Delta: Residents flee Ijaw communities as flood takes over

…As children study under stressful environmental condition

By Shina Badmus & Godbless Motiola

Polobubou, is a community in Warri North Local Area of Delta State. It is an Ijaw community known for fishing and farming. It has for a very long time been suffering from flooding. The community is gradually going into extinction as the water level from the river is encroaching into the community, virtually submerging the community under water.

Known to have a population of over 18,000 people, Polobubou (Tsekelewu) has been facing this flooding situation for the past 10years and recently it has become worsen as not only the street but also the homes, churches and schools of the people in the community is facing the wrath of nature.

GbaramatuVoice paid a visit to the community and discovered firsthand the plight of the people. The whole community has been totally over flooded and thus leading to loss of properties that cannot be appropriately quantified.

Pupils of Tsekelewu primary school inside the flooded school building (Photo by Godbless Motiola)

The flooding has been attributed to the linking of the river to the Atlantic Ocean by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) which has caused the slough from the Atlantic Ocean to be deposited in the river. And over time has made it become so shallow that any time there is rain, flooding happens immediately.

The situation of the primary and secondary schools in the community is one that has really struck a resident a blow, as children can no longer go to school owing to the fact that their classrooms are filled with water and their school books have been totally destroyed.

Speaking with Kinbeghi Pere, the Head Mistress, of Minyen Primary School, Tsekelewu (Polobubou), she said that for the last 10years they have been experiencing the flooding every year. The school which she said is already flooded cannot resume, so the students have been out of school since this flooding started.

“It is so pathetic. When it happened last week, Sunday. Infact, we were surprised because we were about to resume when this happened. You can see the pupils, they are all ready to learn but since the occurrence of the incident no school attendance at all,” she said.

Mr. Asoki, the Vice Principal of Tsekelewu Secondary School, also said that the ICT center that students have been using because of the flood can no longer be accessed. He further said if government does not respond quickly, the ICT equipment will be destroyed.

Again Waresah Nelson, the senior secondary school prefect of Tsekelewu, said: “During the raining season we don’t normally come to school to learn. So we are calling on government to help us to eradicate this problem of flooding so we can go to school.”

Onetesirosan Douglas, Head of Personnel Management, Warri North Local Government, Koko, described the situation as pathetic, adding that “the situation of seeing his people under condition like this is not a good one because the children cannot even go to school to learn and you see women trying their best to bail out water from the classrooms and church building.

“My chairman, as I know him to be, is very quick in response to the people’s plight and that is why immediately he got the information he never wasted any minute in dispersing us here to carry out an on-the-spot assessment.”We have come; we have seen and we will go back and report to him.

“Looking at the school, it is not easy to learn under these conditions hence when I was addressing the primary school pupils I said we will come and look at other schools in this place whether we can relocate them to the secondary school but as it is even here too is flooded. It is not possible.

“So, I am going to discuss this with my chairman and we will do something in conjunction with the local education authority of the local government to see where they can be relocated to soonest,” he added.

He also said that this is one of the problems in the Niger Delta region. When they have been saying that the Niger Delta people are neglected, it is usually not believed and that this is just one amongst many and it will take the collaboration of the federal government and the oil companies operating within the Niger Delta to really come to the rescue of this people by providing enduring solution at least if not to eradicate completely but to minimize it.

He described the permanent solution to the issue to be seashore piling of the river bank and that project is capital intensive. So it will take the intervention of the federal government and even the oil companies to provide this lasting solution. And that the typography of the region is on a low plane, therefore the buildings especially the primary school should be elevated not just metre renovation and if that is done it would have risen above the water level.

Dickson Asoki, a community leader, said that “it is not a good one at all. We feel very bad about the situation and every right thinking community leader would want the best of situation for his people.

“We, as a community, have done our best. It is high time that we have to cry out because this is a pure ecological issue and of cause you know that an ecological matter takes the front burner of the federal government.

“There is ecological funds and this matter should be treated as such. So government can come to the aid of the people as soon as possible.

“The immediate measures that we would want the government to do for now,” he said “is the relocation of the people to safe haven for now. Also relief materials should be provided and also the relocation of the school so that the students can continue with their learning.

“To talk about the long term approach of the matter is that we have to go to the genesis of the problem in this place. Naturally, the waterways used to be very deep area but as a result of the linking of the river to the Atlantic Ocean by Chevron, the slough the Atlantic Ocean is deposited here and over time this place have become so shallow that any time there is rain, then this flooding come up immediately.

“So as a long term measure we are calling on the federal government to engage the intervention agencies to get this place dredged as quickly as possible.”

He said that if the place is dredged to a given depth, it will be deep enough to contain the water volume that is coming.

Mackson Abu, the youth secretary of Tsekelewu, Polobubou community, said that since President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration they have forwarded letters to the Presidency requesting that a new Polobubou should be reclaimed for them because their current place can no longer support their living.

“We need a new Polobubou to be reclaimed and proper dredging work should be done. We are very much aware that the presidency has given an approval, so we want that job to come up immediately so that the situation can be mitigated.

“We want to move to higher ground and without that reclamation that cannot be done because by next year this same thing will repeat itself,” he said

He concluded that normally the water from the river was used as drinkable because it used to be fresh water but right now because the water has become salty, the community now buys water from the urban centers.

“The loss these communities have so far experienced is one that can’t be quantified. This use to be a place where fishing and hunting activities use to go on very much but due to the intrusion of salt water most of their plants are no longer in existence, fishes are no more because most of those fishes where fishes that could survive in fresh water habitat.

Tsekelewu community which used to be a self-sustaining community, today now depends solely on the urban areas to get normally what their community would have produced.

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