Despite significant sums spent by the Edo State Government, flooding in Benin City, the state capital, has become an annual ritual that causes sorrow and excruciating pain for inhabitants. ADEYINKA ADEDIPE writes.
These are not the best of times for residents of Benin, Edo State, who have begun to feel the effects of flooding, which has become a recurring issue in the state throughout the rainy season.
Several portions of the city are frequently flooded during and after a rainstorm. When it rains, some areas of the Government Reserved Area, where the Government House and other government institutions and offices are located, are always flooded, making movement extremely difficult, while other parts of town are also affected. Unfortunately, one of the most affected areas in the GRA is Ihama.
When a storm approaches, motorists and pedestrians flee for cover because no one wants to be trapped in the subsequent pandemonium. Apart from the GRA, areas such as upper Sakponba, Uselu, Erediawa, Upper Adesua (where a private hospital has been flooded), and New Benin are constantly flooded, causing gridlock, with many wasting precious time and cursing their luck for getting caught up in the confusion caused by flooding.
A detailed examination of what may be the principal cause(s) of flooding in the city, particularly in the GRA, reveals the absence of drainages. When it rains, there is no path for water to go through in this location, thus flooding is unavoidable, inflicting damage to the roads and vehicles caught up in it. Also, indiscriminate disposal of refuse has hindered the state government’s best effort at fighting this perennial problem as drainages are blocked by refuse in areas where they exist.
Residents have had to abandon their houses during the rainy season for fear of losing their belongings as well as fearing that damage to the houses might lead to collapse. They put the blame solely on the doorstep of the government, noting that it has to come up with a plan to ensure that the annual flooding is brought down to the nearest minimum.
A resident, James Osa told The PUNCH that it looked like the government was at a loss on how to tackle this problem. He called on Governor Godwin Obaseki to do more to check this menace. Osa, who lives at Upper Sakponba, said that the rain had become a curse to the people. He noted that the people were always afraid when there was a sign it was going to rain.
He said: “I live in the Upper Sakponba area of Benin City and whenever it rains, the St Goretti junction along Upper Sakponba Road is always flooded up till the welfare Road junction. And because of floods, the road becomes dilapidated and difficult to ply. Though the government repaired the road before the rain started, I can assure you that it will soon go bad as long as flooding persists.
“Another area around that axis is Erediawa Road which takes you to Santa Market on Sapele Road. It should be a good road to escape the Goretti Junction when it rains but it is always flooded too with many cars breaking down in the deluge. The bus drivers also make life difficult by driving against traffic which leads to gridlock and wasting, of quality time on the flooded road, which leads to damage to vehicles.
Another resident, Abiodun Oloyede, who says he has been living and doing business in Benin for almost 30 years, is worried that the problem has become one that has defied solution. He noted that it is difficult to understand why the major part of the GRA has no drainage while some parts of Second Ugbor Road, Ben Agho have drainages. He also lamented that most of the drainages do not link, wondering why government efforts have failed over the years.
He said, “I have been living in the GRA for almost 30 and the major part of the place is always flooded when it rains. I was surprised when I came to Benin and discovered there were no drainages unlike where I came from. So it is not a surprise that flood has become a serious problem over the years. Some residents have drainage in front of their houses but it leads to nowhere.
“The Second Ugbor Road has drainage, which I think was done by the residents, but it leads to nowhere. I also see that the government has done big drainage around Reuben Agho but it doesn’t seem to be working as the area still experiences flood when it rains,” he added.
While proffering a solution to the problem, Oloyede said that the present administration should start considering drainage in the GRA. “I don’t know how the authorities will see my position but they should start having drainages in all the major streets in the GRA, which will take the water to the big drainage being constructed around Reuben Agho.”
Juliana Osaro, who does business at New Benin/Upper Mission, said the rain, which causes floods has become a big hindrance to business.
She said, “Whenever it rains, the roads are always flooded and business becomes very dull as no one will like to come to the market under that condition. Though there are drainages in some parts of this place there is still flood when it rains. Also, people should stop throwing used paper, sachet water nylons, and bottles indiscriminately on the road. We should always keep our environment clean, especially those of us who do business in various markets in the state. However, the government should play their part to stop this problem.”
Looking back at efforts to solve this problem, the Stormwater project which was conceived by a former Governor of the State, Adams Oshiomhole, readily comes to mind. However, the N30bn project which was meant for flood management seems to have failed with the present Governor Obaseki seizing files related to the project from the ministry over a year ago and promising to probe the job as well as bring perpetrators of the fraud to book.
The governor said about the project, “The person who supervised this project, today, calls himself a minister and is supervising bigger projects for the Federal Government. This is just unacceptable.
“What we are doing now is different from what was done in the last administration. There is almost a two-metre difference. So, there is no way that you can drain water from low ground to a high plane.”
“The stormwater project was a fraud. It was a contract to defraud Edo people. From what I see in this catchment area, the project was never designed to take water away from the area. The area was never drained,” he said.
However, in a swift reaction, Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Clem Agba, who was the Commissioner for Environment and Public Utilities, whose ministry supervised the job under Oshiomhole said that N22bn was earmarked for the first phase of the project, which he said, would be continued by successive government.
The minister said, “My decision to call on His Royal Majesty to prevail on your government (Obaseki’s govt) to sustain the project was in good faith. It was not meant to denigrate your person or government, but rather it was motivated by my passionate love for Edo state.
“I was also taken aback by the N30nm you peddled as expenditure on the project. You know, and I dare say without any fear of contradiction, that this is not only false but also outlandishly erroneous, misleading and patently mischievous. As the then Chairman of the Edo State Economic Team, you were privy to the conception, planning, execution, and expenditure on the project,” he added.
What govt is doing – Perm sec
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, Lucky Wasa, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated that there were several going on in several parts of the state to check the menace of flooding.
He said: “Currently, we have started desolation at First, Second, Third, and Sapele roads. As we are desilting, we are also evacuating. We are also advising residents to do the same in their areas since we cannot be everywhere at the same time. Then we will go to those areas with our vehicles to evacuate the silt. By the time we finish working in these areas, we will move to Ugbowo area.
“We worked throughout this weekend on Ewa Road. There is a drain there that was silted up so we were there to work on it. All these measures are geared towards ensuring that flooding/erosion is reduced to the barest minimum.
“Also big drainages are being built at Upper Adesua close to the Airport Road area. The Government is also working at Gapiona Erosion control site, the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project and a project under my ministry is doing. the work Is going on and we have five pounds to which the water is being directed. By the time the job is completed, flooding in that area will be a thing of the past in the GRA.
“NEWMAP is also working at Esije, third circular Road. We have been able to control the flood in that area. In the past, the area used to be very flooded and not passable but now we are controlling the flood there and the road have also been reconstructed. Also at Igbusa Housing Estate, we have been able to reclaim gullies and direct the water.”