Flood Havoc: Travellers Still Stranded on Abuja-Lokoja Highway, as More Communities Get Submerged

25 Sep 2012

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Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen


By Shola Oyeyipo, George Okoh and Segun James

This year’s flash floods seem determined to affect much more people beyond those who live in flood plains. The floods, which have displaced about two million people in Kogi State, have impaired travelling to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by passengers coming from the South.

Thousands of travellers are stranded on the Abuja-Lokoja-Okene Road due to the flooding of the River Niger, a testimony that indeed, all are victims of the flood.

The hectic traffic situation has stalled vehicular movement from the FCT to the South and vice versa. The situation is compounded by the flooding of the Abuja axis of the river, which overflowed its banks due to the release of water from Shiroro and Kainji dams.

Men of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) who were on hand to control the worsening traffic gridlock around the state capital have advised motorists to use the Ajaokuta-Ankpa-Makurdi road as alternative road to access the FCT and other parts of the North.

The flood that has ravaged Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, has also cut off several parts of the capital thereby inhibiting intra-state vehicular movements as travellers bent on proceeding on their journeys have been compelled to use the canoe.

Also, many buildings, including the state-owned Confluence Beach Hotel, have been totally submerged leading to the rising population of displaced people seeking succour at the relief camps set up by the state government.

The degree of destruction in Kogi State has caused the Federal Government to declare the state a “national disaster area” and assured Nigerians that immediate solutions will be put in place to address the plight of those affected by the overflow of Rivers Niger and Benue.

Giving the assurance in Lokoja, Monday during a visit to the state Governor, Captain Idris Wada, Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, who led a presidential team to assess the situation, said President Goodluck Jonathan was highly touched by the sufferings of the flood victims.

Among those on the delegation were Minister of Environment and Chairman, Presidential Committee on the Assessment of Flood Disaster, Hajia Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafiya; Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe; the Executive Secretary, Red Cross, Alhaji Bello Diram; and chief executives of three construction companies—Julius Berger, RCC, Dantata and Sagoe.

“We are here at the behest of President Goodluck Jonathan. He has been deeply touched by the suffering of Nigerians affected by the flood. It is a national emergency. It has touched on key national infrastructure because the Abuja – Lokoja highway easily accounts for 70 per cent of traffic between the North and South,” Onolememen said.

According to him, the level of water currently devastating the state has not been witnessed in the last 100 years, stressing, “We have additional two metres rise in water level.”

He said the team arrived in the state with the construction giants to urgently evolve ways to solve the problems caused by the disaster.

“We have conducted air reconnaissance and we are sure to redress the logjam within the next few days,” he added.

Mailafiya, on her part, urged the people to always obey simple environmental laws as a way of reducing disasters.

“The reality is that it is an international phenomenon that is seen on international mass media. Our situation is worsened because we do not obey rules as it regards the use of the environment,” she said.

Wada, who described the disaster as “a major human calamity for the people of Kogi State in the past days,” expressed gratitude to Jonathan for his timely intervention, noting, “the Federal Government has shown that it is willing to share in the pains of the people.”

And in Nasarawa State, about 12,223 persons have been displaced by flood in over seven communities in Iggi village, Toto Local Government Areas of the state.
Also, about 9,000 buildings in the area have been submerged by water while crops and farmlands have also been washed away.

To cushion the suffering of the flood victims, the state Governor, Alhaji Umaru Al-Makura, yesterday donated relief materials as well as N5 million cash to them. Items donated to the affected communities include rice, beans, garri, detergent, toilet soap, palm oil and body cream.

Al-Makura, who was at the palace of the Ohimege Opanda, Usman Abdullahi, to commiserate with the people of the area, said government regrets the plight of the people.

He also said as a government that is sensitive to the plight of the people, it was only right to identify with them at this trying moment. The traditional ruler urged the Federal Government to caution Cameroonian authorities against releasing water from their dam without proper enlightenment in future.

According to him, the Cameroonians had intentionally released the water, describing their action as “deliberate.”

Beyond the middle belt where the River Niger seems to be unleashing its fury on the people, the coastal state of Bayelsa has also witnessed flooding that has sacked two towns in the state.  People in communities along the two tributaries of River Niger in the state and creeks are moving out as the waters continue to rise.

THISDAY investigations revealed that the floods have sacked schools and homes in Tungbo and Sagbama town, headquarters of Sagbama Local Government Area where at least 200 homes and families have been displaced.

Both communities are located along the bank of the River Nun, a tributary of the River Niger.

Similar situation also took place at Adagbabiri, a community along the River Forcados said to be perennially flooded every year because it is below sea level.

While Adagbabiri is flooded, the community opposite it, Patani, has relatively escaped the flood as it has shore protection, though threatened by the swelling body of water.

Many communities along the banks of both rivers have been sacked, while others are stranded, as no boat is ready to sail on the troubled waters.

At Sagbama, the Community Secondary School, Obuware and Community Primary School, Indiamazi, have been closed down as the waters have taken over their premises, which are located near the bank of River Nun.

In Tungbo, the two government schools in the town: Government Comprehensive Secondary School and Community Primary School have been taken over by floods from River Nun.

A community leader, Ogbo Akpoeyi, who took THISDAY round some of the affected areas in Sagbama, said over 300 families had been displaced by the ravaging flood in Sagbama, which he described as the worst since 1999.