Recently, residents of Ibadan, Oyo State, and Owo, Ondo State got their first rainfall of the year. It was not pleasant, as the rainstorm wreaked havoc in the ancient cities.
"I moved into the apartment a few months ago after returning from special duty in Damaturu, Yobe State, in the wake of the Boko Haram crisis. This apartment was allocated to me through the assistance of a colleague of mine. Because it was in bad condition I spent about N100, 000 to renovate it and now it is gone with the wind," said a police Constable who pleaded anonymity.
He was one of the victims of the recent rainstorm that destroyed over 2,000 houses in Ibadan, Oyo State capital. The policeman lamented that all he had toiled for since he joined the police were destroyed by the rainstorm. According to him, the roof of his one-bedroom apartment was removed by the rainstorm leaving his property, certificates and other documents drenched.
He disclosed that about 50 families living in the barracks had a bitter experience from the devastating rainstorm. He attributed the massive damage at the police barracks to the use of substandard materials and lack of maintenance. He said that low quality roofing sheets were used to roof the building.
Since late last year, residents of the ancient city had experienced heat, thus the coming of rainfall was a relief to them without an idea that It would eventually turn against them.
The fierce wind impacted heavily on several communities and left memories of significant losses.
Worst hit were Ajegunle, Igodalo, Academy, Omiyale, Olomi, Olunde, Ayegun, Aba-Alfa, Jaloke, Papa-Eleye, Aladi, Ire-Akari all in Oluyole Local Government of the state. Others were Osungbade, Odo-Oba, Idi-Aro, Challenge, Felele, Odo Ona Apata and Odo Ona Elewe.
A resident of Igodalo, Miss Kafayat Ahmed, while recounting her experience, said, "almost all the buildings in this area were destroyed by the rainstorm. There was hardly any house that was spared. It was either the roof of your house was removed, or your fence collapsed or your livestock killed or a certain property was damaged. Those whose roofs were not removed had their houses flooded. You find people evacuating from their rooms in the middle of the night. We could not sleep throughout because of the rainstorm.
"As you can see property had been destroyed. A new car parked down the street was badly damaged by the rainstorm. The storm removed a roof and it was smashed against the parked vehicle. The owner, a middle- age-man wept profusely like a baby when he saw what has become of the car the next morning."
On her street alone, roofs of many houses were blown off. Trees were uprooted, glasses and car windscreens were smashed and electric poles and cables were damaged, with roads littered with filth from refuse dumps, dust bin and drainage.
A man who is in his early sixties, Alhaji Wasiu Ogundare, wept uncontrollably as he related the trauma he went through using his life savings to build his only house that has now been destroyed by the rainstorm. "Where do I start from; who will help me?" he queried helplessly. He said that it took him more than five years to build the house.
A 74-year-old woman simply called Mama Kazeem ran out of her house at Olomi area for fear that the house might collapse on her during the rainstorm. She said, "the house is old and sensed it might collapse and kill me, so I escaped to avoid such evil."
At least, three filling stations were destroyed at Ire-Akari area along Olomi/Academy. Many more were destroyed in other parts of the city. Also destroyed were vehicles parked along the streets. At the toll-gate area, fuel-dispensers were damaged, as well as the roof of the filling station. About three filling stations at Orita Challenge area had their share of the destruction that trailed the early rainfall. Their big signposts as well as roofs were badly damaged.
The rainstorm that affected many part of the city also impacted on vehicular movements. Commuters complained of hard times moving out of Amuloko area along Akanran Road in the Ona Ara Local Government as electricity poles belonging to PHCN blocked the road, causing traffic snarl. There were gridlocks around Olunloyo, Target and Olorunsogo areas as well.
Other affected structures were the Federal High Court building at Ring Road, Orita Challenge Police Division, the police barracks and Asolo Church along Amuloko.
The people of Olomi area and environs had their problem compounded as the storm destroyed most of the electric poles put in place by the PHCN for the restoration of electricity in the communities which had been in darkness for over 30 months. A house under construction at Olomi was removed from its foundation by the storm at Ayedade area of Olomi.
But for most of the residents of the affected areas, it was lamentation galore as many shed tears when newsmen visited the area. Many were seen in mournful look salvaging the remains of the property.
The lawmaker representing Oyo South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin has sympathised with the victims of the rainstorm. Lanlehin, who is the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, described the incident as another sad chapter in the lives of the people.
He promised to assist those affected by the rainstorm. In a statement issued by his media aide, Olawale Sadare, Lanlehin sympathised with the victims of the rainstorm. The statement urged them to take solace in the fact that their lives and those of their loved ones were spared.
He said that, "at any rate, one would naturally wish that Ibadan should be spared of situation like this since our people are yet to fully recover from the flood disaster which ravaged the ancient city some 18 months ago. However, we commiserate with our people in all the affected communities where the storm left in its wake varying degree of damage to residences, offices, shops, schools, workshops and personal belongings as well as places of worship."
Also, the member representing Oluyole Federal Constituency, Dr. Ibrahim Olaifa, confirmed that emergency and rescue operations were deployed in the communities following the rainstorm. In a statement, Olaifa said, "I commiserate with the people of Oluyole constituency and the government of Oyo State. I am aware of the extensive damage to houses, bridges, electrical installations, and other social amenities.
"I want to assure them that this unfortunate incident will be brought to the attention of the Federal government and everything will be done to limit their sufferings."
The Zonal Public Relations Officer of PHCN, Ibadan Division, Mr. Jide Oyenuga, said, "We are indeed aware of the destruction which the rainstorm has caused in many parts of Ibadan. Our men have swung into action and repairs are already being carried out. Power has been restored around Ring Road as at 10am.
"Many of the roofs that were blown off fell on PHCN poles and wires. We are gradually sorting them out. But we are appealing to our customers to please bear with us while we carry out the repairs."
Concerned by the devastation, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deployed its officials in the South west zone to Ibadan to assess the situation which formed the basis of the distribution of relief materials of the agency to victims of the disaster.
Similarly, officials of the Oyo State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) told journalists on the telephone that the agency had already started taking stock of the affected areas and victims.
The Chief Situation Welfare Officer of SEMA, Alhaji Tayo Ayoade, said that more than 1,000 houses were affected in the storm.
He, however, added that the list was not exhaustive. He explained, "The agency has continued enumeration of the houses and property affected in the storm along with Council Chairmen of the areas affected by the storm."
Earlier, when the people of the ancient town of Owo, Ondo State saw the signs of rainfall around 6.00pm on Monday, January 21, 2012, many of the residents thought that their prayers for a relief from the effect of the scorching sun of the day had come too, but as the Octogenarian, Mr. Victor Adebayo of No.50 Oke Ogun street in the town was relaxing on his bed in his old bungalow, he never thought that he would become homeless a few hours later, no thanks to the heavy storm that ravaged the town leading to the destruction of many houses including his own.
Adebayo was one of the over 5,000 residents of the town that had been displaced from about 250 buildings including public ones like schools and hospitals that were destroyed by the rainstorm.
The storm was no respecter of even the sacred ground of prayers like churches and mosques and traditional institutions as many churches and parts of the buildings in the palace of Olowo of Owo had their roofs blown off. The houses affected within the traditional ancient palace were Uwadinma Ajike and Uwayeyesa buildings.
While the roof, ceiling and windows of the Methodist Church, Fajuyi circuit were partly damaged, the entire roof of the church's manse was completely blown off.
The church pastor, Reverend Marcus Ogungbade gave thanks to God that he and his wife were not hurt despite the severity of the incident.
"I was inside the manse with my wife when the rain started around 6.30pm. Then I went upstairs to sleep. I was sleeping when I just heard a loud sound of the storm. I also noticed that something knocked on my head.
"After this I did not know anything except that I just found myself downstairs. My wife later told me that I was unconscious. We thank God that no life was lost and we were not hurt, but all our household item and furniture had been destroyed", the presbyter said.
Another area affected by the storm was Ekusi Street and Ekusitedo where the house belonging to the mother of the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr. Taye Haruna was among the houses damaged during the incident.
Apart from the residential buildings, schools and hospitals including the popular Imade College established by the late sage, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, St Catherine's Anglican Girls Grammar School, and St David's Hospital also had their roofs affected leading to the relocation of students in the hostel building.
Equally, the entire town was thrown into darkness as the storm damaged electricity poles and cables along many streets just as many shop owners have been sacked due to the damage done to their wares by the storm which blown off the roof of their shops.
Ironically, a warehouse belonging to Chief K. C Aruwajoye on Uka Street, where relief materials were stored for distribution to victims of rainstorm disaster of 2012 was also affected by the storm which blown off a part of its roof.
Aruwajoye, who lost several bags of cement kept in the store, described the loss caused by the rainstorm as devastating and appealed to both the State and Federal Governments to come to the aid of the people because many of those affected cannot afford means to carry out the necessary repairs on the damaged buildings.
Reacting swiftly, government officials including the Commissioner for Special Duties, Hon Niran Sule-Akinsuyi, the House of Assembly member representing Owo Constituency, Hon Ayo Arowele, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Prince Adetunji Ojomo moved in to assess the damages.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi also visited the town for on the spot assessment and was taken round the affected areas by the Olowo of Owo, Oba Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi, who was accompanied by other chiefs.
Also, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) dispatched officials from the Lagos office of the agency to the ancient town for a thorough assessment of the situation to ensure that necessary action was taken to mitigate the effect of storm.
After the end of the tour, which took the NEMA officials led by the Coordinator of agency for the South West, Mr Iyiola Akande to the nooks and crannies of the affected areas, the Coordinator assured the monarch and the people of the town that the agency would come to the aid of the victims.
"We have seen that the effect of the storm was very devastating. It affected over 250 houses and about 5,000 people may have been displaced. We thank God that no life was lost. We want to get the computation list and the people have been directed to compile the list of the buildings affected and names of the victims.
"We have taken some photographs of the affected buildings; we have spoken to some of the victims and we will write our reports. The Federal Government through NEMA would do something to cushion the effects on the victims", Akande stated.
The NEMA coordinator called on the State House of Assembly to expedite action for the passage into law of the Ondo State Emergency Management Agency (OSEMA).
He said, "Public hearing of the bill had been done and NEMA was consulted to submit memorandum. I thought by now the bill would have been passed. If that had been done, the Federal Government may come in but the state would have done something to serve as relief for the victims because the structure would have been in place to react to matter like this."
Now, experts say all hands must be on deck to ensure disaster of great magnitude experienced in the country last year do not reoccur.