Living At Mercy Of Floods

floods

Despite billions of naira released by the Federal Government to combat ecological problems, millions of people face threats from flood, reports YEKEEN NURUDEEN, who toured the South-West states

“A stitch in time saves nine” is an adage that could convey different meanings to different people. But to Ibrahim Oloyede and the people of Igbara-Odo in Ekiti South West Local Government Area of Ekiti State, it is a very profound saying. In February, Oloyede gathered family members and a few neighbours to engage in a construction work around his house. Though not an engineer, Oloyede needed to be proactive to avert what could be a repeat of the September 15, 2015 flooding experience which left his household items floating in the deluge of water and his fence submerged.

Specifically, September 15, 2015 was a day that he and his household would always remember. Seven hours of rain simply turned his house to a river while his car, a Nissan Primeria wagon, which he uses as a cab was left floating on the water. The perimeter fence of his house also collapsed. With the help of other residents, he erected a huge fence around his bungalow situated on Igbara-Odo- Ekiti Expressway.

They also constructed a very wide drainage close to the fence to avert a recurrence. Oloyede was just creating another water way, diverting erosion from his house when New Telegraph visited in anticipation of 2016 rainfall owing to last year’s bitter experience. “On September 15 last year, it rained for seven hours and for two months my car Nissan Primeria could not work. We are creating ways for water against this year’s rainfall.

This fence fell off and I just erected another one and created ways for the water to pass” Oloyede says as he conducts our correspondent round his compound. For Moni Akingbade, an octogenarian also living in Igbara-Odo, her house is flooded every year and it is always unpleasant for her when it rains. She says even an embankment she constructed around her house does not stop flood whenever there is heavy rainfall. ‘Mama Akingbade,’ as she is addressed by her neighbours, ought not to have sleepless nights over flooding if the erosion control works awarded by the Federal Government in 2007 to address the problem of flooding in Igbara-Odo was done well.

But the very narrow erosion control works, a concrete drainage which is directly opposite her house, was completely blocked by refuse while also on the side of the road lays the ruins of a church, Assembly of God Church, which was said to have collapsed owing to flooding. The roofing of the church was what was left as worshippers left for another location after several attempts to avert the yearly erosion. For the 2016 rainy season, Oloyede and Akingbade as well as many other residents of Igbara-Odo are facing another flooding challenge. This is the story of Igbara–Odo Ekiti; a town that has been at the mercy of flood for years.

The town has been a victim of persistent flooding over the years despite the intervention of Federal Government which awarded projects to control flood and erosion in many towns in the six South-West states. The tale of Igbara-Odo is a common phenomenon with most towns in Nigeria where projects to control flood and erosion were awarded and funded by the Ecological Fund Office (EFO).

The Federal Government Erosion Control works

Worried by the incessant cases of flooding and erosion in most parts of the country, the Federal Government awarded contracts to curtail the menace of flooding and the huge financial losses caused by erosion and other ecological problems. This development was welcomed with excitement by residents of Igbara- Odo community. It was their turn, they thought, as Ricabim Nigerian Limited won the contract to control erosion in the town on February 7, 2007.

The N160 million contract, awarded through the EFO, was expected to last 24 weeks but four years after the company reported project completion, residents of Igbara-Odo are still living in fear whenever it rains. Residents, especially those living on the main road linking the Palace of Arajaka of Igbara-Odo are the worst hit. Houses on the Palace Road are never spared whenever it rains heavily owing to the narrow nature of the drainages constructed by the contractor.

The main objective of the contract seems to have been defeated because of the shoddy job done. “N160 million was a waste” says the Arajaka of Igbara Odo, Oba Edward Jayeola. The Arajaka regrets that the project was not done to specifications even as the contractor seems to have abandoned the project. The royal father who took our correspondent round the town and the project sites as well as some areas affected by floods in the past years says “the project was never completed and the contractor never returned. “The work was not completed. They did a shoddy job. The work is there.

When we complained, they said we should re-apply. I’m sure they would have written in Abuja that the work is completed.” In addition, he says the contractor reduced the width and terminal point of the drainage that leads from Idasa Street to Oruo River where the project was expected to terminate. River Oruo, according to the monarch, is the largest river in Igbara-Odo and it is where all the rainwater from all over the town should flow. An official of the Federal Ministry of Environment, who pleaded anonymity, says such projects usually end where the funds given to contractors stopped.

The official also notes that the intervention currently being done by the EFO is an envelope type which is tailored to address one ecological problem in an area as against a total solution. This, the officer adds, makes some of the projects to collapse because there are numerous areas of interventions across the country. The project in Igbara-Odo is one of the 37 of such awarded by the Federal Government to address erosion and flood challenges in the South-West geo-political zone. The breakdown of the spread of the projects across the six South-West states revealed that Ogun has 10, Osun (eight) and Lagos (seven), Oyo (five), Ekiti (four) while Ondo has three. The projects which were awarded between 2007 and 2011 are worth N15.1 billion.

Curiously, in a report submitted to the Presidency by the EFO, Igbara-Odo Ekiti project and many others were reportedly completed. Efforts to reach the EFO for confirmation on these projects were abortive as requests sent to the office were not answered. It was the same story in Ijero-Ekiti where residents are yet to feel the impact of the erosion and flood control work done by Ometra Construction Engineers Limited. According to the EFO, the Abuja-based company, which was awarded the N95.6 million erosion and flood control contract, has already completed the project.

However, findings by our correspondent revealed a different picture. The project has been abandoned while the residents are left to suffer. The erosion control work did not get to the specific areas where it was supposed to cover because there was no supervision by the authorities. Besides the obvious effects of constant erosion on Doherty Street where the popular Doherty Memorial Grammar School is situated, the end of the road that links Ijero roundabout is a disaster waiting to happen. The stalled erosion control work from Egbeye axis of the town which was supposed to enter the Iregun River is the reason for their woes.

A church, Christ the Saviour, on the edge of the river, may also be washed away if the bridge eventually collapses. Shola Olowoyo, a resident of the area, could not hide his disgust at the way flood ravages the area every year. “The water coming from Doherty Street and from Egbeye meets inside the gutter. It has been like that for about seven years. Rain water doesn’t follow the channels created as they have all been blocked,” he says. Aside Doherty Road, other places such as Keleja Street and back of Ekiti State College of Health Technology, where the contractor ought to have covered in the execution of the project, have been abandoned.

Giving credence to this, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Ijero Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Adewale Arowojobe, says about 20 to 30 per cent of the houses would have been washed away in the town but for the erosion and flood control work awarded by the Federal Government. On a tour of the affected areas, Arowojobe discloses to our correspondent the extent to which the abandoned project has helped Ijero town. “This is where it ought to have stopped,” Arowojobe points at a ditch at the end of the town.”

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Ikere-Ekiti: Disaster waiting to happen

Hundreds of residents of Oke Osun Street were woken up and ejected by angry water about 1a.m. on September 15, 2015 when the nearby River Osun over flown its banks after several hours of downpour. Affected residents could only salvage just a few of their belongings. But this unpleasant experience seems to have been quickly forgotten. Residents of Ikere-Ekiti are, without doubt, courting another flood disaster.

While the Ikere-Ekiti erosion control work was completed as scheduled, the waterways created to avert subsequent flooding have been blocked with domestic waste and other pollutants since the people have chosen waterways as dumpsite. From all indications, residents of Ikere- Ekiti, are not on the same page with the Federal Government despite its good intention to save them from perennial flooding that usually damages their property.

The Ikere-Ekiti project, which was handled by Shon Nigeria Limited, was awarded in September 2011. Findings showed that from the popular Moshood junction where the construction work commenced towards Holy Ghost Catholic Church at Odo-Oja axis of the town down to Osun-Benin-Owena River, have all been taken over by refuse. The wideness of the drainage notwithstanding, refuse has taken over the whole channel.

It is only the frontage of the Catholic Church that people have not converted to dumpsite. Our correspondent observed that the two chambers under the main culvert meant for easy passage of rainwater at Moshood junction were completely blocked by refuse. Residents, it was learnt, resorted to indiscriminate dumping of refuse since there are no official dumpsites or waste treatment centres. Olumide Oluwase, a shop owner at Moshood junction, who sells video and audio compact discs, says his shop is often times submerged whenever it rains. “Even after the project was completed, flood submerged the barrier that was made to make water passage easy. I can’t say this is how much I have lost here owing to flooding because it has affected me badly.

Government should do something urgent to stop people from dumping refuse here,” Oluwase says. Based on the reckless and indiscriminate dumping of refuse in Ikere-Ekiti, it is obvious that the town, the administrative seat of Ijero-Ekiti Local Government Area, is just waiting for another flooding experience. An official of the Osun-Benin-Owena River Basin Management Authority (OBORBMA), who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the press, says it has been completed. The official, who supervised the project, clarifies that only the Phase One of the project has been carried out. “It has been completed. Just the Phase 1 that was completed. It is channelled to River Osun Benin Owena. To the best of my knowledge, it enters back of the Catholic Church at Kajola,” he says.

Ekiti State government’s defence

Ekiti State Commissioner for Environment, Bisi Kolawole, says the state enjoyed ecological fund intervention during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the money was judiciously spent. According to him, Ekiti State government expended over N1 billion on ecological projects between October 2015 and February 2016. He says that seven of the projects have been completed, while three are ongoing. “If our people can inculcate that attitude into their system, the state will be clean and give less work for government to do,” he says.

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Imusin Esure: Living at mercy of flood

Imusin Esure in Ogun East Local Government Area of Ogun State is also not left out of shoddily executed ecological project. Despite the award of N74 million project to address the effect of flood and erosion in the town, the people are still being held hostage whenever it rains. The contract awarded in July 2013 to Intermediate Engineering and Construction Limited and ought to have been completed in November 2013 has only worsened the problem of the town.

Findings showed that the project, which was executed in 2014, was not properly done. Our correspondent also discovered that a section of the drainage had collapsed and was only fixed through communal efforts. The collapse of the drainage could only be due to the poor quality of materials used by the contractor, says a resident. Oba Sansi Kamoru, the Obelu of Imusin- Esure, laughed hysterically when he learnt about the contract sum of the project.

He describes the contractor’s job as a substandard work. According to him, about 25 metres of it has already collapsed and that he had to cough up N270,000 to repair it. “N74 million? The work was not done well. If we did not amend the work, the whole construction will spoil. Part of the drainage had already fallen off and we got an engineer, we have paid N270,000 because we have to avert another flood this year,” the traditional ruler says.

Corroborating his views, the Otunba of Ijebu-Imusin, Obafemi Abdullahi, argues that the work was not done to specifications. “About 25 metres collapsed on the right side of the drainage. We quickly did a remedial work which was completed within about five days. In our opinion, they did not do the work to specifications. They did not back the drainage, the iron-rod they used were not made in u-form. Though we did not see the scope of work, this cannot be said to be a good job,” Abdullahi adds. But an official of Erosion and Flood Control Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, who was among those who supervised the project, says the project was carried out to specifications.

Consequences of perennial flooding

History of flood in Ijebu-Imusin is as old as the history of the town itself. It is a common feature to see houses submerged in water at the peak of the rainy season. Many parts of the main road from Ijebu-Ode to Ijebu-Imusin were already washed away as motorists struggle to avoid colliding with one another. There are also relics of flooded houses along major roads. But for anyone coming into the town of Imusin-Esure through the Ore- Shagamu Road, the main cemetery at the entrance of the road tells it all.

All the beautiful designs and engravings on tombs of the deceased have turned brown due to incessant flooding. The traditional ruler also has had his own fair share of woes from flooding and erosion. “My former house was flooded twice and even when we built here newly, we just woke up one day and realised that the fence was gone,” says Oba Kamoru.

Odo-Kala: Gully of refuse dump

Odo-Kala gully in Ijebu-Ode is notorious for killing several people. According to residents, many people have drowned in it. But despite its notoriety and efforts by the Federal Government to put an end to disaster it causes annually, residents of Ijebu-Ode are yet to change their attitude. They have turned the gully to a dumpsite. Government awarded a N299 million contract to address Odo Kala gully erosion Phase 1 in 2009 to Smace Nigeria Limited but this has so far fallen short of its objectives.

Residents say despite the construction work, the gully still poses great hazards. A motorist, Abdulrasheed Idirisu, says a commercial motorcyclist fell into the gully last year in the night after a heavy rainfall. What is, however, amazing is the huge refuse dump on each side of the bridge where the gully is located. According to a shop owner near the bridge, Mrs. Komolafe Oluwaseun, the refuse dump is the reason for the flooding after heavy rainfall.

Ogunpa River: Failing to learn from history

The EFO says the Federal Government has spent over N7 billion on the channelization of Ogunpa River in Ibadan, Oyo State, besides other projects in the state that have also gulped about N4.08 billion. Ogunpa River has a flooding history that dates back to the 60s’. More than 55 years after over 1,000 residents were rendered homeless by the infamous Ogunpa River flood; people of the area are still being ensnarled whenever it rains.

Residents along Ogunpa River heaved a sigh of relief when government finally intervened 21 years after the 1980 flood that gave Ogunpa River its national and international notoriety. The flood left the city in ruins with more than 100 bodies retrieved from the debris of collapsed houses and vehicles washed away by the deluge. Market men and women at Gbagi Market were, the time our correspondent visited Ibadan, dumping all kinds of waste without fear of being arrested.

When asked why they turn the river to dumpsite, a woman, who gives her name, as Tawa, replies: “Where are we going to dump refuse if not in the river?” According to her, when rain starts, it will wash away the refuse. The same scenario played out at Isale-Afon, Ogbomoso, also in Oyo State, where the flood control project, reportedly facilitated by the former House of Representatives leader, Mulikat Akande, has become an eyesore as faeces and domestic waste litter the place.

The project, awarded in 2014 at N70 million, was executed in 2015. Investigation by our correspondent at Isale-Afon in Ogbomoso North Local Government shows that residents of the area might not have experienced terrible flood in time past but that is just a matter of time as epidemic and flooding loom large. In 2011 when almost all parts of Oyo State, particularly Ibadan, were flooded, Ogbomoso was lucky and there was no flood.

Papalanto, Sagamu Road: Motorists’ nightmare

Mr. John Andrew (an engineer) says he has vowed never to drive through the Papalanto-Sagamu Road again despite being the shortest route to Ibadan from Lagos. On that fateful Saturday, he was going to Lagos from Ibadan but had to look for a short cut to avoid traffic. But his calculations this time around were wrong; he ended up spending the whole day on the road that ordinarily should not take him more than 35 minutes, at most. His SUV broke down in the middle of the road as it encountered several bad craters and gullies on the road. “This road has become a nightmare,” he says in exasperation.

On a daily basis, Jide Ademosu drives to and fro Papalanto-Sagamu Road three to four times. He is a commercial bus driver who plies the road; taking passengers from Papalanto to Sagamu. The journey takes just 45 minutes and it is stress-free due to the smooth nature of the road. While the 40-kilometre road has become a nightmare to motorists and commuters, it is also responsible for the short lifespan of many commercial vehicles plying the route.

“The road kills one gradually, it spoils our vehicles,” says a distraught Ademosu. A tour of the road from Papalanto junction by New Telegraph on a popular motorcycle known as Okada through Olorunsogo Hydro Power Station shows dangerous ditches and craters which claimed lives in recent accidents. Residents along the road say it has been tales of woes, pains, agony and total neglect as the road claims lives, with the number of casualties rising by the day.

The road was rehabilitated in 2014 by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). But those who are plying the road constantly describe the rehabilitation as cosmetic compared to what needs to be done to the damaged road. A former employee of the West African Portland Cement, Mr. Paul Amoo, who is a construction expert, says what is expected to have been done by FERMA was to have evacuated the top soil of the road as it is swampy and filled it with stones before it could be covered and laid with asphalt.

The N600m Ecological Fund Intervention

Nobody knows whether or not the road was rehabilitated or not. Those who should know claim ignorance of such while those in the administration of the state also say they are not aware of issues involving past administrations. But the drivers are stunned and short of words when they are told that the Federal Government released N600 million to Ogun State Government in 2007 to rehabilitate the road.

The Federal Government had between 2007 and 2011 released N15,409,093,866, to some states government to solve ecological problems in their states. Out of this amount, N600 million was released to Ogun under the administration of former Governor Gbenga Daniel to rehabilitate the road. The money was released from the Ecological Fund Account as the problem facing the road was ecological.

The release of the fund to rehabilitate the road might not be unconnected with the construction of the Power Plant which was completed and inaugurated that year by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. When contacted, the state Commissioner of Works, Olamilekan Adegbite, say he is not aware of what transpired before assuming office in 2011. Replying an SMS sent to him, he says: “I’m not aware of what transpired before assuming office in 2011.” But the Ogun State Road Maintenance Agency set up by Daniel that could have provided answers to questions concerning rehabilitation of the road has been disbanded by Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

•This report is supported by Ford Foundation and International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)

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