By John Agbala
The government of and the people of Akwa Ibom state, south-south Nigeria have been called upon to activate its disaster preparedness and emergency response plan ahead of the severe flooding expected to hit the state this year.
An Uyo based non-governmental organisation, Policy Alert, issued this call during separate inspection visits it conducted to communities affected by flooding in Oron and Eket.
At a press briefing in Eket on Wednesday, the organisation’s Head of Programmes, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, said: “We are not surprised at what is happening given earlier warnings from the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency in its Nigeria Flood Outlook that the Cross River Sub-basin is among river basins to be seriously affected by flooding this year. We should be prepared for more floods. Some months ago we had called on government and communities to put in place disaster readiness and emergency response plans to deal with possible re-occurrence of floods this year to avoid the loss of lives and properties witnessed in the state in recent years.”
Bolton-Akpan added that his group had initiated an engagement with the relevant authorities and had “volunteered its expertise to government to ensure efficient, citizen-friendly and more coordinated response to the current flood disasters in various parts of the state”. He also said that the NGO has been sending out teams of volunteers to visit high flood-prone communities in the state to put them on alert and sensitize them on steps to take in the event of a disaster.
“We are also concerned about issues of equity and transparency in the distribution of relief materials and in the days ahead, we will kick off our engagement with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to ensure that relief benefits get to those who need them most” he said.
Bolton Akpan said “we noticed that women and children are the worst affected by this disaster. We saw several children who could not go to school because they were locked in by the flooding. The state government has to do something urgently about the issue of floods, not only in the state capital but across the state. As we speak, thousands of rural families stand the risk of losing their livelihoods because their farms have been swallowed by the rains. These extreme conditions prove that climate change is a reality.”
“This is why, for some time now, we have been advocating for a State Policy on Climate Change and it is high time the issue is put on the table. All stakeholders must come together and devise strategies and an action plan to ensure that climate change is mainstreamed into every aspect of development decision making” he added.