ANAYO ONUKWUGHA presents the consequences of last week’s overflow of the banks of the two major creeks that snake through Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs on the residents following a 30-hour rainfall.
Nwaja and Ntawogba creeks are the two major creeks that navigate round Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs, linking the rivulets that flow into several rivers in the state.
The two creeks over-flooded their banks last week following a more then 30-hour torrential rainfall. The consequence was the flooding of homes, churches and offices as well as the untimely death of at least one person.
Communities within Port Harcourt metropolis that were worst hit by the flood include, Nkpogu, Borokiri, Diobu, D/Line and Rumukalagbor, all in Port Harcourt City local government area, as well as Iwofe, Ohiamini, Rumuokoro, all in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state.
Also affected were Aleto and other communities in Eleme local government area, while the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim church, were among government agencies and religious organizations that were devastated by the flood.
The National Metrological Agency (NIMET) had in March this year warned that Rivers State and several others states in Nigeria would suffer flooding as a result of torrential rain fall, but the state government treated the warning with levity.
Neither the state’s Ministry of Environment, nor the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) did anything to enlighten residents of the state on the dangers associated with the warning and to take proactive measures.
When the incident occurred, most residents blamed the ongoing sand-filling of a section of Nkpogu community, as well as poor drainage system in the newly rehabilitated and ongoing roads as the cause of the flooding.
It can be recalled that a socio-political group, the Inter Ethnic Network for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (INCRA) had immediately after the NIMET warning advised Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike to extend the de-silting of some drainages in Port Harcourt to other major roads in the state.
INCRA, in a statement signed by Mrs. Ozumonum Gudu, a member of its interim management team said, “We commend Governor Nyesom Wike over the on-going de-silting exercise of drainages along Ikwerre Road in Port Harcourt. Our commendation is on the grounds that the Wike-led government finally reckoned with the need to de-silt the drainages, even though the exercise is overdue owing to the delinquent outlook of the government. As a matter of fact, the de-silting of drainages should be a routine exercise to ensure they are not clogged up by silts thereby causing flood.
“INCRA, therefore, calls on Wike to extend the de-silting action to these major roads. This will not only reduce inundation but also improve the lifespan of the roads so government does not have to unnecessarily resurface the roads every now and then. Maintenance is a culture this government should embrace if it must hit the pass mark.”
For Hon. Victoria Nyeche, a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who was affected by the flood, she believes the state government should be blamed for failing to prevent flooding in parts of the state capital.
Nyeche, who represents Port Harcourt Constituency 1, expressed regrets that the state government failed to take advantage of warnings that were made by the NIMET about the impending disaster.
She said, “It is so unfortunate that our people will be made to suffer in this hardship. We have said times without number that we need to watch what we do to our environment. Early this year, NiMET warned about the impending flood and now it has come upon us.
“The government has to take more proactive measures if we must stop flooding in our state. And the government must take responsibility for this one that has happened. Relief materials must be provided for those who have lost one thing or the other due to this flooding.”
Lamenting the level of damage done to residents of the state by the flood, an environmentalist, Dr. Tonie Egobueze, said, “Our environment is our heritage, environmental sustainability in Rivers State, a right for all.
“The rain fall in the past two days caused a lot of havocs and left many homes and offices were destroyed with properties worth millions of naira sentenced to the drains,” he said.
Unfortunately, authorities of RIWAMA, the state government agency saddled with the responsibility of managing the environment, blamed the flood on people living and doing business in the state capital who refused to heed to several warnings from the agency regarding indiscriminate dumping of refuse.
Sole administrator of RIWAMA, Chief Felix Obuah, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, noted that that the agency in several fora warned residents and those doing business in the state against the habit of throwing solid wastes and unused construction materials into gutters and other water channels, but that such warnings had always been ignored.
Obuah stated that while his agency sympathizes with the victims of the flood disaster, it is still calling on residents and those doing business in the state to adhere to environmental rules by not throwing garbage into gutters and waterways, to allow the free flow of water.
The RIWAMA boss also charged traders to play pivotal role in keeping the city clean and see themselves as partners in the crusade for a clean and healthy state by ensuring the implementation of government’s policy to make Port Harcourt the state capital and its environs flood-free, by disposing their waste at approved receptacles and not into water channels.
Obuah appealed to traders to make it a routine exercise to properly bag their wastes and dump them at approved government receptacles at the close of business within designated hours, charging them to report recalcitrant residents among them to the RIWAMA for immediate action.
He also advised traders who sell in the evenings, especially in Mile One, Mile Three, Rumuokoro, Creek Road, Ogbunabali, Rumuomasi, Trans-Amadi (Slaughter), Garrison, Water-Lines, Amadi-Amadi Roundabout, YKC Roundabout, Woji, Rumuodara, Eneka, Oyigbo, Eleme among others, to clean their areas before leaving the market and ensure that wastes are not dumped indiscriminately.
Sympathizing with residents of the state over the flood, Governor Wike assured residents of Port Harcourt and other flooded communities that his administration will tackle the environmental challenge headlong.
The governor, who spoke after inspecting some areas impacted by the flooding, directed the relevant government agencies to take immediate remedial measures.
Accompanied on inspection of the flooded areas in Port Harcourt with Julius Berger engineers and officials of the state’s Ministry of Works, the governor directed the continuous de-silting of all major canals in the town.
He advised residents of Port Harcourt to stop dumping refuse in water channels, saying such actions lead to blockage of water channels, which leads to flooding.
The governor stated that he will take some tough steps to ensure that the state will not experience such devastating flooding again.