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Port Harcourt: From Cultism To Flood ~ By Okachikwu Dibia

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It is disheartening to equilibrate between cultism & flood: 2 realities that have engulfed my dear Garden City of Nigeria in recent times - Author
Photo: Paraded suspected armed robbers, kidnappers and cult members in Port Harcourt

It is disheartening to equilibrate between cultism and flood: two realities that have engulfed my dear Garden City of Nigeria in recent times. The whites who created Port Harcourt (PH), saw it as a haven for refreshment, supported by its natural environment. 

Consequently, there were open grasslands provided for in the original plan of PH. All that has vanished and replaced by two key vises: cultism and environmental abuse.  

Just two weeks ago, six young boys in their early twenties were killed by rival cult group in Oduoha, one of the villages that make up my clan, Emohua, in Rivers State. I am sure that cultism has killed over one hundred youths in Emohua and indeed has done lots of havoc to my clan. 

And it is still doing so. Then I ask: these boys who do not have any known means of livelihood, how can they raise millions of money to buy guns? The state is still battling cultism. Now it is flood or “floodism”.

Just yesterday six of my close friends living in PH, the capital city of Rivers State, called me and told me that our dear and only PH has been submerged in flood and that they are busy pumping water out of their houses. I was sober. 

How can development take place in an environment sacked by cultism and now flooded and washed away by the rains? According to them, it has been raining since Sunday. I recall that when I was growing up in PH, flood was not an issue. What has led to the uncontrollable presence of flood in PH?

This first thing that comes to my mind is, are there environmental plans in PH against flood if it occurs, knowing that the state is in the tropics? 

Such plans should insist that natural water ways must be allowed, land developments near forests should take place from a specified distance and that tarred roads must have drainages on both sides. Also, culverts must be constructed and built in all waterways that cross roads. 

But it appears that there may not be such plans or that if there are, they are being violated. Such violations include building of houses and structures on waterways, thus blocking them. Where was Rivers State government when such structures were erected? 

They should be carefully identified and demolished. A conscious effort should be made at having broad consultations and discussions with the people of Rivers State on this matter. 

Our people need to be enlightened on how to manage waterways such that they are not blocked as well as the consequences of blocking them. Land sellers and buyers need to be conscious of government laws on these issues. Truth is that blocking waterways is a sure source of flooding in any environment.

Another violation is the disappearance of forests especially in PH. Forests do not disappear on their own, human beings cause forests to disappear. When forests are sold as lands, buyers will clear the forests and build their houses. 

But they forget that forests have very important roles to play in environmental sustenance. First and foremost, forests host or house water, so when the forest is no more, water that ought to be housed there is displaced. 

You cannot always displace water and that is why when a forest is replaced by a house, the water will always go there to live: whatever structure that is there does not matter to it. So if there is house for example, the water will submerge and take over the house. 

If such a house is owned by one of my friends, then he will hire a water pumping machine to eject the water from its God-given abode. The fallacy of this is that, with heavy rains again, water will still come back there to live and he will start hiring machine to eject water. 

When will this circle and its huge costs end? The government should insist that forests should be preserved and not sold. Selling of forest must attract forfeiture and other heavy punishments. 

Forests should be maintained at a distance from structural developments around them so that the core forest areas are not destroyed and can continue to play its role of housing water and other creatures. Port Harcourt and its environs have lost so many forests. 

For example, as at 1975, along the Olu Obasanjo road, there were two heavy forests, the big one was called Ntawogba and a smaller one. Those forests have been replaced with culverts and spare parts shops. 

Yet in about 1976-77 when the Olu Obasanjo police station was built, the forests were still there and played their roles. The large private estate opposite the police station did not disrupt the existence of the forests. So life went on smoothly with the forests and its water. No flood. 

There used to be a tick forest behind the mile-3 market, near the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) students’ hostel. This forest has also disappeared and replaced with trading shops. 

There used to be another forest behind the Rivers State School of Nursing extending to all the areas now called Abacha road. That forest has disappeared and we now live with the consequences. 

Also, between Rumukalagbor and Elekahia (all in Rebisi Kingdom), there used to be an impenetrable forest, now sold and replaced with houses. They are now crying and suffering from flood, as one of my callers live there. 

What about the almighty Ojukwu Diobu forest that extends from Rumukalagbor to mopol-19 through to the Federal Secretariat up to what is now called Ken Saro-Wiwa road, formally Stadium road. That forest has disappeared and replaced with houses and a big cemented waterway, yet flood came. 

What about the Rumuomoi-Rumuola forest, first destroyed by the Abundant Life Church and later, private buildings etc. In all of these disappearances, one is not advocating non-expansion of the city. 

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