Victims of Tuesday’s massive flooding in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital have blamed poor construction work by government contractors for the disaster.
But the state government has returned the blame to residents who dump solid wastes in the drains and build on flood channels.
The flood, the worst in so many years, submerged widespread areas including Odili Road, Azikiwe Road, state secretariat complex near Government House, Port Harcourt Shopping Mall, Rumukalagbor, Rumuokwuta, D/Line and G.R.A.
The Commissioner for Works, Eloka Tasie-Amadi, said that he will recommend the demolition of houses built on flood channels as a way of solving the problem.
He attributed the flash floods in some parts of Port Harcourt metropolis to the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the drains and flood canals.
Tasie-Amadi said even though government was spending a lot to evacuate wastes and drains, residents were not being responsible about how they disposed of their waste.
“The government spends so much money trying to take out wastes from the drains and everyday people take them back in. And what do you expect? It is a natural consequence of our conduct. If we do not reorient ourselves we keep on having the same problem.
“We have a lot of buildings that are actually built across the flood channels. People are reclaiming properties narrowing some channels. Population is increasing, rains are more, global warming and all that. But drains that were wide before, we narrow them down and we expect things to be different. It’s not possible,” Tasie-Amadi said.
He dismissed claims that road construction by Julius Berger in some parts of Port Harcourt was responsible for the flooding. “They are doing construction in some areas, not everywhere. But you find flooding in so many areas where there is no construction. Psychiatric Road is flooded, Julius Berger is not working there. Odili Road is flooded, Julius Berger is not working there. Olu Obasanjo Road is flooded, Julius Berger is not working there.
“Buildings that obstruct free flow of water ought to be demolished. That will be my recommendation. It is left to the executive council to deliberate on what I recommend and see if that is the only option or there are other options.
But the manager of Port Harcourt Mall, Ifeoma Okoye said the flooding worsened after Julius Berger worked on the road in front of the mall.
“I don’t know what kind of work Julius Berger did here. Since after Julius Berger worked, it has become even blocked. The damage here at the mall is terrible,” she lamented.
The head of department of Survey and Geo-informatics, Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Emmanuel Ajie said government has to deliberately construct canals and channels to link drains with rivers.
“That is the way we can solve this problem. It is not only about drainage because drainage cannot take large volume of water,” he said.
He also called for the dredging of rivers in the state, which he said have become shallow and can not take in large volumes of water.
“It is good for the government to go ahead of the people in planning cities. It is not when the people finish building then government will go and construct roads and start scattering houses and looking for how to maneuver and get drainage done. It is not easy that way. In developed countries government goes ahead of the people before the people start coming. In our area here, people go ahead of government before government starts coming. They also construct roads by themselves. They do everything including the drainage by themselves before the government starts coming.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, has said that the state government is working with some agencies to establish a process that will check perennial flooding in the State.
Nsirim, who disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, called on those living and doing business in Rivers State to get involved in the process.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to cooperate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He called for the support of the media in this respect. “We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this flooding.”