By Egufe Yafugborhi & Davies Iheamnachor
It is understandable that as one of the high risk states listed to experience looming destructive flooding this year, Rivers State was quick to identify five local governments areas, including Ahoada West, Ahoada East, Ogba/Egbama/Ndoni and Abua, among the flash points.
These localities, except Obia Akpor, were worst hit in 2012 when crushing flooding was experienced in the state.
Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Emergency and Relief Services, Chris Berewari, while identifying the areas, said, “Entire Rivers State is a danger area, but we expect it more around Orashi areas, Ahoada, Omoku.”
Obia Akpor was pictured as the fifth locality of concern.
The state Commissioner for Special Duties, Emeka Onowu, said, “Obia Akpor came into the envisaged flash points because of Elekha and Rukpokwu axis where we experienced flooding also last year.”
However, even before the recent warnings by relevant bodies, residents in some parts of the state have been grappling with flooding even before the rains peaked.
Worst hit are residents of Nkpolu-Rumuigbo in Obia-Akpor as well as those in Oyigbo and some quarters in NTA area. For several weeks now, Nkpolu flood has sacked several residents as water overflowed the community into East West Road, covering over a kilometer of that major road which has become impassable, disrupting business and destroying properties.
Jane Okoro, who just moved out of Nkpolu, told Sunday Vanguard, “House rent here is now cheapest in Rivers because of the flooding. Imagine sleeping and it begins to rain and you wake up scared because your house is going to be flooded.
“Since the beginning of this week, I have not sold any item because the streets are covered with flood water; customers cannot come here because the water is knee-high.
“It is really embarrassing. This is the home community for several natives. Everybody can’t run away like us who are not indigenes. Government should really help us do something about the flooding.”
Head Chief of Nkpolu-Rumuigbo, Eze Amaehula Chindah, also speaking on the situation, said, “Since the construction of the new road from the boundary of Rumuigbo to Rumuahiolu, the whole water is channeled towards the junction and it does not flow very well. The other part of the road has been occupied by some inhabitants and this does not give room for the passage of natural water.”
Without clearing the drains in Nkpolu Junction, the traditional authority noted, the people’s plight could only get worse with further flooding.
John Amadi, one of worried residents at the bank of the neighborhood canal in Rumuahiolu, said, “Last year our homes were submerged and many of us forced out of their houses. More have run away this year. The canal is a major concern. We are always apprehensive as excess water from the canal always submerges our homes.”
The situation is not different in Oyigbo where many have been sacked by the increasingly rising floods.
Special Duties Commissioner, Onowu, speaking on pre-emptive measures taken ahead of the warning by relevant agencies, said, “Governor Nyesom Wike has approved one IDP camp for Aluu in Ikwerre local government area and another in Ahoada.
“We are looking at about 67,000 persons. We did a memo to the governor which he graciously approved so we can put the camps in order, get mattresses, de-roof and reroof places needed to be fixed and immediately we will begin to evacuate people.
“The governor has warned that he doesn’t want to lose a life to the flood. Properties he noted can be lost and replace, but not life.
“We have visited these high risks localities and the respective local government chairmen have been working with us”.
On his part, Berewari said, “We are trying to educate residents of flood prone areas on how to lessen the effect in case it comes”.
South-South Zonal Director of NEMA, Dr. Martins Ejike, said the agency had put in place action plans on how to tackle the looming disaster.
Ejike, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, said, “We did an appraisal of our activities. We will identify areas we have done well and areas we have not. We will identify the resources needed in our activities. Disaster is all about saving lives and all of us have what we do to that regards”.
On self inflicted internal flooding due to careless blockade of major drains and construction on natural drain channels, Prof Rosaline Konya, Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, urged residents to desist from such habits.
Rivers excluded from N3b intervention fund – Activist
Meanwhile, an environmental activist, Meshack Oyi, says Rivers State is not among the states to benefit from the Federal Government N3billion intervention fund on flooding.
The Nigerian Hydrological Service Agency had, in its May Annual Flood Outlook for 2018, allegedly excluded Rivers from the states to be affected by flooding, but the environmental activist maintained that communities in Orashi region of the state are experiencing river flooding and not coastal flooding predicted by the hydrological agency.
He said, “The fund released would not be used to help ameliorate the suffering of people affected in Rivers. I am calling on them to please look at their prediction again to understand that the river flooding they predicted is also affecting Rivers among other states they listed.
“Orashi is a major tributary to the River Niger and the river has overflowed its banks, Orashi has overflowed its banks, hence the flooding of some the communities along the Orashi River. If it continues like this, we could get to the 2012 impact.”