By Anote Ajeluorou
“…Following the devastating consequences and unprecedented humanitarian crisis occasioned by the ravaging flood, the Government of Delta State began emergency rescue and relief operations immediately in an effort to ameliorate the excruciating conditions being faced by victims of the flood, by setting up temporary camps to accommodate and provide for the basic needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs)…
“Arising from the need to provide a more pragmatic basis for dealing with the problems arising from the flood disaster, as well as developing a framework for dealing with such incidents in the future, the Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, inaugurated a Technical team Committee on Flood Impact Assessment – drawing on the research capacity of Delta State University…”
The result of this research is what the Delta State University, under the leaders of its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eric A. Arubayi, published as under the telling title, ‘The Impact of the 2012 Flood on Affected Delta State Communities’. The committee was set up while the flood was still ravaging parts of the state last October. Indeed, the setting up of this committee at the heart of the flood was a commendable effort by the Delta State Government. Expectedly, its conclusions and recommendations should have far-reaching effects both for the state and the entire nation or parts of Nigeria that went through that traumatic experience, of devastation, loss of lives and property and the emotional stress.
The committee’s terms of reference included determining the extent of the flood; effect of the flood on the environment, social and health; determining the receptors of the flood; determining the magnitude of the impact of the flood; assessing the emergency response and intervention measures already put in place, in order to ameliorate the living conditions of IDPs; estimate the cost of the flood damage, and make necessary recommendations on short and long terms strategies to be adopted for ameliorating the impact of the flood in the future.
With these terms, the committee plunged head on into its task and made visits to more than 12 Local Government Areas (LGA) mostly affected by the devastating flood. The LGAs include Udu, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Oshimili North, Oshimili South, Bomadi, Burutu, Isoko South, Isoko North and Patani. Aniocha South and Warri South were also affected by the impact in those areas were said to be minimal.
According to the report, “These areas affected by the flood have some common geographic characteristics. First, they are all located within the lower Niger flood plain, with its distributaries criss-crossing a large proportion of the lan mass. They are also located within the tropical rain forest belt, and sharing similar characteristics in terms temperature, relief and soil characteristics. The impact analysis covers such areasinter alia:
Extent and duration of the flood, environmental, social and health effects, agricultural and other economic activities, infrastructural, educational and other public facilities, as well as estimation of the cost of the flood damage.
The committee made on sight visits to affected communities and interviewed respondents, who were usually victims of the flood; it also relied on information provided by government officials, Non-Governmental agencies and individuals providing relief materials to victims of the flood disaster. These approaches gave the committee a holistic view of the extent of damage the flood had on communities, which invariably informed its thorough analysis of the flood impact and eventual recommendations to the state government.
The team stated in its analytical framework thus: “A major task of this study was to develop a framework that would assist the government in making decisions on the efficient and effective allocation of resources for the management of the humanitarian crisis arising from the flood that ravaged the entire flooded plain of the lower Niger River in the state between late August and October 2012. The second task was to make use of the field experience of the team to develop a strategy for disaster risk management (DRM) for the future”.
Delta State is largely an agrarian society and so those affected by the flood suffered great losses in farm produce (yams, cassava, plantain, banana, vegetables, okro, sugar cane, cocoyam, sweet potato and groundnut), fish produce and livestock. Residential and business property was also lost including the deaths of many persons. Also, during the flood period that lasted for about four weeks that the flood persisted, both businesses, social and school academic activities were temporarily halted in the 12 LGAs that were most affected.
In all, Ndokwa East, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Isoko South and Burutu were the most affected areas, as farm produce, live stock and fish produce were virtually all destroyed. Apart from this, the impact of the flood on the environment, with the attendant health implications was grave, as sanitation in the affected areas was at its lowest. Reported cases of disease infection were rampant. All these the committee painstakingly recorded with graphic charts and tables.
The flood’s impact on transportation (the road from Delta to Rivers States was cut off at the height of the flooding, constraining motorists to get to Port Harcourt through Onitsha and Owerri), places of worship, electricity and telecommunication and the number of deaths put at 30, general insecurity and social dislocation are all presented in the study. The study also focuses on the emergency response measures taken both by the state government and non-governmental organisations and philanthropic individuals to alleviate the suffering of victims.
The committee put the estimated total cost of the flood on food crops at over N3 billion; N2.614 billion is for aquaculture (fish farming); poultry is put at N0.263 billion while piggery is N26 million. On the whole, N9.602 billion was lost in the flood as tangible cost!
With facts and figures, bar and pie charts in all segments of the analysis of areas covered, the technical team largely made up of professors of Delta State University brought their research ingenuity to bear on the report. What comes through is a painstaking study that leaves nothing to chance, as all affected parts of the state, including extent of damage and cost implications are laid bare for government to act both retroactively and proactively upon. The overall aim is a wake up call to assist those most affected to enable them return to a relative level of normalcy and a strategy of action in case of future occurrence.
The wider application of the report goes beyond the impact of the flood on Delta State alone. While Delta State Government should be commended for initiating the study so as to enable it assist its citizens, how the state respond to the report is another matter. Given government’s penchant for committees for their own sakes, committees that easily become mere academic exercises to assuage egos of government officials, it’s indeed yet to be seen how much help government is willing to give the flood victims. Beyond the N3,000 or so that was given to some victims in some relief centres, nothing more has been heard or has been done for the victims, an indication that this report was, afterall, just another government-sponsored report that has ended up in government’s archives or some bureaucrat’s drawer.
However, it’s a report that can be adopted in other parts of the country as well, and as an opportunity for government to see reason for once and assist its citizens for whom government ordinarily maintains a far distance in terms of policy implementation. Across the nation, billions of Naira were donated both by government and public-spirited individuals both as relief and rehabilitation funds to help cushion the effects of the flood on affected Nigerians. It would seem those billions only appeared on the pages of newspapers or have even become means of political patronage, as most of those affected by the flood are still reeling in agony and waiting for promised assistance to start off all over again.
Also included in the report is Workplan on Quick Win Intervention and Post Flood Rapid Food Programme as an Intervention Measure in Addressing the Imminent Food Crisis as a Result of the Flooding Disaster in Delta State’ addressed to Prof. J. Agbamu, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture of Delta State University by the Permanent Secretary of the state’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. J.N. Ochonogor. How much of this beautiful workplan has been implemented since October 24, 2012 when it was written? This remains to be seen.
And until government proactively responds to its citizens that have laid prune by a natural disaster of this magnitude, such government, whether local, state or federal, would have lost any claim to legitimacy!