The negligence of government officials and some residents of Trademore estate located at Lugbe, a suburb in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has caused repeated flooding; claiming lives and destroying properties.
On Sept. 12, 2021, the estate witnessed its third flood incident that left homes and properties of residents destroyed —the other two were in 2014 and 2020— the estate had become flooded due to a heavy downpour which started around 8:30 p.m. Drainages were overflooded and roads, shops, and homes were affected.
When the 2014 flooding first happened in May of that year with lesser damage, the estate management and residents cleared the drainages and took measures to avoid future occurrences.
The measures put in place didn’t, however, save the estate from a more devastating flood a few months after, which affected more than 60 residences in September that same year.
Being the most hit by the incident, the management of the estate and affected residents beckoned on the federal government to intercede by bringing in a contractor to solve the problem which they believed wasn’t just about the heavy rainfall but due to a bigger issue that involved the city’s waterways.
Abbas Idris, the Director General, FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in an interview with HumAngle said measures put in place by the agency after the 2014 flood prevented concurrent incidence between 2014 and 2019.
He, however, attributed the subsequent cause of the 2020 flood, which claimed the life of one person and destroyed properties, and the recent 2021 incidence as partial negligence and disobedience by estate residents, leading to the blocking of previously cleared drainages and also resettling on waterways they were once moved from.
He continued: “What probably triggered the flood in 2020 and this year is as a result of infractions and violations by residents. Because when you clear the drains and people come to block it again, you wouldn’t know. And when you clear people from the waterways and people still go ahead to erect structures in such places, you wouldn’t know until there is another rain.”
Idris said plans are underway to prevent a recurrence but refused to share the exact efforts of FEMA in the past.
“I can’t let out my report to the FCT Minister on the recommendations taken to the press, except he (the Minister) expressly authorises me to do so,” he said.
Bashiru Idris Garaga, Deputy Director, Search and Rescue Department, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), however, told HumAngle that there was indeed a case of inefficiency and negligence.
“There was a report on the incidence of flooding in the 2020 report submitted by the technical committee and there was gross failure by those authorities responsible in implementing the recommendations of that committee. And that is why it came with more catastrophe,” Garaga said.
Garaga, who is also the director of operations NEMA, said the draft report on the set-up of a new committee to come up with a permanent solution to Trademore flooding had been submitted to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, who is in consultation with the FCT minister to set up the new committee.
Garaga, after seeing the level of damage caused by the flood when NEMA visited the scene of the flooding in Sept. 2021, said there is obviously some level of negligence on the implementation of the committee report that was set up in 2020, which could have prevented the ugly situation that happened at Lugbe recently.
“In fact, by the time this committee is set up, we intend to ask for that document and make sure those responsible for the negligence are punished. It was development control and some other agency.”
“The initial report would open us to every hidden detail. With the cubic liters of waters released which are in thousands, it would even make it mandatory for every reasonable organization to now sit to attempt to proffer ways to prevent a recurrence of this hazard in coming years,” the head of operations said.
The new committee will comprise representatives from NEMA, FEMA, FCT Development Control, and affected residents of the estate.
He said the inclusion of the residents association in the committee is a top priority for him. He added that it was included in the draft submitted to the Minister, although it is taking much time.
“The kind of speed we want the matter dispensed with is truly being slowed down probably because of bureaucratic procedures,” he said.
Abbas Idris, the DG FEMA, also said the agency awaits feedback from NEMA as it was the agency that initiated the setting up of the committee.
Residents complain of government neglect
Meanwhile, the residents’ association and affected persons disagreed that the repeated flooding was caused by negligence on their part.
Chairman of Phase Two of the estate, Engineer Uchechukwu Moses, said most of the residents either took the houses on mortgage or are tenants who do not understand anything about the waterways.
“We are not experts. For the layout of the estate and waterways structures, only the government agency and the developer saddled with such responsibilities can give a definite statement on that, as most of the houses in Lugbe Tradesmore were given as mortgages,” Moses said.
He continued by asserting that the government needs to step in to avoid making the incident a yearly hazard as it is obvious that the cause of flooding is linked to water flows connecting other drainages in Abuja to the estate, especially because the estate is located at the downside of the city.
Moses, who confirmed NEMA’s presence when the flood happened, said the agency promised the inclusion of the residents’ association in the committee.
“Up till now, nothing has been done for the affected residents. The committee had not been set up aside from the independent effort of the estate developer who had given optional arrangements to those who might wish to move to another location in the estate.”
“Having seen the level of damage caused by the flood, the owner of the estate was not happy and he came up with that option. He has tried. Government has not done anything although we have been following up,” Moses said.
Mr Chukwuemeka Jude, a provision store owner who incurred massive loss as a result of the flood said the presence of government agencies at the estate was more or less a routine as they came to only promise the same way they did in 2020 when nothing positive was done afterwards.
Jude said NEMA was around, but they spoke only with the estate’s chairman and not the residents.
“When NEMA came, there was much argument between residents and government agencies that this happened last year and nothing was done about it by the government which was why it got worse this year. It destroyed people’s property worth millions and also claimed more lives,” Jude said, adding that he doesn’t know of any plans to prevent a recurrence until the government gets back to them as promised.
Some personnel of the Nigeria Police Force at the estate’s police outpost who craved anonymity also told HumAngle that the agencies who came to inspect and mark buildings did not regard their presence when they stepped into the estate.
“The government agencies on ground didn’t come to address us officially even though it was clear we were also affected by the flood,” a senior officer said.
FCT Development Control refuses to comment
Efforts to have the FCT Development Control comment on the alleged 2020 technical committee report whose recommendations could have prevented the repeated flooding incident that happened in Sept. 2021 proved abortive, as all appointments with concerned personnel of the agency were not honoured.
However, one of the directors at the agency said finding a lasting solution to the Lugbe flood crisis will require some level of sacrifice on both the side of the government and the residents association.
“If we really need to clear everyone from the waterways, a lot of people would lose their properties. Even though it’s all for the future, we are being careful on the steps to take and what not to do especially when it concerns humans,” he said.
He also said that the agency is working on the matter as it is a top priority case and he is certain deliberations have started.
Residents resume activities in flooded areas
Although some structures in the affected areas were marked for demolition pending the setting up of the recommended committee, some affected shops have resumed business, while others are under renovation.
A typical example is Jessijane Pharmacy situated directly opposite the bridge where water overflowed. Business has since continued like nothing happened.
An attendant in the pharmacy said, “survival is necessary even while we await feedback from the residents association and government as promised.”
Others include a grill lounge in Phase Two, another pharmacy, and a bar. People whose homes were affected by the flood have also moved back to their homes as though nothing happened.
Mrs Afoegbe Anabel, a housekeeper in one of the homes affected by the flood, said her boss had no option other than to remain and hope the government comes to the rescue.
Hydrological agency reacts
National Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA) whose primary function is to provide data/information on the location of water resources in time and space, their extent, dependability, quality and the possibilities of their utilisation and control on a continuous basis, told HumAngle that predictions of probable flood prone areas had been made in media publications available on their website and served to concerned authorities so as to take the right actions in either curtailing or putting up measures to avoid much damage.
Mrs Lauretta Samuel, head of press, said, “As an agency, we make predictions and forecasts on possible areas where flood might happen as well as the weight of rain flow to be expected in line with our primary mandate.”
“We dispense our duty for other concerned agencies to take it up and put up policies and structures to prevent to the best of their ability hazards which can be avoided.”
She added that every agency has its own mandate and for NIHSA, the provision of reliable and high quality hydrological data on a continuous basis with a view to sensitising the public to take necessary precautions if need be is key.
The agency promised to improve their synergy with other concerned agencies in order to prevent future hazards.
This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project.
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