… Beg Govt for Assistance
By Rev Fr Constantine Echichechi and Michael Nnebife
Some residents of Ngozika Housing Estate, Awka, Anambra State, have begun to lament perennial flash flooding wreaking havoc in the estate.
The ravaging flood, which came, following last Monday morning’s rainfall around Awka and its environs, surged into the Priest’s House of Sacred Heart Catholic Chaplaincy; that of St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church; the residence of one Mr. Solomon Ubani, among others, all in Awka.
Some of them who spoke to our reporters, blamed housing developers, whom they alleged to be encroaching on the water channel, as well as government officials, for the cause of the perennial flooding, and appealed to the Anambra State Government to come to their aid in finding a lasting solution to the menace.
One of the residents and Chairman, Ngozika Estate Residents Association, Sir Charles Mbakigwe, said the situation had been in existence since 2012, but the worst happened five years ago at the Priests’ House, with the next one pulling down some buildings.
‘In 2017, government did some palliative work on the canal, but it wasn’t quite well done; so after some time, the problem came back; now we’re still living with the problem.
‘To compound it, some developers encroached on the sides of the canal with impunity. As we tried to stop them, the Estate Officials gave us the impression that they had appropriate authorization to do what they were doing.’
He further noted that in 2022, the Association spent not less than ₦480, 000 on the entrance gate of the estate to evacuate the channel there, because whenever it rained, it became difficult for the policemen guarding them to come out from their office there.
‘This is because part of the drainage there was built upon by developers, sometimes in collaboration with some staff of the Housing Corporation,’ Mbakigwe stated.
‘As a matter of historical reference, this estate was started by Mbadinuju, but abandoned and it became a safe haven for criminals and herdsmen. But when Peter Obi came onboard, he decided that instead of leaving this place like that, it should be sold out.
‘So, they valued the various houses in the different stages of completion, and sold them off. The previous government used it for campaign because they counted it as one of their prime projects, and it was attractive.
‘So, we’re appealing to the state government, who always steps on this achievement to go into power, to find a way of assisting us,’ he urged.
Also, the Chairman, Flood Control Committee, Sacred Heart Parish, Engr Dr Patrick Obi, and some other members of the committee, including Engr Matthew Odiegwu; Engr Francis Obidike; Lady Ngozi Chilokwu; among others, said the residents had reported the situation to the government a number of times in the past, but no meaningful effort had been put in place due to lack of political will on the part of the government to work on the water way.
They explained that Peter Obi’s Administration came up with a particular design which Willie Obiano’s Government tried in 2017 to execute but left it uncompleted due to lack of political will.
The residents appealed to the state government to help the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, ASHDC, to look into the water channel with a view to widening it, and also called land excavators in the area to order and demolish whatever that was along the water way to allow the flood flow into the Ezu River.
In his response, the Chaplain of Sacred Heart Parish, Rev Fr Chigozie Jidere, said the church always got over flooded any moment it rained.
The Chaplain therefore, urged the government to act quickly to distil the water channel so that whenever it rained heavily, the volume of flood could be contained.
A worshipper at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Rock Land, Ngozika Estate, who pleaded anonymity, described the flood situation in the estate as frightening.
‘The whole situation gives me sleepless nights. Once there is rain I cannot sleep again, I become afraid and restless,’ she said.
She explained that the cause of the flood was that the canal was no longer deep and needed to be cleared of all blockages.
Another resident, Mr Ubani, whose compound was still soaked with water at the time of the visit to the area, described the situation as horrible, pointing out that during every rainy season the residents became apprehensive of what they would face as regards flood.
However, another resident, Dr Nkiru Akabuike, who expressed hope that the state government would soon respond to the calls of the residents, also called on the Federal Government to intervene in the situation, arguing that it was a natural disaster that could cost huge amount of money to tackle.
Another concerned resident, Prof. Greg Chukwudi Nwakoby, the Vice Chancellor, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Igbariam, in Anambra State, who spoke with Fides through the phone, sympathized with his fellow residents suffering from the menace.
Nwakoby, a lawyer with specialization in Property and Commercial Law, described the situation as very pathetic and yet not lacking in remedies.
He however blamed both the Housing Authority and the residents for what is happening there.
‘On the part of the Housing Corporation, they allocated lands up to the areas of the water, thus, part of what was allocated encroached into the water area,’ he said.
Prof Nwakoby described it as unfortunate, most embarrassing and unacceptable in estate management. He observed that some of the residents to whom land was allocated, in the course of building, exceeded the area given to them and then encroached into the water area.
He expressed worry that some people living along the water channel now dumped their refuse into that water area. These activities, according to Prof. Nwakoby, narrowed the water area in that particular environment and starved the water of its escape route.
The Vice Chancellor insisted that the Housing Corporation should go round the affected areas, mark and knock-off the buildings causing the problem.
‘Knock them off and let them contain themselves within the area of land allocated to them. The Housing Corporation should drain that place and build a very big channel that could take care of the volume of water coming. The big channel that exists in the Uche Ekwunife area is the type that the Housing Corporation should begin to think about and to have it right down in the water area and extend it down,’ Prof. Nwakoby explained.
When contacted, the Managing Director of ASHDC, Mr Chike Anyaonu, said the corporation had been trying to find a lasting solution to the flood menace.
Mr Anyaonu, who spoke with Fides through the phone, said the problem was not a matter that started today but had been there for long.
‘The corporation is so much concerned about the situation; we have been trying to profile what can be done to bring a lasting solution to the problem.
‘The governor recently gave a directive after several appeals. We were directed to meet with the Commissioner for Works and we have been visiting the site also with the commissioner.
‘Another one is that recently, the people in charge of erosion in Anambra State were involved- They are doing their own beat because the problem is not one the Anambra State Housing Corporation can handle alone. This is because that canal belongs to the state. That is the reason why the state is involved,’ Anyaonu said.
He posited that the agency in charge of watershed and erosion control was doing its best and studying the velocity of the damage caused by the erosion in order to come up with a lasting solution.