• FCTA warns residents to brace up for heavy rains
It is another rainy season. Like in 2012 and in 2017, when heavy rainfalls wrecked havoc in many residential parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 2018 may not be so different. Already, some residents are already gnashing their teeth and counting their losses. More lamentations may follow in the coming weeks if the admonition offered by the FCT Administration (FCTA) is not heeded by residents.
On Saturday, June 2, Ambrose Umelelle 26 and Esther Aka 20, residents of a border community, Kokosuz, between the FCT and Nasarawa State, lost their lives. They died, following a heavy downpour in Abuja, which lasted for several hours. Eyewitnesses linked the heavy downpour to a dam in the area. They claimed that the dam gave way during the downpour and that houses were overtaken by flood.
The deceased were among the four whose vehicle was carried away by the flood. One of the passengers was, however, lucky as he was reported to have jumped out of the vehicle, thereby saving his life. The remaining other passenger was searched for by the Search and Rescue team of the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and recovered two days later.
The permanent secretary, Chinyeaka Ohaa, currently acting for the minister of FCT, who paid a condolence visit to families of the victims, said engineers have been directed to study the situation and guide against future occurrence: “I have directed that our team of engineers should be dispatched to study the situation with a view to stemming future occurrence. From all indications this is a natural disaster. I am happy that our team is on ground for the search and rescue operations.”
Acting deputy director, Forecasting, Response and Mitigation, Florence Wenegieme, indicated that upon receiving the information on Saturday night, the agency immediately arrived the location of the incident and swung into action. She said the efforts yielded results when they recovered the bodies of the two dead persons early Sunday morning, as well as the Toyota Siena, Space-wagon in which they were travelling:
“We have gone as far as three kilometres into the waterway without seeing the body, the search continues.” She also reported that the river bisecting the community and neighbouring Nasarawa State had risen above its banks on account of massive rains and consequent flood from the neighbouring hills overwhelming the box culverts and overflowing the roads. Many of the road users were forced to wait on the banks of the flood when the driver of the Siena wanted to try his luck
Meanwhile, the FCTA called on the residents to be very alert to possibilities of flood as the rainy season enters its peak in the coming months. It also reiterated its constant call on residents to avoid illegal developments as well as dumping of refuse on water rights-of-way.
In 2017, similar warnings were issued by the administration. Sadly, however, over eight deaths caused by rainfall, happened in Abuja in 2017. In August of 2017, a family of three in one of the elite estates located at Lokogoma District, just few metres away from the highbrow legislators’ quarters, lost three people to heavy flooding.
One of the deceased, identified as Kenneth was a resident of IPENT 5 Estate in Lokogoma. He was taking his two children to a summer lessons around 7am in a Honda SUV, when he ran into the flash flood at Pengassan Estate, Phase 2 junction, which over overpowered the car, killing all the three occupants.
According to eye witnesses, the man and his children met their untimely death because the man resisted a warning offered by some people who saw the force of the flood and advised him to wait till the water subsided.
Director General of FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Idris Abbas, said:
“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.”
But the chairman of Pengassan Estate, one of the adjourning places in the area, who also was part of the rescue team, Mr. Imoudu Okpogha, said that flooding is a nightmare that residents of all the estates in Lokogoma have continued to grapple with. He flooding menace has made life unbearable to the residents of Lokogoma estates: “Various residents associations cried out to the Federal Capital Territory Development Authority (FCDA) to provide basic infrastructure within the area, but their cries never 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 road.
“During the last Ramadan, some of the residents were forced to braek their fast on the road because there was a heavy flood that lasted for hours and prevented people from getting to their homes.”
In June of the same year, a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling 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 Dei Dei area of Abuja, heavy downpour wrecked serious havoc in the area in July of 2017, killing about three residents of the area. Houses were destroyed, while property worth millions of naira were also affected during a heavy downpour.
From the foregoing, FEMA appears not to be ready to face the looming anarchy. Apart from its warning, which has become a yearly ritual, it has not put any measures on ground to relocate residents in the identified flash points.
In Kubwa, Gwarinpa, Wuse, Lugbe, Utako and other places for instance, the level of awareness is very low. Many residents in these areas are unaware of the warnings and have no plans to relocate before the tsunami will strike. Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kuje, the other identified flashpoints, are not exempted from the lack of preparedness.
Some residents, especially those on lowlands and other prone to flooding in places like Kubwa, Gwagwalada, Abaji, and Kuje, were advised to move to higher grounds to escape disaster. Idriss, said the agency was worried because, beside paying deaf ears to the warning by residents, human activities that encourage flooding were on the increase within the territory. He noted that the agency has consistently carried out sensitization campaigns in all the flood prone areas to ensure that looming disasters are averted:
“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 issued 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 team.
“We have also embarked on recruitment of volunteers for emergency prevention and management. The agency has provided 112 toll free emergency lines for every FCT resident to take advantage of.”
Stakeholders in Abuja are, however, worried about the inaccurate rain predictions issued by the FCTA. For instance, in the predictions issued by FEMA this year, Gwarinpa where a chieftain of APC drowned in flood was not included as one of the flash points.
Similarly, Dei-Dei and Lokogoma, were also 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 will be submerged by flood. Also, temporal camps or places are yet to be provided by FEMA where victims displaced by flood will be relocated.
Findings by Daily Sun showed that no serious awareness campaign has been carried out by FEMA. Those interviewed said they only read about victims of flood, but that no newspaper, radio or television advertisements have been made to create awareness about the looming disaster.