DELTA FLOOD REFUGEES UNDER SIEGE
Two weeks ago, my wife and I passed through some areas devastated by flooding on the way to Abuja from Asaba. We did not realize that what we saw was just the tip of the iceberg. On our return, the Secretary to the State Government, Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay, asked that I accompany a media team and a group that he was sending out to provide humanitarian assistance to victims at the various refugee camps. Part of the concern was that there was not enough awareness of the problem facing Deltans. Also, we wanted to use the opportunity to make sure that even the victims were informed that more help was on the way from the government and to encourage some recalcitrant residents to please evacuate their homes and come to the shelters. No matter what side of the political divide you are on the issue of climate change and global warming, you cannot help but conclude that the flooding phenomenon is unusual this year. I was privileged to visit some flood disasters and refugee camps. Some areas visited on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 were in Isoko South & Isoko North Local Govt. Areas of Delta State Nigeria with flood refugees. We took pictures and videotaped Ivrogbo, Okpe, Aviara, Ada-irri, Iyede-London, and Ofagbe communities.
The flooding that we witnessed was too flabbergasting for words. In Iyede (London City), we saw farmers harvesting their cassava to save them from flooding. In Ada-Irri, apparently there has been flooding for over 3 weeks and it had started at the back of the Baptist church. According to the chairman of the community, Mr. Usiwo Ekpolo, he has not seen such flooding in the community in over 45 yrs. He echoed the desperate need of the community for various forms of assistance, including food and shelter.
Mr. Usiwo Ekpolo standing next to his submerged car and the New Life Baptist Church in Ada-Irri
In Ivrogbo-Irri, the Grammar School was under water. Mrs. Deborah Reuben, a neighbor, commented on whether it was a fortuity that there was an on-going teachers' strike. Otherwise, where will the students be taking lessons, unless it was swimming lessons? We were unable to reach the Vice Principal, Mr. Velvet Umubi for comments. When we visited the refugees being housed at the Town Hall, we learnt that there were over 878 refugees, including children and that four boats had gone further inland and will be bringing more refugees. An eyewitness stated that the Deputy Governor, visited the previous day and and brought some relief materials, including food. One of the coordinators Comrade Barr. Ifado Ifado also mentioned the visit of the Commissioner for Women Affairs and that many more refugees were arriving from Iyeda-ame in Ndokwa East Local Govt Area.
In Aviara, we met the Matron in charge of the government hospital Mrs. Peace Agarin, whose own quarters were flooded. She and other tenants were displaced and had to park in the hospital premises while praying that the entire hospital stays afloat (no pun intended). We could not access the other communities in Aviara with our bus because the road after the hospital quarters and adjoining church were flooded.
Isoko North did not fare any better. When we visited Ofagbe community, we discovered that most of the refugees were from Ase creek. Chief JE Uyeri had 10 fish ponds that were now destroyed. Same stories for those with yams, cassava and plantain farms. He also commented that in his over 78 yrs. of existence, he had never witnessed anything like it. We met local representatives including Chief Agaga (JP), Prince Engr Eguno, Chief Paul Ogworo for the palace and Hon. Emma Akpokiro who is the Vice President of the community. They all commended the efforts of the SSG and the government. They informed us that the camp was only a day old then since the Deputy Governor had ordered the camp established the previous day. There were already close to 1,000 refugees in their camp and needed more food items, mattresses and mosquito nets. They commented that there were people that still needed to be evacuated but there were not enough boats and the medical facilities were not enough, especially since even the road to the government hospital was flooded. At Cat-Tim filling station next door, an underground tank was forced to the surface because of the flooding.
Even Okpe was not spared as most of the areas we visited were rendered impassable by the flood and we were forced to retrace our steps back to dry land.
Let me add a little levity to an otherwise sad situation: “Upon all d water, fish no cheap.”
Prof Alex Osondu Atawa Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs a PR and an international capacity building firm ATAWA GROUP. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected] He is also on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter.