlooks in 35 states, which projected that Sokoto, Niger, Benue, Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Ogun, Osun, Cross River, Kogi and Yobe states would have high risks of river flooding, while Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, and Ondo states may likely experience coastal flooding.

The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, presented the outlook.

He explained that water levels on the River Niger and Benue among other major river system, would rise and remain high during the rainy season.

He also raised concern that some dams in the country are getting silted up, with the storage capacity also reducing.

This, he said, would cause a lot of the water to be spilled through the waterways.

The present natural disaster is becoming a repeat of the 2012 flood disaster, which was officially reported to have killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million people.

According to NEMA, 30 of the 36 states were affected by the floods and the floods were termed as the worst in 40 years, affecting an estimated total of seven million people.

The estimated damages and losses caused by the floods in 2012 were worth N2.6 trillion.

Startlingly, in spite of the raging flood that is sacking many communities in Delta State, victims of the 2012 flood disaster are refusing to relocate this time to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at Ogbe-Afor Primary School, Asaba and the six other camps opened in Kwale, Ewulu and Isoko among others.

Four persons including a blind man and an 11-year old boy on Wednesday were reported drowned.

Six local government areas of Oshimili South, Ndokwa East Ughelli South, Patani, Burutu and Bomadi were also heavily impacted by the flood in Delta.

His two children who were with him during the incident survived the accident when the blind victim said to be in his 60s was trying to escape from the rampaging flood with the aid of a wooden boat, which capsized in the flood that had already submerged his house at Powerline Area of Asaba.

Many of the victims were reluctant to vacate the place and move to the IDP camp so as to protect whatever was left of their property.

Mr. Emma Ekube, Secretary of Powerline Community, who spoke with newsmen at the IDP camp at Ogbe-Afor Primary School in Asaba, confirmed that the entire area has been submerged by floodwater from River Niger.

“A man lost his life there. The boat he was using to come out from his house to escape from the flood capsized.

He was trying to come out from the water. His two children who were with him survived.

The drowned man is blind and he should be in his 60s,” Ekube stated.

Ekube, a fisherman, disclosed that he was a victim of the 2012 flood but did not come to the IDP camp provided by the state government, adding that he has decided to move his family to the camp against the opinion of his fellow residents that their 2012 camp experience was nothing to write home about.

“I felt it is my duty to come out of that place. My family is safe, my five children and my wife they are here now.

I have been telling my people in Powerline to come and benefit from this initiative and not continue to rely on past experiences,” he noted. 

According to NEMA Incident Commander for Operations Center, Mr. Waltson Brandon, who spoke with The Guardian at the Ogbe-Afor Primary School camp, “we have stocked relief items at the IDP camps and taken census of IDPs.

So far (as at 1:51p.m. on Wednesday), we have eight women, 10 children and 14 men.

The refusal of many displaced persons to come to the camp is worrisome and not encouraging. We will keep pleading with them to have a rethink.”

Brandon added that NEMA has been engaging on awareness campaign since May, warning about the impending flood.

“The eight heavily impacted communities are in Ndokwa East, Oshimili South, Ughelli South, Patani, Warri North and Bomadi.

These are the areas we have gone to see.”

The state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who has been visiting the flooded communities hinted that the state government would be forced to no longer plead but evacuate flood victims forcibly.

Okowa, who was at the Asaba camp, said: “We are expecting the build up of more flood incidents and monitoring information from Abuja.

As the flood continue to rise by the day, we are warning our people from the flood-prone areas affected in 2012 to brace up and move out.

This is the time for them to move out as various camps have been set up. For those who are trapped, I have approved ten Marco Polo buses to different locations to evacuate them to the camps.”

In the same vein, the Edo State government has directed flood victims in Etsako Central and Etsako East Local Government Areas to relocate to the camp created for IDPs.

The deputy governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu, gave the directive yesterday in Anegbette when he toured some of the affected communities.
Shaibu assured the victims that government had made provisions for food, relief materials, health facilities and security at the IDPs camp pending the time the floodwater would recede.

He underscored the need for the urgent evacuation of the flood victims to a safe location, adding that flooding could cause the outbreak of diseases.
Responding, one of the flood victims, Mr. Umaru Aminu, appealed to the government at all levels to come to their aid, saying the flood incident had adversely affected them.

He added that the flood had taken over their farms and stopped their children from going to school.

In Bayelsa State, residents along the Epie creek in Yenagoa Local Government Area on Wednesday lamented the impact of flooding caused by the overflow of the water banks from the Taylor creek, tributaries of Orashi and Niger rivers.

When The Guardian visited the riverside settlements, the water levels had rose above tolerable limits, causing damages to farms and homes.

Latest report indicates that communities like Egwe-ama in Brass Local Government Area, Imiringi, Ayama, Otuobhi in Ogbia, Edwarie in Southern Ijaw and Trofani in Sagbama have all been hit by flood.

Others are Ekeremor main town, Abukoegede in Tamogbene, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Kaiama and Sampou in Kolokuma/Opokuma and Anibeze Community in Sagbama council area.

Narrating their ordeal, a resident of Onopa area in the Yenagoa metropolis, Joy Elvis, lamented that the people were helpless as the assistance pledged by the state government in its sensitisation messages were not in sight.

“It has not been easy, the water levels have been on the increase and it is usually expected at this time of the year, but on Tuesday the flood entered our houses and we have been under pressure.

We need help badly but no one seems to care, we have resorted to moving some of our valuable things to neighbours’ houses because there are no shelters provided by government.

Our prayer is that the water recedes because if it goes beyond this level, even the Good Samaritans accommodating us will be threatened as well,” he said.

Another resident, John Abide, said they have been compelled to use canoes to access their homes following the constantly rising water levels in the past few days.

“A lot of people affected are not willing to leave because they are reluctant to be a burden to their people.

So, what most people do is to adapt by making wooden platforms within their houses where important things are kept.

Those who have and paddled canoes have put it to use when they have need to go out, we are predominantly people who go to the river regularly to fish so we are not afraid of water,” he said.

Meanwhile the Bayelsa State government is seeking support for victims of the flood disaster, saying it is determined to ensure that no life is lost in the flood that is currently ravaging the state.

Commissioner for Information, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, who made the remarks in Yenagoa while giving an update on the situation, assured that with the proactive steps government had put in place, there was no cause for alarm.

He explained that the government is working round the clock to ensure that those whose houses have been submerged get immediate succour.

Iworiso-Markson urged the people not to panic as the government is fully committed to their plights and is doing everything to avoid a repeat of the 2012 flood incident.

The raging flood, which has affected at least 12 states across the country, remains worrisome not only to the victims but also the government, as Rivers Niger and Benue continue to rise in volume.

In Kogi State, the Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Sanusi Yahaya, said the situation was becoming frightening as more communities were being submerged in Lokoja, the state capital.

He said the state government was collaborating with relevant stakeholders to ensure that relief materials and essential facilities were provided in the camp.

“We have had challenge of water supply, but that has been resolved.

Light and a clinic are other challenges because the camp has not been connected to the national grid.

But since it is an emergency, we will be solving the problems as they are identified.”

The commissioner advised residents of flood-prone communities to immediately relocate to safer places to avoid loss of lives and property.

Yahaya noted that all the indices in place before the 2012 flood occurred had manifested.

James Ahmadu, Director of Relief and Rehabilitation of the Kogi State Emergency Management Agency, told newsmen that the flood victims had been trooping into camps in Lokoja in their large number since it was set up.

He said the data of the victims was being updated as they arrived, adding that about 100 households had arrived the camp.

“Many victims are still coming with majority of them women and children,” Ahmadu said.

Umar Zakari, the Camp Leader, said most of the victims were from Adankolo quarters where he said property, foodstuff and farms were totally destroyed by flood.

“We thank government for providing water, but we need food, mosquito nets, light and clinic.

Our children are getting sick,” Zakari said.

The state government had earlier set up five camps in Kotokarfe, where about 64 communities have been submerged by flood.

Among the submerged communities are highly populated settlements like Akpaku, Akpo, Ajara, Banda, Kpakpasu, Ozale, Opkakere, Agbawu and Adabode, among others.

Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Nasir Ajanah, has disclosed that the High Court complex, in Koton-Karfe was among structures submerged by flood.

He said the court would be relocated “to ensure that the development does not affect the dispensation of justice.”

Ajanah, while assessing the extent of damage on the submerged complex, also said that the relocation became imperative to arrest the perennial breaks in the administration of criminal justice in the area.

“The busiest prison yard in the state is located is this town.

So, it is important that we relocate the court from here to another location within the town.”