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Monday, November 5, 2012

Anambra State: The Flood and Awba-Ofemili People

The recent flooding that affected Anambra State, no doubt, must have exposed it to a lot of characters, administrative lapses and leadership questions begging for some answers, especially concerning the politicking going-on over the flood and affected communities.
Anambra State, is a name ordinarily taken from a popular river linking the River Niger and known as ‘Anambra’ or ‘Omabala’ River. Strategically located in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, Anambra State is bounded by Delta State to the west, Imo State to the south, Enugu State to the east and Kogi State to the north, claiming to have one of the highest population densities on the continent.
The state comprises numerous thickly populated villages, a number of small towns and a few major towns; some areas are so thickly populated that the estimated density is 1500-2000 persons living within every square kilometre. One of such towns is Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North Local Government Area of Anambra State, which has border with Enugu State via Ibeto-Olo.

Awba-Ofemili, a town cut-off by flood:
Though Awba-Ofemili was cut-off by the recent flood surge, culminating in loss of properties and agricultural products worth billions of Naira, there was no record of loss of live yet. Mainly an agrarian town, Awba-Ofemili, reputed for massive rice production is located less than 25 minutes drive from the capital city of Awka, Anambra State, under normal circumstances where good roads prevail. Incidentally, lack of accessible road has been the bane of development in Awka-North and Awba-Ofemili precisely.
Speaking on the recent flood, chairman, Lagos branch of Awba-Ofemili Development Union (ADU), Mr. Kenneth Okoye told NaijaAgroNet the situation is lamentable, saying that Awba-Ofemili as an agrarian community known for rice production has lost a lot of economic products worth billions of Naira, including cassava, yam and plantain farms, while some building soaked by the flood have since given way.
Describing the flood as unbelievable, says its worrisome that the government of Anambra State did not find it worthy to visit the town in the peak of the disaster, he enjoined well spirited individuals to come to the aid of the towns affected by this River Niger surge, especially Awba-Ofemili.
The Awba-Ofemili town was seriously hit with this surge that farmers no longer attend to their farms, while all the eight villages that made up the town remain drastically affected.
Our reporter who visited the community and spoke to some of the indigenes discovered that one of the villages in Awba-Ofemili, Umuosite, was under water thereby cut off with most residents relocating to a building along Umuosite Road for their safety, while those living along the Umuosite road were sacked as they now use canoe to pass between Umuosite and other villages like Oyeagu and Akpana.

Women leader calls on Obi, FG, NEMA
One of the residents and women leader in Awba-Ofemili, Madam Christiana Nweke said that the level of flood reached a lintel of one of the storey buildings along Umuosite Road and made the road, especially leading to farm lands around that area unaccessible, whilst the flood lasted.
The women leader called on the government, especially Gov. Peter Obi to quickly come to their aid, while praying that the flood subsidises permanently.
It was further gathered that the only major road leading to Awba-Ofemili, which has been begging for attention over the years, was cut off too as indigenes trying to access Awka the capital city of Anambra State, were being ferried at four points before they could even get to neighbouring town like Ugbenu.
At the Agu-enu part of the town, especially behind the St. Paul’s Catholic Church, the flood was not stopped, as it took the church land for granted.
Further investigations showed that Hon. Mrs. Joy Enweluzor, the chairperson, Awka-North, visited the Awba-Ofemili town on canoe with her team of executive and promised to send food stuff and other aids to the town.
Our sources said that several letters on the flooded Awba-Ofemili and environs have been communicated to the governor of Anambra State, who is yet to visit the affected town personally.
They called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) not to forget Awba-Ofemili town in the course of their distribution of aids to flood victims.

Gov. Obi of Anambra State
Flood disaster emergency fund
Despite the fact that the Anambra State government set up a three-man Flood Disaster Emergency Fund Committee made up of the Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Economic Planning, Prof. Mrs. Chinyere Stella Okunna, Ms. Ngozika B. Okoye, Hon. Commissioner for Finance and Mrs. Azuka Enemo, Hon. Commissioner for Local Government, the flood victims in Awba-Ofemili are yet to see the light in having such a committee in the state, especially in Awba-Ofemili, where every relief material have been stored away in Ugbenu due to bad road.
Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, who confirmed these in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet, adding that two bank accounts, namely at Diamond Bank - 0028548840 and Fidelity Bank – 4020912984; were opened for this purposes and to facilitate the work of the state government in alleviating the effects of current flood rage across the state.
The Anambra State Government (ANSG), thus, invited Anambrarians and the Nigerians at home and in diaspora as well as all well-meaning citizens of the world to rally support for the affected citizens of Anambra State, as one of the most affected states by the flood.
The bigger challenge, he said, would be in the medium and longer terms, when the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) would need to be returned to their respective homes, rehabilitated and resettled after the flood receded completely.
Canvassing for vote:
The ANSG, he said, would be counting on the Federal Government, its agencies, especially NEMA and international partners, to join hands with the state in overcoming the unprecedented humanitarian challenge.
 “We thank all those who have expressed concern in cash or in kind or sent goodwill messages about this catastrophic disaster,” he said.
ANSG acknowledged that well-meaning citizens and organizations have also been making donations in kind, through SEMA.
All in-kind donations, Obaze pointed out should be directed to the SEMA office along the Enugu-Onitsha Road (by J-Jumac Hotel), Awka, even as SEMA could be reached by phone 08037424242.
NaijaAgroNet confirmed that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Mr. Obaze visited the Awba-Ofemili Amensea axis of Awka-North LGA, but could not get to Awba-Ofemili due to submerged road.
However, it has been argued that if it had to do with votes, the Governor Peter Obi-led government of Anambra State, would not have sent the SSG and even the SSG should have found a way of getting to the town, Awba-Ofemili, to canvass for votes, which they got in good numbers at the last election.

Just before the curtain:
Does it then not make sense that an alternative route should have been used in ensuring that those victims, especially in a town like Awba-Ofemili, should have been reached through airlifting of such people and materials.
This is a poser for the leadership of Anambra State under Mr. Peter Obi to answer. By the way, how much will it take the government to get these aid materials airlifted?
Another school of thought argued that its only the military that has the helicopter for such kind of services. If so, is this flood disaster not enough to attract military sympathy? Or are we waiting for deaths to be recorded?
It is true that aids have been sent to Awba-Ofemili by the state governments, Senator Nwabueze Ngige, Hon. Emeka Nwogbo and his state house of assembly counterpart as well as the LGA chairperson, the fact is that these aids materials have not reached the destination, the people of Awba-Ofemili, because there is no road and airlifting of these materials probably was an option for the donors and state government particular, in spite of efforts to get them notified on the efficacy of delivering the materials appropriately.
There is need to have an operational health centre in place to cater for the residents of Awba-Ofemili. We must not wait until there is one outbreak or another.
Also, it is certain that some of the items may even have gotten bad due to poor storage. What this tells us, sadly is that if it had been a more serious thing than what was seen, no live, actually would have been saved from Awba-Ofemili?

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