By MADUKA NWEKE
The flood that ravaged many parts of Anambra and other states in the country has since receded but the impact and the memories will linger long in people’s minds. In Anambra, such flooding had not been experienced in the last 60 years.
The flood submerged four local government areas in the state, namely Anambra West, Anambra East, Ayamelum and Ogbaru, affecting homes and farmlands.
Right now, the victims have returned to their homes to begin life anew but what they met at home was shocking. Most of the indigenes saw their homes already taken over by snakes and other wild animals.
It was even said the number of snakes in some towns outnumbered the human beings. Apart from the dangerous animals, there were some people, who came into their bedrooms only to find some other animals trapped in one corner. The pot of water left during the flood became ponds for fish.
But another problem has been confronting the people. They are worried by reports that the money meant for the alleviation of their problems generated by Nigerian philanthropists might have fallen into the wrong hands.
They are not happy that the committee handling the money has been delaying its distribution. To them, it’s seems like some politicians might want to use the distribution of the money as a campaign tool.
One of the flood victims, Mr. Chukwujindu Okeke, says Mr. Oseloka Obaze, Secretary to the State Government, should hasten the process of distributing the funds to the appropriate flood victims. “If he has released the money and materials, we would have known what and where to focus in terms of purchases and who to approach for other things.
Some of us are scared that the money and materials meant for flood victims might be used for other purposes, and those who have no business with the materials will be the ones to benefit. It is totally wrong for the public to hear that such money came the way of the flood victims only for same money to change hands,” he said. But Mr. Obaze had assured such people that there was no cause for alarm.
He said in a press conference that the N509 million generated by Anambra State for victims of the flood disaster that ravaged 60 communities in the state was still intact. Obaze, who is the chairman, State Flood Disaster Relief Coordinating Committee, said the money consisted of N500 million from the Federal Government and N9 million from other donors, adding that the amount was lodged in Anambra State Flood Emergency Fund Account.
But some of the victims are not happy that they are suffering while the money cools off in a bank.
According to Obaze, all the resources spent so far in tackling the flood disaster, which totalled N128 million, were from the state government’s coffers. He explained that the disbursement of the Federal Government fund and other donations would commence as soon as the Board of Trustees determined the sector requiring the most critical intervention.
He, however, said that the state was looking forward to further disbursement of funds from the presidential committee on flood relief and rehabilitation to enable it fully support those affected by the flood.
Obaze said this became necessary in the light of the numerous Save Our Souls (SOS) letters received from financial institutions, corporate bodies and individuals for loans obtained for farming which needed to be amortized.
He also said his committee would soon finalise the preparation of the state’s strategic multi-sectoral plan to ensure that the implementation phase commences as soon as possible to reduce the hardship being experienced by the affected communities.
The SSG said in addition to the disbursement of funds, his committee would also recommend measures to be put in place to avoid future flooding, or to respond more proactively should there be a recurrence.
The fact that most crops were destroyed in the flood and there was no money to buy foodstuff forced a lot of people to live on fish, which they had in surplus. There was not even enough money to transport the fish to the markets where residents could get them sold for good money.
A resident, Obiora Obencha from Igbakwu said the flood brought so much fish. In his words, if there was enough food to match the quantity of the harvested fish, it would be good if the flood remained a yearly occurrence. “I will like the era of plenty fish to continue if the flood is confined in the drainages,” he said. “Throughout the season of the flood, pots of soup were made with some few naira notes although there was no food to go with the soup.
I would like a situation where we had enough food to match the fish, and then life will be better in the villages.” In many other villages, including Akili-Ogidi, Akili-Ozizor, Amiyi, Atani, Mputu, Obeagwe, Ochuche, Odekpe, Ogbakuba, Ogwu-Aniocha, Agwuikpele, Ohita, Okpoko, Ossomala, Umunankwo, Umuodu, Umuzu, residents also had more than enough fish that they could ever have imagined. Although, various government officials visited the affected areas, some of the relief materials they brought were allegedly misappropriated.
For instance, people from Anambra East and West Local government areas and Ayamelum who assembled at Otuocha for the collection of relief materials from kind individuals and other agencies were said to have been disappointed alleging that the items might have landed in the wrong hands.
They grumbled that those who were place in charge of its distribution had started helping themselves to the materials. It would be recalled that the damage done by flood in the affected areas was quite enormous.
For instance, the entire Nzam, Aguleri Otu (where President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned the Orient Petroleum facility), Nmiata, Odekpe, Osomala, Osuche, Atani, Amii, Umuzu, Igbakwu, Umuerum among other communities were all under water.
Property worth hundreds of millions of naira in the four local government areas was destroyed. The Anglican Cathedral in Ogbaru and the Catholic Church in Atani were completely submerged. It was the same story for the Divisional Police Station, the High Court and Magistrate Court in the area.
Secondary and primary schools in the two communities too were not spared as they were totally submerged, leaving canoes which plied the area as the only means of transport. It was as if nothing existed in the area before the flood.
At Igbakwu in Ayamelum Local Government area, the flood was not as severe. However, all the cash and food crops planted by the people were damaged as sustained flood destroyed rice, cassava and yam farms and other plantations, and forced the residents out in search of relief materials.
At Atani, Ogbaru Local Government headquarters, the menacing flood pulled down the fences and flooded most government offices, necessitating the evacuation of most of the government property. Affected churches in the community also had to evacuate some of their property. Even the Anglican bishop of the area, Reverend Samuel Ezeofor had to flee with his family to a safe haven.
In Eziagulu and Enugu communities, people could not identify the spot where their churches were located as the whole area was entirely submerged. Everyone fled with their families. As the days wore on, roadside camps earlier set for the refugees were abandoned as more flood water continued to threaten the inmates, thus forcing them to agree to move into designated camps in the hinterland provided by government.