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Rainy season: Fears over impending flood in the land

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Residents wade through flooded Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway by Ile-Epo market in Lagos after last Sunday’s downpour. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI


When the Lagos State government released its 2021 Seasonal Climate Prediction and Socio-Economic Implications for the state penultimate Thursday, many residents in the state knew that danger was in the offing. The state is one of Nigeria’s coastal states and many of its suburbs experience severe flooding on a yearly basis. So, with the prediction that the state shall experience a rainy season of 238 to 261 days, while the maximum annual rainfall amount might be 1,747mm, residents in the flood-prone areas needed no further confirmation that their ugly experiences of the past with respect to flood would be replicated this year.

In fact, the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, who released the prediction, warned: “…the increasing frequency of extreme weather events indicates that year 2021 will likely experience days with extremely high rainfall amounts which may result in flooding.”

Jolted by the report, many residents told The Guardian that they fear for the worst, noting that they had not recovered from the devastating effects of last year’s flood.

A resident in Bello Street in Ilasamaja area of the state, Tomiwa Sulaimon, said while she would love to move to another area before the rains start, it was not financially possible for her at this time.

She recalled: “Last year when it was raining almost everyday, our street and house got flooded every other day. This street is a bit low and erosion has eaten a good part of the road and despite our little efforts to keep the flood at bay, the water always finds a way to get in. The worst part is that those refuse disposal trucks hardly come around, claiming that we owe them for several months but if they hardly come around, how do they expect to get paid? They come around only once in a blue moon and in the meantime, we have to find a way to help ourselves. I want to plead with the government to tell them to improve on their services so that people are not forced to dump refuse indiscriminately.”

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A shop owner, who identified herself as Blessing Ogbe, lamented that residents in the area were responsible for the constant flooding in the area whenever it rains.

Ogbe said: “The landlords and agents are very greedy. Once they see one small space, they will construct shops on it, most times blocking the water channels in the process. At Taiwo Junction and Transformer bus stop, that place is a major water channel but go and see for yourself. They have built a row of shops there now, blocking the gutter. So, anytime rain falls, the water has nowhere to go.

“The residents themselves are always so eager to throw refuse into the gutter when it is raining or by the roadside, some of which also end up in the gutter. The roads are bad and gutters are very narrow; so the water has nowhere to go as such. This has been a recurring problem for many years now and we have been making private efforts but we need the government to step in for us now.”

An estate agent whose office is located along Okota road, Yusuf Isa, expressed fears that his office might not survive another rainy season, lamenting that floodwater finds its way into the office with the smallest rainfall.

He said: “No matter how shortly it rains, this side of Okota road leading to Jakande Gate always gets flooded. We have carried out several interventions by ourselves and would appreciate if the government can step in now. We tried to channel the flood through Akiti to connect it to the canal at Oke-Afa but there is a limit to what we can do on our own. Because of this, Okota and Akiti are usually flooded but what can we do?”

Many residents in Oke-Afa, Okota, Ibeju Lekki and Ikorodu areas of the state, who spoke with The Guardian, also recounted similar tales of woe. Lagosians who reside along flood plains of major rivers and drainage channels such as Owode, Iwaya, Makoko, Badia, Ijora, Isaalu, Pota and Shibiri, among others, could not be reached. But Bello had advised them to always be on the alert and ready to move to higher grounds when the need arises, adding that they would be duly notified at the appropriate time.

He stated that the Emergency Flood Abatement Gangs (EFAG) of the ministry had been consistently de-silting and working on various linkages to the secondary and primary channels to enable them discharge efficiently and act as retention basins. 

Bello also disclosed that the government was maintaining the long-established synergy with Ogun-Oshun River Basin Authority, which had ensured control and monitoring of the steady and systemic release of water from Oyan Dam to prevent flooding the downstream reaches. 

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage Services and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe, an engineer, also stated that the state government would dredge about 221 collector drains and 32 primary channels measuring about 72 km spread across the 20 local councils of the state to checkmate flooding.

He reiterated that EFAG would continue to de-silt various tertiary channels and manholes measuring about 100 kilometres across the state.

While restating the present administration’s resolve to find a lasting solution to flooding in the state, he called on residents to desist from dumping refuse in drainage channels or encroaching on the rights of way of canals, adding that it was regrettable that several of the canals recently cleaned up were being littered with refuse.

Lagos might appear on top of the situation. But the problem of flooding at the peak of the rainy season is not limited to the state alone; it is a national problem. Since 2012 when floods killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million others from their homes between early July and November 5, no year has passed without the natural disaster claiming lives and property worth billions of naira in the country. From Lagos to Delta, Anambra, Imo, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Taraba and Kebbi states, among others, flood wreaks havoc on homes and farms yearly with adverse effects on the economy of the country and health of citizens.

The most recent report on the natural disaster, which was released by the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammadu Muhammed, in early December 2020, stated that, “the devastating impact of the 2020 flooding killed 68 people, affected 35 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 320 local councils and over 129,000 people.”

Now, the question is: With another rainy season at hand and with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) predicting that “the country is expected to have rainfall amounts from 400mm in the North to over 3000mm in the South,” what are communities and the state governments doing to avert a reoccurrence? The Guardian spoke with relevant stakeholders in Akwa Ibom, Osun, Imo, Delta and Cross River states on the issue. The stories are as follows:

Solution To Your Flood Problem Underway, A’Ibom Govt Re-assures Apprehensive Residents

From Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo
AS the rains begin to set in, residents of flood prone areas in Akwa Ibom State have sent a Save Our Souls (SOS) message to the state government to come to their aid so as to avert the perennial flooding they have been experiencing year in year out.

In Uyo, the state capital, residents in areas like Abak Road, Atiku Abubakar, IBB Avenue, Esuene Street, Ukana Offot/adjourning streets, Atan, Use and Effiat Offot communities have appealed to the government to replicate the ‘magic’ it used to control flooding and erosion along Oron road by Nsikak Eduok and Edet Akpan Avenue in their areas.

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The residents noted that controlling the flood in their areas would enable them to access their homes, have their properties secured and ensure that they would no longer live in fear whenever rain is about to fall. 

Mr. Okon Etim of Ukana Offot street told The Guardian that the flooding on his street had for several years rendered many persons homeless.

According to him, the government had always given affected residents relief materials when their household properties were destroyed, with a pledge to find a permanent solution to the menace.

He, however, lamented that successive governments had tried to remedy the situation to no avail. Offot said the situation appears to have worsened as houses along Calabar, Port Harcourt and Esuene streets and parts of the Federal Housing Estate are no-go-area once the rains set in.

Other residents, including Mrs. Nkoyo Akpan and Augustine Effiong, among others, also called on the government to come to their aid, adding that they could not afford the money to relocate or construct another apartment at the moment.

Findings by The Guardian, which the residents acknowledged, indicated that structures in the areas were built on the right of way, thereby blocking free flow of floodwater.
 
Responding to the cries of residents, the state Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, Mr. Charles Udoh, said government was aware of the problem, noting that it has, in conjunction with the World Bank, awarded the contract that would address it to China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) at an estimated cost of N12 billion.

Udoh stated that the 7.2-kilomtre flood control project covers 17 communities in three local councils; namely Uyo, Nsit Ibom and Ibesikpo Asutan.

His words: “The reality is that the government cannot go everywhere to de-silt gutters. So, while the government is doing the common areas, the government is calling on residents and citizens to also embark on de-silting of gutters. Flooding sometimes comes from bad habits like dumping refuse into gutters. We are also calling on our people to desist from dumping refuse into gutters. The waste management agency of the state is embarking on massive de-silting of drains all over the state.
 
“This is in addition to the three major flagship projects of the ministry that talks about water collection and harvesting, erosion control project, one in Etim Umana, one in Anua and then the IBB erosion control. IBB will not be completed this rainy season, but this is the last rainy season that everybody affected on the IBB corridor will face flooding. Once that is done, the entire Atiku Abubakar, Abak road axis, Mechanic village, State Secretariat, Atan, Effiat and Use Offot communities will be evacuated.

“We will also evacuate water from Area ‘C’ Police Command. All the water will be taken to the outfall drain and also taking water at some point of Ring Road Two. But we cannot complete the entire process within this rainy season. The IBB project is 8.4 kilometres, the biggest flood control project ongoing in Nigeria now.”
 

We Don’t Want To Abandon Our Homes Again, Osun Residents Cry Out
From Timothy Agbor, Osogbo
Some residents in flood-prone areas in Osun State have cried out to the state government to assist them in mitigating the problem this year.

Speaking with The Guardian, residents in flood-prone areas like Rasco, Gbonmi and Gbodofon appealed to Governor Gboyega Oyetola to save them from losing their houses to flood this year.

A landlord at Gbonmi, Mr. Suraju Kamaruden, said many house owners and residents in the community always relocate to safe areas when the rainy season is at its peak, adding: “We don’t want to abandon our houses again. That is why we are begging our government to come to our aid and help us.”

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A trader at Rasco area in Osogbo, Mr. Jude Okpara, said traders in the area face difficult times during rainy season as flood always submerges their shops.

“We don’t have any other place to go. If not, we would have left this area. Although the government expanded the waterways about three years ago, the water still overflows its boundaries and submerges our shops. We are tired,” he lamented.

Chairman of Olorunwa Sawmill in Oke-Baale community, Osogbo, Mr. Sunday Ajewole, said there was an urgent need for government to construct a bigger drainage channel that would accommodate much floodwater when the rain is at its peak.

He said: “For the past seven years, we have been battling with flood. Every time we are in the rainy season, we always lose our planks to flood. Our government would always clear and expand the waterways every year but we are still battling flood. Most times when government fails to do something and we are approaching rainy season, we hire some labourers to help us clear the waterways. Sometimes we contribute between N80,000 to N100,000 and give to the dredgers. Still, we are not safe.

“We have discovered that the problem is that we have only one ring that forms the bridge of the waterways. And the ring is very small. The water that gushes from Ona-Baba-Ona area and Arogunmosa community would divert at our area and the ring doesn’t have the capacity to make it flow, as it should. It usually bounces back to where we stay, sweep our goods away and even sack residents out of their homes.

“This year, to lessen the severity of the flood, the government has cleared the waterways for us but once it rains heavily, there will be flood. Until the bridge is re-constructed and a bigger ring is fixed, we may not be out of this flood problem. We don’t have the financial strength to construct a bigger bridge and that’s why we are appealing to government to come to our aid. 

“We have lost millions of naira worth of goods and property to flood in this area. We are afraid that if nothing is done again this year, property or even lives may be lost to flood because we have started seeing signs that it will rain heavily this year.”

To prevent a reoccurrence of flood in the state this year, the Osun State Waste Management Agency said it has been sensitising members of the public on the need to desist from dumping refuse on floodwater channels.
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he General Manager of the agency, Mr. Fatai Oyewole, told The Guardian in Osogbo that efforts were ongoing to rid major gutters of refuse.

“We have been mobilising people not to dump refuse on waterways and major gutters,” he said. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment has disclosed that it opened up some streams across the state during the dry season for easy flow of water. This, according to the coordinator of the ministry’s Department of Flood Control, Samorudeen Odesanmi, an engineer, was part of the state government’s efforts at preventing another incident of flooding in the state.

“This government is proactive. Before the advent of this rainy season, we optimised the opportunity of the dry season to open up series of streams across the state for easy flow of water. If at all we are going to do anything on flood control, it would be minimal. 

“We have already marked off some areas we want to work on this year and they are waiting for governor’s approval. Much had been done before now and we are on top of the situation,” he said.  

Imo Commences De-silting Of Drainages, Vows To Demolish Houses Built On Waterways
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
AS this year’s rainy season gradually sets in, residents in Imo State and the state government have commenced preparations to mitigate the likely effect of flooding.

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The flood-prone local councils in the state are the riverine areas of Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema and Orsu, among others. The locals in these communities began to experience massive flooding since 2012, which has resulted in loss of lives and destruction of their property. The flood, which occurs at the peak of every rainy season, had forced many residents to abandon their homes and relocate to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), where both the state and national emergency management agencies lent them helping hands.

A resident in Oguta, Jude Igwe, who called for quick intervention by the government, told The Guardian that he would not want a repeat of his past experiences this year, likewise other members of his family. He said: “Since 2012, almost on a yearly basis, we living in riverine areas have been witnessing flooding. It is not something to behold. Now that the rains are setting in, we appeal to the state government to prepare and assist us in time. Some of us are poor. We shall be relocated to camps as usual. So, we are calling for early preparation in case such occurs.”

Also, an indigene of Orsu, who identified himself simply as Okechukwu, recounted how his family lost valuable property in previous years and called for help.

“I am not ready to allow flood engulf us again. We are preparing ahead of time. But government and good spirited individuals should please come to our assistance ahead of time. We also want government to build gutters that will channel water to the rivers,” he said.

A community leader in Ohaji, Saturday Ochia, however, urged residents to desist from blocking waterways with refuse. He said: “We want our people to adhere to the simple environment-friendly rule of clearing the waterways. We do not want to witness flooding this year in our community. We are educating our people.”

Speaking with The Guardian, the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Ikechukwu Njoku, said the state government was not leaving anything to chances, adding that it has commenced public enlightenment on appropriate waste disposal and clearing of drainages by holding town hall meetings with the monarchs, local government officials, community leaders and residents. He also disclosed that the ministry has commenced de-silting of drainages in Owerri, the state capital.

According to Njoku, the government has marked structures built on waterways for demolition, stressing that they were constructed in contravention of the state’s master plan.

He also gave assurance that the government has put a robust plan in place to ensure flood-free environment in the state capital and other communities, stressing that the Governor, Hope Uzodimma, would ensure the construction of standard drainage systems in the state.

Delta Is Already Prepared To Tackle Flooding, Commissioner Says
From Monday Osayande, Asaba
DELTA State government has declared that it was fully prepared to mitigate the impact of flood in coastal areas of the state this year.

The Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Christ Onogba, made the declaration in an interview with The Guardian in Asaba. Onogba noted that the state did not have to wait for NIMET or other agencies’ prediction on the effect of flood before putting things right.

“Firstly, we keep on saying to everyone that we are in the era of climate change, so those communities living in the coastal line should find alternative homes before the rains set in,” he noted.

According to the commissioner, it was necessary for flood victims to have alternative abode because government was no longer ready to build camps for those that might be displaced by flood due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot set up camps as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean we are sleeping. In fact, we have done a lot. We are resetting the drains, and very shortly, we will open one of the channels that is flowing into the River Niger, and good enough, the road side drain in Asaba is clean and working fine. 

“The government is prepared and we will never be taken unaware in the issue of flood. And because we understand that because of climate change, flooding is something that must happen, we will not wait for any prediction before we start making our preparations,” he emphasised.

A resident in Ndokwa East council, Mr. Emma Agboma, lamented that several homes had collapsed in the area in the past as a result of flooding.

“I think now that we are approaching rainy season, government should exercise its power early so that we are not taken unaware. They should be alert so that they can relocate some of us to upland. Many are willing to leave their houses but it is not easy to relocate from where you are used to over the years.

“Government should do as much as possible to mitigate our suffering in riverine areas – Burutu, Bomadi and Patani. So, government should do the needful by building camps early enough for us to relocate,” he said.

For Dave Ogochukwu, while government should try to evacuate people in flood-prone areas to avoid loss of lives, residents should also not dispose refuse indiscriminately, thereby blocking waterways.

“The property that has been lost since 2012 till date is enormous and it is not good for the growth of the society. In recent times, several farmlands have been overrun by flood putting farmers in a difficult situation.

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“Over the years, government has made efforts to relocate people from the flood-prone areas but some people have been adamant. However, government should continue to sensitise the people on the need to relocate before the flooding begins,” Ogochukwu added.

‘We Have Been Crying Out To Government For Help’
From Agosi Todo, Calabar
LAST year during the peak of the rainy season, many communities in Cross River State experienced heavy flooding that destroyed farms and homes. Over 300 residents in the state were left homeless and properties worth millions of naira destroyed due to heavy rainfalls.

The rains destroyed farmlands specifically in Calabar Municipality, Calabar South, Biase and Boki local councils of the state.

Some of the residents at Ikot Eka Edem in Calabar Municipal local council identified building of houses on waterways as the cause of flooding in the area.

A resident, Mr. Gab Otei, said he was apprehensive ahead of this year’s rainy season, lamenting that he lost his valuables to flood last year.

Otei said: “Last year, the heavy rains wreaked havoc in the whole of this street. I lost my valuables because I was trying to save my little children from being taken away by the flooding.

“I cannot leave this place because this is my father’s house and I stay here with my family. For years now, we have been crying to government at all levels to come to our aid and open the canals for free flow of water, but no response.”

A resident in Kakwagom community in Boki local council, Mr. Augustine Ita, said: “Last year, most of the yam and cassava farms were basically destroyed. We lost everything and you know that hunger was the effect of it. What those of us who farm in the riverine areas are trying to do now is to either cultivate earlier or make your mounds to be bigger than what it used to be, because if the mounds are very big, and the crop are up there, if the flood comes, it starts from the bottom of the mound. If God is on our side, we will still have something to hold on to. It depends on the strength of your mounds and how heavy the flood will be.”

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Speaking with The Guardian on measures the state government was taking to safeguard lives and properties against flood this year, the Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Princewill Ayim, disclosed that last year, over 510 persons were displaced by flood across the state.

Ayim stated that although the state had not received the yearly prediction from concerned government agencies on what to expect this year, the agency has started sensitisation campaign in communities in Calabar South, Calabar Municipality, Boki, Biase, Odukpani and Etung local councils that are prone to flood.

He lamented that people living in flood-prone areas refuse to relocate to safe areas because they insist on remaining in their ancestral homes.

Ayim explained: “The way we do it every year is that we get informed from the national bodies. They tell us when there will be heavy flood and what to expect. For now we have not gotten any prediction but we cannot keep on waiting. We need to be proactive by engaging ourselves in activities that can mitigate heavy flood.

“We have our local emergency committees spread across all the 18 local councils. They interface with the locals to inform them more about flooding and how to prepare for it. And at the same time, we are also collaborating with the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC). Luckily, we are among the states that installed emergency outfit; so if you are in distress and do not have airtime in your phone, you can dial the 122 free toll number through which help can come to you. That is in place already. 

“Apart from that, we use the media houses to educate the public to clear their drainage channels and to cut the entire weeds on the waterways. If you go to Calabar South for example, you see some stagnant water that if you don’t look very well you won’t know there is an artificial pool there.” 

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