2 October 2012

Nigeria: Obi Dares Flood to Evacuate Victims

Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
Flooding in the Pikine department of Senegal's capital Dakar.

At the dawn of last Sunday, all that was on the mind of the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, was the activities of the next day: the celebration of the nation's 52nd independence anniversary. He had drawn up an itinerary of his engagements.

As at 11.00pm, last Sunday, he had concluded arrangements on such activities like the march-past, the reading of President Goodluck Jonathan's speech and his visit to the less privileged.

That was his plan. Nature had a different one. It was the coming of the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, that radically altered the governor's activities. He brought a kind of SOS news. He sounded the alarm of a looming doom at Ogbaru if the people were not evacuated immediately. The picture he painted of the soon-to-happen disaster was not such that could be ignored by a responsible governor. It was information that required a response of telegraphic urgency.

Quickly, Obi dumped his planned activities, delegating all such functions to his deputy, believing that Anambra people must be alive first to celebrate independence. He then ordered evacuation to start and promised to join the team at 5:30am.

True to his promise, Obi was at Ogbaru at 5:45am, yesterday and he was concerned on how to rescue the people from the danger of being washed away by the surging flood, which had wreaked much havoc across the land.

Obi had noticed that the people, who had been told of government's efforts to evacuate them, had massed up so many of their property, which would ordinarily slow down the evacuation. The governor then chose to appeal to them to leave behind their belongings, and just make themselves and their children available for the evacuation, promising that government would take care of the rest subsequently.

He had gone to Osamalla, to address the people. As if by conspiracy of nature, the road through which Obi passed into the Osamalla village suddenly had been overflowed by flood, such that there was no more road for anybody to pass. Bemused, the governor and other members of the rescue and evacuation team watched helplessly as the water rose higher and higher. Danger was near. The team was being threatened by the flood; and left with no other escape option, the governor and his team had to wade through the flood, which almost got to their waists, amidst fear of stepping into holes or gullies that could lead to drowning. Thankfully, they all waded through to safety, to the relief of the entire team.

But that experience did not deter the governor from continuing the evacuation or enlightenment exercise as he went round all the affected communities, supervising the operation. At each of the communities: Akili-Ogidi, Akili-Ozizor, Amiyi, Atani, Mputu, Obeagwe, Ochuche, Odekpe, Ogbakuba, Ogwu-Aniocha, Agwuikpele, Ohita, Okpoko, Ossomala, Umunankwo, Umuodu, Umuzu, the governor explained to them why they should be evacuated and promised them that government would continue to assist them until the flood is over. He also promised that even then, government would rehabilitate them.

The governor also toured parts of Onitsha Township that are also affected by flood, especially Harbour Industrial Area. The governor waded through flood, which has lesser volume of water than that of Osammala, to visit all the factories affected by the flood. He assured the people of government's support to cushion the effect of their losses.

One of the chief executive officers of the visited companies, Chief Emmanuel Eziokwu, thanked the governor for coming to sympathise with them and lamented that they suffered heavy losses as the flood had destroyed equipment and products worth billions of naira.

The governor further visited Iyi-owa, Odekpe areas of Ogbaru, where canoe paddlers were making brisk business by evacuating people from the flooded areas. He encouraged the people to move to camps set up by the government and that they would be adequately taken care of.

Speaking at the close of the exercise, the Anglican Bishop of Ogbaru Diocese, Rt. Rev. Samuel Ezeofor, who was part of the rescue and evacuation team, commended the governor for identifying with the people, and taking it upon himself to personally oversee the safety and rescue of the people in his domain.

Many of the people rescued from the affected areas were being chaperoned into buses, many of which had parked along the road, waiting to evacuate the flood victims to safe areas.

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