Flood-prone Benue communities get succour with N1bn project

Flood-prone Benue communities get succour with N1bn project

Anita Jato, a resident of Idye community in Makurdi, capital of Benue State, expressed optimism that she will no longer have to worry about heavy rains causing flooding as in previous years.

In the past, Anita and her family of five abandoned their home every July, and returned in October to escape floodwaters.

“It’s not a good experience. My home was always flooded whenever it rained. Sometimes my children and I would have to scoop water from the living room all night or day, depending on when the downpour occurred. But whenever it became overwhelming, we fled to take shelter with relatives or in makeshift shelters on higher grounds for at least three months.

“In 2022, we lost household items to flooding which devastated most families in the state. This perennial flooding made my heart skip whenever the sky turned cloudy. But with what I see right now, I’m certain there will be no more flooding,” she said.

Her optimism is as a result of a newly constructed 1.2km flood control drainage commissioned by the federal government a few days ago in Makurdi.

Anita’s family is one of thousands of families across Benue State who are annually traumatised by floods and have lost household items, farmlands, and even lives, in extreme cases.

In 2022, the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) reported that the floods consumed about 18,349 houses and farmlands, displacing a total of 134,797 people.

This staggering impact, according to the National Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (N-HYPPADEC), indicates the urgent need for the commission to take decisive action to safeguard the communities and the livelihoods of people in the state.

The Managing Director (MD) of N-HYPPADEC, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Yelwa, noted that for years the residents of Makurdi and other parts of Benue State endured annual flooding that consumed thousands of homes and farmlands, displacing numerous families.

He said, “Successive governments at both federal and state levels have made frantic efforts to manage this crisis and mitigate its impact on the people and the environment. The federal government previously spent about N700m on the Idye Basin Flood Control Project in Makurdi.

“The Benue State Government has also recognised the need for proactive measures, carrying out various projects to reduce the impact of climate change and flooding. Despite these efforts, floods and erosion have persisted in many parts of the state whenever heavy rains fall. This shows the gravity of the problem and suggests that the problem can only be solved through a series of sustained projects.

“Today, we stand to celebrate the completion of one of the contributions of the federal government through the N-HYPPADEC by commissioning the Idye Flood Control/Dyke Project which spans an impressive 1.2 kilometres.”

According to him, the project, supplemented by an additional excavation of 2.5 kilometres to salvage the lower basin of the community, is a significant investment of approximately N1.2bn.

He further said, “I believe this project is worth this amount because of its importance in safeguarding the environment and protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people.”

The N-HYPPADEC boss stressed the need for all stakeholders to own the project by safeguarding it to ensure usefulness to the communities.

He added that, “I hope this commissioning ceremony serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring the state government and community leaders to embark on similar projects that will eventually make flood and erosion a thing of the past in Benue State.”

While noting that through collective efforts they can completely overcome the challenges and pave the way for a brighter future, Yelwa said they could build a community that was not only resilient to flood and erosion, but also aware of sustainable development and environmental stewardship.

While commissioning the project, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, hailed the management committee of N-HYPPADEC for ensuring international best practices in executing the project.

Akume regretted that Nigeria was faced with numerous challenges such as the environmental destruction consistently caused by floods and gully erosion, noting that the project, therefore, represented an important step towards taming the challenge in the Nyman area.

Akume said, “The management’s dedication to reversing environmental degradation and promoting sustainable community development in Nigeria’s power-producing areas is in alignment with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s vision of an industrialised and developed country, where our hydropower dams can generate adequate electricity without compromising the living standards of the local populations inhabiting the power-producing areas.

“As the leading office in the presidency responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and implementation of government policies in the country, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) recognises the importance of a healthy and green environment for the development of our country. That is why agencies such as N-HYPPADEC are placed directly under our supervision to achieve maximum effects.

“Environmental problems have been prevalent in our communities long before N-HYPPADEC took off in 2021. The task of reversing environmental damages caused by floods and erosion over the years is definitely not an easy one. It requires meticulous and long-term planning that should be executed in stages.”

He noted that the flood control project was only one of the early steps taken by the commission towards reversing ecological degradation and promoting sustainable developments in riverine communities across the country.

The SGF, who was represented by the Minister of Water Resources, Professor Joseph Utsev, while acknowledging President Tinubu, the state government and stakeholders whose sustained efforts led to the completion of the project, stressed that to promote environmental conservation in Nigeria, it became imperative that N-HYPPADEC put in place the necessary infrastructure to reverse environmental degradation caused by floods and erosion.

He further said, “It was against this backdrop, and under our supervision, that the Commission embarked on a number of flood control projects. Thus, the completion of this project is a significant milestone in the efforts by N-HYPPADEC to mitigate the devastating effects of floods and erosion in Benue State.”

He noted that the Flood Control/Dyke Project was a shining example of what could be achieved when government agencies, private sector partners and local communities came together with a shared purpose.

He added that, “The project will not only protect the environment and infrastructure, but will also safeguard the lives and livelihoods of countless individuals who call this region home.”

Earlier, Governor Hyacinth Alia regretted that the geographical location and climate condition of the state made it susceptible to seasonal flooding and erosion.

Alia, who was represented by his Deputy, Sam Ode, said, “These environmental challenges threaten not only our agricultural productivity, but also the safety and livelihoods of our people. In this context, the Idye Flood Control/Dyke Project is not just a necessity, but a beacon of hope for our country.”

 

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