11 August 2012

Nigeria: Flood-Prone Communities Live in Fear

Calabar, Dutse, Lagos, Kaduna, Gombe, Katsina — Since the warning by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) of imminent flooding between August and October, states have been bracing up for eventualities, with some telling flood-prone communities to relocate to safer areas.

For many states in Nigeria, especially the northern part of the country, where the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) said will experience peak rainfall from August to October, the fear of flood is the beginning of wisdom. NIMET has said that "the flooding that may accompany further one-day high rainfall events in and around Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states will leave in its trail devastation and destruction."

Some of the predictions by the NIMET had since come to past. The agency, however, advised the government and people in the states to endeavour to clear drains, as there was high prospect of high intensity or long-lasting rains occurring during August to October 2012 as predicted.

In Kano, residents of areas that are prone to floods, have been expressing fears about a possible repeat of tragedies that had befallen them in the past, when rain water wreaked serious havoc in their communities, claiming lives and property.

Last year, 24 persons - Including children - in addition to about 100 houses were destroyed by flood in Kwanar Goda quarters of Fagge local government area alone. Residents blamed blockage and poor drainage system for the disaster.

While most of the houses still lie in ruins, members of the community live with the fear that the current raining season may bring another tragedy."It is possible, because nothing has been done to prevent it," said a resident Sani Maiwanki.

This man, whose neighbour's house was damaged last year, said they were aware of a warning by the NIMET of impending torrential rainfall and possible floods this year.

"We are not prepared to face it, because the same problems that caused last year's disaster are still present. On our part, we have been clearing the drainages every two months since the last incidence," he said, adding "government needs to come in."

Weekly Trust learnt that a giant drainage that traversed the neighbourhood, always overflow whenever it rained, pushing residents to predict that if the rains increase, their homes may be submerged -once again, this year.

In Kaduna State, people leaving in areas like Rafinguza, Angwan Rimi, Kigo road, Kabala Costain, Nasarawa Kakuri, Hayin Danmani all along the river Kaduna bank have been asked to vacate the areas over possible flood.

Chimeze Okarfor, who lives in Kigo road, said that, "We can't leave these areas because of the problem of accommodation. We have heard the warning and we will continue to be on alert as advised. We've been facing this every year but it doesn't affect our houses. We are in the hands of God and we don't have any place to go."

Suleiman Zakari, a resident of Rafinguza, urged the state government to help them concerning the threat posed by the flood. "We are just in the hands of God. We normally experience flooding but this alert is quiet alarming that is why we need government support."

Kaduna state Commissioner for environment and Natural Resources, Zakariah Shamaki, said that the State Government was not giving permissions for building of houses in the flood-prone areas

The Public Relation Officer of SEMA Zakari Adamu Abubakar said that government was playing its role toward enlightening the people in disaster prone areas.

In Katsina State also, many of the victims of last year's flooding said they were not aware nor told of any warning issued by the NIMET against possible flood disaster either through the media or any other means of communication.

Muhammad Sani of Layin-Azara, one of the victims of last year's flooding, told Weekly Trust that "no government official came here to inform us about any warning against flood. We only take our precaution against the disaster, which include clearing of existing drainages in the area to ensure water flows smoothly.

"And whenever it rains, we will make sure that we have blocked our gutters so that water will not flow into our houses. The measures we have adopted had greatly helped us prevent flooding this year. This is in addition to the community work we have conducted earlier at the beginning of the rainy season," he said.

Another victim, Ibrahim Garba said "although we are in the middle of rainy season, but we have not witnessed any serious flooding this year. There were some minor flooding here and there, but was not serious. Last year by this time we had been rendered homeless by excessive flood. We lost many valuables to the disaster."

A resident of Tudun-MunTsira quarters, Garba said six people lost their lives, while several houses were destroyed during last year's incident, adding that "this year we have not witnessed flooding at all and we are praying that we will not witness it."

"Last year by now, we had discovered many corpses here including that of old aged woman during the serious flood disaster. The corpses were brought here by water from various places within the state metropolis. However, we had not experienced such this year," he said.

Weekly Trust recalled that last year 10 people died in Katsina and property worth millions of naira were lost to flood in various locations within the state metropolis. The worst hit areas include Tudun-Muntsira, Layin-azara, Kofar Marusa, Kofar Sauri, Sabuwar Unguwa and Gadar Adeleke, among other places. Houses were equally washed away by flood in Baure and Zango local governments last year.

In Jigawa State, residents of various flood prone areas have been taking preventive measures to curtail its menace in the state. A resident of Dutse, Malam Jaafaru Adamu told Weekly Trust that they have no choice but to heed government advice to clear their drainages to avert flood in the area.

Malam Usman Buba, a farmer in Ringim local government area told Weekly Trust that they had been warned by the government to stop diversion of water to other directions which later form tributaries that over flow into residential areas or other farmlands as flood water. He said farmers in the flood prone area apprehensive of another flood in view of the loss they incurred last year.

Alhaji Habib Barde, erstwhile acting Commissioner for Environment said government is working round the clock to prevent flooding in the state and minimize its impact in case it happens. Bulangu, Malam Madori, Jahun and some few other places are flood prone in Jigawa state.

In Gombe State, the recent flood warning alert issued by the NIMET only succeeded in heightening the fear of most residents in the flood prone-parts of Gombe metropolis.

A resident Malam Mohammed Zakari, told Weekly Trust that given the nature of the town, it has been experiencing various forms of flood due to its peculiar nature. Weekly Trust reports that only a fortnight ago the city experienced a heavy downpour which flooded most areas of the city killing four people and sacking about 200 people from their homes.

The Permanent Secretary, Gombe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Mr. Kelma J. Lazarus, said they are set to clampdown on all those dumping refuse on sewage lines.

He also said the agency is sensitizing people especially in the prone areas to always clear their drainages and avoid erecting illegal buildings.

In the same vein, the state Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources Engineer Mohammed Hadi said the state has recently approved multi millionaire contracts for gully erosion control at various flood-prone locations across the state.

In Lagos, it was observed that in two flood-prone areas, Agege and Ikorodu, on the outskirt of Lagos, the residents had refused to relocate to upper places as directed by the state government. At Agege near the rail line, known to flood whenever it rains, residents stayed put in their houses.

According to Mr. Oluwole Tijani, a landlord at Agege, "we are aware of the government sensitisation on heavy rainfall as predicted by the NIMET but we don't have anywhere to move to. All of us the residents in this place have been living here for decades. We had experienced series of flood in this place year in, year out. We have prepared for the rain, because we don't have anywhere to go. Government gave us directive to relocate but to where?" he asked.

At Majidun area of Ikorodu where flood sacked hundreds of residents from their homes in 2010, necessitating a visit by President Jonathan, residents and workers of the area have refused to move.

As at yesterday, the relocation directive by the government was yet to be complied with by resident as the 256 days continuous rainfall predicted for Lagos State in 2012 is yet to lapse.

Chidi Utebor, a furniture maker along the flood-prone environment, argued that he has paid three-year rent to his landlord, adding that flood or no flood, he has to open his shop on daily basis to make living and take care of his family.

In Cross River, most ordinary people, especially those in flood-prone areas of Calabar South, Biase, Ikom and Obudu LGAs are not aware of the alert issued by NIMET about the impending upsurge in flood in their areas.

A house wife, Mrs. Affiong Edem in the Anantigha area of Calabar South said she has not heard of any instruction from anywhere about heavy rainfall in the state that may cause havoc in the area. "If it does happen, it is God that will help us. No Government can do what He can do. The way God has been protecting us, He will surely perfect His protection on us," she said.

In Umon island in Biase LGA where the heavens released its blessing of rainfall in the fullest to the extent that lives of children were lost and others missing in the deluge.

Chief Ogban Kanu said "if they say that what is more than this is coming, then it means no life will remain in this community. Last week, we lost our entire farmlands; our houses were completely submerged, our roads washed away so that our people have been using canoes to ferry people in where was normally a habitable community all because of flood. We pray God to save us!"

Speaking on telephone from Ikom in the central part of the state, Ndoma Mgbiji said he has not heard of the alert from NIMET.

He said the state emergency management agency (SEMA) who may have information about the impeding flood ought to have begun action to evacuate people from danger areas.

Lawan Danjuma Adamu, Yusha'u A. Ibrahim, Abdullahi Anako, Lawal Ibrahim, Femi Akinola, Sunday Isuwa and Eyo Charles

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