Flood lay siege to nation as rainy season peaks
• Over 3 Kilometres Of Ayetoro Community Submerged By Ocean Surge
• Kano, Cross River To Relocate Residents Of Flood-prone Areas
On Sunday July 15, the weather was cool and pleasant, so Amina Shuaibu, 40, fed and wrapped her 20-month-old son, Ja’afaru in warm clothing preparatory for a sound night rest, alongside other members of her household.
Everything went well until the early hours of Monday July 16, when the entire family was rudely roused by the shrill cry of the baby, roaring thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.
Upon waking up, she was alarmed to see floodwater gushing into her room through the door and windows. Consequently, she sprang out of bed, grabbed her baby and woke up other family members and managed to help them escape the raging floodwater.
As she tried to swim to safety, a strong gush of floodwater hit her and yanked the baby off her grip. Before she knew what was happening, Baby Ja’afaru had been swept away by the flood. His body was discovered several kilometers away after a 24-hour search, partially buried under mud, beneath a bridge.
Thirty-three-year old Sani Yahaya, was awoken from sleep as his mobile phone rang out the second time. Alarmed at a call at the wee hours of the morning from Ummi, his 22-year-old wife, he reverted immediately.
At the other end, Ummi was wailing as she narrated to her husband that a heavy downpour and attendant flood had destroyed part of their home, and that the water was getting too deep for her to wade or swim through.
Yahaya, who was away on a business trip quickly called an acquaintance to go rescue her, but the tide of the raging water was too strong for Ummi to be rescued. She was washed away and her body was discovered more than 10 miles away, in neighboring Niger Republic. Sixteen other bodies were discovered after being swept there by the flood.
For Yahaya and Mrs. Shuaibu, Monday July 16, 2018, would remain a sore thumb in their lives for many years to come as it was the day they lost their loved ones to a heavy downpour, which swept through over 10 communities in the Jibia Local Council including Kwata, Sabuwar Tukare, Tsohuwar Tukare, Dantudu, Unguwar Mai Kwari, among others.
Even though the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) put the casualty figure of that disaster at 53, locals insist that over 100 perished and more than 21 persons were still missing as at the time of filing in this report.
The natural disaster destroyed more than 500 houses, displaced over 5, 000 people including women and children, as well as destroyed livestock and farmlands, which officials say was worth several millions of naira.
A resident in one of the communities said the downpour caused the rivers in the affected areas to overflow their banks, resulting in the loss of lives and property.
Few days before the tragic downpour in Katsina, Ogun State had its taste of nature’s fury, and after the heavy downpour, at least 12 persons were confirmed dead.
The Ogun flood, which appeared to have its focus on Abeokuta, the state capital and its environs, left in its wake, submerged residential houses and shops, while cars were cascaded into the Ogun River by the rampaging flood.
But the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which put the number of lives lost at seven, and four missing, said that 750 buildings were affected in Gbangban, Amolasho, Olomore, Ijaiye, Ilawo and other locations in the two council areas, with 6, 030 persons affected.
Even though Lagos State has not been visited by the gale of destruction that Katsina and Ogun states have witnessed, residential houses, business outfits and places of worship in different parts of the state are constantly hit by flash floods after heavy downpours.
For instance, Pastor Samuel Taiwo Adeogun, the Area Prophet of The Apostolic Church, Great Ilasa District, Lagos State, went to bed happy with members of his household. But by the time he woke up sometime in the second week of April, the church premises in the Ilasamaja area of the state had been taken over by flood. The church’s manse was not spared, just as the cleric’s car was submerged, and several properties destroyed.
While thanking God that no life was lost in the unfortunate incident, he explained that factors that contributed to the damage include, “the uncaring attitude of the government in taking care of the drainage network. I think the drainage should be de-silted yearly before heavy downpours arrive, but that has not been the case. The carelessness of residents, who dump what they shouldn’t in the waterways, also contributes to clogging the drains and ultimately preventing the free flow of water. It is really unfortunate that residents of the state have bluntly refused to heed government’s appeal not to dump refuse in the drains.”
He appealed to the state government to step up awareness creation efforts aimed at discouraging abuse of drainages, as well as, take care of the waterways so that innocent members of the public do not continue falling victims of clogged drainages.
Adeogun’s plight appears light considering what another cleric, Pastor Ezekiel Udoh Akpan, is contending with as a result of flash floods.
Akpan, who pastors a church that is under construction in the Shasha area of Alimosho Local Council said, “The church I’m pastoring currently is under construction, and so many times building materials like sharp sand get washed away when there is heavy downpour. So, the last time the church was flooded, our keyboard and other musical equipment were damaged, and the fence brought down. Till now, we have not been able to erect a new one. What we have lost so far to flood menace in the recent past stands at over N1.5m.”
Even though the church is located in a swamp, Akpan says the drainages are always overwhelmed during heavy downpours. He is, therefore appealing to the Lagos State government to come to the aide of residents by sand-filling the area and improving the drainages.
Ondo State has been pathetic, battling recurrent incidents of flooding across its 18 local councils on one hand and ocean surge on the other hand, with the latter having devastating consequences in the South Senatorial District of the state.
The South Senatorial District has six local councils and two of them-Ilaje and Ese-Odo local councils with over 300 communities, are in the riverine area, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
Recently, over 200 residents of Ayetoro Community, in Ilaje Local Council were displaced by ocean surge, which destroyed more than 10 houses. Other communities like Idi-Ogba, Erunna, Obenla, Ibikankan, Ipaare, Mahin, Ugbonla, Zion Pepe, Awoye, Etikan, Araromi, Atijere, Gbegunren, and Igbokoda, the headquarters of Ilaje Local Council face the same ecological problems.
In Ese-Odo Local Council, Igbobini, Arogbo, Ajapa, Ukparama, Inikorogha, and Ojuala communities, among others are not spared the flood crises.
A resident of Ayetoro Community, Mr. Emmanuel Aralu, who said the ocean surge is a common phenomenon in the area, disclosed that the last surge, which occurred in the middle of the night, caught the people unawares.
Apart from the South Senatorial District, the other two senatorial districts are constantly under attack by flood due largely to houses erected on waterways, blocked drainages, canals, as well as, dumping of refuse on waterways.
For instance, last month, properties worth millions of naira were destroyed after a heavy downpour gave rise to massive flooding in Ikare Akoko, in the Akoko North-East Local Council.
The downpour wrecked havoc on residential and commercial properties on Ilepa, Jubilee, Ese, Okorun, Semusemu, Okoja and Iku, streets among others.
Worst hit in the flood was the Victory College area of Akure, where shops, cars and motorcycles were submerged by the flood.
Government’s assurance of taking steps to contain flooding was not enough to stop a “good Samaritan” from drowning in the state capital while trying to rescue a pregnant woman from being swept by flood after a heavy downpour penultimate Friday.
Recounting how the sad incident happened, on Friday July 20, at the Eyin Ala area of Akure, an eyewitness said as the entire area became flooded due to a heavy downpour, the pregnant woman, who was passing by suddenly fell into a flooded gutter. Swiftly, a middle-aged man rushed and saved her from slipping into the river, but as she battled to fully emerge, the man still struggled to get her to safety. Unfortunately, the pregnant woman was fully rescued, while her rescuer was swept away.
The Ondo State Police Command spokesman, Femi Joseph, confirmed incident.
Flash flood, last Wednesday, swept away a Peugeot 504 vehicle with its four occupants, just behind the Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia, Awka South Local Council of Anambra State.
While other occupants of the vehicle, which was heading to Nibo, through City Landmark Hotel Road, were rescued, the young girl said to be the daughter of a pastor, was trapped in the vehicle, which eventually got dragged from the culvert into Obibia stream.
Obibia stream usually overflows its bank whenever there is a heavy downpour akin to that of the fateful Wednesday, which started from 3:30 pm on Tuesday and continued to Wednesday morning.
States Paying Scant Heed To Early Warnings
What is bothering many stakeholders and analysts is the ease and manner states are susceptible to the whims and caprices of floods any time it arrives, as if warning bells were not sounded earlier on.
For instance, in May this year, the Nigerian Hydrological Service Agency (NHSA) predicted that an overflow of the Niger-Benue River Basins and other sub-basins as the rains arrive, raising fears of flooding in states surrounding these facilities.
The NHSA named states that are at risk of the impending natural disaster to include Niger, Benue, Sokoto, Anambra, Imo, Cross River, Yobe, Ogun, Kebbi and Osun, Zamfara, Kastina, Kwara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau and Nasarawa.
The others are Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Lagos, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom, Ebonyi, Abia, Jigawa and Kano.
Director General of NHSA, Moses Beckley, while making the disclosure at the official presentation of the Annual Flood Outlook (AFO), warned that Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo might experience coastal flooding due to rise in sea levels and tidal surge.
He also informed that flash and urban flood may occur in some urban locations like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Ibadan, Kaduna, Yola, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Hadejia, among other major cities with poor drainage systems.
Beckley, however, advised affected states to construct reservoirs in selected areas where water could be channelled and deployed for other purposes like irrigation, fish farming among others, saying, “Rain water should be a blessing and not a curse. Reservoirs are more cost-effective than dams. Such could be located in selected areas and when that is done, Nigeria can have artificial lakes in many states, which could be used for several purposes,” Beckley counselled.
Obviously, his counsel was never heeded as apparently no state bothered to construct any reservoir in any part of the country. This perhaps, must have flowed from a nearly counter prediction from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), which in its Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) for 2018, predicted normal onset and cessation of rainfall in many parts of the country.
The SRP is part of the agency’s meteorological Early Warning System (EWS), its content include rainfall and temperature outlook, possible socio-economic implications of the projected weather patterns among others.
It is designed to give vital information for planning, as well as, execution of programmes and projects in various economic sectors, most especially sectors that are sensitive to weather elements, such as air transportation, agriculture, water resources, telecommunications and construction.
The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of NiMet, Prof. Sani Abubakar Mashi, in presenting the SRP to stakeholders said: “The earliest onset date is expected to be from March 1 around the coastal region of the South-South. The onset date changes as we move northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Potiskum and Nguru predicted to have onset from June 1. The country is expected to experience normal-to-earlier-than-normal onset. Places like Sokoto, Bauchi, Kaduna, Lafia, Makurdi, Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Calabar and Eket are expected to experience early onset while places like Yelwa, Bida, Abuja, Iseyin, Abeokuta, Lagos Island, Ikeja and Umuahia are likely to experience late onset. Other parts of the country are expected to have normal onset.
Sadly, the basic steps that governments and citizens ought to take, including de-silting drainages, to make for free passage of water so as to reduce the risk of flooding in their communities, relocating to highlands by those residing in lowlands, as well as, ridding of waterways of illegal structures were not done.
That perhaps, explains why in the wake of the flood disaster in Ogun State, the National Emergency Management Agency accused residents of the affected areas of Abeokuta of ignoring its awareness campaigns regarding the flooding.
Its public relations officer in charge of South West Zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, said apart from the heavy downpour, the lack of safety consciousness by residents, who built houses and erected sundry structures on flood plains contributed substantially to the disaster.
Last year, over 20, 000 persons were displaced by flood across Rivers State, while about 5, 000 students were forced out of schools. This year, residents of Rumuekini, Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt City, Oyigbo, Ahoada East and West, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local councils, among others have already had a foretaste of the raging flood.
Also, residents and shop owners at Nkpolu-Rumuigbo Community, Obiwali Road in ObioAkpor Local Council have already been sacked by this year’s rains. Diobu residents and people living in parts of D Line, Rumukalagbo, Rumuodumanya, Elekahia are crying out over the flooding of their homes and business premises.
Sadly, findings reveal that no serious effort is being made by the state government to avert impending doom. Instead of desilting the drains, waterways, canals and creeks, the state government is busy sand-filling parts of the state in a land reclamation exercise that is alleged to be worsening the plight of the people.
According to the Chairman, Community Development, Rumuekini Community in Obio/Akpor Council, Felix Amadi, “It is not out of place to embark on massive road construction, which the present administration is currently doing, but when there are good roads and the people have no shelter due to flooding, it make no sense.”
He called on the government to open up blocked canals across the state and channel the floodwater to appropriate rivers and creeks in order to avert flooding this year.
He also wants the governor to compel the Ministry of Environment to implement the recommendations it made after it visited flood ravaged areas in Rumuekini last year.
Lagos, Kano Cross River, Abia, Enugu Move To Abort, Mitigate Damages
Being a lowland state that its residents at both high-brow areas and slums have been battered by flood year-after-year, Lagos says it has since commenced the maintenance of all primary, secondary and tertiary drainage channels across the state.
According to the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Public Works, Temidayo Erinle, “the administration is mindful of the fact that the state is very close to the coast, which makes it relatively prone to flooding and as such has engaged reputable and competent contractors for all year scheduled maintenance of all primary, secondary and tertiary drainage channels in the five divisions of the state.
He stated that the contractors have since commenced “the dredging, clearing and cleaning of all the drainage channels, listing some of those being worked on at present to include, Adetokunbo Ademola collector drain; 1004 collector drain and Billy collector drain, Epe.
“Also ongoing are the dredging of Ketu-Alapere channel, dredging of Aguda/Coker channel, Surulere; dredging of Abeokuta/Egbe/Idimu channel, Alimosho; cleaning of Akibo savage collector drain, Victoria Island. But in all, we are working on 29 different drainage channels in all the three senatorial districts. And it is a continuous exercise.
Erinle noted that the re-dredging of the Abeokuta/Egbe/Idimu channel is being strategically done because it is a 15-kilometre channel that cuts across many communities in three local councils. It is being re-dredged to de-flood the catchment areas, as the channel collects water from the various adjoining drains, it takes it down to the canal in Festac Town for onward movement to the creek.
Apart from what the contractors are doing, Lagos State Public Works also commenced the clearing and cleaning of some road drains and inlets capable of causing traffic during any heavy downpour. One of such is the inlet along the Odo-Iya Alaro Bridge.
The Kano State government has concluded plans to relocate residents of communities prone to natural disasters, including flood to safe zones in order to mitigate the impact of any impending flood in the state.
The Director, Pollution Control at the state Ministry of Environment, Mustapha Mohammed, told The Guardian that government has also desilted drainages in the metropolis in order to ensure smooth flow of rainwater.
Even though NHSA listed Kano as one of the states that would be impacted by an overflow of the Niger-Benue River Basins and other sub-basins, Mustapha said, “In our records, we don’t have any record or cases of flood in Kano State as we speak, but you can never rule out the possibility because in the early part of the season, we witnessed heavily winds accompanied with heavy rains … the state government within its limit has put in place some measures to curtail flooding in the state.
“We just hope and pray that the quantum of rains will not overwhelm our drains because if that happens, it could be more than what human capacity can stop,” he said.
The Director General, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), John Inaku, said the state has taken steps to educate residents of the seven local councils prone to flooding in the state on the dos and don’ts, while communities would be relocated to a safer place for the time being.
“Already, we have sensitised them against carrying out emergency harvesting in their flooded farmlands, as a lot of them get drowned doing that. The process of relocating is just about to commence,” Inaku said.
Abia State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Aham Uko, says the state government is poised to doing the needful to prevent environmental threats, especially in areas that are vulnerable to soil erosion/environmental degradation.
Uko, who said that the government not long ago released the sum of N25m to take care of emerging erosion sites resulting from heavy flooding at Amuda Isuochi, added that the “Relocation Action Plan and Environmental and Social Management Plan, which ought to be done before the contract is awarded, have been effected.
He explained that while the Umuda Isingwu flood site in Umuahia North Local Council is being addressed by NewMap, an underground tunnel is being undertaken to channel Aba flood water from Uratta, Umuagbai and Port Harcourt Road through Ngwa Road to Aba river.
He added that in a bid to check flooding in Aba, massive desilting of drains is ongoing, just as there is sustained re-orientation of the people towards proper disposal of waste.
In the last few months, at least three lives have been lost, while several properties have been swept away by flash flood in Enugu State, but the state Commissioner for Capital Territory Development Authority (CTDA), Chidi Aroh, has assured that the state would overcome the menace of flooding.
Aroh informed The Guardian that his agency has been working towards ensuring free flow of rainwater during downpour in order to stem flooding in the state.
He explained that flood-prone areas like Trans Ekulu, Nike Road, IMT Roads and the rest have been cleared and placed under heavy surveillance. “We no longer allow the idea of constructing buildings along water path. Before now, buildings were blocking our waterways and obstructing free passage of water. All that have since been taken care of, as we have cleared the waterlog on Ogui Road and Zik Avenue axis to enable water find its way into the Asata River, while those of Trans Ekulu and GRA are moved into the Ekulu River. I believe God that we will escape this prediction with what we have done because experts advised us around March this year that we should start opening up blocked channels before the arrival of the rains.
“Now because of this secondary alert, I am going to put the state on alert. The Ministry of Works, SEMA and local governments would be made to understand the need to start early preparation by ensuring the removal of blocked water arteries.
We will sound the alarm through statements to relevant agencies. I am quite sure Enugu will be safe from it by the grace of God,” he assured.
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