•I lost everything in one night
•Schools, shops shut in Atani, Ogwikpele
From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
Nothing can better describe the condition of Anambra riverine communities than anguish, pain and poverty. These resulted from flooding when the River Niger overflowed its banks. Many communities in some local government areas of the state have been at the mercy of flooding and erosion and other ecological disasters since the beginning of the rainy season.
The communities include Otuocha in Anambra East local government area of the state, Odekpe, Atani and Ogwuikpele all in Ogbaru local government area. The worst hit of all the local government areas remains Ogbaru local government area where 8 out of the 9 communities were sacked raising fears that the remaining one would soon be overtaken by flood.
Speaking on the incident, the leader of Ogbaru Stakeholders Forum, Sir Peter Okala lamented that this year’s flooding is strange to the entire people of the area and he blames both Anambra state and federal governments for negligence and not taking proper action to avert the disaster. “The government is not taking any action to protect lives and property of the people within the Ogbaru council area and as we are talking, every family has been displaced by the flooding.
For instance, you can see me trying to pack the remaining things that I could salvage. Every community within Ogbaru has been washed away except Okpoko.” “Okpoko community is the only community that has not been washed away, Atani is gone, Ogwuikpele is gone and this has vindicated our earlier call on the former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji and NEMA to help the communities because of the impending doom we saw over the blockage of the water outlet by Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN , but nobody listened to us.
We also raised the alarm when flood overtook our houses and 11 innocent school children drowned but still government did not listen” he said. Sir Okala said further that the devastating effects of the flooding had forced so many people out of their homes and destroyed property worth several hundreds of millions of Naira, noting “when we will see the major effect of this disaster is during the dry season because the water from the River Niger overflowed its banks and washed away our farms; hunger is seriously looming over us and more especially, epidemic is hanging on our necks because the flood has polluted our water supply network.”
The Ogbaru Stakeholders’ Forum further maintained that if the state and federal governments had listened to their SOS earlier and facilitated the dredging of River Niger, it could have helped the situation and averted the disaster which he said was the most severe since he started living in Ogbaru land. Sunday Sun also gathered that school children within the communities like Iyiowa-Odekpw, Atani, Ogwikpele have stopped attending school as their schools were not spared in the flooding. One of the secondary schools, St. Vincent De Paul group of schools, Atani Road, Odekpe, has been submerged by flood and residents of the area were seen fishing inside the school compound with canoes. He further disclosed that apart from the fact that the flood destroyed so many people’s home and destroyed livestock, it afforded them opportunity to fish and make brisk business from the sale of fish they caught inside their compounds and even bedrooms as a result of the flooding.
“We are making money by the day because people began to catch fish inside their compounds and inside these classrooms, there are big fishes that are stranded, they were brought here by the river surge and now, they cannot go back into the River Niger. When we see them, we use cutlass and even some of us used bare hands to catch very big fish that ordinarily could not be caught in the river before.
We are making money because people from Onitsha now come here to buy fish” he said. For Josiah Onu, a medicine dealer at 53, Okoti road, Iyiowa Odekpe, this year’s flooding was the most severe in the 25 years he’s been living in the area. He lamented that the flood destroyed everything inside his shop. All the drugs in his store were condemned. “Since 25 years ago I started living here, this is the most severe I have ever seen and as it stands now, we thought it will not get to us but we just woke up the next day to see that my shop had been submerged by water.
I used the canoe which it threw from the river to help me get access to my shop and when I opened it, I nearly fainted, everything inside my shop was destroyed and I am helpless now. “I want to call on the state and federal governments to come to my aid because I just put every money I had into this business last week when I went to market to re-stock my shop with drugs worth over N5 million but today, I stood and watched all that I have ever labored for destroyed and swept away by the flood from the River Niger” he said.
A Yoruba tenant at No 42 Okoti road, Iyiowa Odekpe and her entire family were not spared by the ravaging flood as they lost everything they had due to the flooding of their flat . Bilikisu Ajibola who spoke to Sunday Sun while on a canoe trying to get access to her apartment said amidst tears that she lost everything in the flood and maintained that the flooding could still be worse owing to the surging river.
“I have been living here with my parents for 12 years and this year, we saw this type of thing, we have relocated our mother and our children to a safe place in the sense that the flood has not gotten to that place but that does not mean it will not get there, from what I am observing about this flooding. It is increasing by the second and when you relax, you will not know when it will carry you. It carried a two year old boy whose mother left in the room and went to market.
It was because the woman thought it will not get to her”, she said. She called on the state and federal governments to help them by intensifying efforts to dredge the River Niger. Obiora Oba said the flooding almost killed his entire family when they were fast asleep. “I was sleeping and it was when my wife woke up to urinate that she screamed that flood had covered the entire house, that was when I woke up and found out that my entire house had been covered by water”
“That was when I found out too that everything in my house had been submerged including my chairs in the sitting room, everybody in my house started trying to find a way to escape to safety and thank God the flood brought some canoes which fishermen kept by the bank of the rivers and we immediately grabbed one and used bamboo to paddle to safety.
I have lost all I labored for in life, I want the state government to help us” “I want it on record that the state government has not done enough for us and our people like the Minister for Aviation, Mrs. Stella Odua, Speaker, Anambra state House of Assembly, Mrs. Chinwe Nwebili and Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Chief Obaze have not done well for our people. When we saw this thing coming, we wrote to all of them, it was only Afam Ogene representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency that came to our aid and has been on ground assessing the problem”, Obiora said.