The Environment

Apprehension, fear grips residents of Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta as fresh flooding looms

It was a hellish period for millions of residents. Last year, many communities across different states were inundated when a deluge of water invaded the streets, swallowing homes and destroying farmlands. Lives were lost and property worth billions of naira destroyed by the floods which ravages many states. Available statistics showed that more than 600 people lost their lives to the floods, while more than 1.4 million people were displaced. More than 200, 000 homes were partially or totally destroyed by the flood.

 

The flooding, it was gathered, was caused by heavy rains and climate change as well as the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, reports The Saturday Sun.

 

Some of the states affected are Anambra, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Rivers, Jigawa, Kano, Yobe, Delta and Rivers. The predictions for 2023 have given little cause for cheer. Last February, the Federal Government warned that 178 local government areas (LGAs) in 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) fell among highly probable flood risk areas for 2023.

 

The former Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu gave the early warning, following earlier predictions by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), at the official unveiling of the 2023 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO), themed ‘ Flood Prediction and its impact on Soco-Economic Livelihood’ in Abuja.

 

According to him, the forecasts for the 2023 AFO, showed that 178 LGAs in 32 states of the Federation, and the FCT, fall within the Highly Probable Flood Risk Areas, and 224 LGAs in 35 states of the federation, including the FCT fall within the Moderately Probable Flood Risk Areas.

 

Meanwhile, the remaining 402 LGAs fall within the Probable Flood Risk Areas.

 

He said: “The Highly Probable Flood Risk States are Adamawa, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and the FCT.

 

Adamu said the level of floods in highly probable flood-risk states is expected to be high in terms of impact on the population, agriculture, livelihood, livestock , Infrastructure and the environment, between April and November.

 

“Part of 66 LGAs across the country fall within the Highly Probable Risk areas in the months of April, May and June, while part of 148 LGAs in the months of July, August and September, while part of 100 LGAs in the months of October and November, 2023.

 

“The details of the LGAs and their corresponding states are contained in our publication.

 

“The moderate impact level of floods are expected in parts of 41 LGAs within the months of April, May and June, and in parts of 199 LGAS within the months of July, August and September, and parts of 73 LGAs within the months of October and November, 2023,” he added.

 

He noted that Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Ondo, would be experiencing coastal flooding due to rise in sea level and tidal surge, which would impact on fishing, wildlife habitation and river navigation.

 

Saturday Sun returned to some of the states that were badly affected by the 2022 floods to find out how the state governments are preparing for the likely 2023 floods. Our reporters crisscrossed communities in Delta, Anambra and Bayelsa Statee, where the people are in painful agitation in anticipation of another round disaster. They are bemoaning their fate, as they remain certain of what will become of their property, their homes, farms and their lives when the looming floods unleash their fury.

 

Delta: Residents hoping for a miracle

 

From Asaba, Delta State capital, Saturday Sun gathered that many residents of coastal communities in the state are very apprehensive following the prediction by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET) that there will be flooding later this year.

 

Most of the people have yet to fully recover from the overwhelming damage caused by the disaster last year. Farms, houses, public infrastructure across communities on the bank of the River Niger in Asaba, Oko, Utchi, Patani, Abala, Obetim among several others were submerged during last year’s ravaging flood.

 

Hence, as the months wind down to September when the flood is expected to start, the people expressed their fears that they would suffer the same fate should the prediction come true.

 

According to residents, nothing is in place to prevent flooding or at least mitigate its impact on households and sources of livelihood in the mainly peasant environment. They were unanimous in resigning to fate, believing that the flood would be unstoppable if the prediction by NiMET eventually comes true.

 

President General of Obetim National Council in Ndokwa East Local Government Area, Chief Sony Neme, told our correspondent that the people in the locality were completely forgotten after last year’s flooding.

 

Neme said at the moment, his people are apprehensive, praying seriously for God to avert the natural disaster, saying that there was nothing on the ground to prevent or mitigate its impact.

 

“People are apprehensive, especially as the last flood came and left. Not even the council chairman showed concern, not even a councilor. We learnt there was a committee but they never came. Nobody came to ask us how we fared.

 

“The community was devastated. My house was submerged. The chief’s house was also completely submerged. He was moving from one place to another. My vehicle became a submarine one, I was in Lagos when the flood came to my community. People lost valuables running into millions of naira. Yet there was no concern from the relevant authorities.

 

“It was a few days before the elections that the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) called for us to come and collect relief items. Before then, we were asked to send photographs and videos of the devastation, which we did. The media even came but there was no response from the three tiers of government,” he recalled.”

 

Neme said the government has done nothing to prevent the flood, saying that what the community has now embarked on was to create awareness among local dwellers.

 

“Nothing has been put in place but we are doing the awareness ourselves. We are praying and believing in God not to allow the flood. Let human beings predict but we pray that God should disappoint them because we are completely helpless.

 

“If the government cannot do anything, what can we, poor peasant residents do? We have left our hopes hanging, praying that God should disappoint the soothsayers,” he added. The chief in the community, Okwukudi Prince also said the area has been dilapidated, and appealed for urgent intervention.

 

Meanwhile, the Igwe of Abala Kingdom, Frederick Egbunokonye stated that residents in the area have been advised to plant crops that would be harvested early to avoid the flood overrunning farm produce. Noting that the solution to the flood was not readily available, the monarch re-echoed his call for the dredging of the River Niger by the Federal Government. On his part, the secretary of Abagalada community, Simon Ilona, said his people are hoping that the prediction fails, maintaining that there was nothing on ground to contain the fury of the waters if the prediction is to come to pass.

 

“There is nothing we can do, there is nothing like human preparation. We don’t know whether the prediction is true or not, we are just relying on God to save us. Some predictions do fail, it does not always happen as predicted. That is why we always rely on God,” he said.

 

In the meantime, the state government has urged residents in flood prone areas to relocate to safer grounds, and enjoined farmers to embark on early harvest in order to reduce the likely losses they might suffer.

 

Permanent Secretary in the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ben Agamah who gave the advice in Asaba, warned that the predicted flood would be very massive.

 

Agamah who said the state government was deeply concerned about the likely devastating effects of flood on farmers, however admitted that the government cannot do much for now to save the situation. He said addressing flood challenges of very high magnitude required huge capital, adding that the government was on red alert and monitoring the situation, and ready to assist farmers get back on their feet after the flood.

 

His words: “Delta State Government is irrevocably committed to the welfare of farmers during and after the likely flood. The Sheriff Oborevwori administration, in the spirit of the MORE agenda, is ready to continue from where the immediate past administration stopped.

 

“The farmer is the king, and the state government is not unmindful of the strategic role they play in the food supply, security and value chain of government and agricultural programmes,” he said.

 

Anambra: Residents apprehensive, but govt says, we’re ready

 

From the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State, Saturday Sun gathered that the residents are quite apprehensive about the devastating effects of another round of flooding in the state this year. But the government has said that it was doing everything possible to ensure that the effects of the flooding are not felt by the people as it happened last year.

 

Indeed Anambra State has been synonymous with massive flooding over the years. From the incident that happened in 2012 where about three local government areas were submerged in water, flooding has continued to spread havoc in a far bigger magnitude. Ten years later, in 2022, the state was listed among the states in the country that battled massive flooding as over 300 communities in six local government areas were underwater.

 

Flooding has been a perennial problem in the state, but the devastation of last year was described as the highest ever. Apart from submerging houses and farmlands in Anambra, critical infrastructure such as schools, healthcare centres, police stations, banks, and offices were not left out; a situation which forced the state government to shut down schools affected by the flood and at the same time forced members of the affected communities to flee into various Internally Displaced Persons camps across the state.

 

According to the record obtained from the State Emergency Management Agency on the affected communities in Anambra, Ogbaru had 286,000 displaced persons, Anambra West had 237,000, Anambra East 103,000, Awka North had 10,345 victims, while Anyamelum had 9,240 flood cases with 5,468 displaced persons.

 

Now, the 2023 seasonal rainfall prediction and annual flood outlook by Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and Nigerian Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA) has shown that there will be high rainfall across the country and flood this year with Anambra mentioned prominently as one of the states that would be affected. From the list of six local governments seriously affected in the state last year, the 2023 flood prediction has listed 10 local government areas in Anambra with high risk.

 

They include Ogbaru, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Onisha North, Onitsha South, Awka North, Idemili South, Ekwusigo and Ihiala LGA. Apprehension has set in across the communities in the various local government areas mentioned in the predicted report as the residents are now in panic mode over what to do to prevent another round of disaster. This is more so as many of them had yet to recover from the effects of last year’s devastating incident. Nkechi Onyia, a woman leader at Akili Ozizor community, Ogbaru local government area who spoke to Saturday Sun painted a graphic picture of the reality in the flood-prone communities presently.

 

“We are afraid and apprehensive by the passing of every day, because we don’t know whether the worst will happen tomorrow. The rains are increasing daily and we have not recovered from the ripple effects of last year flooding while the worst fear is that our agricultural products are not yet due for harvest. Now, the flood is covering even farmlands already. We are like a tree in the middle of an ocean with nowhere to move to. That is our situation and it is affecting all of us.

 

“Government is telling us to relocate but where do we go when we don’t even have alternatives or sources of income? And there is nowhere provided for us presently. We seriously need government attention now because we have not seen any concrete thing the government has done. Even the roads destroyed by flood last year have not been repaired, while our submerged and broken down houses have remained in that damaged state till now too. We have serious problem at hand in Ogbaru. It’s actually an emergency situation.

 

“All eyes are on government now to salvage the situation because if something is not done urgently, the situation will be worse than last year. We borrowed money to plant by January and February this year, now people are being forced to harvest their produce now even before maturity because the signs of impending flooding are already here with us” she lamented.

 

Nkechi’s lamentations are not different from feelers across other communities like Igbedor, Olumbanasa in Anamnra West, Mkpunando Aguleri in Anambra East, Awba Ofemili in Awka North, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo, Niger Street in Onitsha South among others.

 

But the Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Chief Paul Odenigbo in a chat with the reporter allayed the fears of the people and said that government is making serious efforts to contain and address the impeding calamity.

 

“Flooding has become an annual issue in Nigeria and Anambra inclusive so the state government is not keeping silent. Our Holding Centres (because we don’t call it Internally Displaced Centres) are being fortified, getting them ready so that in case of any eventuality, people can move in there immediately. Those quartered there will also be catered for in terms of feeding and other services.

 

“Government has set up a Flood Response Committee chaired by the deputy governor. This is a very high level committee mandated to ensure the people that all that will be affected by the flooding will be taken good care of,” he said.

 

Odenigbo said there is an existing synergy between the state government and the flood-prone local government areas while members of the committee were also drawn across the local government areas. He said that everyone is carried along in the committee to ensure that the expected results are achieved.

 

Saturday Sun gathered that the state government has also initiated some sensitisation measures aimed at getting people living in those flood-prone areas to take up preventive measures to address the disaster.

 

In a statement circulated recently by the state Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu, he enumerated measures to mitigate the looming natural disaster. He said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has issued various flood mitigation measures which the people are expected to abide by which included making concrete plans for timely harvesting and evacuation of their farm produce and livestock to avoid losses. He said the people should not wait until the flood comes to harvest but they should rather make concrete plans to secure their household property and essential belongings as much as possible before the flood actually sets in.

 

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“Plan ahead to get your family as well as the aged, the sick, pregnant women, infants and children evacuated well on time to safety nets (IDP camps provided by the state government) to avoid preventable loss of lives. Timely evacuation is key.

 

“De-silting of water channels should be done continuously, as huge amount of silt is deposited in water channels after rainfall. People should stop constructing in water plains and across water channels. Clear gutters and drainages: do not dispose your thrash in gutters or drainage; move to a higher ground before the flood becomes neck deep. If cut off from designated point, climb and stay on a tree or high platform.

 

“Keep a family disaster kit. A disaster kit is an assemblage of basic essentials (food, water, medications, torch, blankets, etc.) that will last a family a few days in event of flood.”

 

Nwosu warned: “It is dangerous to wade or swim in floodwaters due to submerged logs, stones and the presence of dangerous reptiles.

 

“Children should not attempt to recover any of their toys or belongings which perchance have fallen into the flood, for it can drown them in the process. Do not drive in the flood because you can float and be carried away. Step out immediately and search for a higher ground. Never play in flood. Do not drink or eat any food contaminated by flood water. Before the onset of flood, deploy sand bags around buildings for flood defence and avoid wet electrical equipment during flooding. Put off all electrical appliances to avoid electrocution.” On how to provide a permanent intervention in the coastal areas, SEMA Executive Secretary, Chief Odenigbo said government can build high embankments on the coastal lines as it will help as a measure to checkmate flooding in the areas.

 

Bayelsa: We don’t want to suffer like we did in 2022, residents beg govt

 

The situation in Bayelsa State is not different from that of Delta and Anambra States, Saturday Sun has learnt. Following the nasty experience suffered by residents of Bayelsa, especially Yenagoa, the state capital and many other parts of the state during the 2022 flooding, the state government has said it is not taking any chance to mitigate the effect of the 2023 flooding expected to commence earlier than usual. The preparation of the state government is against the backdrop of warnings by the Federal Government that many states, including Bayelsa, risk serious flooding and severe consequences in 2023.

 

Already residents of Yenagoa and other areas prone to flooding are apprehensive over the effects that the 2023 flooding would have on them, especially their livelihood which took a hit during the 2022 flooding. They have called on the state government not to wait until the last minute before it takes action expected of it.

 

One of the residents at the Cemetery Area around Swali Area, Mr Lemmy Royal Egede said residents of Yenagoa would not want to have a repeat of the 2022 experience.

 

“We suffered in 2022. Last year’s flood really affected us so much here and up till now we didn’t see even one cup of garri, especially in this area. We don’t have a major road, so they didn’t come here with any palliative.

 

“We were really impacted, but there was no government presence. There was a time when three corpses floated out from the cemetery.”

 

Another resident of Yenagoa, Mr Iginoba Allen lamented that if the flash flood that happened in Yenagoa recently was anything to go by then Bayelsans must be prepared for another nasty experience in 2023.

 

“It has been a situation that needs urgent attention, and if not properly tackled, could seriously affect parts of the state. The situation with the recent flash flood is pathetic. It is exactly the same situation in many areas. “Residents have their role to play. That is very true. But the government has to play their role too by clearing up these canals. This they have failed to do. The last time NIIT Boropit canal was cleared was by the former Governor, Seriake Dickson. “We are still waiting for the Prosperity Government to come and do the needful before the main flood renders many residents homeless again,” he said.

 

Also speaking, Mrs Elizabeth Zinesibe said the government must not allow Bayelsans suffer again before they came to their rescue.

 

“What some of us are saying is that now that we know the flood is coming, we should be ready to tackle it before it becomes an emergency situation and we start running helter-skelter. Now with the experience of 2022, we expect the government to put some things on ground. By now there should be preparation for designated places to be used as camps. By now the government should have made provision for foodstuffs which it would give us as palliatives. By now the government should be thinking of fortifying access road to the Bayelsa Airport so that even if the state is cut off through the roads, the state can be accessed through the air.”

 

At Azikoro Road, teachers, students and pupils of IJBCOE Demonstration Nursery, Primary and Secondary School, Azikoro road, Ekeki, Yenagoa, are facing the dilemma of flooding of the school’s premises daily due to the relentless rainfall in the state capital. A teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said even before the arrival of the main flood, the school was already suffering.

 

“Just look at our premises due to the relentless rain we witnessed a few days ago. It has been tough for us. There are fears of water-borne diseases and snake bites. To avoid this, the Ministry of Education, Environment and well-meaning individuals should, as a matter of urgency, come to the aid of the school. Sand-filling of the entire school and raising of structures may just be the solution to this problem of flooding in the school premises,” she said. To demonstrate its commitment to mitigate the effect of flooding, Governor Douye Diri recently inaugurated a Directorate on Flood and Erosion control headed by Mr. Omusco W. Omusco, a surveyor. The directorate is in response to the perennial flood devastation and the impact of coastal erosion in the riverine state.

 

According to Diri, the body is charged with the responsibility of proffering solutions to the twin natural disasters. Governor Diri, while inaugurating the members, lamented the impact of erosion and annual flooding on the socio-economic lives of Bayelsans stressing that it was what necessitated the setting up of the directorate. These were his words to the committee: “You were carefully and thoroughly selected. I have no doubt in my mind that you fit in for this assignment.

 

“Yours is, therefore, an urgent invitation to save lives and property and write your names indelibly in the annals of Bayelsa State and Nigeria. You must address the threats of flooding and erosion with the utmost priority that they deserve. Developing sustainable flood management practices, introduce erosion control techniques and design flood-resistant structures among other methods that can be adopted to mitigate the risks involved. “The impact of flood and erosion is far-reaching and you can attest to that. We must collectively take action to address the immediate and long-term impact of these natural disasters.”

 

Also, the Bayelsa Ministry of Health, Public Health Department, Neglected Tropical Disease (NTDs) Unit in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, Public Health Department, NTDs division with support from UNICEF has held a programme for medical personnel from the Primary Health centres to prepare them for the management of snake bites which are prevalent during the flood season. The Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr Jones Stow in an interview said the programme is a national intervention targeted at states with high prevalence of snake bites, especially during flooding.

 

Said he: “This snake bite intervention is a national intervention targeted at states that have a prevalence of snake bites, especially during certain seasons or periods of the year. And you know for Bayelsa, because of the water-logged environment we have and the perennial flood, most times the snakes leave their abode to stay in highlands where human beings also live. So, there is the tendency for interaction with the human race, and for bites to happen, there are consequences. Some snakes are highly venomous and deadly, some are mild but overall, most of them are dangerous and if you don’t apply the required measures after a snake bite, it could lead to death.

 

“During the flood of 2022, we experienced increased incidents of snake bites, especially in our rural communities. We also found out that a lot of our health workers at the primary health centres do not have the requisite skills to manage snake bites which unfortunately led to fatalities.

 

“What we are doing now is to bring the participants together and put them through on managing snake bites. We are almost entering another flood period so we need to get prepared. This is part of preventive measures by talking about it and mobilising the people to save lives and the communities.” In an interview, the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Walamna said the agency was putting things together to ensure Bayelsans do not suffer.

 

“We are preparing for the 2023 flood. We have made our proposal which includes designated places for camping and other things we need to ensure our people do not suffer. Hopefully when the necessary fund is released, you can see evidence of our preparation. We are working hard to ensure the 2023 flooding does not take us by surprise,” he stated.

 

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