By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Dakuku Peterside, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has a big task at hand: to come to the aid the of the Imo state government to settle the victims of the flood affected 15 Communities in Ohaji /Egbema and Oguta local government areas of the state. The flood disaster , according to Walter Duru, the Media Aide to Gerald Irona, the state Deputy governor had submerged over 70 houses and rendered over 2,000 people homeless.
The agency under the close watch of Peterside in the last two years have been involved in providing relief materials ranging from food stuffs, clothing and other items to support the flood victims across the states of the Fedeation and to further give people hope that the Administration President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All progressive Congress, APC, cares for them.
It is not surprising why people are calling on the Peterside led Agency which have been identified as flood victims across the country to act fast now that the Imo state flood incident is still very fresh as Evans Ugoh, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, may not be able to handle the situation alone because of their lean final allocation.
The case of the Imo flood victims may have been worse as the state government is financially incapacitated to undertake such an extra expenditure of immediate relief materials to the people because of the competing needs in the state seeking for budgetary allocation.
The Value News findings show that the flood disaster become noticeable state any year there is heavy rain in Oguta ,1 and 2, Ezi Orsu, Orsu Obodo, Abor in Oguta local government Area of the state. This is in addition to Mmahu, the Ohaji /Egbema local government Area Headquarters where Shell Petroleum Development , Company , SPDC, has its Camp and Operational base in the state.
The other affected Communities which are in Ohaji/Egbama Local government Area of the state include Mmahu, the local government Headquarter where Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPD C, the only Oil Producing Company operating in the state has a Camp for Staff,Obiakpu, the home town of Mike Okiro, a former Inspector General of Police, Etekwuru, Umorji and Abacheke , among others.
Environmental analysts believe that the problem could have been avoided if NEMA officials in the state have been alive to their duties to take all the precautionary measures having known that the Communities experience flood any year the country experience heavy rain that overflows the bank of the river Niger.
But the Agency which is saddled with the responsibility of managing disaster victims in the country may have learnt its lesson from the 15 Imo Communities experience as it was said to have embarked on an assessment on the incident ,ostensibly to devise strategies to stop a future occurrence. Note that the 15 flood affected Communities in Imo state may have experienced the problem because of their location at the bank of the river Niger.
Recall that last year, Mustapha Maihaja, Director General, NEMA, had declared the flooding in four states as Natural disasters. They are Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta states. Even eight other states that were said to have been placed on the watch list by the Agency, Imo state, according to sources was not part of it. It is not therefore not very surprising why people were touched when the recent flood disaster incident occurred in the two local government areas of the state where the people are basically farmers .
Ugoh, the NEMA Coordinator in the state may have known that with the submerging of farms in the 15 Comunities affected by the flood disaster, the people would experience hunger that he had had called the state and the Federal government to quickly intervene to provide immediate rehabilitation materials to avoid the situation from degenerating.
The flood disaster situation in the 15 Imo Communities may have been so bad that Uju Kingsley, the lawmaker representing the two local governments in the House of Representatives that he has given his words to those that cares to listen that he would take up the matter in the House to draw the attention of the leadership to the problem in order to declare it as a flood disaster state to attract government support.
Note that the 15 Communities where there flood disaster had occurred are used by SPC for their oil exploration and production which had put the state on list of oil producing states like Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers , Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ondo, Edo and Abia states.
Investigation shows that most people from the Communities, particular, the elites and the Chiefs from the Communities have taken advantage of the disaster to pile pressure on the Shell to come to the aid of the people. Some of their were said to have gone out of their way to solicit for contracts to clear the flood in the Communities and the farms. It was gathered the case s that could not be handled by the Company officials at Owerri, the state Capital , have been referred to Port Harcourt, Rivers state, the Headquarter of the Company Eastern Operational base for final approval. A resident of Etekuru, one of the affected Communities disclosed that the Company would be ready to support the Communities to avoid giving room to Youths to block their oil locations which might affect their production level in the state. Insiders informed the Magazine that the Company officials are also making assessment of the situation to see where the come in to ameliorate the situation.
There are fears being expressed in unofficial circles that the Imo state government may want to abdicate its responsibility of providing immediate rehabilitation to support the flood victims of the15 Communities to SPDC , alone, because of their oil drilling activities in the area. These had been the trend , over the years, where past governors of the state had shifted the responsibility to the Company, thus putting extra –financial burden on its Corporate Social Responsibility of the Company.
But Emeka Ikedioha , a for Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives and now governor of the state, appear determined to make the difference as he was said to have promised to rehabilitate the people to cushion the effect of the flood on the them. That much was said to Duru, the Media Aide to the state Deputy governor. He may have gladdened the heart of the victims when he said that the Ihedioha Administration has taken steps to assist the Communities and others affected by the flood. The governor was said to have sent top government functionaries to the affected Communities to see things for themselves and report back to him for the government to take the necessary action to support the victims.