Edith CHUKU/Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
Inhabitants of the coastal communities of the Niger Delta are now suffering from severe hunger, after flood destroyed their farmlands and other sources of livelihood. A good number of them returned to homes with nothing to begin a new life.
In Cross River State, residents of Ogoja Local Government area of Cross River State have lamented the increasing flood ravaging most communities in the local government. They said they have recorded enormous damage and loss of their farm produce and property as a result of the flood.
Many families have been displaced since the incident. They complained that the damages experienced from the flood have put many homes in abject poverty.
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Some of the victims who spoke to TNN lamented that the government was neglecting them while they went through hell as a result of the flood.
Even the Chairman of Ogoja Local government, Emmanuel Ishabor has confirmed that the people have gone through hard times in the recent past. A statement by his press secretary, Justin Ilefa which was made available to TNN confirmed that some communities in the area have been submerged by ravaging floods.
The Chairman who called on both the federal and state governments to intervene added that the number of communities affected by the flood was increasing on a daily basis. He also solicited for well meaning Nigerians and corporate bodies to come to their aid.
“We are facing an unusual complex humanitarian situation. The ongoing flood crisis is exacerbating other threats caused by COVID-19 and we are also worried that the number of people who are hungry and sick will increase in the coming weeks as flooding and COVID-19 continue to severely affect the coping capacity of many families in Ogoja Local government Area”, the Chairman noted.
The council boss who stressed that the people were in dire need of a quick intervention added that the harsh weather conditions were having a multiple effect on an already difficult situation and that could potentially lead to worrying levels of food insecurity in Ogoja Local Government area.
When TNN contacted the Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Princewill Ayim, he confirmed that the agency got the alert warning them that over 200 communities in the state will be affected by flood.
He added that the agency went round to carry out sensitisations on how to avert the situation. He also said the agency was collecting reports from the affected communities, promising that the government will definitely assist the communities as soon as they were done with the compilation of the reports.
His words: “Before he made that complain, we got alert from NIMET, we got alert from NIHSA that about 240 communities in Cross River State were going to be affected by the flood, so we started our sensitization by going to these communities to inform them about the predictions. So we started earlier and we informed them, the local government chairman was aware that something like this was going to happen around September.
“It is not surprising because he is aware that it was going to happen and it happened. Some of the communities were affected. We got information from him and we acted accordingly. Not that they were not aware, but this is a natural kind of incident. Flood may be caused definitely by man, but you cannot stop rain from falling. So it’s just to sensitize them about it which we did.
“We have to take data from the various communities to see how we can assist. We’ve compiled and recently, NEMA came to give us the format, using the disinfector which is a tool for registering accidents like this. This is what we just did a week ago and apart from that, we’ve been liaising with the affected local governments to get record and we’ve started forwarding it to the national body to assist”.
He added that the #EndSars protest caused some distractions from distributing some relieve materials. He said the agency is trying to reposition itself after the setback. He stressed that the agency will not relent in thinking on how to help her people. “We are collaborating with the affected communities.
“We are working in line with the government, and we don’t pray for all these things. We need to reposition ourselves to manage all these things. We are working with other agencies to see how we can support the communities. We are on it at the moments, it’s not something we do like that, we need to plan properly”, the DG stated.
In Rivers State, there is an outcry for help from submerged communities of Ahoada West.
The people want both the state and federal government to come to their aid as the devastating flood destroyed both their farm produces and houses.
This is coming a few days after some residents who fled their homes as a result of the flood, returned to find melted blocks as their houses had been washed away by the flood.
In an interview with a renowned music artiste, Jikume Bethlehem from Engenni in Ahoada West, she disclosed that the flood had subsided which has made many residents to return home. She however pointed out that there was high level of hunger and suffering in the communities, pleading with the government to come to their assistance.
According to her, “the flood has gone down. It started receding since 23rd of October; it took like two weeks or so to get to this level where people can now go back to their homes. The worst of it all is that there is hunger because even before communities got submerged, you had their food produces in their farm washed away, those who were able to get a few just had to leave on them, and these people they sell at the Mbiama market, so with this happening it means that as it is they are unable to even make sells as everything has been washed off.
“And also when they sell these produces they send their children to school, they take care of their Christmas expenses while they hold on for farming season again and all of that, but right now all of that is gone, hunger, normal way of living, taking care of themselves medically and every other way is terrible right now.
“The children’s education has suffered too, big setback, that is another angel, and also seedling, you know, like cassava stem which is our biggest, when you uproot the cassava, you cut the stem as it’s still fresh to plant but as it is right now, you know those stems have been washed off and rotten with nowhere to plant so as it is now they need seedlings, cassava stem and all of that to start again, people who have businesses need capital to start again.”
She appealed to the government to come to their aid, supply them with medical kits, give them free medical checkups and supply food to them. She added that the government should also try to supply them with seedlings, Cassava stems and fertilizer.
“Some houses fell because of how long the water stayed, those who have mud houses, even those with block houses because the submerging has been occurring since 2012, especially in the Engenni axis, so many houses actually fell this year even block houses; so they should look for ways to support these people financially and otherwise, also support the children who are going to school, who has had this strong set back, the government has so much to do, the relevant agencies has so much to do on how to reduce the pain of these people.
“My biggest appeal will also be that the Federal government do what they had said they will do by dredging the Orashi River, because we can’t keep living like this, it happens and we come back and start begging for food every year, my people are not beggars, we are strong people, we live by the River banks, we kill our fish, by the back we have bushes, we kill our bush meats, we farm we eat well, if you go to my place they serve you good food, they should please come to dredge the Orashi River, this is now to the Federal government, they should dredge the Orashi River, the Tailor Creek behind the other way, which is on the Bayelsa side, we have Semengenni community going to Tailor Creek also and then some part of the River Niger according to what they mentioned will help when dredged.
“So we are appealing to the federal government to do what they have said they will do through the vice president since 2018, he made that promise at Mbiama when he visited during the 2018 flood, so we are appealing to them to do the needful,” she said.