19 July 2012

Nigeria: Ibadan - Flood of Tears, Accusations and Counter-Accusations

Photo: This Day
Flooding in Lagos.

Ibadan — BUT for the timely intervention of Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who opened up about 199 drainage channels linked to streams and rivers within Ibadan metropolis, the state would, by now, be counting another heavy human and material loss after the heavy downpour that sacked many residents in the city from their homes.

When the rain that started on Saturday evening and continued for three to four hours, many residents in the city, especially those living in houses that are close to riverbanks, needed no soothsayer to warn them of impending danger. And with the ugly incident of August 26, 2012 still fresh in their memories, some of them abandoned their property and fled for dear lives.

The rains fell heavily throughout the night and continued on Sunday morning so that some Christians could not take the risk of going to their churches.

While commenting on the effects of the flood, the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Bosun Oladele, said the incident had further exposed some of the structures that should be demolished on the water ways, especially at Orita Challenge and other parts of the city.

Oladele said: "Some of the structures that were not marked for demolition before were being exposed and the government would have no choice than to continue with the demolition exercise. But, on the whole, we thank God that no casualty has been recorded".

The government had many times threatened that it would demolish structures obstructing waterways but rescinded its decision due to some pending litigations filed by the owners of the structures. It had earlier marked over 200 houses but ended up demolishing about 56 houses. This generated heated arguments with some landlords alleging that the government had introduced some political considerations to the demolition exercise.

*A Peugeot 504 Station Wagon that ran into a bridge washed away on Arulogun Road.

Dr. Festus Adedayo, the Special Adviser on media also explained why the government was hesitant in demolishing the affected structures. He said: "The government has been very careful, lest the people rise up against it just like they did when 3, 000 workers with falsified ages and forged certificates were sacked.

If the red-marked 200 houses have been demolished at a time, you know what would have happened. Our advice is that people residing in such buildings should vacate them. The government had relocated some victims of last year's flood. It cannot assist all. So, let the people assist the government to avert any further loss".

One of the victims of the recent flood, Mr. Sakiru Adarabiabo who fled when his house was submerged said: "We have been in this house for many years. And until last year, we never had any problem of flooding. We are always scared any time it appears as if it's about to rain. How long shall we live in fear. We have no money to build another house. Where shall we move to?"

Another victim, Mr. Akinjide Akintola, the Political Editor of Nigerian Compass, complained: "The bridge needs attention. It is too low and the river really needs proper dredging. In the first place, political influence affected the construction of the bridge. Instead of making the road from Orita to run straight and make the flow of water to be much easier, it was bent over there, so that some houses belonging to some powerful ones on the other side would not be affected".

One of the residents of Apete, Mr. Najeem Raheem, said: "It was as a result of this situation that many residents of this community stayed at home yesterday. The pedestrian bridge we are managing has collapsed. There is no way we can move out through it. The other road linking Ajibode is so bad that it is not passable.

The one to Akufo is also bad with many potholes created by rain since it was graded. The Polytechnic students and staff are now in dilemma. Students of Lifeforte School here are starting exams tomorrow (today), and so many of them will have to miss it except the exam is postponed.

People here are particularly not happy with the way the contractor, KBB International, is handling the bridge. Transportation from Apete to Sango which used to attract a fare of N50 now goes for N500. This is becoming unbearable".

Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the level of work done so far many months after commencement, the state government has revoked the contract it signed with the company. The state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Alhaji Yunus Akintunde, who spoke with newsmen after the weekly state executive meeting said with the intensity of the rain, government had to act fast.

He said: "The council equally considered the Apete Bridge today and resolved that because of the current development and the heavy downpour that had suddenly occurred, there is the need to take a drastic action on the bridge construction so as to ameliorate the suffering of our people. In this wise, council decided that the drastic measure would have to be a reassessment and re-awarding of the bridge contract which should take place within the next 24 hours".

His counterpart, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development noted that: "The government is beginning soon the second phase of the removal of such structures (built on flood plains). However, we are inhibited by the activities of some landlords and landlords' associations whose houses are located on flood plains who have taken government to court even for marking their structures for demolition. But we do plan to embark on the demolition exercise very soon. We have marked the structures and we are going to remove them but we may not cover them in totality due to these court injunctions".

Owing to the enormity of the project, Dr. Adedayo, said that part of the pro-active measures the government took was to work in partnership with the World Bank. "Because the task of reconstructing these bridges is so massive and is beyond the state government alone, immediately after last year's flood, Governor Abiola Ajimobi met with officials of the World Bank and did a power-point presentation on the case of Ibadan flood disaster, upon which the bank sent its representatives to the state for an assessment. The report has culminated in the bank, with the support of the Federal Ministry of Finance, agreeing in principle to grant the state government the sum of N200 million emergency relief, which is almost ready.

"Part of the fund is to channelise the 30 kilometres Ona River and complete the Upper Ogunpa River, along with helping solve the state waste management challenges, from storage, collection, transportation to disposal sites, so as to turn them into sanitary landfills and to eventually begin a waste-to-wealth programme. An absence of these efforts has often been a major cause of flood disasters," the government said.

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