Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Communities in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta local government areas of Imo State have surrendered to fate, following the annual flood that ravages their homes and farms. The two council areas reputed for their agricultural endowments are yet to find answers to the yearly plague that befalls their communities.
While many communities in the state count their blessings during rainy season, these communities gnash their teeth while hopelessly waiting for a permanent solution to the flooding that has reduced the economic and social activities of the area.
This year was no exception, as the disaster seemed to have escalated rather than subsided. For instance, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Abia/Imo zonal office, which accompanied the deputy governor, Gerald Ironna, when he visited the site on Saturday, July 13, said the number of displaced persons was 2,000, while 60 houses were submerged.
But just after two days’ downpour in the areas, the number of displaced persons rose astronomically to 6,000, while submerged houses also extended to 6,000 from the 15 communities of Abacheke, Ezi Orsu, Orsu Obodo, Mmahu, Abor, Okolochi, Etekuru, Obiaakpu and Obile, others Oguta one and two and Umuorji.
The flood completely submerged some buildings, forcing the occupants to seek refuge in neighbouring communities. Besides, the flood destroyed most of their cash crops, while some were prematurely harvested. Similarly, those involved in fish farming counted their losses as the flood washed their fishes away.
One of the victims, Bonadventure Nzoma, a fish farmer from Mmahu, recounted his losses when the lawmaker representing Oguta, Oru West and Ohaji/Egbema Federal Constituency, Kingsley Uju, visited the flooded area to assess the damage.
According to Nzoma, 3,000 of his live fishes, including fingerlings and three crocodiles that he was rearing escaped as a result of the flood.
“I have been in this fish farming business for 11 years. I inherited it from my father; this year seemed to be different, the flood completely covered my fish pond, causing about 3,000 fishes to escape, including my fingerlings and three crocodiles,” Nzoma said.
The people’s ordeal did not end there, as there were lots of health hazards and dangers inherent in the disaster. In fact, the escape of the three crocodiles caused panic among residents. There were fears that the wild creatures would move into people’s homes or farms.
So far, the community has witnessed increased cases of malaria fever as a result of the flooding, while sand flies have taken over the place, reportedly sending residents to early sleep at night.
Youth leader of Mmahu, community, Godstime Amadi described the situation as pathetic. He put the cost of property the community has lost to the flood at over N200 million. Also, Mrs. Udoka Uzoma told our correspondent that she lost her furniture and food items to the flood.
“We have moved out of our homes, as you can see, we stay in other people’s homes without means of livelihood; the flood has damaged all that we have. We are appealing to the government to come to our rescue before we die of hunger and starvation,” Uzoma said.
At the time of Daily Sun’s visit, some of the residents were still trapped in the submerged farm settlements.
Places of worship in the communities were not spared; hence, the people forfeited their various churches on Sunday.
The Abia/Imo zonal director of NEMA, Evans Ugoh, has traced the cause of the flooding to the overflow of the Orashi River and the Oguta Lake.
He advised that embankments be built around the shore to curb the flow of water to the communities.
However, the House of Representatives member, Kingsley Uju, was not losing sleep over the matter. Having ascertained the level of damage, the lawmaker has promised to table the matter at the floor of the House, while also appealing to both the federal and state governments to come to the aid of the victims and the communities.
According to Uju, “Property worth millions of naira has gone with the flood. The people no longer have means of livelihood, as you can see, they are basically farmers, the flood has washed their crops away, leaving them in hunger, they have also been exposed to humanitarian crisis, many are bedridden as a result of mosquito bites accompanied by the flood, we appeal to the federal government and the state to quickly come to the aid of these people.”