Though the flood of Friday 13 July, 2018 in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital that swept away about 11 people and destroyed properties worth billions of naira has come and gone, the affected families are still counting their losses. FEMI OYEWESO reports.
That started as one of the usual rains around 4:00pm that Friday afternoon, turned out to be a heavy downpour which caused the two most popular rivers: Sokori and Ogun Rivers to overflow their banks. The flood that followed did not spare anything that stood on its way, cars, houses and even humans were all washed into the drain like rubbish.
While vehicles parked at most of the mechanic workshops were carried away, churches and mosques were not spared as some of them were either submerged or pulled down completely. A newly constructed mosque at the river bank in Ijaiye market was one of such that was completely washed away.
Some of the other places where the flash-flood wreaked havoc included: Ijaiye, Kuto, Lafenwa, Oke-Lantoro, Amolaso, Ago-Ijesha, Kobiti in the popular Itoku market area as well as Breweries.
At the Ago-Ijesa area where the flood carried away five persons and at Kobiti axis of the Itoku Market within the Abeokuta metropolis where a mother and two of her sons were killed, families of the victims have taken the flood disaster as part of what fate destined for them, except that some corpses of their beloved could not be recovered even as at the time of going to press.
For the Akintobi family in Ago-Ijesha, one of their own, Halirat Akintobi, a food vendor and two of her sons; Abeeden and Shuaib were swept away while taking shelter inside the container which has for some years, served as a shop where the deceased was earning her living near the Kobiti Central Mosque. The corpses of the trio of mother and sons were later recovered and buried by their family.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend, a female member of the Akintobi family, Rasheedat Akintobi explained that the family has since Wednesday relocated Halirat’s husband to Ibadan when they sensed that the sad incident was taking a negative effect on him and he could likely run mad.
“The family decided to relocate Baba Abeeden to Ibadan just to keep him away from continually thinking about the sad incident,” Rasheedat said, adding, “The rate at which sympathisers were trooping in to commiserate with him was too much and that has kept him thinking the more.
“Abeeden and Shuaib were his only children and that was why he was like running crazy each time sympathisers come in. We believe he needed to be taken away for proper counselling and rehabilitation.”
Rasheedat further added that the sad incident has also affected the Halirat’s mother, adding that she hopes the old woman survives the shock.
In the case of the Babalaje family, their 80 years old mother, Madam Babalaje was swept away by the flood along with four others. One of the sons of the 80 year-old woman, Alhaji Tajudeen Babalaje, who claimed to be away for work while the sad incident occurred, also lamented that his mother wouldn’t have died if not for her old age.
“It was where she was sitting that the flood met her. All of them were five in number, sitting with her when the flood came,” he wept as he related the story.
“The unfortunate thing was that the whole five of them were swept away. We later recovered the child of one of the five victims, but yet to recover the corpses of the other four.”
While the affected families have continued to count their losses, survivors of the disaster have also started to device means of averting future occurrence.
Engineer ‘Tunde Okubanjo, who recently retired from the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Abeokuta was one of the survivors who would want both the state and federal government to put more measures in place towards preventing the occurrence of such disaster in the future.
Speaking with our correspondent, Engineer Okubanjo said his house would have been worse hit were it not for the concrete gutter he erected in the area.
“Perhaps the effect of the flooding wouldn’t have been so devastating as we have it now, if not for those who dredge sand from the Ogun River,” he said, adding, “They have dug sand to the point that the holes where water should not be stopping are now retaining water and that contributed to making the river overflow its banks.
“For example, the hole I have near my house here is so deep that it can accommodate a storey building. The drainage I personally put in place with my own money has been affected and as it is now, I do not have the capacity to correct the damage except government come to my assistance.
“As an engineer, what I think government should do is to reinforce this place with concrete and iron and also stop those who have been dredging sand from here.”
Aside from Okubanjo, stakeholders in the accident and emergency management services have come to the conclusion that improper waste management as well as erecting building structures without approval were the likely causes of the July 13th flooding which has left sad stories on its trail.
For example, last Wednesday when the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo visited Abeokuta to assess the level of damages caused by the flood, he emphatically stated that as part of measures to permanently curb a future reoccurrence, all the houses and families living beneath the valleys prone to flooding would have to relocate.
Aside from compensating the affected families, Osinbajo, while commiserating with the families of those who lost their loved ones to the disaster, further emphasised that governments; both at federal and state levels would embark of a campaign of attitudinal change in such a way that would discourage people from dumping refuse where they block the drainages.
“One of the things that we have to do as a people is that we have to change our attitudes of blocking the drainages,” the Vice President said. “Anywhere you have so much rains fall within short hours, you’re likely to have this type of situation despite the channelisation.”
On his part, the Assistant Chief Planning Officer of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the South West Zone, Babatunde Olowokere said the people need to refrain from dumping refuse in the canal and drainages.
The State Commissioner for Environment, Bolaji Oyeleye said the state government may have to demolish houses as it is set to begin enforcement of the required set-back along the river channel.
Oyeleye further stated that channelisation of river courses would also be improved upon so as to forestall a future reoccurrence.
But to further demonstrate the seriousness of the state government, members of the Ogun state executive council last Wednesday carried out a voluntary clean-up exercise of the areas affected by the flood disaster.
The clean-up exercise, which started since last Saturday, saw all the commissioners as well as other political office appointees, led by the state deputy governor, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, participating with the aim of sensitizing members of the public on the dangers associated with blocking the drainages and waterways with refuse.
Speaking with newsmen at the scene of the exercise in Ago-Ijesha, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Otunba Adeneye said the exercise became inevitable in view of the tragic incident which occurred the previous Friday.
Adeneye explained that since charity begins at home, it behoves on members of the state executive council to lead in the cleaning up in order to show example for members of the public.
He explained that since members of the state executive council were physically present in the cleaning exercise, it would discourage members of the public who may want to dump refuse on the drainages.
Adeneye however, advised residents to partner the state government in its efforts at safeguarding the environment and also forestalling a reoccurrence of the flood disaster.
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