Five months after the floods that inundated communities in Bayelsa State and other states of the country, authorities in the Niger Delta state are still battling to fix the areas damaged by the disaster.
The floods, which came late September last year and lasted till early November, destroyed farmlands, social amenities and infrastructure around Igbogene, Tombia, Amossoma, Azikoro, Elebele, Otuoke, Akenfa, Gbarain among others in Bayelsa.
Over 300 communities, according to data from the state government, were submerged by the floods.
Critical infrastructures such as roads, bridges, schools and hospitals were damaged, and the state government said over one million residents were displaced following the disaster. Though the state government, in its 2023 budget, has earmarked funds for the repair of the damaged infrastructure, residents said they have yet to see meaningful repairs and remedial works.
A resident of Igbogene Community in Yenagoa, Mr Lucky Henry, told Daily Trust that some roads in the area that were not passable after the flood have been repaired, but lamented that school infrastructures that were damaged by the flood are yet to be fixed by the government. “The state governmenton its own has tried to fix some of those public utilities damaged during the flood disaster, but my worry is that private property was the most destroyed.
“About 70 per cent of what was destroyed belonged to private citizens, and most of them may not have there sources to fix them.
“I know people who could not go back to their houses because they were destroyed by flood, so government should also consider compensating those people to fix their property. I think by doing so, it will help assuage the trauma,” he said.
A resident of Elebele Road, Tombra Joseph, said, “Personally, I lost several properties to the flood disaster, but I don’t have the resources to repair my house
at the moment, and I am anxious as they predicted that this year’s flood will be higher than last year’s. If it’s true, that means people will face a lot of hardship.”
He, however, urged the state government to concentrate on school facilities destroyed by the flood so that children would be safe to learn. The Technical Adviser to Governor Douye Diri on Treasury, Account and Revenue, Mr Timipre Seipulou, during the monthly transparency briefing of the state government disclosed that the state has received N481 million as flood relief donations from organisations and private donors in three months.
He said the government has already invested the fund in the repair of critical Infrastructures damaged by floods.
Daily Trust gathered that Tombia-Amassoma road which leads to the Niger Delta University (NDU), and other roads in Yenagoa have been repaired and put to use. Meanwhile, the Ecological Project Office (EPO) under the Presidency has reclaimed 16 hectares of land and protected about 850 meters of shoreline at Emadike town in Ogbia Local Government of Bayelsa State.
A resident of the area, a former House of Representatives member, Graham Ipigansi, said during the 2012 flood disaster, the whole community was inundated but with the reclamation and shoreline protection works now at 95 per cent completion, the community survived the 2022 flood.
“I will call this a pilot project in the Niger Delta because, during the 2022 flood disaster, all the neighbouring communities came here to take refuge because it was the only community that was not submerged by water in the whole of Bayelsa,” he said. Inspecting the project on Monday, the Permanent Secretary of EPO, Alhaji Shehu Ibrahim, said “There is history behind what you are seeing today. In 2012, most of this community was submerged by that heavy flooding, but by the time we intervened in the last two years, this place became a sanctuary for most of the communities that are here. “You can see the quality of work that has been done here and you can see the extent of the land reclamation done here, more than 16 hectares of land.”
He added that the community now has enough land, and the people also have a sense of safety.
He said there are a lot of areas affected by erosion along the coast of Ekole creek, promising that EPO would intervene in some other communities as well.
“This is the kind of intervention Mr President always encourages us to do so we are going to make our report available to him for further action,” Ibrahim said.
The president of Azikel Dredging and Construction Group, Dr. Eruani Azibapu God bless, who is the project contractor, while welcoming the EPO team, said the
project was the realization of his late father’s dream. He said his late father was the chief of Emadike and had tried but in vain to protect the community from the menace of flooding.
He said the project was challenging but worth the pain “because when the whole of Bayelsa was submerged, Emadike survived. About 18 communities around Emadike were inundated, and it was a kind of refuge for residents fleeing other villages.”
But in Tombia and Agudama communities, where EPO is also doing a 400 metres shoreline protection along the River Nun, the permanent secretary expressed displeasure at the quality of the work done.
He said the job was not done according to specification and therefore, gave the contractor, MW Global Services Ltd, three months to finish the project.
However, the managing director of the company, Stanley Odenigbo, assured the EPO and the Tombia and Agudama communities of delivering quality project within the stipulated time. Nigeria’s coast, stretching 853km through seven southern states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is regularly affected by erosion and land degradation; with huge costs attributed to the environmental phenomenon.
By Terkula Igidi, Abuja & Bassey Willie, Yenagoa