• Seven die in flash floods, many others displaced
From FRED ITUA
Last Thursday, another tragedy hit Abuja, the nation’s capital, following an early-morning downpour. In one of the elite estates located at Lokogoma District, a few metres from the legislators’ quarters, a family lost three people to the incident.
One of the deceased, Kenneth, was said to be a resident of IPENT 5 Estate in Lokogoma. He was allegedly taking his two children to summer lessons around 7am in a Honda SUV, when he ran into the flash flood at PENGASSAN Estate, Phase 2 junction, which overwhelmed the vehicle, killing all three occupants.
According to witnesses, the man and his children met their untimely death because the man resisted a warning from some passersby who saw the force of the flood and advised him to wait till the water subsided.
After the accident, the director-general of the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Idris Abbas, told newsmen that his team got to the place late when some residents had already evacuated the bodies of the man and his two children.
“My team got to the place late; the dead bodies of the man and his children had been rescued by some locals. We could not carry out further assessment of the situation because of the angry mob on the scene.
“We also gathered that the dead bodies had been deposited at the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi,” Abbass said.
But the chairman of PENGASSAN Estate, who was part of the rescue team, Mr. Imoudu Okpogha, said that flooding has been a nightmare that residents of all the estates in Lokogoma have continued to grapple with.
Okpogha told newsmen that flooding has made life unbearable for residents of Lokogoma estates.
According to him, the various residents’ associations have cried out to the Federal Capital Territory Development Authority (FCDA) to provide basic infrastructure within the area, but their cries not received any attention.
“We call on the FCT Minister to come to our aid. In this place, once it begins to rain, we don’t go out of the area and if we are outside we can’t come in, our children cannot go to school because of the raging flood, coupled with the bad roads.
“During the last Ramadan, some of the residents were forced to break their fast on the road because there was a flood that lasted for hours and prevented people from getting to their homes.
“As you can see, we don’t have roads in the many estates in Lokogoma, and this is how we suffer each time the rainy season begins,” Okpogha said.
Last Thursday’s incidence was not the first in Abuja this year. In June, a member of the board of trustees of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Olisaemeka Akamukalem, drowned in a flood in Gwarinpa District of Abuja.
Akamukalem, who hailed from Delta State, died when his jeep was overpowered by heavy flood, after a torrential rainfall.
In the Dei Dei area of Abuja, a heavy downpour wreaked havoc in July, killing about three residents of the area. Houses were destroyed, while property worth millions of naira were also affected during a downpour.
Mararaba, a suburb in neighbouring Nasarawa State, has also witnessed heavy rains. Houses and residents have suffered damage in the frequent downpours in the overcrowded area.
From the foregoing, FEMA appears not to be ready to face the disasters. Apart from its warning, which has become a yearly ritual, it has not put any measures in place to relocate residents in the identified flashpoints.
In Kubwa, Gwarimpa, Wuse, Lugbe, Utako and other areas, the level of awareness is very low. Many residents are unaware of the warnings and have no plans to relocate before the tsunami strikes.
Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kuje, the other identified flashpoints, are not exempted from the lack of preparedness.
Some residents, especially those in the lowland and other places prone to flooding had been advised to move to higher ground to escape disaster.
FEMA director, Idriss, said that the agency was worried because, beside disregarding the warning from the authorities, human activities that encouraged flooding were on the increase within the FCT. He noted that the agency has consistently carried out sensitisation campaigns in all the flood-prone areas to ensure that disasters are averted.
According to him, “It is imperative for all the residents to adhere to all the early warnings. I am not happy that people are to responding well to the early warnings we issue to them.
“At the moment, we are prepared for any eventuality. We are concentrating much effort on the area councils, because the places are far from the city centre, where we have response teams.
“We have also embarked on recruitment of volunteers for emergency prevention and management. The agency has provided a 112 toll-free emergency line for every FCT resident to take advantage of.”
Stakeholders in Abuja are still worried about the inaccurate rain predictions issued by the FCT Administration. For instance, in the predictions issued by FEMA this year, Gwarimpa was not included as one of the flashpoints.
Similarly, Dei-Dei and Lokogoma, were not listed as part of the districts to be affected by flood. Again, FEMA has not reviewed its predictions for the year to accommodate new places, which were hitherto not captured.
For now, no one can tell the next district or area that would be submerged by flood. Also, camps or shelters, where victims displaced by flood could be relocated to, are yet to be provided by FEMA.
Findings by Daily Sun, showed that no serious awareness campaign has been carried out by FEMA. Residents that our reporter interviewed said they only read about victims of flood, but no newspaper, radio or television advertisement has been done to create awareness about the looming disaster.