In the face of the horrendous impact of the 2018 floods on Niger Delta communities, stories of gallantry, personal sacrifice for the common good by concerned activists, community organisations emerge to point the compass to solutions to the deluge of communities set off by man made interventions and other developmental challenges of the Niger Delta.
Food victims waiting to meet Vice President Osibanjo when he visited Bayelsa State
After the floods of 2012 that left a trail of inundated communities, death, destruction, tears and pain for ordinary folks in hundreds of communities, the nightmare continues for many communities in the flood plains of the Niger Delta.
Hundreds of riverine communities in Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Rivers states including Mbiama on the Engenni River, Amassoma, Odi Sagbama, Toru Orua, parts of Patani, Adagbabiri, Bomadi,Elebele, Otuoke, Kpakiama, currently lie under water.
Other affected communities include: Aboh, Ishagu, Olodu, in Delta.
In face of glaring failure of the states affected to structure an effective flood impact mitigating infrastructure, members of community focused organisations stepped into the vacuum to provide succour for their people. Prominent among these is the Ijaw Flood Impact Control Unit, IFICU an initiative of Comrade Rosemary Naingba president, Ijaw Women Connect, IWC Worldwide.
Ahoada West, Rivers State
Naingba, who was in Abuja on a business trip when news of flooded communities and suffering people spread, nobly abandoned the primary reason for her trip to Abuja and flew back to Port Harcourt and then to Bayelsa and Delta states as the extent of the nightmarish inundation of communities, destruction and the depth of human suffering in Ijaw territory deepened.
She made calls and mobilised concerned ijaw people, friends and others to rally to the aid of the people.
An Esther to The rescue: Rosemary Naingba and the crew of IFICU have toured scores of communities in the past month and have by their action, demonstrated that women with grit can step in to fill the gaping chasm between badly needed community and people oriented political leadership in the Ijaw communities as in much of the impacted Niger Delta.
The group has demonstrated the truism that when women draw from their natural nurturing instincts to give love and care, positive change happens.
They have worked providing relief, organising relief efforts including medical care to badly impacted communities in the Ijaw speaking areas in communities including Akenfa, Adagbabiri, Amassoma, Otuoke, Elebele, Agoloma,Tungbo, Osekwenike Town in Sagbama Bayelsa State. Patani, Ayakoromor, Burutu, Gbekebor,Agbere, Tamogbene in Ekeremor LGA, Bobougbene in Delta State and Mbiama in Rivers State.
Other impacted communities are riverine villages in Akwa Ibom including Akata, Ntaikan, Opolom, Ibeno LGA, In Obolo LGA, communities inundated include Obianga/Iwofe, Emenoke, Lokpon Emenok in Obolo LGA of the state, In Ondo State, riverine Arogbo was also submerged.
A fortnight ago as the relief effort deepened, field officers under the IFICU in Bayelsa State reported that:
“The Bayelsa State government brought 15 bags of rice, 5 bags of beans, 5 cartons of iced fish to 20 camps in Amassoma received by the chairman Community Development Committee, Eng. Sam Biriabebe. This was distributed to the 20 Internally Displaced Persons Camps in Amassoma.
Each of the camps went home with half a bag of rice, with four camps sharing one bag of beans and five camps to a carton of fish. Some of the camps are made up of 90,80, 65 and 58 people.
Some of the camps include Kabaka and Akedesuo camp, Rose Ogugu camp, Rev. John Michael camp, Kpakari Memorial camp among others.
Obviously, a huge gap exists between the basic needs of the people and what is supplied or donated by the compassionate in the areas of food, water, warm clothing beddings, mosquito nets. There is a crying need for medical supplies including attention and checks by medical personnel to attend to children, women and the aged suffering exposure to cold, malaria, typhoid, dysentery from polluted water sources, high blood pressure, chest infections, stings from insects and bites from reptiles, etc. A young woman was said to have gone into labour inside a canoe in Amassoma according to Naingba.
Last week the flood waters ebbed as they bobbed to the irresistible pull of gravity on their way to emptying into the Atlantic. The devastation wreaked is only becoming clear. In much of the impacted communities including Amassoma, Patani, the receding waters reveal marks of inundated building in some cases almost roof high. Weary community members drag out soggy beds and beddings, damaged household goods, food soaked by muddy water, massive losses in farm products including submerged rice paddies, plantain and other agricultural goods as well as dead domestic animals such as goats, chickens, pigs and wildlife. Fishes in ponds were also swept away.
The greatest loss however lies in the loss of human life recorded. According to reports by Gbaramatu Voice, an online publication, in Bobougbene community Burutu LGA, Delta State, the ebbing flood waters revealed the dead body of a one year old girl, who had unfortunately fallen off her parent’s bed on Saturday October 20, 2018. An earlier search for the child revealed nothing while the floods lasted. The girls grandfather Mr. Champion Milo lamented that no relief has been sent to the community since the onset of the flood.
In all, about 145 deaths nationwide due to the floods have been recorded. A shocking and avoidable loss as the infernal floods of 2012 gave a forewarning of the hell to come each time the Lagdo dam in Cameroun is opened to ease its load of necessary, but often deadly waters. Although warnings about the coming deluge were given, there were no flood shelters or alternative homes and provisions prepared for millions of ordinary people impacted. Certainly, they prayed and hoped the flood would pass and not reach their homes. A futile hope.
In the meantime, the Bayelsa State Government has approved an additional N100million to support relief efforts in the areas affected. Earlier, the government announced the allocation of N50million to relief efforts in the second week of the floods.