By Gloria Usman
(Leadership) The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has blocked Abuja-Lokoja highway for safety reason as flood renders the route impassable.
In a statement issued last night, the agency advised motorists to seek alternative routes to get into and outside Abuja.
On its part, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has warned of prolonged flooding in Lokoja and other affected areas in Kogi State as more water would still be released from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun and Kainji Dam.
The warning came as thousands of people plying the Lokoja-Abuja expressway are still stranded in the Lokoja axis as a result of huge flooding that has cut off the road.
The director of planning, NEMA, Dr. Charles Agbo, gave the warning while inspecting the affected communities in company of Kogi State governor Wada Idris.
Dr. Agbo advised the state government to enforce the standard regulation on urban planning and development and relocate affected communities to safer places.
Meanwhile, a technical team comprising officials of NEMA and critical stakeholders in disaster management at the weekend visited areas devastated by the massive floods along the banks of rivers Benue and Niger as well as their tributaries in Benue and Kogi states to assess the damage and identify suitable intervention required to address the problem.
As most of the areas remained flooded, about 10, 000 displaced persons are taking shelter in four camps each in Benue and Kogi states while many more are also taking cover with their relatives. NEMA has already deployed relief items to the camps to assist the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The flood in Benue affected the communities along the river belt in Makurdi; nine local government areas were affected in Kogi State with Ibaji LGA almost completely submerged.
The inhabitants are now taking refuge in the neighbouring communities. The other LGAs affected are Bassa, Ofu, Kogi, Omala, Ajaokuta, Ankpa, Igalamela and Lokoja where choice property including hotels, residential buildings, government offices and fishing communities along the confluence of rivers Benue and Niger have been virtually submerged.
He also urged the state government to enforce the standard regulation on urban planning and development as well as permanently relocate communities in the flood plains to safer locations.
Dr Agbo further warned that, even after the flood, most of the submerged houses may become too weak and no longer be safe for habitation in addition to the potential health hazards from the disaster.
He therefore urged the state governments to rise up to their responsibilities to the affected communities as the federal government, through NEMA, would provide necessary support for the displaced people.
Responding, Governor Idris appreciated the concern of the federal government over the flood situation and requested more support to the state government to assist the displaced persons.
He urged NEMA and relevant organisations to identify measures to mitigate future occurrence of the flood. The flood has also cut off the Abuja-Lokoja road.
He said though temporary diversions had been created to ease gridlock along the route, traffic officials and emergency workers were having hectic moments in controlling stranded motorists.
3 boats deployed to rescue trapped flood victims in Ibaji
The Nigeria Red Cross Society said yesterday that it had deployed three boats to the riverine areas of Ibaji LGA of Kogi State to rescue trapped flood victims taking refuge on tree tops.
Mr. Mustafa Allah-Dey, the chairman of the state branch of the society, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lokoja that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) released the boats for the rescue operation.
Nustafa said that men of the Nigerian Navy and officials of NEMA, SEMA and the state Ministry of Environment were also involved in the operation, adding that many of the victims were in life-threatening situations.
He said that the people should be blamed for their present predicament, adding that they failed to heed several warnings to quit their homes to avoid being trapped.
The chairman said that he did not know the exact number of people trapped and that no report of casualties had been received as at the time of this report.
But he described the situation in Ibaji as “very terrible”.
Meanwhile, the traffic gridlock on the Lokoja-Abuja road has become more chaotic with vehicles forming long queues on both sides of the road.
The queue at the Lokoja end of the road has extended to Obajana village, about 15 km drive to the Lokoja city centre.
Mr. Isaac Martins, the head of operations of the state sector command of the FRSC, who confirmed this to NAN, said that there was not much the commission could do to help the situation.
He said the problem was particularly with small cars, adding that it took officials and youths assisting them an average of 20 minutes to help a car out of the water.
“Vehicles are moving but they are moving slowly. That is just the situation at hand now,’’ Martins said.
He appealed to motorists to make use of alternative roads pending the time the flood would be over.
Kogi Govt pledges more support to flood victims
Meanwhile, Kogi State governor Idris Wada has reiterated the commitment of the state government to render essential support to people displaced by flood in the state.
Wada made the pledge on Saturday in Lokoja when he received a 21-member presidential committee on flooding, who were in the state to assess the level of damage caused by the disaster.
Represented by his deputy, Arc. Yomi Awoniyi, the governor said he had taken the issue of the disaster very personal, adding:“ The government is on top the situation.’’
He said several measures aimed at granting relief to the victims had been taken by the government while efforts were ongoing to relocate and rehabilitate them.
The governor said the state was affected most by flood in the country this year, describing the situation as worrisome.
He said the situation had impacted negatively on the socio-economic activities of the people.