STATE, BY HIS ROYAL MAJESTY KING BUBARAYE DAKOLO AGADA IV, IBENANAOWEI OF EKPETIAMA KINGDOM. CHAIRMAN, BAYELSA STATE TRADITIONAL RULERS COUNCIL AT THE TRADITIONAL RULERS COUNCIL SECRETARIAT
YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE ON TUESDAY 8TH NOVEMBER, 2022.
Today, I need not remind anyone that we well know that the oil and gas resources used to lubricate the wheels of governance in Nigeria come from the bowels of the land mass on which we stand. I mean from the bowels of the Niger Delta where Bayelsa State is located. We also need not reiterate that our kingdoms and clans, our flood ravaged kingdoms and clans, constitute crude oil blocs owned by persons and business concerns which regrettably, we do not own. Even though the gas flares are still burning-hot in our kingdoms despite the overwhelming floodwaters, today’s press conference would border on a subject that may not seem connected to oil and gas beyond the oil and gas monies used for governance. I am referring to monies with which to provide succour and welfare for the teeming number of Bayelsans who are internally displaced citizens of Nigeria, having been ravaged by the most devastating flood ever.
OUR FLOOD EXPERIENCE
We the royal fathers of Bayelsa State, have observed that not only did the 2022 flood unleash unprecedented havoc in Bayelsa State and beyond, it also opened the floodgates of ignorance on the subject of the misery floodwaters could unleash on a people who live on the flat arcuate lowlands adjacent the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
we believe, and strongly so, that the misinformation we have been confronted with this season, may have directly led to the observed extremely slow, and almost shameful response by statutory agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the plight of the over one million victims of the 2022 flood disaster in Bayelsa State. Giving the wrong public perception of this year’s flood which is unarguably the worst ever to occur in the lives of the ljaws of Bayelsa State, and perhaps others too, it has become absolutely necessary for the Royal Fathers of the State to speak out loud, so as to straighten the crooked records, and above all, jolt all concerned to do the work for which they are paid.
WHY THE ABOVE POSITION?
In the recent meeting of the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council (BYS TRC) we took turns in expressing the extreme ordeals we had to endure together with our subjects for over a month. We did not mince words in condemning the complete absence of agents of statutory Federal Government Agencies and Ministries saddled with the job of rendering assistance in our domains at times such as these. Rather we were seeing oil workers in their coveralls safe in their shuttles, going about their greasy, oily business, all over our flood ravaged State.
Pitiably there is no evidence yet about any intervention from the oil industry to the flood ravaged people of Bayelsa State also. Could it be that they also wished us all dead? Well, being natural swimmers, though distressed and displaced like never before, most us are still alive!
While this type of calamity had never befallen our people, we had never imagined that this degree of extreme insensitivity and lack of interest would be displayed with respect to the survival and welfare of our peaceful people who are all fellow citizens of this great country for all to see at a time like this. So brazenly ugly!
WHAT COULD BE THE WORTH OF A NIGERIAN’S LIFE?
While the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management has not furnished the traditional rulers of Bayelsa State with the actual monetary value of a human life in this country of ours, suffice it to say that numerous lives of future leaders have already been lost, and many may still be lost in our Kingdoms as a consequence of the flood if the Federal Government does not quickly lend a hand to support the efforts of the Bayelsa State government in ameliorating the citizen’s plight.
While many persons were washed away outrightly by the ubiquitous fast flowing floodwaters with their corpses gone forever into the Atlantic Ocean and so never to be found, and never would be found, others, especially unsuspecting toddlers drowned right in their own flooded bedrooms.
As the floodwaters recede, ladies and gentlemen, we are sure to experience post flood ailments if the Federal Government’s complementary mitigation efforts remain conspicuously absent, conspicuously low, or conspicuously insufficient.
SOME KEY DAMAGES AND DIRE CONSEQUENCES
Major Federal Government and State infrastructure in and around the State, such as roads, electricity, bridges, have been badly damaged isolating Bayelsa State from the rest of Nigeria.
Private properties such as houses, cars, farms and businesses worth multiples of billions of Naira have been destroyed and their owners displaced by this deluge of unprecedented monumental proportions.
Since all the farms in Bayelsa State; crops and animals alike, have been completely destroyed, and the road accesses leading to the state also destroyed, thus isolating the state completely from the rest of the country for weeks and still counting, prices of the few goods that survived the deluge in the State have skyrocketed worsening the precarious plight of Bayelsans who are Nigerian citizens.
Experts say it would cost multiples of billions of Naira to reconstruct the portions of the East West Road, a Federal Government Road, that were destroyed by the flood. And until that is properly done the State would remain cut-off from the rest of the country, and goods and services would be procured only at extremely high prices as they currently being procured at extremely high prices when found.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
Although the Bayelsa State Flood Mitigation and Management Committee, and the Bayelsa State Emergency Management Agency (BYSEMA), have been on full throttle from the unset of the flood, the State Governor, His Excellency Senator Douye Diri and his deputy His Excellency Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, along with the Speaker of the State Legislature, and the Legislators at Federal and State levels, and State cabinet members, have been personally going round all the nooks and crannies of the state, raising the morale of Bayelsans, leaving us with a good example for the history books of “how to lead from the front.”
The sad truth is that the people of Bayelsa State are all internally displaced and are still enduring severe physical and mental agony, and are stressed beyond description in spite of being citizens who require not only the swift intervention of the Federal Government, but also the visit of our own dear C-in-C to personally empathize with the survivors of this great deluge, his people, the resilient Ijaws of Bayelsa State whose land has been producing a major proportion of the oil and gas resources that have sustained his administration, our government and our one and only country for so long.
Though the next issue ought not have been a key bother for us at this stage, especially with numerous deaths of loved ones, and the volume of misery unleashed on the survivors of this year’s flood disaster, which unfortunately only attracted comments which were unusual in type, scale and speed from the Federal Government Agencies and Ministries saddled with the responsibility of responding to national emergencies of this type and scale, it has become expedient for the fathers of the land to teach some basic geography lessons for the records.
WATER ALWAYS FINDS ITS LEVEL
That water always finds its level is a well-known fact to children and adults alike. As a matter of fact, it is that propulsion that has been bringing molecules of water and debris from the Adamawa highlands, through the Benue River system for 1,400 km into River Niger at the confluence town of Lokoja in the first place, and similarly molecules of water and debris from the Futa Jalon hills in faraway Guinea, traversing international borders, over a whopping distance of 4,184 km through the Niger river system to the Niger Delta where it ultimately empties into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. This has been going on for millennia.
Today, we need to be reminded that it is that strong desire for water to find its level that has given the Niger Delta, which includes Bayelsa State, its distinctive shape – the flat arcuate Landscape from years of sedimentation at the mouth of the river Niger. This also means that any molecule of water in any of the vicinities of the Benue or Niger River systems would ultimately find its way to the Niger Delta so as to reach its lowest level in the ocean.
Yes, water may be drunk by the rich and poor alike, water may percolate, evaporate and fall as rain in Abuja, Adamawa, Kaduna, Taraba or elsewhere in the States on the higher lands of Nigeria, but as long as it is within the Niger and Benue River systems, then its ultimate destiny is to find the ultimate low water level at the Atlantic Ocean through the Niger Delta, that means through Bayelsa State, the main gateway. So, in 2022, with so much flooding upstream, with so much floodwaters affecting so many other states in the country upstream, Climate change being real, common sense should show that the fate of Bayelsa State and Bayelsans must have been extremely dire since all that water has to pass through Bayelsa State to enter the ocean. The state of Bayelsa State is dire beyond description and comparison!
CALL FOR INTERVENTION
The situation in Bayelsa is dire! The disaster will require multiples of billions of Naira to fix. The traditional rulers cannot do it. The state government cannot do it alone. The Bayelsa State Government does not have the funds to do it alone.
So, the Federal Government has to take front stage in the post flood reconstruction of the State and post flood rehabilitation of Bayelsans who are Nigerian citizens too.
We wish to call on Local and International humanitarian Organizations, and philanthropists to come and lend a helping hand to the State Government in this battle for survival of the flood ravaged people of Bayelsa State.
We wish to particularly thank the prosperity Government for its sustained support to the people of the State. We similarly also thank individuals and groups who have visited the state to empathize with our government and people, made generous donations in cash and kind, or made pledges which have reassured us that we are not alone.
The contributions of the Nigerian Military during this period were also quite reassuring. So, we hereby acknowledge the efforts of Chief of Naval Staff, through the FOC, Central Naval Command, for NNS Soroh was the thin thread of hope available to Bayelsans along that approximately 20km long flood ravaged portion of the poorly constructed East West Road for about three weeks.
Similarly, The Chief of The Air Staff, is also acknowledged as his pilots have been helping with airlifting the relief materials the Bayelsa State government procured outside for distribution in the State. We are glad to acknowledge that the Army has also indicated her willingness to help with rehabilitation of broken key roads to reconnect the State with other parts of Nigeria.
We also acknowledge Churches that have sent interventions to our people.While we still patiently await the intervention of the Federal Offices responsible for attending to national disasters of this type and magnitude, the royal Fathers of Bayelsa State wish to use this medium to call on Mister President to come and empathize with his people, the flood ravaged people of Bayelsa State who are fellow citizens of our great nation for his good name’s sake. We believe, and strongly so, that Mister President’s visit will help to heal the deep injuries caused by the way and manner the Federal authorities have so far responded to the flood ravaged internally displaced people of Bayelsa State during this unprecedented flood disaster.
Whereas we are exceedingly glad that the floodwaters are receding, but because climate change is real and the next flood season is just around the corner, only about ten months away, so we are exceedingly apprehensive. We want something to be done and done quickly. We want the FG to deploy the right expertise and the resources from oil and gas proceeds to outrightly prevent or reduce next year’s flood and therefore our ordeal to the barest minimum.
Haanh Izon! Haaaaanh Izon!!
God bless the Prosperity Government and people of Bayelsa State
God bless our country, Nigeria.