Several lives as well as homes and farmlands are yearly ravaged by flood that has affected states in Nigeria. SOLOMON AYADO writes that as victims groan over failure governments to take proactive measures in order to bring a lasting solution to the menace and provide succor, the ugly situation has caused serious devastation to communities.
Simon Chianson is an astute politician and a resident of Kucha-Utebe community situated along Makurdi-Gboko expressway. Kucha-Utebe is a suburb of Makurdi that is located a stone throw away from the bank of the River Benue. An ardent political scribe who relentlessly fought for ‘change’ in the last political dispensation is one of the hundreds of residents who continually experienced flooding in the area. He lives with his family in a duplex structure that has existed within the community for several years.
Chianson who is visibly aggrieved with the flood that has yearly submerged his home, told our reporter that although he has made several appeals for government’s intervention in constructing modern drainage system in the area to avert the disaster, his unequivocal clamor for the flood preventive measure have always fall on deaf ears.
“I lived here for several years but as you can see, this area despite being occupied by top society persons, lack proper drainage system and our streets are also, terribly bad. Each time it rains or whenever there is flood, we are the worst hit as the River usually overflows its banks and pushed the uncontrollable waters to totally submerge our homes. We have made several appeals for government to give this place a facelift but obviously, our calls always falls on deaf ears” Chianson groaned.
In 2012 when water released from Lagdo dam in Cameroon republic caused adverse flood, Chianson’s house was totally submerged. He, alongside members of his family had only managed to evacuate few properties from the home. But more worrisome was the fact that it became difficult for the family to pack and relocate as no friend or relative was willing to accommodate him and his large family. For him, life was like hell. Coupled with that was the failure of the government to provide commensurate palliatives either by provision of an alternative temporary accommodation or food.
Mr. Chianson is one among many persons who have severally suffered the ravaging flood disaster despite his high societal standing.
At first, it sounded like a big joke when the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) had in the second quarter of this year, predicted flooding in eleven states of the country, due to the cumulative high intensity rainfall in those parts of the country between the months of June and July. This alert was in collaboration with the 2016 Annual Flood Outlook issued by the Director General of Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, Moses Beckley. Also, the agencies said with the year’s beginning rainfall, there were high prospects of flooding in August and October accordingly.
The agency, in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Eva Azinge named the states to be likely affected by flood to include Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Kaduna, Kwara, Nasarawa, Yobe and Zamfara states. It said the alert became imperative after thorough analyses of rainfall data from observatories nationwide for months of June and July and that soil moisture had either reached saturation, or near saturation levels.
“This is due to cumulative high-intensity rainfall in some parts of the country in June and July. This means that floods should be expected in these areas because the soil is no longer able to absorb more rainwater in the coming weeks which coincide with the peak rainy season,” it stated.
The agency, advised state governments, communities and individuals in those vulnerable areas to take proactive actions in handling the impending floods and further directed that water channels and drainages should be cleared and activities that will block the free flow of water should be avoided.
A few weeks after, the predictions became reality as there was heavy and constant downpours that left many homes and communities flooded. Apart from the heavy rains, many rivers especially those that traverse the blacklisted states began to overflow their banks. As such, serious destruction of property and farmlands came to the fore with reported cases of deaths in some affected areas.
While the earlier warning alert lasts, the heavy rain gradually metamorphosed into flood that hit the states beyond control, causing massive destruction. However, relevant government authorities, both states and federal, have not live to the task of responding to the plights of the victims. Obviously, there was seemingly no quick and proactive measures to relocate the residents of riverine communities to safer grounds. The victims were somewhat left to their fate as excuses for paucity of funds became the preached gospel by authorities. The residents too, have their bulk to blame as many did not hid to the counsels of environmental sanitation agencies to keep refuse off the drainages.
To thousands of residents in Lagos and Ogun states, the rampaging floods has led to displacement of many individuals while properties estimated at billions of naira were destroyed after serial downpours. The situation was not different in Benue, Nassarawa, Yobe, Bauchi among other states.
Within the period, a heavy windstorm was witnessed in Tundun Yan-Dogo village of Dange-Shuni Local Government Area of Sokoto where petrol stations, cars and electrical poles reportedly collapsed and uprooted in the community. Similarly, the worst people hit by the flood in Lagos were residents of Oworonshoki, Bariga, Ketu, Ikorodu and Lekki areas, while more than 50 houses were affected in the Ita Oluwo area of Ogun State alone.
In Sokoto state, damage done by flood and thunderstorm in Tudu village and the neighboring communities of Dange Shuni local government area of the state, was unimaginable. There was incessant rain that resulted to rising water level which left hundreds of houses destroyed while a toddler allegedly died in one of the villages. Four persons also died in Niger state.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 5,300 houses were reported to have been destroyed by flood in six local government areas of Kano state.The LGAs affected were Bebeji, Dawakin Kudu, Kiru Shanono, Bagwai and Garun Mallam.
Also, no fewer than four persons were said to have lost their lives in Galamakira and Galam Baba communities in Miya district of Ganjuwa local government area of Bauchi state. It was said that eight persons also died as a result of the flood in Gulbuk community in Giade local government area of the state.
In Yobe, the situation was not different as over 300 houses, farmlands and livestock were damaged by flood in Jakusko and Adaya communities. The cases of Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi among others was grievous too as deaths were alleged to have been recorded. The list of flooded communities with varied destruction by the 2016 flood disaster is endless.
The major Nigerian rivers of Niger and Benue and their tributaries have overflowed the banks. This, however, further depicted the seriousness with which the flood came to cause total damage. But the residents of the affected states and communities are still hopeless, not really sure of where to vacate the riverine communities and relocate hence no alternative shelter was provided by the authorities. It was gathered that many of the residents are currently taking shelter under trees and in some uncompleted buildings.
While walloping in hopelessness and still relying solely on what relief the relevant government authorities would provide, governors and other political office holders are busy visiting the affected communities to pay sympathy to the victims, but seemingly without any instant measures to provide succor to them. Many of them employed political gimmicks under pretext to capture the actual data of the affected persons and damaged property before taking relief measures. This ludicrous act can rather be likened to adding salt to injury than healing the wound.
To Pastor Bola Bolawole, a resident pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Alapere, Ketu in Lagos state, he could not hold church service due to the flood and added that three of his church members were trapped.
“We could not access our church on Sunday even as at 2pm. The road was completely flooded and we were covered up in water to the waist level. We had to stand by a shop to hold the service, but the rain still drove us away from the place. After that, I went on visitation to some of my members and I saw many of them scooping out water from their homes. Televisions and fridges were submerged by the floods,” he said.
Among other victims who were displaced from their homes by flood is Amina Musa. A housewife with three children. She was met in Lafia while boarding a vehicle to Benue. She lives in thatch house at an undisclosed riverine community in Nassarawa state where flood destroyed their home and other belongings.
She said “I was left at home with my children because my husband is a nomadic herdsman. All our properties are destroyed that is why I have to take my children to Benue where my husband stays. I cannot live here because there is no place for us to stay and there is no IDP camp.”
As the flood victims continue to count their losses, it is only hoped that government and public spirited individuals would see reason to render assistance to the displaced persons.
As at the time of filing this report, some governors including Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto and Samuel Ortom of Benue states, alongside the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar have paid assessment visits to the damaged communities.
Addressing the victims of the disaster in Sokoto, Tambuwal said, in the interim, the state emergency management agency will conduct a full assessment of items destroyed to enable government assist the victims.
His Benue counterpart, Governor Ortom on his part however, assured that through the state emergency management agency, state government would gather data and address the challenges faced by the victims.
While the Director General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Sani Sidi told newsmen that the federal government was not resting on its oars to ameliorate the suffering of the flood victims in the country, he further assured that provision of relief items was a constant measure employed by government to provide succor to the flood victims urging state emergency management agencies to take charge of their various states to capture accurate information and report to the agency for onward action, Sidi insisted that government will not play politics with the welfare of the people.
As it stands, many of the affected areas and persons have not received any government support, just as construction of drainage systems to enhance free flow of water has not commenced. The displaced seemed to have been abandoned to their fate without any hope in sight getting out of the ugly situation in the shortest possible time.
At the moment, there are a lot of concerns from the victims of the flood disaster as they are entraped in pain due to their plight. They decried lack of shelter, food and other relief materials and appealed for urgent steps by relevant authorities. But the question on the lips of many is that will government match its words with actions, only time shall tell.