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Anxiety has heightened among riverbank dwellers across Delta State following the flood alert by Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) which placed the state among the flash-points in the country. The President of a pan-Isoko group, the Isoko Monitoring Group (IMG), Mr Sebastine Agbefe, who recently called on Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to revoke and re-award the ongoing Ikpide-Irri riverine community road which was awarded at the sum of N736 million, said the agency alert had aggravated their fears. He said: “If the contract is not done according to specification, our people may be worst hit by the flood.

This place is our ancestral home, our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are here. We must get the contract right to avert the looming flood disaster.” A retired Head Teacher in Kwale, Ndokwa West council area, who identified himself simply as Mr Igba, however dismissed the alert, saying: “God has blessed us with one thing, do you know it? Ability to swim and swim well. We have left the upland for politicians to amass and rule as they like. In Nigeria, political leaders wait for disaster before they take action. We prefer to remain here. Even if they ask us to move, we may ignore them. The only fear we are exercising is for our new-born.

The flood will not sweep us away, we will swim out of it like fishes.” But Governor Okowa’s Commissioner for Special Duties, Ernest Ogwezzy, said the storm drainages, which Governor Okowa undertook was put at a total cost of over N30 billion, maintaining that “out of the eight strategic network of drains, we chose to work on three for now at about N11 billion, as they were very critical to flooding issues in the state.” A victim of 2012 flood disaster, Sir Vincent Uchenna, who was trapped in Oko town of Asaba metropolis, lamented that successive administrations failed to make reasonable effort to relocate riverbank dwellers.

He said: “It is a shameful thing that each time flood comes or it rains heavily, indigenes and residents of the state panic. After 27 years of the creation of the state, Okowa, whose party has ruled for 19 years, is just considering a storm water drainage in Asaba. We can’t abandon our ancestral home. If we leave this place in the name of relocation, is government going to provide us with jobs? Can we take it up like our fishing jobs? So, whether alert or not, we have no other choice than to remain here.” Madam Efemena Umukoro lamented how flood wreaked havoc on the state in 2012 and prayed against similar occurrence. She said: “In 2012, flood submerged hundreds of houses across the state. It killed residents and swept away houses. It ravaged farmlands and destroyed crops. School buildings were not spared. Properties worth billions of naira were destroyed.

“Now that they have warned us again, we have started living in fear because our situation has not changed. We are still where we were in 2012. Where shall we run to? We are surrounded by water and we don’t have a listening government.” Many residents living around river bank in Lokoja, Kogi State, insisted that they would relocate from their homes at river banks on a condition that an alternative accommodation will be provided to them. Kogi State is among the states likely to be hit by the impending flood, as predicted by NIHSA. In 2012, many homes were sacked by flood, leaving many residents in the state homeless. But despite the alert issued by NIHSA, some residents have insisted that they will remain in their homes, saying that no flood can be as bad as the one that happened in 2012. A civil servant living around Gadumo area in Lokoja, who preferred not to be identified told Saturday Telegraph that he almost lost his three bedroom house when the 2012 flood ravaged the state. He said he was forced to relocate with the assurance that government would provide alternative home for him and his family.

“At the end of it all no home was provided. I was lucky that the house I used my hard-earned money to build withstood the monstrous flood and today as you can see I am back and living in it with my family. ” When asked if he would relocate again, the senior civil servant said he would know what to do when the time comes. Another resident, a local government employee Ibrahim Musa told Saturday Telegraph that the house he is currently living in was bequeathed to him by his late father. He revealed that the house had endured many floods. “I really don’t trust government with their word because of my past experience.

The last time they asked us to relocate to an alternative home, we complied but nothing was done. “I think government people are taking the advantage of flood to make money for themselves at the expense of the victims. They will use the situation to collect ecological funds, donations and at the end it goes to their private pockets,” Musa said. Mrs. Josephen Andrew, a widow, said she would never allow herself to be a victim of any flood after that of the 2012. Recounting her experience, Andrew said the experience she encountered with her children during the 2012 flood is still fresh in her mind.

“We became refugee in our own state; many promises by the government were not fulfilled,” she recalled. Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says the water level in River Niger is almost at 9- centimetre which will ultimately lead to flooding in Lokoja and other eight local government areas in Kogi State.

Mr Bitrus Samuel, Head NEMA operations in Abuja and Kogi State who raised the alarm on Thursday in Lokoja said that the flood might come anytime from now, urging those living on river banks to evacuate. Samuel said that the impending flood was due to intensity and duration of high rainfalls currently being witnessed in different parts of the country. He, however, said that the agency and other stakeholders were yet to determine the exact time and day the flood would hit Lokoja which he described as a receptacle of floods from other rivers.

“Flood usually comes in the night when people are fast asleep,” Samuel said, asking people living on flood plains to leave. According to him, the ground has become saturated, that its percolation and absorption levels have reduced considerably. Aside Rivers Niger and Benue, he said that other rivers across the country had started overflowing their banks due to distortion in patterns of rainfall and charged Nigerians to prepare for more floods this year. Samuel later met with other stakeholders to discuss their level of preparedness for the impending flood, evacuation plans and rescue strategies being put in place by them and the state government.

He charged them to immediately commence education and enlightenment of residents on the impending flood which he said has greatest damage potential of all disasters. The NEMA official advised the state government and other stakeholders to immediately identify high grounds, establish camps and pre -position drugs, foods and non-food items in readiness for the flood. Samuel also called on them to discourage violation of town planning laws, check dumping of refuse in rivers and poor drainage system and control location of settlements along river banks to mitigate effects of flooding.

Flooding is a yearly occurrence in Bayelsa State and many communities situated by the water side are always at the mercy of flood between September and October. Saturday Telegraph took a trip to some of the communities to ascertain the situation and preparation for the impending flood. At Otuogori community in Ogbia Local Government early yesterday morning, many of the residents were seen going about their normal business.

Apparently, the residents were not even aware of impending flood. At any rate they see flooding as almost normal. Chiamaka Paul said it doesn’t disturb many residents. She said it is just a few of them that bother about it. She said: “We have not heard of it. I’m surprised. If the flood becomes very bad this year, we will pack out as we used to do until it subsides.” Also Kemes Godspower said: “I know that flood use to come every year.

The land here is high. No matter how high it gets, it does not get past those timbers. But those near the mouth of the river get affected by the flood and they often move out.” Similarly, Victor Christopher said: “In this community, it does not really affect us because this road was done before the big flood. Only the houses close to the water side are always affected. I was living in Ayama then before I had to move out because of flood.” “We don’t move out of the house when the flood comes. It doesn’t enter our house. Sometimes the flood gets so close but after a while it recedes,” said another resident, Prisca Kpun. Perekeme Okpoi said they have found a way to tackle the menace of flood in their area.

“We normally stack bags of sand along the river bank. All the community people would gather and we will stack sand bags along the corner of the river so that it would not go beyond that timber there,” he said. Otuoke Youth President identified simply as Fred said: “Flood normally comes around September and October. When the flood comes those people that it affects use to relocate to up land. Communities like Anyama Ologoi, Otuori are always affected. It does not really affect all the communities. For instance in Otuoke, it used to cover some parts of the community.” A resident of Otuoke, Ade Dejia, a driver said: “I run from Berger Junction to Otuoke.

By next month the flood would come. Then we would go through Imiringi Road to Otuoke. It is a very long distance but we ply it like that. “The flood often covers the whole road such that no vehicle can pass through. Residents of houses that the flood used to affect move out for those two months and return when it subsides.

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