Tony John, Port Harcourt
Many communities in Rivers State are afraid of what the future has for them, following the surging flood threatening many areas. With the situation on ground, residents of the affected communities have cried out for an urgent government’s attention to save them for imminent danger.
The fear was heightened by the recent report by a Federal Government agency, mentioning Rivers State, as among the states to experience flood surge.
Thousands of people have been displaced by flood and over 20 communities submerged. Mostly affected areas in the state include: Abual/Odual, Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, particularly Akabuka, Obagi, Ogbogu communities.
Also affected by the flood were Rumuekini, Rumuigbo, Rumukpoku, Rumuodomanya, Rumuakalugo and Eneka in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Igwuruta in Ikwerre Local Government Area, among others.
Daily Sun observed that some of the flood victims took refuge under trees and makeshift structures as a house. Similarly, some have relocated to secondary schools, churches with self-help or by the assistance of their community development chairmen.
The situation is precarious in Abua/Odual LGA. Most of the residents in the area have been sacked by flood. It was gathered that the only bridge that leads to the community has also collapsed due to heavy impact of the flood. At present, no one goes into the community, nor comes out except by the use of local boat.
Nobody talks about farm crops in the affected areas. Flood has swept all the farmlands and left the residents in severe hunger.
A former councillor in Abual/Odual, Toghoni Okwa, told journalist that the flood in the area has become a yearly occurrence. He lamented that the impact of this year’s flood was more severe than the 2012 flood.
Also, in Rumuekini in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the State, particularly in an area called Rumuodo in School Road, flood has displaced over 5,000 persons with over 2,000 houses submerged. Residents decried of snake bites which have led to untimely deaths of some flood victims.
One of the residents, Gabriel Benedict, said: “I live in School Road in Rumuekini. The flood has chased us away from our homes; we have no place to stay, some persons have fallen sick and some died. Yet, nobody cares. We are calling on government to come to our aid, the flood keeps re-occurring”.
Another resident, Mr. Benneth Nelson, said: “Obviously, we have been having this type of challenge since 2017, and we have been crying to government and yet no nobody cares, no help has come our way.
“We swim in water everyday. It is the construction at Obiri Ikwere flyover to airport road that has worsened the situation. Our children no longer go to school because flood has taken over the whole street and schools. The flood in Rumuekini is beyond what individuals can do. We are really suffering; we need urgent attention”.
Speaking on the issue, the chairman of Rumuodo community in Rumuekini, Mr. Nnamdi Owhor, appealed to the State government and relevant authorities to construct canals from the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital to the Choba river or from Obiri Ikwere to Rumokpuku canal to give access for the flood to flow out.
Similarly, most parts of Akabuka community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the State have been submerged with over 10,000 persons displaced.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no plan for the flood victims. A visit to the area showed some displaced persons packing and relocating to unknown destinations, while some were directed by the Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman of Akabuka, Mr. Ikechukwu Sam, and the CDC Vice chairman, Isaac Owhor, to move into Government Secondary School, Akabuka, pending the intervention of government authorities and oil companies operating in the area.
The Akabuka CDC chairman, said: “It is sad to see that with this huge impact of flood in our community with no single person living in the area again. There is no iota of help from anyone, neither government, nor oil companies operating in this area.
“There are wild animals like snakes, crocodiles and lots more in water. We are exposed to risk; we are, therefore, appealing to the federal, state, local governments and the oil companies and public spirited individuals to come to our aid, we are dying”, he expressed.
The community secretary, Mr. Shield Okoroma, and the community woman leader have described the situation as painful and disturbing. They lamented the danger the flood has caused them and appealed to government to respond swiftly to their plights.
The CDC vice chairman, Isaac Oku, decried that their children fall sick regularly as a result of the flood. He noted the rampart neumonia and body rashes have become serious endemic in their community.
However, some human rights activists have blamed the ravaging flooding to lack of disaster and action plan by the government to alleviate the challenge.
Speaking on the development, a Port Harcourt-based gender and Human Rights activist, Constance Meju, said: “Flood is something that happens every year in this part of the region. Unfortunately, government does not have plans to address the flooding.
“We had massive flooding in 2012; there was enough warnings this year. The non-action of government on the flooding is terrible. The oil companies should also help because some of these things are caused by their exploration activities.
“Government needs to have disaster plan and it is worrisome that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is doing nothing. They need to be proactive and be alive to their responsibilities, draw out an action plan for flooding,” she stated.
Meanwhile, following the flood which has ravaged the coastal communities across Ekpeye communities, the Ekpeye Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs has inaugurated a 13-man committee to evolve a strategy to control flooding in the affected communities in the two local government of Ahoada East and Ahoada West areas of the the State.
Inaugurating the committee recently, at the Ekpeye Council House in Ahoada Town, Felix Otuwarikpo, said the steps became necessary to proffer solution to the flooding challenges confronting the people of Ekpeye.
Daily Sun gathered that the committee was put in place by the Eze Ekpeye Logbo In-Council. Members of the committee, according to a community source, would work hand-in-hand with the traditional rulers, Uzugbani Ekpeye and other groups, to identify flash points for flood disaster and, to solicit assistance from corporate organisations doing business in Ekpeyeland and from prominent Ekpeye sons and daughters.
Eze Otuwarikpo, who is the Regent of Ekpeye, said: “As a result of the flash floods that have adversely affected most communities, especially in the riverine areas of Ekpeye, we plan to carry out, through the flood committee, an assessment tour of communities so affected by this unforeseen natural disaster.
“Among others, the committee is to ascertain the impact of the floods; the number of communities affected; public property affected; the extent of damage to communities and suggest measures that could assist us in the pursuit for succour from governments and corporate bodies”, he noted.