By Kolade Larewaju, Abeokuta
FOR residents of Isheri, Warewa, Mile 12 and other communities on the beds of the Ogun River in Ogun and Lagos states, these are certainly not the best of times. Some have lost their homes, some their shops and means of livelihood they have laboured for all their lives.
This was no thanks to the flood of the last two weeks arising from heavy down pour and the opening of the Oyan Dam, owned by the Ogun/Oshun River Basin Authority. For building and doing business along the river bed, virtually everything they own has been swept away. Those whose buildings are still standing can only go in with canoes to see what they can salvage.
Badly affected in the areas include private schools, several companies, shops and houses now under lock and keys by the owners without knowing when it would be possible for them to regain access to that which is their own.
Trouble started for them last week Sunday evening when tidal surge sacked the entire communities along the area. It was said to have started because of the decision of the Ogun/Oshun River Basin Authority to open its dam to let out some water as it was already filled to the brim following the incessant rainfall which has confounded many people. Because of the surge, houses, shops, schools and farms in the areas were submerged leaving people to scamper for dear lives.
The owners of the properties have since been blaming the River Basin Authority for their woes. But the River Basin counters by saying that it had done nothing wrong in releasing the water, insisting that it would have been more disastrous if the dam was allowed to collapse. The organisation believes that most of the properties destroyed were those on the river beds which should have been green areas.
Public Relations Officer of the River Basin, Mr. Femi Dokumu had this to say on the matter: “We will continue the release of water as long as the heavy rain fall being experienced now continues. We had earlier informed the general public through our press releases that we would be releasing the water before now”.
But one of the residents of the area who also runs a small manufacturing outfit beside his house, Chief Abiodun Okediji, blamed everything on Ogun/Oshun, saying: “Are those people not stupid? Should they wait till the dam is full before releasing the water full blast? Why can’t they open one of their valves and let the water run out slowly instead of waiting until the dam is full and then opening all the valves at the same time? Those people should be held responsible.
“People in this Isheri area have lost all what they laboured for in life. I have moved my family to my junior brother’s house in Ijanikin and these children attend schools in Ikeja. Can you imagine what we are going through even when our means of livelihood has been destroyed?”
The Federal Government, has however, through the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] ordered the release of relief materials to the victims of the flood as interim measures to address their plight.
The Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Sidi who announced the development during a visit to the area said that the Federal Government could not watch its citizens suffer and pleaded with the state agencies to ensure that the materials get to the needy.
Governor Olugbenga Daniel of Ogun State was to raise the ante, saying that the Federal Government would have to do more by declaring the whole axis as a disaster zone and to urgently come to the aid of the two state governments to ensure a permanent solution to the incessant flooding.
Governor Daniel who had inspected the affected areas told the NEMA boss who led officials of the agency to the state to assess the extent of the damage also warned that the long bridge linking Sagamu to Lagos may collapse following its continuous weakening by the flood.
He explained that the flooding had caused massive destruction of property, economic hardship and displacement of hundreds of people, noting that the problem requires immediate intervention from the Federal Government.
The Governor said apart from palliative measures put in place through the State Emergency Management Agency, the government had also set up a technical work group to find a lasting solution to the perennial flood problem on the course of the Ogun River.
He explained that the technical group advised through its preliminary report that only the construction of three massive artificial lakes in the affected areas would put a stop to the flooding.
He, however, said that since the construction would require major funding beyond the capacity of the State Government, Governor Daniel said that the Federal Government should immediately come to the aid of the State.
He said this year had been a most challenging one for Ogun in terms of natural disasters recalling that a major rainstorm ravaged Sagamu four months ago destroying over fifty houses and several school buildings adding that another rainstorm ravaged the capital city of Abeokuta destroying four major bridges and several houses. He however described the flood in the Isheri axis as “well beyond the capacity of the state because of the scope of the disaster”.