The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), recently organised a sensitisation workshop in Owerri, the Imo capital for stakeholders of flood-prone areas, to forestall any disaster as experienced in 2012.
The workshop, organised in collaboration with the Imo State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), was to enlighten them on the 2014 seasonal rainfall prediction released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET).
The theme of the workshop was “Comprehensive Disaster Management and 2014 Flood Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness.’’
Dr Bandele Onimode, NEMA’s South-East Zonal Coordinator, noted that some communities in Imo suffered great losses in 2012 as a result of flooding.
He said that communities in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema local government areas were worst hit.
“In Oguta, we had a test of what I am saying in 2012; people recorded intangible losses; roads, electricity installations, buildings, farmlands, and other economic ventures were damaged by flooding and such disaster might repeat if we do not act fast’’ Onimode said.
He added that stakeholders must work together to prevent witnessing another huge damage due to floods as experienced in 2012.
“The 2014 seasonal rainfall prediction indicates that the southeastern states will record 263 days of intensive rainfalls to be characterised by storm and flooding.
The prediction also reveals that the dry-cell which usually occurs in August will last longer than that recorded in previous years,’’ he said.
The coordinator said the objective of the sensitisation was to build the capacity of stakeholders in order to carry people along in the management of disaster.
According to Onimode, if people adhere to information, it will help to reduce the havoc of disaster.
Prof. Anthony Anuka, the Secretary to Imo State Government, who spoke at the event, said the government was putting measures in place to mitigate the impact of flooding in the state.
“As part of government’s preparedness on the 2014 prediction, the state is currently expanding drainage system on flood-prone areas in Owerri, such as Okigwe and Amakohia roads, while other roads in the hinterlands are equally receiving attention,’’ Anuka said.
On her part, Mrs Uche Ezeonyeasi, the Executive Secretary of SEMA, said the agency was prepared for any eventuality based on the NIMET’s 2014 prediction.
She said that 16 rehabilitation centres had been completed in Ohaji, Egbema area, while internally displaced persons’ camps were provided in Alaoma, Oguta Local Government Area.
Ezeonyeasi decried the attitude of some traders at Ekeukwu Owerri Main Market, who dispose solid wastes indiscriminately.
“When you visit Ekeukwu Owerri Market, most of the corners now look very dirty due to solid wastes kept here and there by traders after daily commercial activities.
“Unless urgent steps are taken by government, residents of Owerri will likely face problem of flood this year,’’ she said.
Ezeonyeasi said that apart from flooding, many communities in Imo were facing serious environmental and health challenges.
Chief Leo Ajoku, the Chairman, Ekeukwu Owerri Main Market Traders’ Amalgamated Association, stressed the need for timely evacuation of refuse.
The chairman also accused traders of indiscriminate disposal of refuse.
He said that it was difficult for the executive to enforce sanitation rules in Ekeukwu Owerri Market, noting that “Ekeukwu Owerri has more than 80 lines and it is not possible to enforce compliance daily.’’
Ajoku appealed to the government to check street trading in Owerri, as the menace of street trading is a “disaster waiting to explode.’’
He said that traders from the hinterland, who come to Owerri daily with their goods have turned adjourning streets like Douglas, Ekeonunwa, Old Market, Okorie, Christ Church and Njamenze to market.
“They generate heaps of refuse daily without caring to dispose the refuse properly, which often end up in the water channels,’’ Ajoku said.
An official of the Nigeria Red Cross Society, Mrs Caroline Udoh, urged the government to upscale enlightenment campaigns especially in the rural areas.
“I feel the mass media should be adequately engaged for the sensitisation, enlightenment and education of the masses; that will go a long way in checking repeat of such huge losses recorded during past disasters.’’ She said.
Udoh further stressed the need for prompt payment to contractors handling flood control projects.
She said that stakeholders were ever willing to collaborate with NEMA and SEMA to tackle natural disasters.
Participants say though rainfall is natural, that the havoc of flooding could be reduced by taking the necessary precautionary measures.
They urge the national and state emergency management agencies to sustain enlightenment campaigns. Francis Onyeukwu (NAN)