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Widespread Flooding Hits Nigeria Delta - 2001-09-04


Flooding and erosion have hit several communities in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. Officials of the region's Bayelsa State are calling for federal assistance, including erosion control measures. Several communities in Bayelsa State have been hit by flooding and erosion.

Felix Oboro, the secretary to the government of Bayelsa State, says "almost all the communities in Bayelsa State are affected by flooding and erosion. It is a yearly occurrence because we are situated in the Deltaic area. At the end of every year, some parts of this state are affected by seasonal flooding. The flood comes up from the month of July and recedes in October or November."

Mr. Oboro says the rains wash away the topsoil while the current washes up against the shores. He says houses, economic trees, schools, hospitals and other valuables are lost to flooding and erosion. "Annually we loose not less than 100 houses. In all the communities put together there is no year that houses are not lost because erosion will come and wash them away. As for deaths, I must confess that the death rate is not all that much because when the place is about to erode, people leave the site except those who are passing at the time the land will collapse or falls on a canoe that is passing. But property and houses are washed away and this goes to millions of naira every year."

Mr. Oboro says the state government has sand filled some communities affected by the disaster. He says the cost the project is high and blames the federal government for what he calls its lukewarm attitude toward the plight of the people.

Newspaper commentators say the state government has not put enough pressure on the federal government to tackle their ecological problems. But Mr. Oboro disagrees and says the federal government is aware of their problems. "What type of pressure do they want us to put on?" he asks. "The governments in the Niger Delta region have written and spoken, even their youths have gone on the rampage. What type of pressure do they want us to put on? I don't think the federal government is deaf. But in this aspect it looks as if it is blind and deaf because they do not want to see what is going. The oil companies know the ravages our people are suffering as a result of this erosion and flooding," said Mr. Oboro.

Through the Niger Delta Development Commission, the government annually gives millions of naira to states to treat ecological problems. The federal government has yet to respond or say whether it will make additional funds available for this emergency.

A member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly who represents some of the affected communities, Prosper Nwaguzo, supports Mr. Oboro's views. "Simply put, I say it is devastating because the communities, are all being eaten away by erosion and you need to go there and see for yourselves," he said. Mr. Nwaguzo says the ecological disaster has forced people to relocate. He's calling on the federal government to establish erosion control measures to protect the shore lines. He also wants the government to help rebuild homes and re-establish businesses destroyed by the flooding.

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