OLAYINKA OLUKOYA looks at the impacts of the Friday downpour that resulted in a flooded Abeokuta, Ogun State, which led to the loss of lives and properties. She also writes on ongoing efforts by government to address the issues.
Although, the 2018 seasonal rainfall prediction of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), had it that Ogun State, may not experience severe flooding, the reverse was the case last Friday, in Abeokuta as major parts of the city were swept away following a downpour.
Those affected by the flood are still counting their losses because of the enormity of the damage caused by it. The devastation left many of them in a state of despair and hopelessness. The forlorn look on their faces spoke volume.
No one had any inkling that the downpour which started at about 4 pm would leave some residents dead and others homeless. As at the time of filing this report, some people are yet to reunite with other members of their families while others have recorded destroyed valuables running into millions of naira. The downpour which lasted for over three hours caused gridlocks on virtually all major roads in the city. Many motorists and pedestrians were stranded and therefore could not get to their destinations as planned; many had to stay back where they were due to radio announcements that many areas had been flooded. This development resulted to panic as some residents reported cases of missing persons in different parts of the city.
The last time the state capital witnessed such flooding that left many homeless and recorded loss of lives was in 2007. Since then, succeeding governments in the state have had interventionist programmes to address the situation.
Unfortunately, however, the Friday downpour left no fewer than eleven dead victims while the search for missing residents is still ongoing. Many houses and vehicles were badly damaged by the flood. The areas mostly affected by the flood included Ijaiye, Kuto, Lafenwa, Oke Lantoro, Amolaso, Kobiti, Ilawo, Ijeun –Titun and Ago -Ijesha. Those affected were seen scampering for safety as they tried to salvage whatever was left of their property and houses. Some residents were of the belief that the rain could not have been the cause of the flood, alleging that the authority of the Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Agency (OORDA) could have released water from their dam. However, a senior official of the OORBDA who craved anonymity told the Nigerian Tribune that the Federal Government agency did not release water from its dam.
It was learnt that a food vendor by the name, Halirat Akintobi and her two sons who locked themselves up in a container were washed away by the flood. The trio had since been buried according to Islamic rites. Bodies of two brothers were also recovered at Odedairo Street, Isale Oja Kuto.
It was lamentation galore at Amolaso as shop owners who lost their goods in the flood were still in shock and disbelief.
A woman who identified herself as Bisola Somuyiwa, was in tears while speaking with newsmen following the loss she recorded to the tune of N5 million while Ismot Olayokun said her brother lost two houses to the flood.
Somuyiwa said her warehouse which had goods worth N5m was taken over by the flood and therefore appealed to the state government to assist them.
According to her, “I have been in this area for 10 years, selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I have two shops. When the rain started, it was not so serious but gradually it became very heavy.”
For Olayokun, “We have lost a lot to the flood and we only hope that the state government will come to our aid. Those that came to help us clear the mess are demanding N50, 000 but we are pleading with them to collect N30, 000. For our shops that were destroyed, they are also demanding N100, 000 but we are still pleading with them to accept N80, 000. Goods worth over N3 million were destroyed in my brother’s blocks of shops.”
It was a hectic day for officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) as they evacuated corpses and subsequently deposited them at the morgue of the state hospital, Ijaiye.
While officers of the Ministry of Environment, Red Cross and security agencies also were engaged in clearing debris from the roads.
The state chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Ogun State, Joseph Obalanlege, described the extent of damage caused by the flood as devastating.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Ogun State chapter said the effect of the flood would have been minimised if necessary steps had been taken, and local campaigns undertaken to ensure that drains and canals were cleared and clog-free.
NITP, in a statement signed by its chairman, Oladunjoye Arowosegbe, commiserated with those affected by the flood, acknowledging the fact that the state government would have to do a lot in terms of infrastructural development, just as he added that the body was ready to partner with any organisation or professional body to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Arowosegbe added that it was time the state government looked critically into the regional plan of the state, improve on it and begin to implement all strategies proposed in the report for a flood-free sub-region.
The institute further stated that despite the existence of a regional plan there was need to prepare a master plan for the state capital and all the urban settlements in the state, saying it was only this level of plan that would be effective in guiding development at the street level.
“It is not sufficient to prepare regional plans; it is more important to implement them. That is the key to achieving sustainable cities,” he said.
It will be recalled that the state Commissioner for Environment, Bolaji Oyeleye, in a statement noted that there could be flash floods in flood-prone communities, despite the prediction of NIMET which forecasted a normal rainfall season for the state.
Oyeleye who went round the areas affected by the flood on Saturday for an on-the-spot assessment, said the effect of the flood could have been more devastating if not for the construction of standard drainages that accompanied the road infrastructures constructed by government.
The commissioner said the Ministry embarked on the dredging of river/stream courses, as well as de-silting of drainages in major towns in preparation for the rainy season, to prevent flood disasters. He bemoaned the attitude of residents who dump refuse into drainages, along medians and canals and urged them to desist from such.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun also went round the city on Sunday to know the extent of damage and therefore called on the Federal Government to assist the state through provisions of relief materials to the victims of the flood. He said the losses were too much for the state to bear, promising the state government’s intervention as well.
Amosun equally commiserated with the families of those who lost their loved ones while advising residents of the state to build right. “Our people should not build on the waterways. They should also desist from disposing their refuse in drainages and canals. The magnitude effect of last Friday’s flood in some parts of the state is more than what the state can bear. I appeal to the Federal Government to come to our aid,” he added.
Some of the places inspected include Ijeja road, Gbangba bridge, Itoku market, Kuto-Isabo road and lafenwa road, all in Abeokuta the state capital.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was in Abeokuta to assess the situation. Speaking with newsmen, the NEMA Assistant Chief Planning Officer, South West, Babatunde Olowookere, said the agency discovered that many people have built on flood plains and waterways.
“We are here to assess the situation and to see how the Federal Government can render assistance. We have been rendering assistance; this is not the first time. From what we have seen, we have discovered that people have built on flood plains; they built on waterways and the waste management issue too needs to be tackled.
“On our own part, we are going to write our assessment report and send to our headquarters in Abuja for them to give palliative measures in form of relief materials to the victims.”
Assessing the situation, one of the governorship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Oladipupo Adebutu, blamed the state government for not investing so much in the channelisation of water courses.
Adebutu who visited virtually all the areas hit by the flood promised to discuss the issue with the leadership of the House of Representatives and see what could be done.
“My assessment of the situation is that we are suffering from bad governance. This is not the first this has happened; it is a perennial thing and I believe a responsible government should have invested in the channelisation of water courses, instead of building bridges where there is no water.
“People have lost their homes; people have lost their businesses and most regrettably, people have lost their lives,” he said.
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