7 January 2013


2012 remains  a sad and bitter year  in the  memories of  the inhabitants of Okobe  in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State. To them, it  was a year of double tragedy.

In June, the community witnessed the  death  of  over one hundred and twenty  youths  who perished in a petrol tanker inferno.

No family was spared the wailing that accompanied the deaths because every home was affected.

Mrs Theresa Ezekiel, a mother of five, lost two children.

There was no  family to console the other because the wailing swept through every home. The  Okobe experience compared with  the Biblical account of the Passover night when every Egyptian  family from the palace  of Pharaoh to the subjects lost their first male child.

“I did not know today is Christmas until you mentioned it “, a father of three children that perished in the petrol tanker fire told Sunday Vanguard.   The father,  who did not want his name in print, said the Christmas meant nothing to him without the children around. He was not alone in this mood.

The scene of the fire yesterday. The scene of the fire yesterday.

When Sunday Vanguard tried opening conversations  with some  other  parents who lost their children, some community youths quickly intervened, pleading that they should be spared the agony  of recalling the sad memories.

The community was quiet and calm during the festive period.   A youth leader in the area, Mr Felix O. Felix, said they had never had  dull Christmas and new year celebrations  like the last one in the area.

According to him, because of the commercial nature of the town, festive periods like  Christmas and new year  were bubbling moments. But the 2012 edition  was different. The Okobe  families were not in the mood for celebrations  as they were yet to recover from the pains occasioned by the loss of  their loved ones.

Barely four months after the  fire disaster, another catastrophe struck  in the town, this time flood  displaced most members of the community.  Houses, farms and other valuables were submerged in water. Many residents were forced to relocate to temporary relief camps set up by Rivers State government to cushion their pains.

The water has receded and the  camps shut. The challenge before most of them at the moment is how to begin life afresh.

They appealed to the federal and  state governments  for  assistance to rebuild their mud houses that were washed away by the ravaging flood.

 House submerged in flood House submerged in flood

They said they also needed assistance to buy crops for the farming season.  They said  cassava  and  yam were among the farm produce  that were washed away.

“The flood  destroyed our houses. It also destroyed  farm produce. Government should help us with  cassava stems as the planting season approaches.

The relief camp has closed. They should help us, we are begging the government,” Justina Ede, one of the camp coordinators,  pleaded.

For Felicia Watson,  life had not been the same for her family after the flood disaster. Like others in the community, she lost almost all she had.

When Sunday Vanguard went round  Okobe,  some  residents were seen reconstructing their huts. Those who offered comments  said they raised money from relatives outside the community  to commence the reconstruction.

In a related development, Ogoni in Rivers  State has  appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of victims of the  flood  that submerged communities in four local government areas of the state including Okobe.

Ogoni leaders made the appeal at Ahoada East  Local Government Area when they donated relief materials to victims of flood in the four local governments.

In their separate comments, Chairman, Rivers State Traditional  Rulers’  Council and President, Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, His Royal Majesty, King Godwin Giniwa, Gbenemene Tai Kingdom and Chief Priscilia Vikue respectively, said  government should help to provide accommodation for those whose houses were washed away by the  flood.

The traditional ruler and his subject,  who spoke on behalf of  the Ogoni nation, said there was urgent need to rebuild the houses of the victims. Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Area, Mr Awori Miller, who spoke for the four local governments,  expressed gratitude to the people of Ogoni.  He also thanked the state government for its response to the painful development in the local governments, stressing that most of the communities in the councils were  completely  taken over by the flood.

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