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Bayelsa communities panic as NiMET forecasts worst flood disaster

Still wallowing in the pains of last year’s flood with its attendant destruction of properties and livelihoods, communities in Bayelsa State are crying out for…

Still wallowing in the pains of last year’s flood with its attendant destruction of properties and livelihoods, communities in Bayelsa State are crying out for the government to take appropriate measures to ensure that the anticipated flooding for this year is contained.

Bayelsa State,  located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, experiences heavy flooding on a yearly basis due to the rising sea level during the rainy season.

The perennial flooding affects many communities, while properties and human lives are destroyed in communities, especially in Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw, Sagbama, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Yenagoa local government areas of the state.

During the 2022 flooding, communities in Yenagoa, the state capital, such as Igbogene, Azikoro, Famgbe, Ogbogoro, Akenfa, Agudama, Ogu, and Onopa amongst others were heavily impacted, and many people ascribed the perennial flooding to poor town planning by appropriate authorities.

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Daily Trust reports that as of August 2022, the state was inundated with a flood. Data from the Bayelsa State Emergency Agency (BYSEMA) indicated that over  1.3 million people were displaced during last year’s flood, while several lives and properties were lost.

Already, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) has predicted that this year’s flooding will be worse than last year’s and citizens are already expressing fears over government’s preparedness to contain the natural disaster and safeguard their lives and properties.

Cameroon has also informed the Federal Government of Nigeria of its intention to open the Lagdo Dam which is on the upper course of the River Benue.

The notification was sent to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) through a letter signed by Umar Salisu, the Ministry’s Director of African Affairs in Cameroon.

A resident from Igbogene community, Mr Abaowei Victory, expressed fear that the properties he lost to the flooding in 2022 were yet to be recovered and there is prediction of heavy flooding again while government was not doing anything to alleviate the suffering of the people.

According to him, his provision store was submerged by the flood last year and he was left with nothing to fend for his family, urging government to take appropriate action to contain the yearly flooding in the state.

He said: “With the hardship in the country at the moment, if flood comes again this year, it’s not only water that will kill people but frustration will even kill more.

“I returned to my house in February after last year’s flood sacked us and few months after, flood is about to sack us again, where do we have money to move to another apartment.

“So government cannot address this flooding at once and allow the citizens and residents of Bayelsa State to breathe? It is very unfortunate, why don’t government dredge blocked canals and creeks, open up gutters, and build dikes where necessary?

“After now, they will be starting their campaigns for election, and flood will not disturb them, government in this country should take the welfare of citizens seriously,” he said.

Speaking during a three-day stakeholders meeting tagged “Strengthening Environmental Potency and Accountability in Governance” facilitated by Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) in Yenagoa, the state capital, the stakeholders raised the issues of transportation and revitalization of the abandoned cardiovascular specialist hospital in Okolibiri Community in Yenagoa local government to handle the flood victims whose cases may be critical during the anticipated flood disaster.

Recounting the negative effects of last year’s flood, Mr Emmanuel Egede, who is the community development chairman of Otuoke community in Ogbia LGA, said the flood in the area led to the loss of lives and properties, as well as high rate of crimes, destruction of farmlands, high cost of living, and poor health among others.

He urged the government to open up canals, build IDP camps, construct dikes and sea walls and ensure early provision of relief materials among others to cushion the effects of the impending flood.

According to him, “The government should not share relief materials when the flood is almost over.”

Already, as part of measures to curtail the effect of perennial flooding in Bayelsa State, the state government has begun the distilling of canals, creeks and other natural waterways to safeguard the residents of the state from the negative effects of flooding.

Governor Douye Diri recently set up the Bayelsa State Directorate of Flood and Erosion Control to look at the issues of flood disasters and proffer solutions.

The flood directorate had since commenced operations with the clearing of blocked canals and waterways.

Before the setting up of the directorate, residents of the state urged the state, federal government and other relevant authorities to make adequate plans early to ensure that residents were evacuated from flood-prone areas as another heavy flood is predicted in the state this rainy season.

Speaking during a visit to the Mobility Command of the Nigerian Air Force, the Director General of the Directorate of Flood and Erosion Control, Surv. Wilson Omuso, noted that solutions to flooding cannot be done without a thorough evaluation and mapping of affected areas.

He said that is why the directorate kicked off an assessment of flood-prone areas across the state in order to compile an accurate database that would aid in providing lasting solutions to the disaster in the state.

He stated that the directorate would take adequate measures to address the flooding issue confronting the state.

Wilson said the directorate has already started the 2023 assessment and identification of potential flood-prone areas in the state for possible mitigation by the government.

He listed the areas to include Gwegwe – Obele – St Peter canal, Onopa – Medical University – Royal House of Grace – Aretalain canal, Union Bank – back of Amarata- Access Bank canal, Okaka-Ekeki-Osiri road- Tower Hotel canal, Cemetery Culvert – CBN- Upstream Azikoro canal, Kpansia GRA- Baybridge, Mike Okpokpo Street – Bayelsa Palm road canal and Yenzuegene – Otiotio road- Erepa- PDP road – Unity bank – Biogbolo canal, all in Yenagoa.

He said the assessment of those areas was necessary as the rains were already around the corner, stressing that all hands must be on deck to curb the menace.

He therefore assured citizens of the government’s proactive steps already put in place to mitigate the impact of the impending flood but advised residents to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse in natural waterways for free flow of water.

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