The governments of Edo, Delta and Bayelsa as well as relevant stakeholders have expressed readiness to mitigate the effects of possible flood disaster in the three states.
Government officials who spoke in separate interviews in the three states said they had increased awareness on ways to mitigate the effects of flood in the respective states.
The three state governments said that the increased sensitisation was to avert a recurrence of last year’s flood crisis, following early warnings this year by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s (NiMet) prediction.
The 2022 floods resulted in 662 deaths in 33 states, while agricultural investments and other properties estimated at trillions of naira were ruined.
The Federal Government estimated that more than two million Nigerians were displaced, while the national economy lost more than N4.2 trillion to the 2022 floods.
The three states of Edo, Delta and Bayelsa, situated in the riverine Niger-Delta region, are possible targets for flooding, hence, the need to evolve strategies to check the menace.
In Delta, the immediate past Commissioner for Environment, Chief Godspower Asiuwhu, said the state government in the last five months embarked on sensitisation, especially those living in flood-prone areas to clear the drains.
According to him, the Ministry of Environment held townhall with farmers to educate them about effects of flooding.
“We had meetings with Camp 74 fish farmers, Dennis Osadebay Cluster fish farmers and Akapko fish farmers to sensitise them on flood, its prevention and management.
“During the meetings, we urged them to clear blocked drainages to allow free flow of water and protect their fishes from the effects of flood.
“We also spoke on modalities to relocate to safe ground in the event of the flood becoming devastating.
“Sensitisation in different local languages, using jingles, fliers, public address systems and door to door approach to reach out to those living in flood-prone areas is ongoing,” he said.
Asiuwhu said that a flood committee had also been constituted to manage issues that might crop up, adding that “one of the measures put in place is the creation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in different locations of the state.
“In an effort to keep the IDPs camps safe and to prevent outbreak of epidemic, the Ministry of Environment embarked on fumigation.”
Asiuwhu further said that the state government had ordered continuous monitoring of flood-prone communities to ascertain the level of water.
Similarly, the Director of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr Karo Ovemeso, confirmed that the state government had started clearing waterways across the state.
He also said that the state had begun sensitisation on the need to relocate to safer areas to avoid last minute rush.
Corroborating Ovemeso’s claim, Gov. Sheriff Oborevwori had ordered the immediate demolition of buildings erected on waterways to mitigate the impact of flooding.
Oborevwori, who gave the order during an inspection of some ongoing projects across the state, warned that it would not be business as usual, as he decried the level of indiscriminate encroachment on waterways.
He directed the ministries of housing, works and lands to identify and immediately pull down all such buildings to allow free flow of water on natural water ways.
According to the governor, there is no place in the world where people are allowed to build on waterways because it will jeopardise the safety of lives and property of millions of people.
He added that “we started inspection with Phase ll of the storm water drainage project being handled by CCECC. They have five catchment areas. We have looked at their works and realised that they have gone very far.
“But they just informed me that there are buildings on waterways causing obstructions and slowing down the pace of work being done by the construction firm.
“We have assured the contractors that buildings on waterways, both in phase l and phase ll, will be brought down to enable them finish work seamlessly.”
In Bayelsa, government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Ministry of Environment, though had set-up committee for flood mitigation, it had yet to be mobilised to swing into action.
The official, however, disclosed that the state government and relevant government agencies had started opening up canals such as the Epie Creek, and Tailor Creek, as part of flood control measures in the state.
Another official who refused to be named, however, said that to effectively address the natural phenomenon in Bayelsa, it would require the collaboration of the Federal Government.
In Edo, the Operations Office of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said it had also increased awareness on the annual rainfall prediction for 2023 to enable the public to take precautionary measures.
NEMA’s Head of Operations, Mr Dahiru Yusuf, said that in an event of actual disaster, the agency was prepared to mobilise lead agencies to respond promptly.
He added that “for the sake of the distressed, the agency is alive to its core mandate and ready to respond at any given time.
“In the 2022 flood disaster, NEMA, in collaboration with State Emergency Agencies of Delta and Edo states evacuated displaced persons that were trapped to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
“Also, the agency provides relief materials to displaced persons to cushion the effects of the disaster.”
Mrs Evelyn Henry, the Information Officer, Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, said that Edo Government had desilted the water channels in Benin metropolis and had also carried out an excavation of moats.
Henry disclosed that the state had also inaugurated the Edo State Flood Erosion Watershed Management Agency (FEWMA), expected to tackle flood and gully issues.
FEWMA, she said, was established to sustain the gains recorded by the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), “so, the issue of flooding will be majorly handled by this agency.”
Mary Omogbare, Head, ICT and Public Affairs, Edo State Emergency Agency (SEMA), also said that the agency was set to convene a stakeholders’ meeting in Benin city on the role of individuals at forestalling overflow of water during rainy season.
She stressed the need for the public to complement government’s efforts to save the state from incessant flooding.
She expressed hope that government and respective agencies would walk the talk to avert any looming danger as predicted by NiMet.