By Davies Iheamnachor
BILLE—THE people of Bille Kingdom, comprising riverine oil-bearing communities in Degema Local Government Area, Rivers State, have screamed at the State Government over the devastation caused to their homelands by flood and erosion, warning that the territory was on the verge of annihilation.
They complained that flood overtakes the communities on monthly basis because they are situated below water level.
Speaking to Niger Delta Voice, the Community Development Committee, CDC Chairman of Bille Kingdom, Mr. Igbanibo Kemuel, said the flooding was causing strange sickness within the communities.
Kemuel urged the government to salvage the community by sand filling the area, saying: “For some time, we have been having flood occasioned by the high tide. It is a monthly event, but the recent water that is entering the community is beyond our imagination. Our land is below water level and we have been coping with it, but this time round, the intensity is devastating. All buildings close to the water front have been submerged; human beings cannot leave in their houses again until the water recedes, while properties have been damaged.
“The water system we have is tide water where we have ebb tide and flow tide, this means that every six hours, people in these houses have to vacate their homes. Elderly people in the community now take refuge in some churches that are elevated.”
His words: “The flooding is affecting us, it is washing away nutrients from our land and it exposes us to extreme cold. When the flood comes, it enters into our wells, because we do not have pipe borne water, people still drink the well water that has been mixed with salt water like that and this is causing a lot of sicknesses.
“There is always the problem of cholera because flood pushes all kinds of things into the communities; we are calling on the government to improve the health care system in our communities. They should give us drugs to take care of health challenges we are facing.”
Bille Kingdom Chiefs Council, BKCC, in a letter handed over to the Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalipo Banigo, in August, said: “Your Excellency, Bille communities located along the shorelines is in dire need of sand filling and shore protection. In view of the location of these communities, they experience twin disasters of flood and erosion, commonly associated with coastal communities.”
“To curb the menace, we request the state government’s intervention through the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and other agencies to come to our rescue before our communities are completely washed away by the devastation of erosion and flood. “If for nothing, we hinge our plea on the fact that we are major contributor to the economy of the three-tier of government in the country. Proudly, we are hosts to enormous oil and gas, currently the main stay of Nigeria’s economy. Your quick intervention in this respect would be greatly appreciated,” the council stated.
Kenuel, who also spoke on solution to the predicament, said: “The issue is beyond the community to handle. It requires government intervention. The government should help us to reclaim the land. The government should sand fill the water fronts and embark on piling in the community.
“Opobo community was experiencing it too, but the government did sand filling and pilling and the problem stopped. We want the government to do same in our community to save us from this problem..
“As a kingdom we produce the wealth of the nation, the government should please pay attention to our plight,” he added.