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Flood: Ebonyi victims’ agonies

For the people of Unagboke Inyimagu Azugwu in Abakaliki Local Government Area and Amasiri, Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state, it is a tale of sorrow following a flood that ravaged the communities. UCHENNA INYA in Abakaliki reports

Flood is usually a perennial problem in Ebonyi state. There is no single year the disease doesn’t wreak havoc in some part of the state. Since this year, the people of Amasiri, Unagboke Inyimagu Azugwu and Uburu communities have not been finding it funny whenever there is heavy downpour. On Saturday and Sunday last week, the people of the communities experienced the disaster again, losing their property worth millions of naira to the natural disaster with thousands of the people sacked.

That of Unagboke Inyimagu Azugwu in Abakaliki Local Government Area of the state occurred some poles away from the capital city. Their houses, farmlands, crops and other properties worth million were destroyed by the ravaging flood. Chairman of the village, Elder Emmanuel Igwe, explained that the area has been experiencing flooding for decades. He noted that the disaster worsened following the abandonment of the drainage project at a nearby river by Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). According to him, the river now overflows whenever there is a heavy rainfall, thereby causing flooding of the area. Igwe, who said they had lost hugely including houses, crops and other valuable property to the flood since the commencement of this year’s rainy season, called on government to come to their rescue.

“We have much problem here. We have no road. We usually experience flooding that cuts us off from the larger society. Yesterday, the flood covered the area. We couldn’t pass. Some were sacked from their homes. Our houses, farms and property destroyed.

“We are calling on government to help us. The flood has been here for years but has worsened this year because the channelization of Ebia river/Ebonyi River was abandoned half-way by the NEWMAP. So, the abandonment of the project has added to our plight.

“We urge government to complete the channelization project, so that the flood won’t sack us completely here. We no longer go to farm because our crops have all been swept away by the flood.” Another resident of the area, Mrs Chikezie Eucheria Ego, a widow and staff of Nigeria Postal Service, lamented that the flooding started very early this year, and has subjected them to an untold hardship. “Since 2018 that we packed into a house we built here, we have been experiencing flooding, though usually around September and October.

But this year, it started very early due to the World Bank drainage at Ebia River, which has been abandoned. “Now, whenever there is a rainfall, we don’t pass here. No going to work or farm and our children will not be able to go to school.

The primary school over there will also be closed. We have lost a lot to the flood this year, and we call on government to come to our rescue”, she said. On his part, Vincent Okonkwo, lamented that all their property had been lost to the flood and called on government to intervene. “The flood is disturbing us seriously. We don’t know it is like this before we bought land here. All our property has been destroyed. Whenever we have the flood, none of us will be able to go out. Everywhere will be blocked.

So, we really need help from government”. Also, Nwankwegu Ejiofor James disclosed that they had never had such experience, attributing the cause to the abandoned channelization project at a nearby river by NEWMAP. He said: “Previous years, we do experience flood but it is coming too early this year. That is what is making me feel so much worried. The rate the flood came this year, we don’t think we can habit here for this period of the rainy season.

“We have been experiencing flooding and this is not as if we are living in a riverine area. It is overflow from the river which is far from where we are residing. It is a pathetic experience this time around. “For four days after the rainfall, there was no entrance to this area.

I know NEWMAP is undertaken dredging in Ebia river/Ebonyi river, but at a time, precisely April this year, they left the project; and when I contacted one of the officials, he said they were directed to complete mechanic site/Rice mill axis first which made them to leave the site”. As the people of Unagboke Inyimagu Azugwu were being sacked by the disaster, thousands of the people of Ohaechara and Ezeke Amasiri in Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state were also hit by flood which rendered them homeless after a heavy downpour.

The flood sacked more than 2, 500 residents and destroyed properties worth millions of naira, including farms and livestock. A resident of the community, Ogbonnaya Mbe, said apart from houses and churches, over two kilometres of farmland was submerged.

Mbe attributed the flooding to lack of drainage system in the community, numerous mining activities and the hilly nature of the area as according to him, flood water often runs downhill to damage properties in the area. He said no life was lost in the disaster and urged National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to come to the rescue of the victims. “It has become a regular occurrence. We had expected that the relevant authorities would have opened up the drainage in the community for the water to have a channel.

“The area is flood prone but this is the biggest flooding we have experienced in recent times. The flood mainly affected Amaechera village in Ezeke community. “Unfortunately, that’s where we have our farmlands and our livestock. Each time the flood occurs, rice and cash donation would be distributed to the displaced persons without addressing the main problem of opening up the place for water to find its level”. One of the victims, Emmanuel Oko, said: “Over 1000 houses were submerged. People are making frantic effort to save some of their properties. We are urging the state and local governments to find a lasting solution to the problem.”

The Coordinator, Amasiri Development Centre, Ngozi Ezeugo, said that the centre have taken record of all the properties, households, farmlands and livestock affected and has written to the State Emergency Management Agency SEMA for assistance. Meanwhile, the Caretaker Chairman of Afikpo North Local Government Area, Amauche Otunta, has visited some of the affected villages and farmlands in Amasiri for on-the-spot assessment of the damage.

Otunta was accompanied by the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Youth Mobilisation, Oby Enyim; the Coordinator of Afikpo North East DC, Innocent Eluu; former Vice Chairman, Priscilla Idam and public officers of the local government area. Otunta donated cash and food items to the victims of the disaster and promised to take measures that would foreclose future occur-rence.

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