“Nsukka is under serious threat. Schools, churches, homes, shop owners are counting their loses. Deaths have become a recurring decimal,” residents cry out as flood wrecks fresh havoc in the University town.
The latest victims included a University graduate and a cyclist, who were both swept and deposited in a far away Alor Uno community.
A visit to the University of Nigeria town of Nsukka showed that the residents are now living in anxiety. A single drop of rain comes with fear and tension. In the lips of every resident is the nagging question ‘who could be the next victim?’
Apart from deaths, which have become regular owing to the deadly flood and erosion in the area, Veloxnews reports that schools and churches are now at the mercy of the looming disaster.
Worst hit are the Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Nursery and Primary School, the St. John’s Catholic Church, Ihe Owerre, Nsukka, as well as the two schools within the compound, the popular Ugwuoye Square, which has now become a shadow of itself, the University Road. The entire Uwani Ugwu community, off New Site Road, among others are not spared.
A state of despair was glaring in the faces of the victims as a team led by the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, arrived the areas for an on-the-spot assessment.
The NEWMAP team, led by the Enugu State coordinator, Barr. Egechukwu Vincent Obetta
Also in the team was Mr. Cosmas Ozioko, the Director, Project Financial Management Unit, Enugu State, who bemoaned the ugly experiences being faced by residents over the ravaging flood.
He said “where you are now is the Ugwuoye Square, Nsukka, which used to be the ancient Civic Centre of the whole of Nsukka town. Any fetivity that is going on in Nsukka is always celebrated here.
“This also used to be the the rallying ground for every serious political campaign in Nsukka. In fact, there is no governor that has come and gone in Nsukka that did not come here for political rally, but from what we are seeing here, the whole place has been messed up by flood.
“As you can see the whole of the buildings here have developed some form of elevation in other to forestall flooding. At the initial stage, properties worth millions of naira were damaged.
“So, I commend the NEWMAP and the indeed the Enugu State Government for coming to rescue our people. If there is anything NEWMAP can do to wage this water storm, to channel the flood into the water tunnel built down there, it will help us a great deal,” Ozioko added.
We are under siege – Fr. Amukworu
The Assistant Parish Priest, St. John’s Catholic Church, Ihe-Owerre Nsukka, Rev. Fr. Vitus Amukworu also takes sad takes of the devastating being faced by the Church over the flood menace.
According to the priest, “I’m very scared by the volume of flood we are experiencing here. I have already instructed the teachers that once it rains, the students, both of the government and our own private school, let them not allow the kids to go, until we are sure that the flood has reduced.
“In fact, the last time it rained, the senior students were ferrying the younger ones across the road and some almost fell into the gutter. And the whole of this place was submerged. I saw some children swimming, because the level of water was almost half of that goal post. I could not even drive away.
“As we speak, the foundation of this Church is very much in danger. This particular Church, it is not very difficult to worship there once it rains, no other programme is held in this Church ones it rains, not just here but in the Parish House.
“We thank God for this your coming and do home it will bring us succour from this kind of problem.
“As a student of St. John Cross Seminary Nsukka, each time I’m going home, I see flood here and now 15 years after, I’m a priest here and I’m experiencing the havoc. So, it is not a recent problem. It is perennial.”
I have witnessed several deaths – UNN retiree
Michael Anaji, a 67-year-old retired staff of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, equally lamented the countless number of lives claimed by flood along the areas.
The retired engineer, who was coincidentally clearing a portion of the waterways when the NEWMAP team arrived said, “That is why I am doing this one. This very compound you are seeing there, all the rooms there were filled with water. That rain, the last one that carried about three people, filled this gutter up, this place was completely submerged. The volume is not something one can describe. It is better you see it yourself.
“So far, this drainage must rebuilt, from Ugwuoye down to Alor Uno. My experience in this town, I can start talking about my co-workers. The first person that was carried by this flood, is somebody called Kpoko, he works in UNN Works Department, then the other one is Eke, he is from Orba, he is a good play-man, flood carried him here. Then, all these most recent ones, two years ago, last year and then this year. There is no year that flood don’t kill people here. There is history of two boys that were carried at the University gate where they had gone to pluck some leaves. I worked with the father of one of them in the University. Water carried the two boys, Emma Ugwuja, the father of one them is till working in the University.”
He ruled out human factor, saying, “nobody built on water way. This is the natural route but it needs to be expanded.”
Our kids’ lives in danger – Proprietor
The Proprietor of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Nursery and Primary School, Patrick Ezea said they had remained completely helpless as flood continued to threaten their lives and that of the pupils, adding that school activities was not at the mercy of rainfall.
“Last week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, there was torrential rain and this place was completely flooded, up to knee level. The flood continued to pour into this place. We are in trouble, our lives not safe, only government can help us solve this problem.
“As soon as this road was constructed, because the gutter was shallow, it was not deep enough to contain the flood, so it gives room to the entire water pouring into this place.
“It has been disrupting our educational activities. Once it rains, school activity is put on hold. Something should be done urgently,” he pleaded.
Other victims who spoke on their predicaments included an octogenarian, Chief Martin Onyishi, who said his entire household was under threat. Similarly, Mr. Ozioko Ejike lamented that they had lost valuables running into millions of naira to flood, and called for immediate relief from government.
NEWMAP speaks on way forward
Undoubtedly, there is a great task ahead as the NEWMAP battles with this emergency. But like residents said, whatever must be done must be fast as the threat increases by day.
NEWMAP coordinator, Obetta, told Veloxnews after the assessment that the agency was concerned over the situation and shared the plight of the victims.
He said, “That is why we are here. Before now have already started the process of dealing with the erosion, but overtime we realized the topography of Nsukka town has given rise to the decision that we also have to include storm water project in the erosion project.
“We are going back to the drawing board. As a matter fact, the first phase has already been concluded. Our consultant, Aim consultant has already come up with their drawing, which has already been sent to the national office for review.
“One of their suggestions is that we are going to have a retention pond in Alor Uno here, so this thing has already been taking place even before we started hearing the news of people that we were swept away by flood from somewhere and deposited at Alor Uno. So, that drawing has already been sent to the national office, when they now say they are satisfied with what we did, we kick-off.”
He added that “we also realized that not much nitty-gritty job would be done, if we don’t encapsulate what we have seen today, from Ikpa-Ugwuoye, down to this place we are now, at Alor Uno.
“So, as soon as we get back, we articulate these things are begin to ask for emergency from the World Bank.
“I know that it has been a recurring decimal, that every year, there must be a casualty. We met a man, who said that every year, there must be a victim, since the 70s, that this thing has been eating human beings. So, even if it is diabolical, the World Bank and NEWMAP will break that curse.”
On whether human factor was contributing to the disaster, Obetta said, “my environmental officer told me that from his own personal observation, that the inability of the residents across these channels to take care of their waste products, majorly plastic and cellophane bags, has contributed to widening that gap, and that is why we are also going to embark on advocacy programme to let them know. We are also going to meet the local government to let them know that they have not done enough to proactively address this issue.
“In other words, human activities exacerbated the situation, it contributed a lot especially in area of the spill overs, because this water get to some point and get blocked. We had a basket that we saw at Ugwuoye, in front of the Church, a particular basket was removed and that basket was supposed to filter out some of these waste materials and it contributes to making this problem very difficult, the spill overs, ordinarily creates more issues.
“So, in all, the crisis areas starts a little bit away from Ikpa to Ugwuoye, and then Shanahan, from where we criss-crossed to the University Gate, into the University Secondary School, down to the last Bus Stop, from Ziks Flat across Onuiyi, where we are now, which is more like a clearing house of the water, from where it burst out into Alor Uno community.
“Before now, Enugu NEWMAP had also commenced the process of addressing erosion in Nsukka but from the time they started, the consultant started from the point they identified the gully head, which is the University Secondary School area but we discovered that the erosion cannot be done properly without going through where we have gone today and that is from Ugwuoye and then pushing down to this place.
“And we also discovered that the menace is expanding as the years go by. We are seeing a situation where there will be bigger disaster in the future. You were with us and saw that there was no rain, it merely drizzled, but you can see the magnitude of the flood, so, there is every urgent need for the Enugu Government and NEWMAP to come to the aid of the people of Nsukka town.
“This is actually a natural disaster and it is as a result of the magnitude of this nature that brought about NEWMAP, which started in 2013, that is the reason the World Bank, the Enugu State Government and the Federal Government entered into partnership to see how they can contribute their quota, to be able to do it.
“So, that partnership that exists in NEWMAP, within the tripartite of the World Bank, the Federal and the Enugu State Government, they have the capacity to address this. The World Bank and the NEWMAP has done something greater than this, so they have the capacity to carry out this project.”