By Ola Ajayi
NO fewer than eight buildings, vehicles, motorcycles and household items were among properties swept away on Tuesday, June 20, during a six-hour downpour in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Several parts of the city were also submerged.Though no lives were reported lost, the flood destroyed valuables worth millions of Naira as the torrential rain which lasted between the hours of 3:00 and 9:00am will go down as one of the worst in recent times.
Analysts said that the incident brought back the memory of the August 26, 2011 flood disaster. The state government, in anticipation of a flood disaster, spent millions of naira to dredge rivers and streams. The measures failed on Tuesday as water channels overflowed their banks and flooded a good number of areas in the city.
The Ogunpa River channels, dredged in the 1980s during the administration of the late Bola Ige after the Ogunpa flood disaster, could not contain the flow of water, which spilled over which the rain lasted.
Some of those affected were a Celestial Church of Christ at Orogun and the University of Ibadan axis of the city, which were submerged by flood waters. Witness said one person was trapped in the deluge but was quickly rescued by sympathisers and men of the state fire service. According to residents, a bulldozer belonging to a contractor dredging the Orogun River was swept away and hung under a bridge, which was submerged by the flood.
At Gbekuba, Oke-Ayo, Odo-Ona, Gada and Omi-Adio in Ido Local Government Area, where Governor Abiola Ajimobi hails from, homes and farmlands were submerged by the flood. The flood made the Ibadan-Abeokuta Expressway at Omi-Adio impassable. Most traders at the popular Omi-Adio Market lost their goods; the abandoned Magistrates’ Court was also submerged by the flood.
At Olodo in Ibadan, eight houses were reportedly submerged. Vehicles and motorcycles were swept away while many residents were sacked from their homes. Adisa Isola, state commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, said the government made efforts to avert the incident, and blamed the flooding on those who built houses and shops on water channels.
He said: “Many people are complying with environmental laws in the state now. We started preparing for this in December 2016 through a World Bank assisted project. Fourteen rivers and streams were dredged. This year, we have dredged 36 streams and rivers. This cannot be repeated every year because it is just a palliative measure. That is why we are working on three master plans for Ibadan that will take care of this issue. The attitude of our people is responsible for this flooding. They have refused to obey the setback rules and instead, they build houses on river channels. It puts pressure on the drainage channels.”
Oluwole Olusegun, public relations officer of the Oyo State Command of the NSCDC, disclosed that a team, led by John Adewoye, the state commandant, rescued many people who were trapped in the floods. Nevertheless, he said: “Some people were, however, adamant on staying in their homes until the flood waters recorded.”
History of Ibadan flooding: Since 1955 when the flood disaster that started from Ogunpa and Kudeti rivers ravaged Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State killing hundreds of people, residents of the state have been living in palpable fear whenever the rainy season approaches. Looking at the frequency of flooding in the peaceful city, it will not be out of place to say it has become a recurring decimal which at times leaves heavy casualties. There is hardly a year when the state will not experience flooding though.
Heavy human and material losses
Findings revealed that the state had experienced flooding in 1960, 1961, 1963, 1969, 1978, 1980, 2011, 2013, 2016 and other years. Of all flood disasters in the city, that of 1980 and August 2011 still remain fresh in the consciousness of the residents and even outsiders as a result of the heavy human and material losses that were left behind.
On February 2, 2016, it was providence that made a pastor and his family at a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Apata area of Ibadan, escape being swept away by flood after a torrential rainfall. Also, property estimated at N1billion was lost to the flood, especially in Agbebukola and Abidogun markets, Omi-Adio in Ido Local Government Area.
Just as the state was heaving a sigh of relief due to the efforts of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi led administration, another flood was again recorded last Tuesday though in a low magnitude when compared with the previous ones.
Having been warned by meteorologists that Oyo State was one of the states that would likely experience downpour this year, Governor Ajimobi has tackled the problem headlong. While receiving members of the National Environment Standard and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) recently, the state government through the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr Isaac Ishola told the agency that “The state government has embarked on sensitization programmes and dredging of rivers and streams has started in preparations for the heavy rains. Our administration is responsive and we attach seriousness to the business of governance. We also have respect for the sanctity of human lives and this is why we have put necessary machinery in motion to prepare for the heavy rains,” the commissioner explained.
The Commissioner reiterated that two mobile environmental tribunal courts already approved by the government, sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, and the State Waste Management Authority to prosecute sanitation offenders, stressing that prosecuting the offenders is not to place hardship nor to increase revenue but to ensure compliance with the State Environmental Sanitation and Waste management regulations.
Mr. Ishola, who revealed that the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA) has reported Oyo State as being among the states that will experience downpour this year, promised that the state government has put all hands on deck to ensure a clean and safe environment. Despite the proactive measures by the state government, the unwanted ‘stranger’ still came calling on Tuesday and wreked havoc.
According to Ishola, flooding is caused majorly by the unhygienic attitude of the people. He lamented that most people, despite elaborate enlightenments done to discourage them, still dump refuse into drainages. When Vanguard went round the city, especially markets it was observed that refuse is dumped indiscriminately and bushes have grown in most drainages which blocks the free flow of water.
The commissioner said people have been told to clear the bush around them. Another factor he listed as the cause is a lack of a tangible masterplan for the city. He noted that people build houses without proper planning on waterways.
Steps by Ajimobi’s govt: When speaking with Vanguard on the Tuesday’s minor flooding, the environment commissioner said it would have been worse if the government had not done anything. He said, “the state government is doing so many things to prevent flooding. We have since embarked upon dredging of rivers, especially the ones that are vulnerable to flooding.”
Just in May 2017, the government said 24 rivers would be dredged as part of the proactive measures to mitigate against flooding in the state and also ordered removal of about 200 illegal structures at Ojoo Round-about, Ojoo Area in Ibadan. The government noted that the rivers have been approved for dredging through the World Bank assisted project, Ibadan Urban Flood management, stressing that the measures are part of the measures taken by the government in preparedness for the heavy downpour.
The Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Isaac Ishola, who revealed this during a visit to Ikere Dam, Ikere Village, Iseyin on Thursday, explained that there is ongoing sensitization to ensure total compliance with the environmental sanitation rules and regulations to educate the citizens on the need to avert flood.