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Maiduguri rains: Relief to all, worries to many

Therefore, when about two weeks ago, Maiduguri witnessed its first all-round heavy downpour that lasted about three hours, one would have expect a general sigh…

Therefore, when about two weeks ago, Maiduguri witnessed its first all-round heavy downpour that lasted about three hours, one would have expect a general sigh of relief. But while some heaved  a sigh of relief with the arrival of the rains, many others were left to commence their annual battle of trauma and losses, for having to face unbearable flood conditions because when the rains came, most parts of the town were almost immersed in ‘pools’ and ‘streams’.

The roundabouts around major streets like the Kano and Baga roads, the Sir Kashim Ibrahim road, the Customs Area roundabout, amongst others, were all flooded. Even the only road which leads to the Maiduguri International Airport was equally flooded and passersby would have to meander through the ‘mini-river’, a scenario which seemed odd, being an area constantly frequented by the elite.

Residential areas were equally affected, in addition to densely populated low income areas like Bolori, Bulumkutu, Gwange, Bulabulin, Abbaganaram, Lawan Bukar, Shehuri, Hausari, Kumshe, Budum, Lamisula, Mafoni, Landan Ciki, among others. In fact, in Bolori, despite the presence of drainages, the area experienced a heavy flood during the last rainfall as water levels in most of the major streets rose so high that they could submerge cars. In fact, those who dared drive through the flood were forced to retreat. Less lucky ones got stuck and abandoned their vehicles until the next day. Even the ‘so-called’ highbrow areas like the GRA (government reserved area), Kashim Ibrahim road and Damboa roads were also affected.

The cause – lack of well designed and strategically located drainage networks and structures. The phenomenon, according to observers, has become an anomaly that past administrations have failed to provide a lasting solutions.

The present government in its seven years in office, seemingly undertook road and drainage construction works around Ngomari airport and parts of Bulumkutu, Landan Ciki, Gamboru (old Maiduguri in Jere), Gwange, most parts of the GRA, Polo and circular roads, and a host of other roads, with the intention to nipthe situation in the bud.

But some concerned residents spoken to attributed the persistent flood to poor drainage networks, selective construction of drainage projects by government in favour of areas where the party in government has more followership, indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the drainages by residents, which in turn obstructs the proper flow of the liquid wastes, and filling up of the drainages by sand, which they say is often a natural occurrence as a result of flowing water during torrential rains.

Investigations by our correspondent reveals that majority of the existing drainages are constructed without provisions for surface concrete slabs, in contrast to the universal drainage construction standard, which ensures that drainages are covered with slabs that have openings created to allow proper aeration. All the drainages cited, including those that were just completed and the ones currently under construction are left open, with the exception of those constructed by previous administrations around the government house, the state’s secretariat and adjoining streets leading to the Post Office and Ramat Square, all concentrated around the old city centre.

This practice of constructing drainages without covering them with concrete slabs has created room for residents to use them as alternative refuse dumps.  In some of the areas visited, two major items constitute components of the blocked drainages – sachet containers or “pure water” bags/polyethylene bags and sand.

Cooperatives and youth organisations who have organised to engage in regular evacuation exercises in their respective areas, are often defeated by lack of adequate manpower, tools, funding, government bureaucracy in terms of solicited technical assistance and response; and suspicion from community members, due from lack of trust where issues of contributions for such exercises arise.

The situation, some residents say, is further worsened by the absence of strategically located street waste bins, which could readily serve as trash cans that would in the long run, help to absolve the trickles of wastes from sachet water containers that now constitute the  majority of  waste in Maiduguri gutters.

Mohammed Lawal, a vulcanizer who plies his trade around Mai Ibrahim road behind the state Secretariat told our correspondent that he is a resident at Hausari Ward, around the old city centre. “When it rains heavily, our area is prone to flooding because the drainages are not desilted or cleared of debris ahead of the rains. The smell of the accumulated waste at times becomes offensive and people have to cover their noses as they pass by some routes.” He said the major problem lies with the fact that rather than engage in routine cleaning exercises, the authorities wait to evacuate the drains when they become blocked.

“The situation is further worsened by the attitude of residents who do not care to evacuate the gutters around their residence. But then, if government wants to, they can engage jobless youths who are in abundance in the metropolis to undertake the cleaning regularly. I believe that with little motivation, that can be carried out. If I get such an opportunity, I would not hesitate to grab it because at least, it would put food on my table. And that way, we would ensure a flood-free and hygienic environment and at the same time, provide gainful employment for the teeming unemployed youths,” he maintained.

An anonymous source disclosed to Kanem Trust that the citing of road and drainage construction projects in particular locations within the metropolis are most times, based on how much interest influential people in government have in the area, saying most areas where roads and drainages have been neglected are areas allegedly perceived by government as opposition areas.

Munkaila Ya’u, another resident who spoke to Kanem Trust, while reacting to the construction of roads and drainages in GRAs wonders why government would be using scarce resources for the construction of roads and drainages in the GRAs, when the elite can afford to undertake such projects on their own. He argued that government should have channeled such funds to the construction of roads and drainages in areas dominated by low income earners, where there is usually an annual occurrence of flood disasters, but government has failed to come to their plight.

According to 30- year old Abdu Abba who sells diesel at the black market and a resident of Bulumkutu Abuja, located in the outskirts of town, which has become synonymous with annual flooding, anytime it rains, they are forced to leave their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. The lucky ones get accommodated by friends and relations and return after the rainy season. “The last time it rained, I was among those who were forced out of their homes by the rain. I first started scooping out the water, but then realised I was only wasting my time because the water level kept rising. We had to move out our wet properties,” he told our correspondent.

He added that the large pool of water is just the result of one heavy downpour, saying if there was a channel, the water would have flowed. He said that like most parts of the metropolis, in Bulumkutu, any heavy downpour signifies ‘crisis’, either because of the absence of good drainage network, or for the fact that the few existing ones are either blocked or inadequate because the population has tripled or even quadrupled and the structures are overstretched.

In some cases, he said, the drainages become useless, either because of the erection of structures on water ways, or lack of maintenance. And when there is no free passage, the water remains stagnant and floods the area, and in most cases, finding its way into houses.

“For instance, all these household (pointing to some groups of houses), have deserted their houses because of the flood. Those who are still staying are those who do not have a place to go. They have to occupy the houses, despite the fact that it is flooded because they do not have the financial capacity to go and rent houses elsewhere, neither do they have where they could be accommodated before the rainy season goes away. We would be grateful if the state government would come to our aid. The problem has been reoccurring for years and the situation is beyond what the residents can handle.

“I know government is capable of expanding the drainage network and channeling it to some of the canals across the state as they have demonstrated in Ngomari, Landan Ciki and Gamboru”, he ended with a plea.

Earlier in the week, Governor Ali Modu Sheriff had told the delegation from the State Emirate Council that the State Executive Council has approved the constitution of a committee to embark on the cleaning of drainages within the metropolis, but opinion from various quarters are unanimous that unless the state government adopts a proactive approach to such social problems by acting ahead of time, the phenomenon will continue. They argue further that government must ensure that the cleaning exercises are not episodic, but rather, a routine, and are equally driven geared towards the maintenance of existing drainages. They also said that unless newly constructed drainages are carried out within universally accepted standards where concrete slabs are used as cover, including the existing ones, Maiduguri residents are yet to see the last of the floods.

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