Imo’s floods of tears

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Emmanuel Onwubiko
Emmanuel Onwubiko
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I was actually reading through the July 27th /August 2nd 2019 edition of The Economist and a particular article of interest was the one on the effects of climate change in some parts of Western Europe.

The Economist aptly titled the piece thus: “Hot as hell” and narrated the ordeals encountered in the past few weeks by the citizens of some states of America and United Kingdom.

The news magazine reports that in recent days heat-waves have turned swathes of America and Europe into furnaces.

It asserts that despite the accompanying blast of headlines, the implications of such extreme heat are often overlooked or underplayed.

Spectacular images of hurricanes or floods grab attention more readily, yet heat-waves can cause more deaths, it affirmed categorically.

The news magazine which often delves into scholarly research of themes that it's treating told us without mincing words that heat is one of climate change’s deadliest manifestations.

It argues that sometimes its impact is unmistakable – a heat-wave in Europe in 2003 is estimated to have claimed 70,000 lives.

"More often, though, heat-waves are treated like the two in the Netherlands in 2018. In just over three weeks, around 300 more people died than would normally be expected at that time of year. This was dismissed as a “minor rise” by officials. But had those people died in a flood, it would have been front-page news."

The well written piece summed up above logically takes us to what has happened in the last couple of days which have seen a deluge of rainfalls all across Nigeria.

The immediate consequences of these showers of rains are that such natural and man-made disasters such as road accidents and floods have become very troubling even as millions of people now go to bed with one of their eyes wide open in case there would be another round of unending showers of rain. Incidentally, Abuja area one roundabouts and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports were flooded.

As I sat in my office in Garki 2, Abuja pondering over some pathetic and graphic photos of the consequences of floods in some parts of Nigeria including Abuja, my immediate focus went straight to some photographs in the social media uploaded by the media adviser to the Imo state governor Mr. Steve Osuji whereby the governor was seen practically submerged in the floods which affected most parts of the Imo state capital.

Stylishly titled "IMO REBUILD - BEFORE AND AFTER DE-SILTING: now I hear water sing down the drains!", the journalist turned political aide argued that governance is not rocket science after all.

He then submits as follows: "It's indeed about commonsense, presence of mind and honesty of purpose."He then made comments on the photos he posted of his boss battling to walk through flooded streets in the State Capital and in another segment he uploaded photos of the earliest jobs the department of Environmental affairs in the state has done to try to find a solution to the perennial floods witnessed in the state.

The pictures he posted were of an ENTRACO desilted culvert and water channel between Assumpta Roundabout and Nworie River which to him proves that governance is actually simple.

He stated further that this culvert by Optimum Hotels junction takes flood water from PH and Onitsha Roads and empties into Nworie he then invited his readers to take special notice that not only was the culvert completely silted by pet bottles, the water channel was completely buried during Governor Okorocha's crazy constructions.

Then he disclosed an open secret bybaffirming that this is one reason flooding has been active around the Assumpta Cathedral precincts for some years now.

"Non-desilting and indeed wilful blockages of drains are reasons flood threatens to wash Owerri away when it rains. Gov. Okorocha built major roads without drainage. Wetheral Rd is an example. He said drainage was a waste of money! That's why you can no longer move in Owerri when it rains..."

"Now that the culvert is desilted and the buried drains 'exhumed', can you hear the water singing merrily down the drains...???''

The media adviser had earlier posted the earliest efforts his boss had initiated to try to salvage the state capital from the perennial floods which are made worst by the criminal neglects of the environment by their predecessor.

As I read Mr. Osuji’s factual submissions and watched the photos of Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, the Imo state governor, I found it unbelievable that there was a governor by name Mr. Rochas Okorocha who spent two terms of four years each and practically did nothing to check the consequences of floods.

How on earth could Imo state people have produced a governor who spent eight years without even doing anything about the problems associated with floods even when the consequences are life threatening? The last eight years of the immediate past administration in Imo state saw the deterioration of the standards of infrastructural facilities all across the state with Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu as the most criminally neglected.

What makes it unbelievable that a state like Imo prone to flash floods can have an administration that spent eight years without effectively checking the consequences of floods is that these environmental issues are not strange and therefore ought to have received the highest attention from any responsive government that is responsible to institute good governance and to carry out the legal obligations that demands that the administrators attend to the yearnings of the citizenry.

These gubernatorial obligations to the citizenry are captured in a plethora of provisions in both the chapters two and four of the Nigerian constitution. The most important being that the Right to life of the citizens are constitutionally guaranteed.

Scholars have found out that flood is a body of water that covers land which is normally dry. Floods are common natural disasters that can affect millions of people around the world. They destroy houses and buildings, and carry soil away from valuable farming land. Floods can also contaminate drinking water and lead to diseases. They are often caused by rivers, but overflowing lakes and seas can also cause flooding.

Researchers concluded that flooding has always been a part human history. Many ancient civilizations they say developed along waterways and rivers because people needed water for their fields.

Floods are not always destructive natural events, these researchers maintained.

Hear them: "Before the Assuan High Dam was built yearly floods in Egypt brought along nutrients and made the land around the Nile very fertile. Every year floods during the monsoon season in Bangladesh deposit fertile soil but also kills thousands of people and leaves millions homeless".

They affirmed also that at least once a year the plains around large rivers are flooded. This according to them is due to the amount of water that rivers bring with them, because of heavy rainfall or melting snow in the mountainous regions.

Again, thunderstorms can cause flash floods, in which small rivers can swell quickly and carry up to ten times the normal amount of water, they submitted.

"Rivers that flow slowly carry water, sand and silt. They build up their own beds, making them higher than the land around them. The Huang He, or Yellow River, in China and the Mississippi in North America are examples for such rivers. Flooding here builds up slowly but causes more damage because more land is affected".

The researchers also stated scientifically that: "Coastal regions can also be affected by flooding. After earthquakes on the ocean floor tsunamis can bring up to 15-metre high waves and flood the coast many miles inland. In 2004, a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed over 250,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries."

"Tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes also lead to flooding. Hurricane Katrina caused a massive flooding of the whole Mississippi Delta in 2004. Most of New Orleans had to be evacuated because of widespread flooding".

The scientists says that low-lying countries are in permanent danger of being flooded. A large section of The Netherlands, for example, lie below sea level. In the past, ocean water from the North Sea flooded much of the country. Today a series of dikes and dams protect the land behind the coast.

Floods, they say are also caused by humans. Trees and plants normally help absorb too much water. When forests are cut or burned down, water from rainfall flows down barren land and produces mudslides. Too much water pressure on dams can lead to cracks in the concrete or even cause a dam to break completely.

This is why this writer finds it inexplicable that in the last 8 years Imo state's environment were maddively abused without remediation. This is because these researchers we are consulting told us that today flood protection has a high priority in countries that are in danger. Dams are built along rivers to regulate the flow of water. They are often connected with hydroelectric power plants. In some areas rivers are dredged and their beds are laid deeper. In alpine regions reservoirs are built to hold back water and control the flow of small rivers.

"London is protected from flooding by the Thames Barrier, a construction that moves up and stops water from getting in to London when it reaches a certain height."

"In many areas, authorities provide quick and unbureaucratic help for people who have suffered from flooding. Special boats pick up people who are trapped on roofs or on the upper floors of buildings. Shelters are set up for people who are left homeless. Rebuilding after massive floods often takes months and sometimes even years", ( ).

If we go also by the research findings by the political philosopher Mr. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) we can conclusively agree that the years 2011 to 2019 can be considered Imo’s years of the locusts. Bentham says each and every human should count as one unit in the sum of human happiness, regardless of wealth and status.

Bad governments he says may allow a rich few to live in comfort at the expense of the majority and a good government produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number, so concludes Jeremy Bentham, the English political philosopher.

And so going by the floods that swept through Imo state in the last couple of days with the concomitant floods of tears from the citizenry, who have lost property worth billions of naira, it is not difficult to situate the Rochas regime as the worst in human history.

Some residents of Owerri Municipal Council in Imo State have reportedly cried out to Governor Emeka Ihedioha to come to their aid, stating that the flood has ravaged their buildings and properties.

As this week started and ushered in by the three-day rain which started on Friday to Sunday, it has destroyed household items, buildings and goods.

The media reports that wailing residents blamed it on poor drainage system and the blockage of the flow of the flood.

“It doesn’t use to be like this before. We started witnessing this recently. The clean-up done on Friday did not help matters for instead of opening the drainage, it blocked them,” one of the residents said.

Another resident, Mr. Jospeh Ikeme, who resides at No 8 Chikwere Street, Owerri, told the press that the Saturday rain destroyed all his household gadgets.

He said, “We could not stop the flood from finding its way into the house. My wife and children used over five brooms to check the flood but we could not stop it because of its intensity. Our upholstery was spoilt by the flood. More so, the mattresses we kept on the floor were all soaked. We had to remove the rug on the floor for us to be able to place blanket on the floor before we were able to sleep.”

Another resident, Mrs Juliet Dimgba, who resides at No 13 Tetlow by School Road Owerri, said her consignments for sale were all destroyed by the flood in the two-bedroomed bungalow flat she lives in with her three children.

Dimgba a widow from Nempi in Oru West Local Government Area of the state, said, “I am a petty trader and I sell goods. I store them in one of the rooms and sell. It was very unfortunate that the three bags of dry fish I bought and stored in the room were destroyed by the flood.

“I was in the market (Eke Onunwa) when the rain started and my children were not around as they went for graduation. By the time we came back, we only saw our apartment in water. The bags of fish and other household properties were all destroyed.”

For Mr. Mike Akamkpa of No 81 Ihugba Street, Owerri, his children’s books and clothes were all destroyed by the flood.

Akamkpa, a widower who lives in a one room apartment said, “I am presently looking for where I can stay with my two children. I am starting life afresh as I have lost all I had before my wife died last year.”

When contacted on the telephone, the General Manager of the State Environmental Transformation Commission, Chief Alex Emeziem, said the commission would visit the areas as to find out what was wrong and what could be done to remedy the situation.

The Emeka Ihedioha led government has found itself inherited a massively looted treasury and worst still, the environmental health of the state is in grave danger.

Can the EFCC find out from Rochas Okorocha where the people's wealth are because his administration did more harm than good even as it is statistically significant to note that from May 2011 to December 2017, Local Governments in Imo State received N276.6 billion from the Federation Account, yet there was no functional and democratically elected Local Government System from May 2011 till August 2018. Where is Imo state commonwealth and why is EFCC playing political hide and seek with Mr Rochas Okorocha?

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and [email protected],, [email protected]

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