3 February 2013

Nigeria: Post-Flood - the Delta 'Scientific Approach'


IN some of the areas affected by last year's flood disaster, the state governments practically abandoned the internally displaced persons, IDPs, to their fate, soon after they returned from the emergency relief camps, as it is most things Nigerian.

The IDPs have also found out to their chagrin that they are on their own, as there were no homes to return. Only some few have been able to rebuild their destroyed houses and many are asking questions about the grant the Federal Government gave states for the flood victims.

In Delta State, where Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan showed passion for the flood victims by regularly visiting, providing for and celebrating his birthday with them and inviting Nollywood actors, Osita Iheme, aka Paw Paw and Chinedu Ikedieze, aka Aki to motivate them, the situation appears different.

Besides setting up a Post-Flooding Rehabilitation Committee, headed by Justice Francis Tabai, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, the governor also set up a Technical Committee on Flood Impact Assessment in Delta State, headed by the Vice Chancellor of the Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka, Prof Eric Arubaye. The committee carried out research on the damage wreaked by the flood in the state and proffered technical advice on how to manage future occurrence.

The report of the technical committee is already with the United Nations, UN, whose officials were being expected in the state soon on an assessment tour. One of the state governments, which allegedly rushed a similar report to the UN, was told to borrow a leaf from the ' scientific approach' of Delta State.

It was palpable that the federal and state governments did not prepare for the natural disasters that had hit the country in the last 50 years. However, by Monday, January 28, about two months or so after the flood receded; Delta State House of Assembly had passed the Delta State Emergency Management Agency Bill; it was signed into law by Uduaghan at the public presentation of the report in Asaba.

Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Tony Nwaka, in his welcome address, said the governor knew the greater problem would be the post-flood management of the disaster and that was why he set up the technical committee to assess the impact and advise on mitigation measures.

Chair of the committee, Prof Arubaye, hailed Uduaghan for the vision, saying Delta was the only state government that deemed it necessary to commission a team of experts, including professors of various disciplines, scientists, engineers, doctors and educationists to carry out a detailed study on the flood in the state.

N9. 6 billion property damaged

The technical report gave details of the farmlands, buildings and livestock that were destroyed in the various communities. The impact on crops was put at N3.1 billion, while that of livestock stood at N2.5 billion. In all, tangible property damaged by flood amounted to N9.602 billion. The committee said its reserved estimate for rebuilding a mud house is N100,000, while a block house is N2.2 million.

The committee determined the worst hit local government area in the state and recommended short-term and long-term measures that should be adopted by government to alleviate the plight of the victims.

Short/long terms measures

Among the long-term (structural measures) are post-impact assessment studies, construction of flood-walls, construction of dispersion/diversion structures, channelization of flood-waters, construction of delay action dams, construction of bypass structure, dredging of River Niger and the tributaries/dis-tributaries, limiting use of flood plain.

Some of the short-term measures are rehabilitation of failed sections of roads, bridges, rebuilding of damaged buildings, supply of farming implements, including cassava grating machines, seedlings and healthcare for the internally displaced persons.

Arubayi, however, disclosed that the committee came under pressure by some unnamed persons and groups to influence its report to their favour, but the members rebuffed the lobbyists.

I'm astonished - Uduaghan

Speaking at the occasion, Uduaghan said, "I am amazed at the details of the work by the technical committee. What actually happened was that I was called by some persons in the World Health Organiztion, WHO, and other people from outside that they wanted a technical study.

"But I asked myself why we have to go to the United States of America and Europe to get people when we have experts in our universities. I contacted the vice chancellor of DELSU and he said we have the men and, today, I am happy that we have a comprehensive report."

The governor said the committee actually finished the report in December, but because of the comprehensive nature, he felt it should not just be presented to him, but the entire Deltans to enable those that have observations to raise them.

"As I speak, the United Nations already has the report that is being presented today", he asserted, confirming that a UN team was being expected in the state soon to carry out a post-flood study. He also said the report would be handed over in the course to President Goodluck Jonathan, National Emergency Response Agency, NEMA and other relevant agencies.

Okonjo-Iweala's father, others react

Chief Jerry Ossai from Aniocha North local government and chair, Transition Committee, Warri South West Local Government, Rev Sam Ken expressed surprise that the committee did not mention their local government areas in the report. The monarch of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom, HRM Chukwuka Okonjo, who is the father of the Minster of Finance, Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wanted to know if the committee proffered any advice to Deltans on likely climate change in future.

The traditional ruler of Ofagbe , Odiologbo Matthew, reasoned in the same manner, saying the people want to know what would happen in the state in the next 42 years since the last major flood that was not as devastating as that of 2012 was about 1969. Mike Nwabueze from Ndokwa East was aghast that the committee did not enumerate human casualties, but a member of the committee replied that it is in one of the chapters.

The committee chair apologized, saying the committee would visit the two local governments that were left out in the next phase of its study, which the governor has approved.

Fresh mandate on structures on natural waterways

Uduaghan, who responded to the various remarks by the people, noted that some people, including government, were constructing structures on natural waterways, saying he had mandated the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Frank Omare, to remove any structure found on any natural waterway in the state.

He assured that no affected community will be left out by the technical committee, pointing out that there were indications that the disaster was as a result of heavy rainfall and release of water from a dam in a neighboring country.

FG to build buffer dams

The governor said, "The Federal Government is in the process of constructing two different buffer dams in River Niger and River Benue and we are working with them to hasten the construction of the dams. It is expected that the dams, which will act as a stopgap in the event of such calamity in future, will be completed by 2014".

A female lawyer wanted to know if Nigeria could not press charges against the foreign country for releasing water that caused damage to the country, but Uduaghan said he would take her case to President Jonathan.

N500 million grants intact

On the N500 milllion grant given to the state over the flood disaster, he stated, "As at today, we have not touched the N500 million. The Post-Flooding Rehabilitation Committee submitted a report on what is to be done for the flood victims, but I told them to wait for the Technical Committee to come up with its report also.

"Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it is good I told them so, I think the chair of the committee can bear me out. I will advise that they take a look at the technical committee report and come up with updated recommendations on what should be done, so that we take it up from there".

He noted that the N500 million grant by the federal government was big, but just a scratch in the surface, as the modest estimate of property destroyed by flood in the state by the technical committee stood at N10 billion.

Uduaghan said the state government would have to constitute the Delta State Emergency Management Agency and look for funds to tackle the short-term and long -term solutions, adding that one mandate he would hand over to his successor would be to ensure that nobody, no matter how highly placed, is allowed to build on natural waterways in the state.

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