22 August 2017

Nigeria: Residents Sleep On Tables As Flood Overruns Rivers Community

Aggah — A storming flood has again overrun the agrarian Aggah community in Egbema, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, constraining the sacked villagers to sleep on tables and slabs at accessible spaces in their swamped dwellings and shops.

Findings by NDV showed that the community has been under the threat of annual flooding for more than three decades, following the construction of oil installations by an oil company in the 60s, which the Ministry of Environment, Rivers State, in 2015, directed the firm to mitigate to no effect.

Residents cry out: When NDV visited the community, women were seen trooping to their farms prematurely harvesting cassava and their farm crops, lamenting that the annual flooding was caused by the Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, which built some of its oil wells on the right-of-way that water from the community discharges into the Oloshi River.

Head of Omudike village in Aggah, Chief Akudila Felix, said: "The water rises daily as the rains fall. We have cried to Agip which is the cause of the flooding. Iit is not natural. Immediately we see the cloud changes to rain, we are afraid because when it rains the situation worsens. We have been calling on government to give us relief to sustain ourselves. If you go out, you will see women uprooting their cassava prematurely because flood has destroyed it. After this time, hunger will set in. Agip likes divide and rule, the people who will speak for us are their contractors, so the commoners are suffering and they do not bother."

I sleep on table in my shop-- Mrs. Godwin

A resident, Mrs. Blessing Godwin, displaced by flood with her children, lamented: "It affected my house and my shop. They should do a big drainage so that water will not be flood the community. We have not been sleeping in our house. I now sleep on top of a table in my shop. Government should help us. We are suffering seriously now because water has taken over everywhere."

Similarly, Mrs. Victoria Elechi, a villager, who expressed sadness that the people have suffered flooding for 36 years as a result of the facilities built by the company, bemoaned: "Flood has taken over the whole community and we are suffering. The buildings are covered and all the property in most houses, especially those houses whose owners are not around have been damaged. Everybody has packed out. The problem we have now is that it is causing pneumonia in the community. We are also afraid that pregnant women may contract diseases in the flood, which may cause miscarriage. Mosquitoes are everywhere causing malaria. We really need help."

Open the waterway

Another resident, Mrs. Emeghara Emilia, said: "It is the flooding that has destroyed our farms. It is because of the platform Agip used to block the water way. The cassava we are supposed to eat during Christmas has finished within one week. We do not have any cassava standing again in the farm.

"I have also finished uprooting my own, many of them had spoiled, there will be hardship soon in this place and it will be much. Agip should help us. If the waterway is opened, it will not be like this," she informed.

Group calls for relief materials

Meanwhile, the leader of Egbema Voice of Freedom, EVF, Mr. Everistus Nicholas, has called on the National Environmental Management Agency, NEMA, to come to the aid of the people of the area with relief materials for victims. Nicholas re-echoed that the flood was caused by an elevated platform belonging to Agip built on water right- of-way.

"I am calling on NEMA to come and to save our situation. They should quickly galvanize relief materials and deliver to Aggah community. We are already suffering a lot of sicknesses like pneumonia, malaria because of mosquito invasion and exposed to rain. I am calling on the Federal Government, which is in a joint venture with Agip to understand that Aggah is part of Nigeria and that we are suffering, and this flood needs to be taken away. Our sufferings need to be ameliorated," he stated.

The EVF leader added: "Agip sand filled over 40,000 square metres of land to secure their oil wells 18, 11 and 20 and their access roads to the wells. Since 1966 this is what we have been experiencing. The whole community is flooded. You will only see what looks like a remedy, a gutter that Agip constructed here that was meant to cross water to the other side, but the elevation there is higher.

Ministry directive supposedly ignored

"In 2015, Rivers State Ministry of Environment came and saw the way we were suffering and they made a recommendation and demanded that Agip should take a topographical analysis of the community to ensure that they get the water across to Oloshi River, but till date they have ignored the ministry."

Relocate platforms

Community opinion leader, Mr. Alexander Uba, who spoke on the misfortune, declared: "These platforms belonging to Agip are the cause of the flooding. This place is an access road leading to location 18, and 20. Anytime there is rain, the community will be flooded. It started after they built these locations.

"When water gets here, it stops and returns into the community and to our farms. Presently, our farms and everything we have in our houses have damaged. The remedy is that these platforms should be lifted for water to flow freely into Oloshi River. Our crops have all been destroyed. We have harvested everything in the farm because of the flood. We are not sure of what to eat after the flood," he said.

Agip keeps mute

However, a NAOC official contacted for comment by NDV declined any comment on the development.

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