From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Flooding has become a yearly natural disaster for residents of the riverine area of the Orashi, Rivers State, as they lament the hardship they face and how they survive. The people of Okwuzi, Ebocha in Ogba/Egbema Local Government and Ahoada West LG are also in desperate need of portable water and drugs to combat mosquitoes and snakebites.
The Eze Akugba of Umuokoroshi, Okwuzi Egbema, Eze Lucky, said five persons lost their lives: “We have recorded about five deaths in this community as a result of electric shock while they were trying to salvage their homes. When the season of flood comes, everywhere will be flooded, our crops damaged, a lot of property damaged. Since 2012, we have not rested.
“We lack a lot of things. Everything that will make human beings feel alright, we lack all of them, no good hospital here. The general hospital they built for us is not working for over 20 years ago. I don’t know what they are taking this particular community to be. We want government to intervene.”
Residents also vented their frustrations. Joy Enoch: “It is very painful because some of my property are damaged inside the river because of the flood. Even in my house, some of my windows have fallen off because of the flood. I don’t know if I can go back there again. Please, I am begging to the government to help us.”
Confidence Robinson, another resident, said: “Each time the year approaches that June, July and August, it starts getting me frightening because of the prediction that comes with the flood. It has really caused us a lot of damages that I cannot recall.
“In some of the submerged buildings, some persons would go and steal from the buildings like removing some of the glasses and sell. We are calling on the government to please come to our aid. The pains this flood has caused cannot be overemphasized. Some of us are attached to uncompleted buildings where we are exposed to mosquitoes, sickness and other kinds of afflictions.”
Dennis Nwama is a resident of Akinoniso in Egbema: “There is nothing we can really hold on to, and say this is what plans put in place by relevant authorities in order to alleviate the suffering of the people. It is unfortunate.
“We are really in pains and we don’t know who to cry to because this problem we are facing has been recurring incidence. Successive governments have failed us. As you can see, there is no single IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), camp built knowing fully well that this is something that happens on daily basis.”
Desmond Osuoka, another native: “The people of the Orashi demand that River Orashi be dredged and all canals opened in the area for a lasting solution. On the immediate, government at all levels and the multinational oil companies operating in the area should distribute relief materials to affected persons, medical attention is also needed.”
In Ahoada West LG, residents of Akinima, Jankarama and Mbiama said were forced to flee their houses to pitch their tents in East-West Road in search of high areas as the flood also affected the IDP camp used in previous years.
Paramount ruler of Mbiama, Smith Slyvanus, said: “About five persons are dead in Mbiama community being caused by mosquitoes and stress. People are living on the road as if they are animals. We have not seen any meducation or even a cup of rice for the people to sustain us during this period. We have not received any help from any arms of government.
“Since 2016, we have not felt the impact of the Federal Government. We feel as if we are not in Nigeria. I call on the Federal Government and multinational oil firms to come and try to dredge the Orashi River and the creeks. If this is done, the yearly flooding will be a thing of the past.”
Secretary, Mbiama Council of Chiefs, Chief Awari Ofoyi, said: “Mbiama is the third largest market in Rivers State. It is unfair to the people that no one has offered us a cup of rice to ameliorate our sufferings.”
Community treasurer, Elder Brown Egbo, lamented: “We lack healthcare services. We patronise unqualified medicine sellers and roadside pharmacy owners. Despite the surge of mosquito bites and unavailability of IDP camps, our people are sleeping by the roadside with no form of help.”
A non-governmental organisation, Social Action, expressed disappointment at the slow pace in rendering assistance to the displaced flood victims. Its Programme Officer, Prince Ekpere, told Daily Sun: “We have come here to find out the effect of the flood from the economic, agricultural wellbeing of the people. We are also here to find out the level of response given to them by the local, state and federal government.”