Recently, a wave of flood incidence swept across one hundred and twenty communities in Niger State. In this report, ABU NMODU writes on the inside story of the flood disaster.
It has become an annual occurrences in Niger State for several communities to be submerged by flood, the affected communities are usually communities downstream the flood plain of river Niger and its tributaries.
The communities are also at the lower course of the three Hydroelectric dams of Shiroro, Jebba and Kaiji dams, where excess water sometimes is discharge from the turbines during the raining seasons when they are filled above the needed capacity.
… NIMET predictions
Reflectively, at the beginning of the year, the state government and various agencies including NIMET gave early signs warning and listed Niger among the states in the country that will be affected by flood.
But it appears most communities never took the warning serious or were overwhelmed as the gale of flood incidence still swept across many communities despite the fact that most have been forewarned.
Mostly affected are communities in Shiroro, Munya, Gurara , Bida, Lavun, Wushishi, Mokwa and Borgu local government areas along the vulnerable flood plain of River Niger and Shiroro .
As at the last count, no fewer than 120 communities were either heavily or lightly affected by the flood since the beginning of raining season this year.
Whereas at least 80 of the communities have been totally submerged and thousands of the people sacked from their homes.
Our correspondent reports that the first communities to be devastated by flood in Niger state this year were some communities in southern parts of Lapai local government area of Niger state where no fewer than 23 communities were sacked and the villagers forced to move upland to stay with relations.
In that flood disaster four persons were confirmed dead and some exposed to very inhuman conditions that could further expose them to other bad medical conditions.
Lamentably, the flood incidence which occurred in rapid succession within the past three weeks affected communities in Mokwa, local government areas of the state where no fewer than sixty communities were submerged by the flood.
In Mokwa local government area the part that is most affected were the communities in Kede district; comprising about three political wards.
It was observed that people of the communities were completely sacked, as the people managed to find tentative places to stay upland with relations and survive by the palliatives provided by the state government.
Indeed, according to the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), in Kede district alone, 34 communities were affected by the flood, in Jagi ward 9 communities were affected, 11 communities affected in Muregi ward and 15 communities in Gbara ward.
The most devastated villages as one traveled over three hours on River Niger to the affected communities were Lemfa kuso, Gbogifu, Ketso, Egbagi-majin , Lugwa, Mana, Wodata, Tawokali,Sanciya, Kpacita, Yinfa, Esungi and Edolusa.
Initially it was believed that because of the attachment the people have for their ancestral home they were not open to complete relocation as planned in 2002 by the state government to an area upland referred to as new Kede but those interviewed stated that they are ready and will agree to whatever plans the government has for them because of this years’ experience that was more devastating more than previous experiences.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday, some of the affected families decried economic loss in terms of their farm lands including the large rice farm concentration in the area, while most agreed the rise in the level of water has made fishing which is also their main occupation very difficult thereby leaving them in a dampening and damning economic situation.
The spokesman of Ketso, one of the communities affected by the flood, Hassan Umar said that people will cooperate with the state government in any effort to ameliorate their suffering and find a permanent solution to the situation so as to be free from this recurring situation of being sacked from their villages every year.
Umar said the communities would have long relocated to avoid the danger posed by the flood annually but were constrained by issues relating to land documentation among other challenges.
Notwithstanding the encumbrance, the community leader said the people would welcome a permanent relocation of the communities to a safer locations within the highland as the government may deem fit.
Similarly one of the villagers in Egbagi Maajin Mohammed Egbagi noted that they have lost all their means of livelihood to the flood and that the situation has caused serious feeling of unease among the people.
It was a sad tale in virtually all the communities visited as residents who are obvious victims of the flood disaster continually tell the same sordid story especially as it regards their means of livelihood. They as they were not only rendered homeless but their source of livelihood was apparently non-existing.
Beyond the loss of lives, properties worth hundreds of millions including yet to be harnessed farm produce were destroyed by the flood.
It was gathered that the flood disaster destroyed a multi-million naira rice and Sugar cane farm owned by one of the large scale private Agricultural firms.
The farm, it was gathered, was a source of high hope for rice revolution being planned around the area hence the areas affected was the pivot of the rice farm value chain investment in the state.
The land mass of the farm, estimated at about 900 Hectares and consisting of Rice and Sugarcane plantations, was submerged by flood after a heavy rainfall that occured on the 26th September, 2016.
Field emergency report on the flood indicated that the company’s Heavy Duty Equipment such as Bull Dozers, Pay Loaders and Excavators were also submerged thereby threatening the prospect of the investment that the state government had hoped will set agenda for the large scale agricultural value chain plan for the state.
Similarly the farms’ drainage channels, Irrigation Pumping Stations and internal road networks among others have also collapsed because of the destruction caused by the flood.
As should be expected, the destruction caused by the flood has left a trail of wailing especially among residents.
State government reacts
To sympathise with the affected communities, the state government said it has put in place emergency measures.
The Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello who visited some areas of the flooded communities could not hide his pain for what the flood has caused the state generally as he literally wept while sympathising with the victims.
Good enough, Governor Bello directed that residents of the communities sacked by flood and its tributaries be evacuated and resettled to upland as a temporary measure aimed at providing them palliatives.
While addressing some of the victims in Guza village, Governor Bello assured that government will supply them with basic necessities including drugs as well as food and other relief materials to curtail the outbreak of epidemic and, cushion overall effect of the flood.
He also directed government agency saddled with the task of relocating the villagers to ensure immediate compliance, assuring that he will deal decisively with act of laxity or non-compliance from the officials.
The Governor was however forced to terminate his journey at Guza because of unavailability of effective transport across the flooded areas and the difficult in travelling along the area by the time he arrived the difficult terrain.
It was gathered that shortly after the governor’s trip to some of the affected communities, the state emergency management agency distributed relief materials worth N25 million to the affected communities and also set up a camp to accommodate some of the displaced people from the community.
Experts Insists on permanent solution
Experience over the years had however shown that beyond the palliatives, what the communities needed was a permanent arrangement that is capable of ending the suffering of the people.
One of such ways that the government of Niger state had advocated was the take-off of Hydroelectric Power Areas Development Commission HYPPADEC because the commission was to take care of the interest of such communities that have sacrificed their livelihood for the Hydroelectric dams and suffer every time by the environmental impact of the dams.
It is believed that until that is done, the people will continue to be damn by the dam because the devastation caused by the floods is beyond what the Niger state government could cater for, especially now that almost all the states in the nation are experiencing very difficult financial situation.
Musa Galadima is an environmentalist. He told our correspondent that beyond providing palliative measures to cushion effect of the flood disaster, government must be ready to explore permanent solution to the disaster.
He advocated for possible relocation of residents tenanting in areas susceptible to flood “so as to save the state and the nation from the agony of flood year in, year out” and stressed that “government must step up its commitment”.
A cross section of experts who spoke to our correspondent decried the recurring incidence of flood and insisted that ensuring quick take off of HYPPADEC may well be the solution.
As the residents continue to count their loses, perhaps it may not be out of place to appeal to the national assembly or those responsible for smooth take off of HYPPADEC to breathe life into the Commission so as to help address the sufferings of communities along the Niger river and its tributaries.