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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Benue, Plateau taking significant steps to mitigate flood

Benue and Plateau state governments have taken significant steps to mitigate the impact of flood and save citizens from untold hardships.

A flooded neighbourhood in Makurdi, Benue State

Representatives of the governments, who spoke in separate interviews, said that the authorities had taken measures, including early warning advisories and sensitisations to reduce the impact of flooding this year.

Mr Richard Azaagee, Director of Environment with the Benue State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, said in Makurdi, the state capital, that the government had accelerated its sensitisation campaign to alert residents on possible flooding in some parts of the state.

Azaagee said that the government had over the years taken significant steps, including issuing early warnings to residents against building along water channels, and giving advisory to those living around flood prone areas to relocate to other safer places.

He said with the support of relevant Federal Government agencies, the state government had planned ahead of time.

Azaagee called on all stakeholders to work together to mitigate the impact of flood in the state, adding that those who violated sanitation laws of the state would be punished accordingly.

On his part, Mr Sunny Ibu, Director of Engineering Services in the ministry, disclosed that the government had carried out extensive ecological projects, all aimed at reducing the impact of flood on citizens.

Ibu, however, said that the major flood challenge facing Makurdi was basically the Idye Basin, which the state government commenced its construction in 2003.

“It is a major canal that is supposed to convey and discharge water into the River Benue, and this basin stretches from River Benue to Behind Industrial Layout (covering more than 25 kilometres).

“So, all the communities along the basin suffer from flooding annually.

“The state government started the construction of that canal, and at some point, it became overwhelming, but the Federal Government stepped in and constructed the drainage from Police Zone 4, up to Naka Road.

“As we speak the Federal Government is still extending that project by the excavation of an earth channel behind the Industrial Layout. That is the major pathway for the collection of water down to the River Benue in Makurdi,’’ he said.

He said the government also built a drainage to control flood in the North Bank axis of Makurdi, but that sadly, some residents had turned it into a refuse dump, which blocking the free passage of water.

“We are still making efforts to construct and open up more water channels though,’’ Ibu said.

Residents of Achussa, Idye, Wadata, Kaamen, all settlements around Makurdi, therefore, appealed to the Benue government to step up its intervention efforts to save the communities from flooding.

The residents, who narrated their ordeal in separate interviews, said that they often incurred substantial losses as a result of flooding each time it rained.

Mr Tordue Igbawa, a resident of Achussa, said: “’The community suffers during dry and rainy seasons, there is no water during dry the season, while flood overwhelms us during the rainy season.”

Igbawa said that the environmental challenge, which started in 2009, had continued to deteriorate despite the construction of the Idye Basin.

“Since that time, no year passes by without the community experiencing flood. This issue started right from the administration of former Gov. Gabriel Suswam.

“I have written and visited the concerned authorities, but no positive outcome. The drainage built by the Buhari administration did not address the flood challenge completely in our area,” he said.

Mr John Terwase, on his part, said that Kaamen community had lost property worth millions to flooding every year.

“The community used to be a residential delight until 2009, when a construction firm handling the water channels in Ankpa Ward, Makurdi, diverted the water to terminate at the community.

“They abandoned the project, resulting in heavy flooding of the area at the slightest drop of rain.

“This has caused untold havoc and hardships on the residents every rainy season,’’ Terwase said.

Similarly, the Plateau State Government, said it had stepped up efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of flood disasters, including accelerated media campaigns, to sensitise residents.

Mr Chuwang Sha, the Acting Executive Secretary (ES), State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), stated this in an interview in Jos.

Sha said that the agency had taken note of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) prediction that Plateau was among the states with imminent high-risk of flooding in 2023 and had immediately swung into action.

The acting ES said that Plateau SEMA, in collaboration with relevant government agencies, including the National Orientation Agency (NOA), was reaching out to communities to educate them on the impending flood.

“According to NiMet’s prediction, Plateau is one of the affected states, especially the southern part, and we are giving the alert the serious attention it deserves.

“Recently, I was with the deputy governor to intimate her of the communication from the Federal Government on the impending flood.

“The state government immediately stepped down the message to local government councils, who would in turn take down the message to the communities,’’ he said.

Sha said that the agency also held coordination meetings with relevant stakeholders, including NGOs, to devise ways of mitigating the impact of floods.

He, however, said that the current major constraint of the agency was that the administration, which just assumed office, was trying to settle down to the business of governance.

Mr Eugene Nyenlong, the Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said that a tripartite approach had been adopted by the agency to mitigate the impact of the impending floods in Plateau.

Nyenlong said that NEMA was working closely with the SEMA and the Local Government Emergency Management agency (LEMA), to achieve the target.

The zonal coordinator said that the agency had been going round the state on advocacy visits, especially in areas that had been identified as flash points.

“We are in constant contact with NiMet and we usually relay the alerts to our sister agencies for action.

“Apart from the advocacy visits, we printed flyers that we have been distributing to various communities to complement the jingles on some electronic media stations,’’ he stated.

Mr Steve Aluko of the Civil Liberties Organisation, however, said that the steps that had been taken so far by government to either prevent or mitigate the impact of flood were inadequate.

“I expected that by now the ministries of education, environment and local government, would have stepped up the education and sensitisation so that people will know what to do and what not do.

“By now the LEMA should have been activated so that people in places that have been mapped out for possible flooding would have moved.

“I should think that the ministry of environment would have been clearing drainage and ensuring that there is no blockage,’’ Aluko said.

Aluko therefore, said those in charge of ecological funds should be made to provide such funding to enable NEMA, SEMA and LEMA swing into action immediately.

According to him, civil society organisations will continue to create awareness and enlighten the people about the impending disaster and the need to mitigate its impact.

Mr Katadapba Gobum, a Plateau resident, urged relevant agencies to redouble their efforts at convincing people resident around flood prone areas to relocate to safer places.

“Repeatedly, government has warned people not to build on waterways and emphasised the need to be proactive.

“But government has also not been proactive in helping citizens that live on waterways, because there is no sufficient warning for people to take precautions,’’ Gobum said.

On his part, Dr Isaac Yusuf, an environmentalist based in Jalingo, cautioned residents to adhere to early warning signs on floods.

Yusuf, a senior Lecturer with the Department of Geography, Taraba State University, Jalingo, said that early warning signs were part of the flood mitigation strategies adopted by the state government.

He advised residents to avoid building on water ways as it was one the major causes of floods.

Malam Nuhu Yakubu, a resident of Mayo-Goi, a suburb of Jalingo, also urged residents to avoid indiscriminate dumping of waste.

Yakubu, who was a victim of flood in 2022, said that ignorance was one of the factors responsible for incessant flood disasters in the state, and the country at large.

My Ayo Adelakun, another resident of Jalingo town, attributed flooding to inadequate sensitisation of residents on consequences of non-adherence to environmental sanitation laws.

Adelakun, therefore, urged the government to expedite action in this regard so residents could be made to understand the importance of adhering to environmental laws.

By Emmanuel Antswen. Peter Amine and Martins Abochol

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