It is another flood season in Bayelsa State, just like in some other states of the Niger Delta. But Morris Alagoa, an environmentalist, is accusing the Bayelsa State government of refusing to pay attention to the causes of perennial flooding in the state.
He spoke with TNN, even as he lamented the frustrating experience of having been ignored by the state government.
How worried are you as flood ravages homes and streets of Bayelsa State during this rainy season?
The annual flood is not strange to our people and communities. However, apart from the great flood of 1969 which I also experienced at Ondewari Community in Southern Ijaw Local Government area of Bayelsa State, since 2012 there has been other great floods experienced in Bayelsa State and other parts of the Niger Delta and beyond. While
those great floods overflow River banks in fresh water areas and flooded swamps and rural communities, including Yenagoa, the flooded streets, roads and premises currently in Yenagoa is as a result of lack of drainage and effective drainage system in Yenagoa. This is so because the actual River and swamp water (flood) has not started affecting communities; the rivers and creeks and creeklets are still receiving water from the environment and sending to bigger rivers flowing towards the Atlantic ocean.
Since before 2012, some of us have been featuring on radio and TV responding to questions from journalists about the general flood and the flash floods affecting Yenagoa It is as if we have wasted our breath, talking to the deaf. The Bayelsa State government seems not to care or lack the political will to do the needful. And that is why they take delight in cosmetic, first-aid and fire brigade approach to the serious issue of flooding in Yenagoa. If not for the interest I have for the common good, I wouldn’t have continued responding to questions pertaining to the issue of flooding in Yenagoa anymore. It is very pathetic. People like Chief Melford Okilo had shown how not to neglect Environmental and ecological issues affecting the people and communities. Most of the natural water courses or creeklets in Yenagoa have been blocked by developers and government who has less concern or consideration of natural features on the land.
Ordinarily, these natural creeklets God endowed Yenagoa with, should have been taken in to consideration in terms of environmental impact assessment; making proper bridges for all.
Have you made efforts to confront the government on this? Do you think the government is not interested in tackling this environmental challenge?
Unfortunately, we are still waiting for a government with the political will to ensure all those who built on natural water paths are made to give back parts of what they have built on…to enable effective flow of water and bring to an end or minimise flooding in Yenagoa drastically
The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) submitted a special field report through the office of the commissioner for environment to the state governor in 2018 after monitoring the flood around Yenagoa that year. We sent advance copy to the governor’s office too. Recommendations in that report includes reopening blocked
stations on. Even the commissioners quarters in Opolo was built on water course. We also recommended that the state government should establish a flood and erosion commission to frontally take care of this. So, because Bayelsa is most deltaic, very low lying topography. Flood and erosion are two main environmental and ecological challenges facing Bayelsa State.
So, where do we go from here? What are your fears as flood continues to torment Bayelsa people?
Part of the annual fire brigade and cosmetic or first-aid action taken by the state government is, trying to open up some of the inland natural creeklets. But what is actually required is environmental surgery-clearing up of the Epie Creek which runs through the entire length of Yenagoa from Igbogene to down Yenagoa. Then, some should be done in all creeklets emptying into the Epie Creek and those taking water towards Elebele
Are you worried that Yenagoa, till date, is still looking like a gloried village?
If only the country is practicing true democracy and the instructions and effective, such things would be considered by the electorate; to vote out those who fail to see the need and take appropriate action and vote in those whom they think can do the needful. These politicians would take loans to buy cars for themselves but deny our communities and people real development. Incidentally, even legislators quarters in Azikoro used to be flooded. But their personal houses are well protected. This reeks of selfishness and primitive accumulation
I am worried because I have made few travels out Bayelsa and Nigeria and I know that the underdevelopment we see in Yenagoa is caused by selfish Ijaws from Bayelsa State. Selfish politicians from Ijaw stock denying Ijaw people development. That is why the Yenagoa Master plan is still unimplemented, gathering dust wherever it is. Only Bayelsans with patriotic disposition like Chief Melford Okilo can really show the difference. Right now, the state government is trying to provide a dam-like structure to control the flood at Okutukutu. But, some residents who said environmental impact assessment wasn’t done before the government is embarking on the project are protesting. According to them, they wrote formally to the governor not to allow this project, but the project is on-going. They said, government should rather clear the Epie Creek for proper flow of water and that this damming project will adversely affect some of their property and denying them thoroughfare on the creek at Okutukutu.