One year after the devastating flood disaster that rocked Osogbo, the State capital leading to loss of many lives, the people of Osogbo gathered at an inter-faith prayer meeting on Tuesday to call on God to avert further flooding.
The occasion which, took place on the play field of Local Authority Primary School, Gbonmi area of Osogbo where the flooding was most severe was packed full of victims who recalled their bitter experiences last year.
In an emotion-laden speech, one of the victims who is a butcher and operates an abattoir near the flooding plane, Alhaji Razak Aleki, recalled that he lost no fewer than ten cows worth more than N1 million to the disaster.
Expressing gratitude to Governor Rauf Aregbesola for tackling the menace of flooding by clearing blocked drains and channels earlier this year, Aleki told the gathering that rather than expressing sympathy for their plight, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola scorned and mocked the victims when the disaster occurred last year.
Aleki recalled that when the victims approached ex-Governor Oyinlola for succour during his monthly live phone-in programme, he refused to help the victims but taunted and joked with their pains.
The cow dealer and butcher said “when we ran to (ex-Govrnor) Oyinlola for succour over the severe loss which happened on his monthly live phone-in programme, Oyinlola told us to reflect the name of the areas Gbonmi and directed us to go and Gbonmi (use hand pan to contain the flood)”.
While thanking Governor Aregbesola for his timely intervention in flood control in Osogbo, Aleki added that “Oyinlola mocked us and joked with our predicament. Thank God that we have Governor Aregbesola to rescue us. Since the rains began this year, there has not bee any experience of flooding in Osogbo and we thank our Governor for coming to our rescue. He is a man of God and a true leader who does not derive joy from the predicament of ordinary people”.
The Otun-Akogun of Osogbo, High Chief Sulaimon Oduola thanked Governor Aregbesola for the channelisation abd desiltation of Okorokor, Gbonmi and Alekunwodo streams noting that there has been no flooding in Osogbo this year.
Chief Oduola then pleaded that in view of weather forecast by the Nigeria Meterological Agency, the channels constructed by former Governor Bisi Akande between 1999 and 2003 should be widened because they could no longer contain the volume of water passing through them any more
In a speech delivered on his behalf by the Special Adviser on Environmental Matters, Hon. Bola Ilori at an inter-faith special prayer programme for victims of July 10, 2010 flood disaster in Osogbo, Governor Aregbesola told the gathering that his administration decided to tackle the problem of flooding by carrying out an assessment of all streams passing through the state capital.
According to the governor, the environmental situation his administration met was so precarious that the state was perpetually at the brink of flooding and epidemic while noting that the “breaking point was July 7, 2010 when nature resisted the abuse that our people subjected it to and we had to pay the costly price for our abuse and disregard for basic rules of caring for our own environment”.
What his administration discovered, Aregbesola disclosed, was that existing water drainage channels had been blocked by refuse while the people had formed the habit of throwing their refuse into water channels.
Decrying the practice of throwing refuse into water channels which had been going on for several years, he told the gathering that this was what led to the blockade and prevented free flow of water and the consequent flooding that caused destruction in the city.
He explained that his administration decided to declare a ninety-day environmental emergency period backed with massive cleanup exercise tagged O-Clean.
He said “consequently, drainage experts were called in to look at how we could solve the problem before the advent of rains this year. That was why we moved in heavy duty equipment to clear the channels and remove refuse that constituted inhibitions on the water course”.
Aregbesola commended former Governor Adebisi Akande for being pragmatic and foresighted in tackling the problem by clearing the channels and carried out construction of concrete drains on them.
He however expressed regrets that no sooner had he left office than the care for what he left was neglected while degradation which was corrected was completely reversed by the careless attitude of those who throw refuse into water flowing course.
Aregbesola then used the occasion to commiserate with the people of Oyo State on the recent flood disaster and assured that his administration would pursue its commitment to maintaining a healthy and a flood free environment.