Floodwaters broke through locally made sandbags filed for shoreline protection, submerging several villages and rendering hundreds of people homeless in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta state.
Gbaramatu is an oil rich country home of former militant warlord, Chief Government Ekpemupulo (aka Tompolo).
Communities within the Kingdom are prone to erosion and heavy flooding as coastal area but this year flooding is the worst in the area since the 2012 flooding which affected several communities across the country.
Though no life has been reported lost in the flood incidents, but officials from the communities say hundreds of residents have been trapped and stranded by the floodwaters in Inikorogha, Azama, Ubefan and other Ijaw communities within the area.
When BIGPEN Online correspondent visited the area, it was observed that the flood was yet to recede in many part of the communities. The floodwaters keep pouring ceaselessly from the overflowing rivers into the communities, thus destroying houses and farms, their only means of livelihood.
Farming and fishing which have been the two main preoccupations of Ijaw people have been put on hold for the heavy flood which destroyed the agricultural produce and aquatic lives of the people.
Residents say the river keep overflowing into the community ostensibly for the failure of government to provide shoreline protection facilities. They said the ones made by the locals have been washed away.
Zipamo Wolo, an old woman who had loads of luggage on her shoulder while trying to flee her flooded house, Pudie Author, secretary of the community and Emmanuel Tebella, an old man who was stranded at home and was being helped to bail water out of his flooded apartment, said that life has become unbearable for them since nobody knew about the extent the flood have affected their socioeconomic lives.
An old woman, Madam Pine Ejoh who sat in front of her flooded apartment looking forlorn, said in mixture of popularly Warri ‘pidgin’ English and Izon language that the water had pushed her to her end and has nowhere to run to any longer.
“de water don push me ‘fai’, from my farm to this place, I cannot go for fishing again, I can’t attend to the crops again, I can’t eat or sleep well again. Na here I dey, I dey pray make dis water go back to the rivers”, she said.
She said some of her grandchildren who used to school in the only primary school, Kunpa Primary School, Ubefan no longer go to school.
The school served as the only primary school for children from neighbouring villages. It is a government owned school but it has been overflowed with floodwater thus forcing the children out of school when their peers in the urban area are still in school. The access road to the school is also in a deplorable condition.
Another of the resident, who gave his name as Preye, a clergyman says since the flood started inhabitants of the area no longer go to church because all churches in the area have been sacked.
The oldest man in the community, Pa. Sunday Tienkumor (aka Oliotu) expressed concern that since the floodwater started pouring in to the community (Inikorogha) and forcing residents to fled to ‘God knows where’ according to him, no government agency have deem it fit to visit the communities.
Chairman of Inikorogha community, Mr. Christopher Ejoh who led journalists to the area, said that many people are still trapped in the swampy areas of the communities and are lacking basic goods including water, medical care and food.
“Many have been homeless as a result of the flood. The floodwater wake us up every morning and for the first time we are seeing this volume of water so high, it keep rising each day.
“The damage the flood has caused us is enormous and we cannot bear it any longer. So we are using this medium to let the government know of our plight and we are calling on the attention of government to come to our aid.
Ejoh said that an appeal have been made to some political office holders in the areas. He mentioned Hon. Momotimi Guwor, member representing Warri South-West Local Government Area in the state Assembly and Hon. Dr. Paul Bebenimibo, Ijaw ethnic nationality commissioner in the Board of Delta Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) as well as Hon. Chief Thomas Eriyetomi, member House of Representatives, representing Warri Federal Constituency to reach out to the relevant government agencies and authorities to come to the aid of the affected communities.
The community leader appealed to the aforementioned to urgently come to the aid of the communities to avoid epidemic since most of the residents have no access to their homes, medical care, good water and food.
“The water is a natural flood, not rain water, it has since broken the river banks and pouring in from the over flooded river straight to people’s homes which ought not to be so”.
He said that the situation is so pathetic because, “there is no government presence in these communities hence we keep having this issue of flooding every year”.
According to him, assuming the communities have shoreline protection and the river banks were well sand pile it would have been difficult for floodwater to pour in the way it does currently adding that if government was here “Some of the things that prevent flood in the riverine communities should have been in place.
“For instance, there are no shoreline protection facilities around the communities because this is a riverine, the areas are supposed to be piled by the state government but if you watch the background now you will see the houses are flooded, you will see people bailing water from their houses, you will see people carrying luggages on their head trying to go out to a safe place and they are afraid of what next”.
Chief Wolo Ukulor of Inikorogha said that if the floods persist without any government assistance, there might be a breakout of epidemic and its attendant effect on the health of the people.
Ejoh posited that if the Delta government can create a special intervention ministry for the coastal communities, a lot of issues bedeviling the people of the area would be properly attended to and solved.
”We call on the Delta state government to create a coastal ministry for the riverine communities because the people in these communities are really suffering, basic amenities are far from the people, lot of projects in the areas are abandoned maybe because the funds appropriated for them are not enough, or it could be other reason.
“But what we are saying is that government should do more for the riverine people because this is where the bulk of oil, the nation’s wealth is coming from and there is peace everywhere so they should try to think of how they can create a coastal ministry to ameliorate the suffering of the people”, Ejoh said.
He said that they cannot continue to watch and pray while water wipes out entire community hence the call for help to relevant agencies of government including the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to send relief materials to the affected communities.
Corroborating this, a leader in the area and onetime chairman of the Inikorogha, Captain Kingsley Binama and a traditional chief in the area, Chief Steady Ebiyai reiterated that besides the recent flood menace, most of the communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom are under development despite playing host to several multi-national oil companies.
Binama said, “We’re crying for help because many people have lost their valuables to the flood. Several inhabitants lost their houses. Many of our corps and fishing tools have been destroyed but the most dangerous part of this is that the people have no food again to eat, the children are not well fed again and they are feverish and also reptiles sometimes follows the waters into the communities.
“So we are calling on his Excellency Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to come to our aid, adding that the federal and local government should also speed up the measures that could ameliorate the suffering of the communities.
“We have a primary school here that is heavily flooded, all neighbouring villages attend that school but now that water has taken over the place, the children no longer go to school because of the flood so the government should take urgent steps to see that all that affects these communities, Ubefan, Inikorogha and Azama communities are put in place, he said.
He however expressed worried that the state government fails to set up Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the area, saying that what they have there was set up through communal efforts.
Commenting, Ebiyai said, “We cannot have multinationals operating in our area and be having issue of perennial flooding without anything to cushion the effect on the inhabitants.
“We have the state government, we have DESOPADEC and Nigerian Gas Company that supply us electricity, though they have stopped it over a year now, yet our people are being chased out of their homes by flood and no one is ready to send in relief materials”.
“The community electricity is from Nigerian Gas but for more than a year now, we don’t get the electricity again. Everywhere is dark and in places like this electricity is necessary for living because we are in a swampy, forest terrain that needs illumination for the inhabitants to live well” Ebiyai said.
All effort to reach the Director General of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for comment on this report proved abortive.
However, the state commissioner for Basic Education, Mr. Patrick Ukah, when contacted about the issue that children no longer go to school as a result of a flooded school in the areas, said that government just got report of the situation and that the children are back to school.
Responding to a text message inquiry, Ukah who responded through his media aide, Samuel Ijeh, quoting a Chief Inspector of Education in the area, said the school was previously flooded but the flood has receded and the children back to school.