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We Need Attitudinal Change To Be Able To Combat Flood --- Onogba

By Kenneth Orusi, The Nigerian Voice, Asaba
Mr. Chris Onogba
Mr. Chris Onogba
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The Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Chris Onogba, has told Deltans that the Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration is critically looking at the two major causes of flooding and tackle them headlong.

In this interview with members of Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN), Delta state chapter, Onogba, said a competent committee has been setup to foster the effect of flooding as predicted by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and others

What is the state government doing to prevent the lost of lives and properties in the event of flooding?

First, it is to make the point that there are two causes of flooding. One is natural cause then the other one is man made.

Now, what do I mean by that? We have the attitude of dumping our refuse indiscriminately. Some of us see our drains as a dump site. So, during rainfall, people bring their waste they generated in their houses and dump directly into the drains so that the water will help them to evacuate their waste but it doesn't and it will not. Because first, the nature of our drains in the past, some of our drains are very narrow.

So, when you put your waste directly into the drains, it will help to block the functionality of the drains. So, that is the artificial cause.

Then, the other one is natural, natural in the sense that when the river overflows its boundary, you will be sure that it is coming up. So, all these two causes are what the state government is looking at critically.

Firstly, we are advocating for attitudinal change. Let people change their ways of doing things, we must change our culture. Those who build on natural water ways, if you build on natural water way during the dry season so to say, when the rain comes, water will always find its course. So, it becomes a problem. When we block the natural flow of water, it return back to the society.

So, the advocacy is on ground. Now on the other side, all of our drains that are blocked, all of our canals that are heavily silted up, we are making arrangements to clear them. By the last prediction, flooding is inevitable. It must come and it has always come. We had it in 2012, it is always been there with us. Now we don't know if there is going to be a repeat of the 2012 experience. The 2012 experience was very colossal. Now, what government is doing now is to start advocating and doing sensitization.

Communities are already writing to us to visit them. We are visiting communities. All our drains, we are going to clear them, we will make sure our drains are not filled. Thank God for this administration. The rain storm drains this government is doing by the time it is completed, it will help to mitigate the effect of the flood.

Have you received ecological funds this year? If yes, how much have you received?

That I cannot say for sure. You know I just ascended into this office not quite long but I know that this ministry is in the process of receiving ecological funds and you know it is a World Bank facilitated project. So, it takes a whole lot of process. The ecological funds don't come at your request. If you have a site where you want to deploy ecological funds to, you do a design that will be supervised by the World Bank and it takes time to approve. It takes a whole lot to get N1.00 from ecological funds. This ministry is in the process when it eventually comes, this administration is very transparent. The world will know.

Outside building on natural water ways and channels, what other challenges do you have in preventing flood?

Once we avoid building on natural water ways, once we are able to achieve that attitudinal change, people not dumping their refuse indiscriminately into the drains and we are able to construct drains to take water away from the society, I can tell you to a very large extend that will work to mitigate the effect of flooding and we are encouraging people to move from low plain, people living along the coastal line, areas and LGAs that will be heavily affected by flooding. We are asking them to move up to higher plain, that is what we are doing.

Meanwhile, government is also preparing in an event of emergency, a committee is about being setup by the state government where we identify sites and IDP camps where we will take people that will be eventually displaced because some of these persons that are living along coastal lines, they are people who are living almost below poverty line. So, if you ask them to relocate, to where? That becomes another question. So, to be able to do so, government is going to do everything possible to also setup camps to receive people that will be displaced or people that are ready to leave now before it happens and I advise them if you have a safer place to go, why don't you move? Why wait for flooding to come before you are relocated?

How prepared is SEMA to receive emergency?
I can tell you that SEMA is very ready. Only that few days behind a Commissoner was inaugurated saddled with the responsibilities of SEMA and all that, Bureau for Special Duty. I trust in the ability of the commissioner to deliver. Don't forget that this is what we are used to. In 2012, it was a huge experience but am sure that SEMA is set. Don't also forget that it is within the resources that is available to the state government. You can't do beyond what you have but one thing that is very sure, all I can tell you and I have always said it. The first thing is the political will. Once the strong will to deliver is there, managing the meger resources so to say becomes expedient but I can tell you that the will is there.

Do you think the state have the resources to tackle this flood?

No state government will ever have the resources to tackle all challenges that the state is confronted with not even the federal government but what is important is priority. You prioritize base on exigencies of the needs to channel the resources to meet up with the demand as it affects the people. So, I can tell you that there is no state in Nigeria not even the federal government can boost that we have what it takes to meet up with the financial responsibility of all the department. You know that is not possible and that will never be possible. Finances are never enough but it is a matter of priority and a matter of interest now. It is a matter of doing the needs of the the people.