By John Oghojafor
For the Delta State Ministry of Environment, the fear of 2012 flood disaster in the state is indeed the beginning of wisdom. Nearly every part of the state had its unpleasant share of the catastrophe the flood left on people and properties across the state.
However, Ughelli South Local Government Area with its headquarters in Otu-Jeremi, was hardest hit in the state, as virtually every part of the town was affected, not sparing even the king’s palace which, The New Diplomat gathered, was swallowed up with the visitation of the god of flood at night. As a result, the royal father, HRM Matthew Ediri Egbi, Okobaro of Ughievwen Kingdom, had to relocate to a new palace in an upland area adjacent to the Local Government Secretariat.
Other communities in Ughelli South Local Government Area that were seriously affected by the 2012 flood include Okwagbe, Ewu, Gbaregolor, Ekakpamre, Ughevwughe among others. In fact, the premises of Okwagbe Grammar School was formally declared a centre for flood-displaced persons in Ughelli South by then government of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Although no life was lost in that 2012 flood disaster but property worth several millions of naira were destroyed as thousands who were rendered homeless became refugees in Okwagbe IDP camp.
The New Diplomat gathered that it was the painful recall of the 2012 memories which prompted the state government to embark on massive mobilization across the state to forestall a repeat of that experience.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Environment led by the Honourable Commissioner, Hon. John Nani mobilized to Otu-Jeremi with his team to open up canals and waterways to link up with the Jeremi River as a proactive measure to prevent a recurrence of the 2012 disaster. The New Diplomat crew was on ground to monitor the exercise as a swamp boggy machine expanded and opened up major canals in the town to link up with the River for effective flushing of water from the community.
Commenting on the success of the exercise, the Secretary of the Otu-Jeremi Youth body, Mr. Fred Ukpomoja, commended the state government for its timely intervention to protect the community against the menace of flood, recalling that in 2012, it was a disaster which led to several persons displaced from their homes.
He said: “the action of the state government to open up drainages and canals in the town is very commendable. We are very happy this exercise is taking place now to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2012. In 2012, so many people parked out of the community when nearly the whole town was submerged in flood. With the step the government is taking now, it is very clear Otu-Jeremi will not experience flood again.
“We the youths appreciate the government’s effort in our community. That is why we have volunteered to assist the operators by way of security and also show them the different drainage routes that could be linked with the Otu-Jeremi River to evacuate water from the community. We are grateful to the state government for its quick and proactive response.”
Also commenting on the proactive steps embarked on by the state government, the Leader of the Ughelli South Legislative arm, Hon. Sunday Apah thanked the state government for its quick response to the flood situation in Otu-Jeremi, adding that it was a good initiative to deflood the area.
Said he: “It is a good initiative by the government because my people have been suffering for a very long time. Many have been rendered homeless because of the flood. So, for the government to come to our rescue at this time is quite commendable. I quite appreciate the effort of the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. John Nani whose team made it possible to execute the state government’s decision to deflood Otu-Jeremi community. I thank him and I pray that God will bless him.”
Apah, however, appealed to the state government to other areas in Ughelli South Local Government Area that are not spared by flood.
“I still want to appeal to the state government that there are other communities that are affected, particularly Ewu, Gbaregolor, Ughevwughe, Oto-Edo, Okwagbe and others that are presently suffering from flood even more than Otu-Jeremi now. So, if the government can extend the exercise to these communities our people will be very happy”, Apah said.
On the complaint by the state government about the paucity of funds to continue, Hon. Apah appealed that adjustment should be made to accommodate the deflooding of the affected communities, adding that at the end of the day, it is costlier to embark on emergency exercise to care for displaced persons and protect lives and property.
Said he: “I want to call on the government that despite the paucity of fund from the federal allocation, they can make some adjustment to prioritize and provide because flooding is an issue that always create an emergency situation. So, government could make some adjustment and pay attention to the flooding issue in these areas because I’m sure the government does not want to be confronted with the 2012 situation where it spent so much to address the issue of displaced persons.”
As at the time of filing this report, swamp boggies are still busy clearing, de-silting and expanding drainages as well as clearing the Otu-Jeremi River of water hyacinths to allow for free flow of water from parts of flooded areas in the community.
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