Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Residents of more than 40 communities in Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum, Ogbaru and Awka North local government areas (LGAs) of Anambra State have literally opened books of lamentations, following heavy floods that wreaked havoc on their homes and farmlands.
At the moment, two pregnant women and four men have been reported dead, food crops, homes and properties worth several millions of naira were destroyed even as economic activities in the affected communities have been halted. The flooding, which has been a recurring decimal in the state since 2012, Daily Sun gathered, usually occurred whenever the River Niger in Onitsha broke its banks and pushed large volumes of water backwards to other rivers and water bodies directly connected to it.
Anambra East and West as well as Ayamelum and Ogbaru LGAs host riverine communities. In Awka North LGA, Ugbene and Awba-Ofemili communities are usually affected because of their proximity to the Ezu River that connects the River Niger.
Residents of these communities, who are predominantly farmers, at the moment, are writhing in pain. Their farmlands, which are their main source of livelihood, and their property have been submerged, making them flee their homes.
The lawmaker representing Anambra West Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Patrick Obalim-Udoba, told Daily Sun that all the communities in his constituency have been submerged by the floodwaters.
Obalim-Udoba lamented that most of his constituents were camping in various locations in Anambra East LGA and in Onitsha.
“Many farmlands were destroyed in many communities in my constituency, Anambra West. It has also rendered most of them homeless. That is also the situation in Anambra East, Ogbaru, and Ayamelum. I saw the one of Awka North yesterday.
“The flood is too much. We are pleading with the Federal Government to give us a helping hand on this matter; at least, dredge the River Niger so that the river would be deep enough to contain it. That’s my major concern.
“This year’s flooding covered 100 per cent of my constituency. I toured everywhere and I found no land. At the moment, my people are taking refuge in Otuocha headquarters, Unity Primary School in Umuoba Anam, Holy Trinity and New Bethel, Onitsha,” the lawmaker lamented.
Obalim-Udoba, who added that his people passed through the harrowing experience annually, said, if the Federal Government would dredge the River Niger, it would help a lot in containing the floodwaters.
“The flooding happens every year because our area is a riverine one. It comes normally from August to September. That is the time. But what we are saying is that the Federal Government needs to dredge the River Niger, starting from River Benue, so that it will be deeper.
“We started having these experiences since 2012 when the flood was so heavy and since that 2012, we still experience this. We normally have flooding but in our various communities, we still held our activities.
“But this time around, it will take over every place such that you cannot see any land. And that has been happening since 2012. That is our problem and I am pleading with the Federal Government to look into that.
“They should either build a dam or dredge it down to River Niger. Recently, we saw some barges landing at the Onitsha River Port. But if the flood recedes, by December no barge will come there because everywhere is land,” he said.
A farmer, Mr. Ikechukwu Ekweoba, lamented that he lost everything to the flood. He also lamented that a canoe carrying four men and two pregnant women in the area capsized and all the occupants drowned. He appealed to the state and federal governments to come to their aid.
Mr. Michael Okafor-Nwofia, the chairman of More Days Group of Companies Nigeria Limited, was another victim whose house was also submerged. He appealed to the Federal Government to dredge the River Niger to put an end to the flooding menace.
He said: “The Federal Government equally needs to build dams down here, the same way it was done in some northern states of the country to help store the water each time it comes, to safeguard the socioeconomic development of my people.”
The business tycoon regretted that people in the area have been passing through hardship for a long time. He lamented that, annually, residents lose their livelihoods and property to flooding. He appealed to government to take urgent steps now to forestall a recurrence.
In Awka North, some sections of Ugbene and Awba-Ofemili communities have been submerged. A youth leader in Ugbene, Chinedu Nweke, told Daily Sun that many families in the two neighbouring communities were badly affected.
He lamented that farms were flooded and food crops worth several millions of naira were destroyed. In some areas, Chinedu said some farmers were still making frantic efforts to harvest crops that were not badly affected.
In Ogbaru LGA, more than 1,000 persons have been rendered homeless in four communities. The transition committee chairman of the council, Mr. Arinze Awogu, told newsmen in Awka, the state capital, that many farmlands were equally submerged: “Ogbaru is gradually but steadily going under water. Our farms have been submerged, especially the root crops. We are afraid that the situation would get worse. You know we are riverine and our occupation is agriculture.”
The state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, has equally lamented the menace that flooding poses to the area.
Obiano, who had an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari recently, lamented that some sections of his state have been submerged.
Obiano said: “Four of my local governments, that is four out of 21, are under water now as we speak because of this flood, and it affected a lot of things, property, which include farm produce and what have you.
“So, I called on Mr. President to assist us at this very crucial time of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, the flood we are experiencing this time around is like that of 2012, which is terrible.
“We have over 5,000 people displaced and we already prepared some receptacles where we received the displaced people. But they will need help now and also need help when the water is receding because they lost their property, which majorly include their produce, which was not harvested before this flood crept in.
“So, he promised to do something immediately. I believe Mr. President will be able to assist us to be able to support these families that have been displaced in this manner.”