23 November 2012, Sweetcrude, Enugu – The Government and people of Anambra state, South East Nigeria, are still grappling with the aftermaths of the heavy flooding that struck the area early October this year, destroying houses, personal properties, farm lands and bringing a number of health hazards in its wake.
In an exclusive interview with Sweetcrude, the Anambra State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Development, Prof Stella Chinyere Okunna said, although the flood waters which devastated several communities, submerging several houses up to the roofs, was now receding, it had not dried up completely, adding that many people were still in the camps provided by government.
She noted that relief materials were still being received from both individual persons and organisations, to support the displaced persons.
The commissioner disclosed, that the previous day alone, the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, “brought us 600 matresses and hundreds of blankets. And he has been bring thousands of cartons of indomie”.
Prof Okunna recalled that, “when the disaster struck, there were, at least eight local governments areas affected. But the areas that were completely submerged, were Ogbaru and Anambra West local government areas. It was terrible. There was so much damage that the people were so disappointed and confused, such that they even refused to be evacuated to the camps we had opened. As at last count, we had opened up to 24 camps.”
She explained that, when these camps were being opened, the idea was to encourage them to come out from their flooded homes,to the camps where government would take care of them. But when some of them refused to come, out of confusion, “the Governor had to personally take the risk to go there and appeal to them-particularly the old ones”.
According to her, some of them wanted to stay put there, inside the pool of water and die in their houses, having lost everything and did not know why they should be living again.
She further disclosed that the victims at the camp had enough food, shelter and medications and schools opened near the camps, to ensure that their children continued ther education.
The Commissioner emphasized that particular attention was given to their health, with the ministry of health mobilizing enough doctors and other health workers, and some hospitals designated for the victims, where they go to receive treatment and government pays the bills.
On how the state government had managed to remain on top of the situation, she said the Governor immediately set up a Flood Disaster Co-ordinating Comittee, chaired by the Secretary to state government, with herself as a member; and this commitee had co-ordinated everthing about relief materials in the camp.
She hinted that, with the water now receding gradually, the relief committee was already winding up, to give way for a newly set up Board of Trustees called ‘The state Disaster Co-dinating Board of Trustees”, to oversee the resettlement of the peaple to their homes.
The Board, according to her (to which she belongs too), is mandated “to watch them go back to their homes and make sure we are intervening, with our whole resources and that of the federal government”
Prof Okunna said, the extent of damage done by the flood disaster has not yet been ascertiained quantified.
She also disclosed that she had been in touch with the Managing Director of Oreint Petroleum-who told her that most places including the company’s oil fields, were still waterlogged, noting that there was no way to accurately ascertain damages yet.
On the specific assistances received from the federal government so far, the Commissioner disclosed that Presisdent Goodcuck Jonathan promptly visited the camps, to console and cheer up the victims, which helped them a lot, psychologically.
Shortly after, the state government, which was classified among the states in category ‘A’, based on the level of devastation, had received the sum of #500million in the interim.
In addition, she maintained, the federal govt had set up a comittee on the flood disaster nationwide, chaired by Alhaji Dangote, co-chaired by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), which had continued to make more and more relief materials available to the Anambra camps.
With regard to the issue of more funds that would surely be needed in the resettlement of the victims, she expressed hope that part of the funds realized at the recent inauguration and launching of the Presidential Committee, would be extended to Anambra state.
On measures that should be taken by government to combat the flood menace and prevent the attendant scourges, Prof Okunna said the federal government plans to build new dams and expand existing ones, as well as “provide other facilites,which she hoped, would prevent future ocurrences.