It was like the usual rainfall when it started in the evening of Friday, July 13. Those that could take cover did so, to allow the rains subside. Others, especially inside vehicles, headed towards their respective destinations within the Abeokuta metropolis unaware of a looming disaster. But after three intense hours, what began as showers of blessing had snowballed into a deluge of sorrow. Roads were flooded, bridges submerged, drainages overflowed and vehicles swept off. By the following morning, the extent of disaster had dawned on residents. Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, was literally steeped in a major catastrophe. Several lives were lost, with goods and property worth millions of Naira destroyed in the flooding that resulted from the downpour.
The havoc wreaked by the torrential rains practically confirmed the forecast of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMeT) earlier in the year. In its 2018 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction, NiMeT had listed Ogun as one of the states likely to experience severe flooding.
The agency’s forecast revealed rainfall and temperature outlook as well as the probable socio-economic implications of the projected weather patterns in some states of the federation.
Not a few in Ogun State thought the prediction would come to pass on the scale as witnessed over the weekend. Hitherto, the state government had allayed fears, saying flash floods could only occur in flood-prone communities and not the entire state.
The government said its Flood and Erosion Control Department had been mobilised to embark on the dredging of river/stream courses, as well as desilting of drainages in major towns in preparation for the rainy season to prevent flood disasters.
However, the aftermath of the rains showed that both flood-prone areas and locations far from flood threat were impervious. Notable areas affected by flooding in Abeokuta included Amolaso, Sapon, Isabo, Isale-Igbehin, Brewery, Sokori, Oke-Ilewo, Kuto, Oke Lantoro, Lanfenwa, Totoro, Ijaiye, and Kobiti, among others.
Apart from those killed, scores of other people were displaced as flooding ravaged their homes. Three of those killed included a food vendor identified as Halirat Akintobi and her two children. It was learnt that the food vendor was hiding inside her container shop located at Ilawo area near Kobiti Central Mosque, Abeokuta when the downpour started but were later trapped in the shop. They were washed off in the flood. Also, corpses of two children were recovered from Sokori River along Iyana Amolaso area in the state capital.
To forestall a breakdown of law and order, the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Iliyasu, deployed officers and men to join other personnel of disaster management agencies in bringing succour to the affected people.
One of the victims whose shops were destroyed at Amolaso area, Bisola Somuyiwa, said goods worth N5million were swept away by the flood. He urged the state government to render financial assistance to the victims.
The trader explained that her warehouse, which was stocked with a trailer load of soft drinks, three days before the incident, was also pulled down by the flood.
Another victim, Ismot Olayokun, told our correspondent that the flood submerged the two-storey building of his elder brother, who was away in the United States of America.
According to the woman, six vehicles parked within the building, electronics, household appliances, solar power system and other personal effects were destroyed during the incident.
Olayokun said: “Those that came to help us clear the mess are demanding N50,000 but we are pleading with them to collect N30,000. For our shops that were destroyed, they are also demanding N100,000 but we are still pleading with them to accept N80,000.
“Goods worth more than N3million were destroyed in my brother’s blocks of shops. We’ve lost a lot to the flood and we only hope the government will come to our aid.”
Another victim, Ayo Egbeyemi, who described himself as a car dealer, said five of the vehicles he put for sale were destroyed. He told New Telegraph that his friend who operated a nearby mechanic workshop in Amolaso area, had several vehicles parked within his premises destroyed.
Egbeyemi added that another friend, who is a carpenter, had his finished works worth millions swept away by the flash floods.
The state chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Joseph Obalanlege, described the flooding as devastating. He said the on-the-spot assessment carried out by his agency immediately after the flooding revealed that eight people, including children died.
Obalanlege stated that corpses of those killed deposited at the morgue of the State Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta. He said the casualty figures could still rise.
On his part, the Assistant Chief Planning Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), South West Zone, Babatunde Olowookere, said the agency had gone round the affected locations to assess the situation and see ways of assisting the victims.
According to him, the agency discovered that many people in the state capital built on flood plains and waterways.
Olowookere advised residents against indiscriminate dumping of refuse in drainages and building structures on water channels to forestall future occurrence.
He said, “We are here to assess the situation and to see how Federal Government can render assistance. We been rendering assistance, this is not the first time. From what we have seen, we have discovered that people have built on a flood plain, they built on waterways and the waste management issue too needs to be tackled well.
“On our own part, we are going to write our assessment report and send to our headquarters in Abuja, for them to give a kind of palliative measure just inform of relief materials to the victims. That is what we are going to do.”
But Governor Ibikunle Amosun has appealed to the Federal Government to urgently come to the aid of the state. Amosun, in company with his wife, Olufunso, the Deputy Governor, Chief (Mrs) Yetunde Onanuga, and cabinet members, made the appeal after embarking on an assessment visit to some of the areas affected by the flooding.
The visibly worried governor noted that the magnitude of destruction surpassed what the state could handle.
He commiserated with those who lost their loved ones during the incident and prayed God to comfort them and grant them the fortitude to bear the losses.
Amosun assured those who lost valuables of his government’s commitment to cushion the effect of their losses. He, however, warned against indiscriminate building of houses on flood plains and waterways. Such action, he noted, is unlawful and can cause great havoc when water movement is disrupted and hindered.
Speaking after he visited Ijeja, Gbangba bridge, Itoku market, Kuto, Isabo and Lafenwa areas, the governor also warned against the dumping of refuse inside drainages.
While noting that the damage would have been more devastating if not for the massive infrastructure put in place by his government, Amosun stated that he would not relent in doing more, to avert a future occurrence.
However, a House of Representatives member, Oladipupo Adebutu, believed that investment in channelisation could have averted the disaster. He said failure to construct proper channelization of water courses in the capital city aggravated the environmental situation.
Speaking when he visited some of the flood ravaged areas, Adebutu, representing Remo Federal Constituency, described the incident as “unfortunate.”
The lawmaker argued that the situation might have been prevented if the state government had constructed proper drainage system.
He said, “My assessment of the situation is that we are suffering from bad governance. This is not the first this has happened, it is a perennial thing and I believe a responsible government should have invested in the channelization of water courses, instead of building bridges where there is no water.
“The money used in building one of the bridges to nowhere, if used in proper channelization in the town, our people will not be suffering like this. People have lost their homes, people have lost their businesses and most regrettably, people have lost their lives.” Adebutu said as the Chairman of the House Committee on Rural Development, he would do his best to attract the attention of concerned federal agencies to the plight of the state.
On his part, two-time governorship candidate in the state, Prince Gboyega Isiaka, called for the setting up of a relief fund to mitigate the losses suffered by victims of the flood. Isiaka equally tasked the state government on the need to improve the drainage system in the state, especially in the capital city, to forestall recurrence.
According to him, the relief fund became imperative in the face of the huge losses suffered by the residents. He suggested that the fund should be set up in a way to allow indigenes of the state all over the world to contribute.
He said, “I have gone round to see the magnitude of damage done by the flood. It is saddening that lives were lost and property worth millions of naira were lost to the flood.
Meanwhile, the state Ministry of Environment has promised succour for the flood victims, saying data gathered from the assessment tour would be used to provide relief for those affected.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Bolaji Oyeleye, said the present administration’s urban renewal programme and road infrastructure in Abeokuta helped to mitigate the effect of the flood, adding that most of the damaged property were built along river courses.
Oyeleye, however, pointed out that the state government would immediately begin enforcement of the required setbacks along river courses, adding that channelization would also be improved upon to check occurrence of the flood in future.
He said, “The incident is an unfortunate one and we sincerely commiserate with those affected for their losses. From our assessment, we discovered that the impact of the flood was felt more by houses that border river courses.
The commissioner further advised residents to always relocate to safer grounds whenever the volume of water bodies rise to a fearsome level, saying they should consider their lives as more important than their properties.
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