John ODHE, Yenagoa
Mixed reactions have trailed the Bayelsa State government’s handling of the 2020 flood currently ravaging most parts of the state.
The 2020 flood which buried parts of the state is now gradually receding but already rendered many Bayelsa residents homeless. Both the low and mighty are temporarily homeless as buildings have been submerged while farmlands with crops, fishfarms, poultries and other livestocks have been destroyed.
Many Bayelsans, those directly or indirectly affected are of the opinion that after twenty-four years of state creation, the leadership of the state ought to have proffered lasting solution to the annual disaster if the government had the people at heart.
In the heat of the 2020 flood, many Bayelsans took to the social media, lambasting both successive and the present government of being insensitive to the plight of flood victims in the state.
One of such reactions is a video clip which went viral on the social media where a man took his fishing gear to the Bayelsa state House of Assembly quarters which has been completely flooded and deserted by the legislators who are now refugees in other areas within and outside Bayelsa.
In the viral video, the visibly angry man was seen holding a fishing net in his hand while standing inside the quarters, apparently mocking the state government.
The unidentified man who spoke in deep Ijaw English accent was heard shouting, warning the leaders of the homogeneous Izon state to “fear God ooo”
Also in a telephone conversation, one of the flood victims, Dr. Ekyor Welson, who is also a social activist and university don, castigated the past and present governments of Bayelsa state for having not done enough to control or mitigate the effects of the annual flood on its victims
His words: “In the first place, there are two things the government could have done and I will give you a typical example.
“Go to a community called Agbere in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. If you go to Agbere right now, there is no flood anywhere because one man who has benefited so much from the state government, his name is Maxwell Ebibai, he was the Commissioner for Finance under Dickson and l think he is still the Commissioner for Finance.
“He decided to love his community and he did what is called shore protection. So, the community right now is not flooded. That is what the state government could have done over the years.
“Annual flood in Bayelsa is not a natural disaster. It is a natural occurrence. All over the world, wherever you see flood in communities or villages, it is either from tsunami, hurricane, earthquake or one thing or the other.
“You can’t find a situation where a river will just overflow and take over communities. It doesn’t happen that way. It must always come with one terrible storm, one tsunami, one hurricane and things like that.
“So, it’s the same thing the state government could have been doing since 1996 when the state was created. We were to be doing shore protection from one community to another. By now, twenty-four years, they will have covered the entire Bayelsa state. They did not do that.
“The next thing they would have done now that the flood has come is to show care. How does the government show care? It is to look for a way to relocate all the people that have been affected.
“Relocate them to a place and take care of them for this period. Basically between September and November, a three month period. You try to protect their habitations, taking care of them in a holding area; a place you have allocated for them to stay for this three months period.
“You take good care of them. Give them medical facilities. At the end of this period, you go to their places and help fumigate the place, help them clean the place and give them some money to resume their lives.
“That is what, as a government, you can do. The government has not done it. Basically, the government has abandoned the people of Bayelsa state by not doing what it should do by controlling the flood on one hand and to help the people that are affected on the other hand.”
However, some respite have come the way of flood victims in the state as the state government through the ministry of health is currently embarking on what it termed free medical outreach for flood victims and COVID-19 active cases across the state.
A medical team from the ministry of health is carrying out the exercise in different flood affected communities including Imiringi in Ogbia local government area, Obogoro, Amarata, Agudama-Epie all in Yenagoa, the state capital and other parts of the state.
At Agudama-Epie, some beneficiaries of the medical outreach expressed gratitude to the state government for the free medical services rendered to them even as some equally wished that some palliatives such as food stuff and money would have accompanied the medical exercise to cushion the harsh effect of the flood.
A female beneficiary who gave her name simply as Ogilizibe said “l really appreciate what the state government has done. This free medical testing and treatment is coming at a time when many of us have lost everything to the flood.
“Some of us, we are sick including our children and there is no money to afford medical treatment. I thank the state government for this good gesture.”
Speaking, the Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Appah Williams who represented the commissioner said the state government planned to carry out ten free medical outreaches across the state during the flood period.
He revealed that out of the five hundred samples taken from the four places visited so far, a total of nine active COVID-19 cases had been detected, adding that part of the medical exercise was to test and treat flood victims of malaria due to excess mosquitoes and other ailments as a result of the flood.
The commissioner noted that both mosquito treated nets and water in bottles and sachets were distributed to the victims as sources of drinking water had been made more difficult due to the submerging of many private boreholes.
He said part of the medical exercise included distribution of anti-malarial drugs, mass de-worming, extraction of decayed tooth, teeth scaling and polishing, pharmaceuticals, lab testing, screening for diabetes and hypertension among others.