George Onyejiuwa and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha, has lamented constant flooding of Owerri, the state capital and its suburbs whenever there was a heavy rainfall, saying the situation has become worrisome.
Ihedioha stated this yesterday, when he received the reports on review of the remote causes of incessant flooding of Owerri by members of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigeria Institution of Town and Urban Planners, Nigeria Institute of Architects and Nigeria Association of Landscape Environmentalists.
“Flooding has become a menace in this state and the flooding in Owerri is of great concern that was why I asked you, the experts to review the situation and make recommendations on how to tackle the menace as part of efforts in rebuilding our battered state. I thank you for your contributions and we have confidence that your efforts will not be in vain,” he said.
The governor, who set up a task team to coalesce the various reports for easy implementation, appointed Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, an environmental architect and former vice chancellor of Imo State University as chairman of the task team.
Earlier, the experts stated in their reports that the major causes of the incessant flooding witnessed in Owerri was as a result of the non-enforcement of the 1978 master plan of the state capital and the blockage of various underground tunnels and building of houses on drainage way.
They also identified the activities of illegal dredging at Otamiri and Nworie, which they pointed out have submerged the discharge points instead of being on the surface. They also urged the state government to check the dumping of refuse into the drainage system, dredging of the river banks to remove all buildings along the tunnels and green verges.
Meanwhile, NSE Chairman, Luke Uzoigwe, has recommended de-commissioning of the two tunnels at the Concorde and state Assembly junctions from use as tunnels have become more of a death trap because of the structural defects. He said the integrity test conducted revealed that edges of the tunnels have become weak as a result of the poor quality materials and terrible engineering works.
In a related development, downpour witnessed in the early hours of Sunday in the state has increased the number of displaced persons to 6,000 as against 200 reported recently in Oguta Local Government Area flood disaster.
Lawmaker representing Oguta, Oru West and Ohaji/Egbema federal constituency, Kingsley Uju, said currently, over 200 houses from 15 communities in two local government areas of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta have been submerged.
The lawmaker, who was on assessment tour of the flood ravaged agrarian communities on Monday, also disclosed that some of the victims are still trapped in their farms as a result of the flood. He, however, appealed to the National Emergency Maritime Agency (NEMA) to send an emergency rescue team to save the farmers, while calling on the Federal Government and the state to come to the aide of the displaced victims.
Uju has also expressed fears that 80 percent of indigenes of the various communities may lose their homes as the rain intensifies except urgent help comes their way.
“I am afraid 80 per cent more of these people may lose their homes before the rain subsides, if something drastic is not done, it may result to even humanitarian crisis such as health and economic challenges. On my own part, I am going to table the matter at the floor of the House.”
One of the victims of the flood disaster, Bonadventure Nzoma, who is a fish farmer disclosed that he has lost over N11 million to the disaster, recasting that he lost over 300 fishes including fingerlings and three crocodiles.
Meanwhile, Abia/Imo zonal director of NEMA, Evans Ugoh, who accompanied the lawmaker on the assessment tour has attributed the main cause of the flood to the topographic nature of the communities surrounded by the Orashi River and Oguta Lake.
Some of the communities affected according to the lawmaker are Mmahu, Etekuru, Obiaakpu, Abor, Oguta one and two, Ezi Orsu, Orsu Obodo, Umuorji, Abacheke and others.