The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NiMET) predicted that about 20 states, including Ekiti, would experience flooding in the months of September and October, as a result, one would have expected that the prediction coming from the agency would be taken with all seriousness by all stakeholders in order to prevent the devastating effects that accompany such natural disaster. Alas, victims are now counting their losses.
Ekiti, like other states, is experiencing flooding which has caused many untold hardships to students, artisans, traders, travellers and other residents in the state. Many have been rendered homeless, shops overrun and some students of the Ekiti State University have been sacked from their hostels.
Nigerian Tribune had reported in the first week of September the torrential rain which resulted in flooding across communities in the state, including the Ureje Bridge along the Federal Polytechnic (FEDPOLY) and Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) road. Parts of the bridge were literally washed off by the flood and there are hopes that the state government will urgently deploy resources to fix the bridge considering its importance to the economic activities of the state.
Apart from being the only link to ABUAD and FEDPOLY, the road also links the state capital to border communities such as Ijan-Ekiti, Ikole, Ode-Ekiti, Aisegba, Ayede, Ayedun, and Omuo, among other towns in the eastern part of the state.
Efforts by previous administrations in the state to create alternative routes through either Ikere-Ado Road, in the southern part of the state, or Afao Road in the central to link the Polytechnic Road, a Federal Government road, so as to ease movement have failed to materialise.
The torrential rain on Monday, September 30, 2019, started about 6pm and continued until 9pm weakening the Ureje Bridge and leading to its eventual collapse, resulting in the death of an individual with three others injured.
Our correspondent who moved around Ado-Ekiti metropolis observed that other areas such as Eminrin, Ajilosun, Omisanjana, and Adekaitan were also affected by the flood.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that four persons were trapped under the bridge which was already overrun by the flood. Three of them were rescued and taken for treatment in an undisclosed hospital in the state capital, while the fourth person drowned.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti Command, Caleb Ikechukwu, confirmed the death.
“Yes, I can confirm to you that one man died after he drowned in water. His corpse has been removed and taken to the mortuary,” he said.
For several hours, the collapse of the bridge hindered human and vehicular movements of residents and travelers. The water level was so high that commuters traveling to Afe Babalola University, Federal Polytechnic and to Ikare Akoko in Ondo State and those coming into the state capital had to park their vehicles for hours before the water subsided enough for them to move.
Also, the newly elected Yoruba leader and the Second Republic senator, Professor Banji Akintoye, who was billed to attend an event at ABUAD failed to get across the bridge to the university. After inspecting the collapsed bridge together with his entourage, the renowned historian had to make a detour.
A resident of the area, Mr. Kayode Ogunsakin, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune said he was on the road for about 10 hours on Monday night as a result of the collapsed bridge.
“I was returning from office on Monday when I got here at about 7:30p.m with about 100 vehicles stranded; there was no movement. I left the road at about 4:30a.m on Tuesday alongside others.
“As it stands now, we can only beg our governments, both federal and state, to assist us in constructing this bridge before everything will eventually give way. Who knows when next it will rain?”
On his part, Mr. Sunday Akomolafe explained that the deceased and three women were coming from Abuja and wanted to navigate the water only for them to be overwhelmed by the flood.
“Three of them were rescued and taken to the hospital, but the man was not that lucky; he drowned and his corpse was recovered around 8a.m on Tuesday,” he said.
Another resident, Mr. Tunde Olajuwon, called on the state and the federal government to help in constructing the damaged bridge.
He said “Sometime last month, we had this kind of flood that affected parts of the bridge. It was well reported in the media. I think I even saw the pictures of the bridge in your newspaper with the hope that the government would come here and do something. We did not see them. Here we are now; the bridge has collapsed and I believe that is what the government wants because we have been crying for help for a very long time. We need the government’s assistance now.”
A student of the Federal Polytechnic, Gbenga Adeoluwa, said the students of the polytechnic and university would be affected most if the whole bridge collapses.
He called on the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and Governor Kayode Fayemi to urgently set aside funds for the construction of the bridge.
“This road and the bridge are the ones that lead to our school, and most of us pass through this place every day coming from our homes. We have been telling the government to help us on this road especially this bridge, because of its importance, but there has been no response.
“With the partial collapse now, we can only call on the government again to help us consider putting this bridge on their plans. With the look of things, I will not be surprised if the whole thing collapses because it is obvious the bridge is weak. With or without rain, everything can collapse any moment from now,” he said.
The deputy governor of the state, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, visited the scene on Tuesday where he appealed for calm from residents and motorists. He promised that the state government would ensure that the bridge is put back to the proper shape.
The Special Adviser on Road Transport and Infrastructure to Governor Fayemi, Mr. Adunmo Rufus, who corroborated the deputy governor, disclosed that the section of the bridge that collapsed would be fixed.
He said, “We are embarking on palliative works till the dry season when the road will be awarded. What we need here is a new bridge that can accommodate more water. 60/60 bridge is no longer fashionable. We are piling stones and granites on the collapsed lane.
“We are going to open one lane for commuters and motorists to use pending the time the palliative measures will end; then we will put the second lane back. It is going to be for light vehicles because we are going to mount restriction.”