PATRICK ODEY writes that residents of Ubara, Use-Offot community, in the Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State are groaning over the flooding that has ravaged the community for 20 years
Emmanuel Ekong, a resident of Ubara in Use-Offot community in the Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, woke up early on Sunday, June 8, 2019, to attend church service.
He planned to attend the service to have enough time for other social engagements for the day. But before he could bathe and conclude other preparations, thick ominous clouds had gathered in the sky.
In a few minutes, the heavens opened and emptied its bowels on the earth. It rained heavily throughout the day and in no time his house was covered with the flood. His expectations were later collapsed by frustration, anger and despair. He was trapped the whole day in his house.
Ekong’s frustration captures the mood of the residents of Ubara community, a small settlement with a population of over 500 people, located a few kilometres away from the Uyo capital city. For them, life is brutish and nasty especially during rainy seasons.
Saturday PUNCH findings revealed that any time the clouds gather, residents often feel dejected as it always brings into their minds sad reminder of previous woes and pains. Apart from the anguish flooding has brought to the community for over 20 years, the physical and material losses cannot be quantified.
Ekong, a community leader, told our correspondent that he had lost much to flooding. He added that his tenants had packed out as a result of flooding during the rainy seasons.
He said, “Whenever it rains, the whole place is flooded within few minutes and one dares not move out again. Life is hell and wicked whenever it is flooded in our community. This is how it has been for years. We have been living with this affliction for over 20 years. But the last four Sundays have been the worst days of our lives.
“I worked up that Sunday to attend early morning service because I had other engagements that day. But before I finished and ready for service, the rain started and the whole place was flooded. Nobody went out and nobody came in for about four days that the rain lasted.”
According to him, many residents in the community have lost personal belongings and property to flood because whenever it starts raining and one is not there to rescue his or her belongings, the person will see them submerged in flood.
He described the flood as ‘powerful and deadly’ and capable of drowning anything it grabs when the intensity of the rain is high. He called on the state government to come to the aid of the community without delay.
Also speaking, a youth leader, Saviour Ikpe, said he returned home one day to see all he acquired over the years floating on water. According to him, when it starts showing signs of rain, one has to rush back home from wherever one is to the house to salvage anything from the flood.
Ikpe said “Whenever it starts showing signs of rain, one has to be around one’s house to rescue one’s property, otherwise one will return home to see them floating on water. Many have suffered the same fate. I returned home one day to discover that all the property I spent many years to acquire was floating on water. Nothing can be so frustrating and painful than this.
“There is no one in this community that has not been affected in one way or the other. Whenever it rains in the night, one has to be awake to be able to rescue one or two things. We reached out to past governments beginning from the administration of ex-governor Victor Attah to no avail.’’
Besides, it was gathered that the development had affected commercial and social activities in the community. Small scale businesses had folded up and school owners were gradually relocating and the few ones still operating in the area continually tell tales of woes to whoever cares to listen.
A private school, Miracle Academy, located behind St. Phillips Primary School, Use-Offot, in Uyo, the state capital, is among the worst hit.
The Proprietor of the Academy, Mrs Esther Joseph, told our correspondent that all the computers and books in the school library had been destroyed by the flood.
She said, “Everything in my office was lost to the extent that water entered there and reached the top of my table. The books on the shelves in my offices were soaked including computers.
“In the classrooms, all the student books kept inside their lockers were all soaked and many of them cried when they saw the situation on Monday morning. The pupils were about to take an examination. We thank God that no life was lost.’’
She called on the state government and relevant agencies to assist the community to tackle flooding ravaging the community.
The Principal of the institution, Linus Akpan, who corroborated the proprietor’s claim, said whenever it rained and the school environment was flooded, the pupils and the members of staff would abandon everything to drain water out of the classrooms.
Akpan said, “What we normally do is to look at the sky to see if it is going to rain within school hours. If we suspect that it will rain, we will close the school because the pupils will not be able to pass the road if the flood is heavy. If it rains outside school hours and the classrooms are flooded, staff members and pupils will drain the water before any other thing is done.”
Saturday PUNCH findings further revealed that flooding in the area had become so persistent that no one could tell when help would come to the community.
Unfortunately, the government’s efforts in tackling the menace over the years had not yielded tangible results.
A former governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio, in an attempt to end the perennial flooding problem in the area and some parts of Uyo metropolis, initiated a ‘pipe jacking’ technology drainage system.
Online source defined pipe jacking as a method of laying underground pipes without digging a trench, in which the pipes are assembled in an access shaft and then pushed into position by a hydraulic jack.
The former minority leader had said he decided to bring the technology to Akwa Ibom State to address years of agitation by the people who went through untold hardship over the embarrassing flood menace in the area.
But despite the huge money spent on the initiative, little or nothing was achieved as flooding continued to submerge homes and caused residents untold hardship every year. From Idoro through Itam road to Ikot Ekpene road, it is the same story of frustration, pain and despair.