How to describe the level of devastation caused by flood in no fewer than 15 communities in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema local council areas of Imo State is no doubt a herculean task. It is also true that the degree of harm caused the harmless and hapless citizens and the environment by the rampaging flood is better imagined than seen.
This is the worst flooding Egbema and Oguta people experienced for a long time. The first in recent memory was in 1947, the year of the eclipse of the sun. There was also that of 1969, during the war but this one surpasses all of them, according to some aged men in the two areas.
In Egbema axis, Opuoma, Obiakpu, Mmahu and Abacheke communities have very sad stories to tell about the flood. A former member of House of Representatives, Chief Tony Okere, who took representatives of Rotary International, District 9140, to the submerged communities, told Saturday Vanguard that the flood did not spare the Independent Power Plant, which is under construction in the area.
“About 25,000 people have been displaced from their homes, including the former Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Goodluck Nanah Opiah. Similarly, the road leading to Ndoni, the country home of the former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, has been taken over by flood”, Okere recounted with tears.
Reacting also to the ugly development, the Assistant Governor of Rotary International, District 9140, Chief C. J. Ihemedu, described what the delegation saw in Oguta and Egbema as “traumatic” and even warned that if nothing was done immediately, an epidemic of unimaginable proportion could engulf the disaster zone.
The story is not different in Oguta. Two people reportedly drowned in Oguta axis. All the riverine arreas, including Orsu, Nnebukwu, Orsu Obodo, Opuoma, Ezi Orsu are under water.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that fish ponds, cocoa plantations, farm lands, plantain, cassava, economic trees and crops are presently under water. Over 123 farm settlements and satellite towns are under water. Almost 8,000 persons have no homes now.
Over 1,000 homes have been sacked in Oguta, including the home of the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development Commission, Engr. Ernest Nwapa and the bridge connecting Oguta and Egbuoma, the home of the Secretary to the Government of Imo State, SGI, Professor Anthony Gozie Anwuka, has been swallowed. This bridge also leads to Senator Nzeribe’s home.
The multi million Naira Erima Agwuagu Plantation is in water. The pavilion, from where dignitaries watch the fanciful regatta during the Ozurimo festival is under water. The ferry has since ceased to function because the landing ramp is under water now.
Oguta community has set up well knit machinery to accommodate the displaced persons in individual homes. It is an effort coordinated by the community to alleviate the sufferings of the internally displaced persons to avert chaos.
Answering questions from Saturday Vanguard, the traditional ruler of Oguta, Eze Nnani Nzeribe, said that no fewer than 65 persons live in one farm satellite settlement, adding that 123 of such settlements have been sacked by flood. “Apart from one or two flow stations, all the oil wells and pipelines are under water. Shell has shut down its operations in Umuorodogwom”, the royal father said.
Wildlife, as well as fauna and flora have been completely destroyed. Premature harvesting of cassava, yams and other crops is now on for those who were lucky to be around when the flood started.
For the royal father, it is tragic to note that his subjects woke up one morning and lost what took a lifetime to acquire, adding that some people have aged overnight and broken hearted. But for the grace of God more people would have died.
“It is sad that people will start life afresh. Help must come to them as fast as possible. Immediate remedy would be in form clothing, housing, food, healthcare because of the possibility of an epidemic breaking out soon”, Eze Nzeribe said.
According to the traditional ruler, the long term measure will be to find a way of preventing such a catastrophe in future and suggested the dredging of the Lake Urashi River so that the depth is increased to contain more volume of water. He also called for the building of proper embankment along the shores of the Lake.
“Medium term approach would be to rehabilitate the displaced families when the flood recedes by providing both materials and cash to enable them return to their farms. They will also need seedlings and seed money to enable them return to their farms”, the royal father pleaded.
GERALD IRONA PROVIDES SOME RELIEF MATERIALS
Chief Gerald Irona, representing the area in the National Assembly, have provided relief materials for eight different communities in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema communities sacked by flood. The materials included bags of rice, garri, beans, bournvita, disinfectants, soap, detergent, tomato paste, cooking oil and yam. He also made promises, including grant and seedlings.
The situation on ground calls for a very serious concern, both immediate and future. It is immediate because the people have lost their means of livelihood. Oguta and Egbema remains the food basket of Imo State and beyond. In view of the flooding, which has occasioned the washing way and submersion of the crops and plants, the farmers have lost their crops and have no hope of getting seedlings.
Again, most people have lost their houses where they live, in addition to losing their ancestral homes. The cumulative effect of this flooding is that in the long term, people will no longer have a place to live and there is the possibility of famine and starvation.
Again, the water has been polluted. It is now stinking. People in the affected communities have now been exposed to epidemic outbreak. The cumulative effect of the above is that the lives of the people are in serious danger.
“It is regrettable that as at the time of this interview, no meaningful assistance has come from r the state, the federal government or its agencies. However, the constituency is very pleased with the visit of the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, for his timely visit and intervention”, Irona said.
It was the considered opinion of the lawmaker that deliberate effort must be put in place to ensure that the victims of the flood are well taken care of, even as he advised that “people should not politicize the flood issue in his constituency, considering the machinations and scheming of some individual(s), who believe that this is an opportunity to position themselves to hijack whatever succor that might be released by the Federal Government”.
All the people that talked to Saturday Vanguard used the medium to urge the local, state and federal government and their interventionist agencies like National Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Management Agency, Niger Delta Development Commission and Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, to live up to their primary responsibility by ensuring the immediate provision of food and medical relief materials to the flood victims as a stop gap measure to ameliorate their immediate needs.
They also appealed to their lawmakers to use their positions to ensure that whatever relief materials meant for the people gets to the appropriate communities and affected individuals. They expressed disgust that some people have already started some clandestine moves to benefit from the misery and adversity of hapless individuals.
Additional Credit – THE NATION.