Fellow Bayelsans, It is with a great sense of concern and deep empathy for our people who are displaced by the flood that I address you this morning to share and identify with you at a time like this.
Indeed, these are trying times for all our people. It is clear that no one is spared from this tragedy that has befallen us, even me, your Governor is not spared. But this is not a time to despair nor give up. We must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the crisis, no matter how challenging this situation may appear to be.
On our part as government, we are doing all that we can to rescue the situation. You will recall that very early in the life of this administration, I authorised technical studies and initiated measures aimed at opening up the drains and water courses in and around the state capital, to minimise the effect of the predicted heavy rains and floods this year. This has helped to mitigate the devastating effects occasioned by the perennial flooding in Yenagoa, especially considering that water levels have risen more than 10 metres above the usual flood levels. But as you all know, our communities, farm lands located along the major rivers and creeks have been heavily impacted, leading to a regrettable displacement of our communities.
I have overflown the state several times since the flooding incident started. I have seen first-hand the extent of damage and destruction caused by the flooding. I have seen our communities, large settlements and public institutions submerged. My first hand assessment enabled us to determine, that the best course of action was to order an immediate evacuation to relief camps.
Consequently, relief camps for internally displaced persons have been established in every Local Government Area of the state. Three main camps have been set up in Yenegao namely; Samson Siasia Sports Complex, the Helipad at Igbogene and BDGS. I have directed the Chairmen of the Local Government Areas, working with the State Emergency Response Management Committee to determine the necessity of more relief camps in each Local Government Area. Where a community can find high grounds around it, they are encouraged to set up relief camps there without moving too far. Such communities should liaise with the Committee to work out the logistics and modalities for doing so.
Our concern, as you would expect, is first the safety and security of your lives. As displaced persons, we are also concerned about how you can access food, drugs and other forms of medicare. To coordinate our efforts in what has become a massive rescue effort, I have since inaugurated the State Emergency Response Management Committee under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Governor.
Government has since made some relief materials available to displaced persons through the committee. I assure you that this high level committee which is working round the clock would bring some level of relief and succour to our people. Please endeavour to get in touch with them through the following emergency hotlines. The lines are 07023001002, 07023001003 and 07023001004.
Based on the outcome of my on the-spot-assessment of the communities ravaged by flood, the scale and the magnitude of destruction, the normal budget channels cannot cope with this crises. Accordingly, I wrote to the Speaker of the House to reconvene to take my communications on the 2012 Supplementary Appropriation and they have done so yesterday. I thank the Speaker and Members of the House for their prompt response and hope that in line with the imperatives of this emergency, they would act expeditiously.
There are three key areas I would like the people of the state to note.
1. They should exercise extra caution over their lives and properties and those of their children, particularly the vulnerable people, that is women, children, the aged and the physically challenged.
The security agencies who are also displaced have my sympathise and support as well. We urge them even at this difficult time to continue with the good work that they are doing in the state. I have convened a meeting today of the State Security Council to assess the effect of this disaster on our security infrastructure and also to fashion out a comprehensive security approach for this disaster.
2. The second issue is the preparation and management of communicable diseases during and after this disaster. As you all know, this flood disaster would leave in its wake a trail of various communicable diseases such as Cholera, Pneumonia, Guinea worm, Diarrhoea and increase our susceptibility to malaria amongst others.
A lot of enlightenment and preventive measures are needed. I have thus directed the Ministry of Health whose commissioner is Chairman of the sub-committee on Medical/Sanitation to devise appropriate measures to address these concerns.
I have been briefed that committees have been set up in every Local Government even up to the community levels. Emergency response teams have also been set up in every camp and Local Government Area and essential drugs and medical supplies have been provided.
Notwithstanding all the steps that government has taken and would continue to take in your service, be reminded that you all have primary responsibility for your health, security and safety. Do not forget that at times like this you should be ready to lend a helping hand to your fellow brothers and sisters.
3. Thirdly, reports at my disposals indicate a growing scarcity of food and other essential commodities arising from the over flooding of the East-West road, which is the major gate way into the state. This coupled with the destruction of farms has created acute food shortages at the moment. Consequently, food prices have now soared beyond the reach of the ordinary person. I have directed the establishment of three storage sites in Yenagoa under the control of Ministry of Agriculture.
It has become clear that after the flood, there would be famine in our land. To forestall this impending tragedy, government has developed a robust plan to boost food production and ensure food security in the state. This would entail direct government involvement in the production of essential food items like cassava, maize, cocoa yam, rice, plantain and livestock, as well as provide support for individual farmers in the state. To this end, plans are being made to procure early maturing and high yielding cassava stem cuttings and other inputs from local and international research institutes. Essentially, government’s involvement in agriculture would be extensive both now and in the future. We use this opportunity therefore to call on all farmers and fishermen in the state to brace up for the challenges posed by the flood and the opportunities that our policy presents.
To fine tune this policy, I convened an emergency meeting of the State Executive Council, where far reaching decisions were taken. At that meeting, we took a decision to order an immediate and indefinite closure of all schools. This is for the safety of our children. I also ordered that all educational facilities which are not flooded should be used as emergency relief camps.
We are also delighted that the Federal Government has amply demonstrated its concern for our plight and has accordingly, responded positively. Let me at this juncture therefore, seize this opportunity to convey the concerns and sympathies of Mr. President to all our people and to also acknowledge the support of the relevant Federal Government agencies in their effort to help ameliorate the crisis.
We sincerely thank Mr. President for this kind gesture and other federal agencies who have been very supportive. I would also like to thank other corporate friends as well as individuals of the state for their donations in cash and kind. I will like to use this opportunity to call on other philanthropic organizations, donor agencies and well- meaning Nigerians, Bayesians and friends of Bayelsa State to support our efforts.
It is regrettable that as a result of this flood, on-going construction and renovation work have been stalled.
Fellow Bayelsans, we empathise with you and ask you not to give up. I wish to assure you that throughout this trying period your government would stand by you. We urge you to be patient with government officials who have been assigned to assist you. I wish to particularly urge the youths to conduct themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner. I also call on religious, traditional and opinion leaders to live up to their responsibilities. We are a resilient people, known for overcoming challenges of this nature. Let me assure you that we will surely overcome this one too. Available reports indicate that there will be further rise in water levels. We therefore have to brace up, as the worst may not be over. Remember to always commit your leaders, Bayelsa State and the nation to God in your prayers.
I thank you all and God bless.
Long Live Bayelsa State!
Long Live the Ijaw Nation!!
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!