Dawn Flood And Its Fury In Abuja, Niger, Benue

Following the heavy morning rain which washed away many houses, property, and also claimed many lives last weekend in parts of Abuja, Niger and Benue States, CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, DAVID ADUGE, BLESSING BATURE, ABU NMODU AND HEMBADOON ORSAR write on the causes of the devastating floods, attendant losses and the plight of the victims.

More than 20 buildings in Gwagwalada area council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been destroyed following a downpour last Saturday night which resulted to flood. The flood visited almost all the nooks and crannies of Gwagwalada area council, thereby wreaking unprecedented and unquantifiable havoc.

Beginning from Gwagwalada town, many other communities like Zuba, Ibwa, Gwako, Kutunku, Ikwa, Giri, Paiko, Dobi, Dagiri Anguwan Dodo, Tungan Maje and others are affected.

Victims recount that four people have been confirmed missing and one dead at Kaura quarters of Giri village in Gwagwalada area council as a result of the attendant flood which hit the area.  It could be recalled that residents of the area council, motorists plying the ever-busy Abuja-Gwagwalada-Lokoja highway had a terrible experience following the overflow of the Lower Usman Dam that led to the flooding of the area.

Our correspondents also learnt that, after the flood had taken over the Gwagwalada Bridge linking Abuja to Lokoja, motorists parked their vehicles by the road sides for several hours for the flooding to subside.

While motorists were held up for hours waiting for the flood to recede, residents were already counting their losses ranging from precious lives to other valuables like houses which were swept away by the heavy tide of the flood. In Giri community, the chief of Igbira lost his brother’s wife and four children to the incident. Meanwhile, it has been estimated that about 150 houses were destroyed in Dagiri and Kaura Quarters all in Gwagwalada area council.

The village head of Kaura Quarters, Mr Bako Ndazhaga, said contrary to reports from some quarters, which claimed that 30 people were missing, it is only four persons that were missing and one death have been officially recorded.

Ndazhaga, however, regretted that the missing persons and the dead are unfortunately from the same family.

He added the missing four include a mother and her three children even as he expressed doubts over the chances of their survival.

According to a resident of the area, Mr Simon Baba, who is an eye witness, he told LEADERSHIP Friday, the early morning rain forced residents to stay indoors, adding that the rain also submerged the Gwagwalada Bridge and a hotel.

Another resident of Gwagwalada, Mrs Felicia Adams, while lamenting, called on the FCT Administration to come to their aid and provide a lasting solution to the recurring flood.

“We are appealing to the government at all level to help us before this menace will consume us all. We are living in fear on a daily

basis and nothing is being done about it. This flood has become a recurring incident because we have lost so many of our goods to the flood. I and my children couldn’t sleep all through the night because of the flood,” Adams said.

Another resident, Ibrahim Shaibu, narrated their ordeals, saying the  heavy rain started in the early hours of Saturday around 2am, which resulted in flooding. According to him, the wave of the water took a truck loaded with fuel and took over a nearby filling station.

LEADERSHIP Friday also gathered that cars were washed away as the flood pulled down buildings and left several soak-aways open and completely damaged. While on a visit to the affected areas, residents were seen in clusters, empathizing and sympathizing with affected families whose properties had been washed off.

Our reporters learnt that over a hundred houses along the waterways were affected in various degrees. All the houses, about 10 to 20 metres from the river bank were completely submerged.

Also the village head of Dagiri, which was also hit by the flood, Alhaji Saidu Muhammad Ndako, confirmed that no cases of a missing person or death was recorded in his area but properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Gwagwalada area council, Hon. Adamu Mustafa Danze, has directed the residents in the area who lives close to the river bank to evacuate with immediate effect.

Danze, who gave the directive during a visit to the affected areas, said the way people build houses in flood-prone areas should be discouraged.

“As of last year, we instructed the residents to evacuate from flood-prone areas as their lives are important than anything else but today some are seeing themselves inside water and houses and properties destroyed by the flood.

“The flood happened last year and now it has repeated itself. That serves as a message that whatever that is worth doing is worth doing well. Therefore, I advise you to evacuate from this river bank because life first before talking about properties. Flooding is a natural disaster that no one knows anything about, lives have been lost, properties worth millions of naira lost as a result of this,” Danze said.

He urged community leaders to fine-tune arrangements in getting the people out of River environment, adding that, “however, on our own at the local government level, we will do our best to provide urgent palliatives.”

In his reaction, the director-general of the Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Alhaji Idriss Abbas, said there was a building collapse in Dawaki as a result of the flood and Gwagwalada is flooded from Giri while a family of four is missing at Giri.

“We got one body and still searching for four. We rescued six people and are in the hospital. The flood has damaged a lot of houses and property especially at Gwagwalada. The residents are still saying some are missing but they cannot give us the identities of such persons who they claim to be missing,” Abbas said.

He, therefore, warned residents to be careful whenever it rains, adding that residents should not drive on water and should not build on flood plains.

“People should be careful when it is raining. They should not drive on water. They should not build on flood plains. They must respect the master plan of FCT and ensure that all drainages are clean. What happened in Giri-Gota was because people built on flood plain,” he added.

Meanwhile, in response to massive destruction of lives and property in Gwagwalada area council, the FCT Administration has donated 300 bags of rice, 500 bags of maize, millet, sorghum, garri, beans, indomie among other food others, to the affected communities to cushion the impact.

Also, the Administration has assured victims that plans have been concluded to assist them in the provisions of household items and building materials, after relevant government agencies might have ascertained the level of destruction and number of homes affected.

FCT Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, who gave this assurance when she paid a condolence visit to the affected communities, however, warned that residents should stay off waterways to avoid future occurrence.

Aliyu, who visited the scenes alongside other management staff of the Administration, also stressed the need for residents to be mindful of their environment, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency and FCT Development Control should be notified when constructions are carried out on waterways.

According to her, “we are all deeply touched as we wake up that fateful day in the morning on the 25th of this month to this natural disaster. These are one of the kind of occurrences this year that we cannot control and no matter the provisions, no matter the status of the communities, even in developed climes, it does happened. No matter the level of infrastructure in place, if it is meant to occur, it will occur.

“But this is also telling us to be mindful of the environment and also the Environmental Protection Agency and FCT Development Control should be notified when constructions are done on our waterways. Some people could be transferred newly and they could not know.

“The Development Control must be up and doing to also look at where waste and refuse are being dumped. Most of the times, our actions constitute 75 percent of  blockages in our drainages. Let say that if we have two of this kind of occurrence in a year, the burden will be so much for the people. We feel your pains and we are here not only to sympathize with you, but on behalf of the Federal Capital Territory Administration to extend our hands of fellowship and our little token to cushion this effect. We are with you in prayers and God will not allow us to witness this again,” the Minister said.

The minister also assured that concerted efforts would be made to ensure that areas faced with ecological problem would be adequately tackled by the Federal Government, stressing that the Federal Capital Territory Administration, would not hesitate to liaise with NEMA to address other emergency problems.

Also during the visit, the representative of Director-General, FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mrs. Florence Wenegieme, stated that as soon as the agency received the distress call on Saturday the 25th of July, 2020, the rescue and search team moved into action.

Wenegieme, who is the Deputy Director in charge of Forecasting, Response and Mitigation revealed that out of the six causalities there was a family of five that got drown in the flood, adding that four of them are yet to be found.

“There was a family of five that got drown in the water.

Unfortunately, we were able to find one of the sons because the husband was not around, but he gave his consent that the child should be buried before he comes back. The search team is still ongoing to recover the bodies of the mother and other three children. Four of them are yet to be found. We have gone to Koton-karfe, yet we have not found them,” she affirmed.

Earlier, the chairman of Gwagwalada area council, Hon. Adamu Mustapha Danze, commended the FCT Minister of State for the quick response, just as he noted that residents are taking notes on the giant strides recorded in infrastructural provisions in the satellite towns.

The story is the same in Suleja, Niger State. It was a very sad Saturday as 13 persons lost their lives while several properties were destroyed.

On the fateful day, six bodies were immediately recovered while 13 people were confirmed dead.

The early morning downpour caused the flood almost the same time it occurred on July 8, 2018 and many houses destroyed around the Field Base area in Suleja.

The fatality of the July 24, 2020 flood was though lower than what was recorded in 2018, however, both incidents have left behind sad stories and brought to the fore the outright disregard for ancient town’s master plan.

This disregard for government’s warnings against violation of master plan and building on waterways came with heavy consequences for the people of Suleja and environs.

Apart from the number of deaths recorded after the  five hours of heavy downpour, no fewer than 431 houses, including worship centers were destroyed  with 25 houses  completely washed away.

The Niger State Emergency Management Agency confirmed that those killed by the flood were women and children mostly while no fewer than nine people were still missing at press time.

The areas affected by the flood disaster include Anguwar Gwari, Almadeenat, Poulosa, Rafin Sanyi, Madalla, Kwamba and Anguwar Kuyanbana.

The worst hit of the casualties is a businessman, Mr. ThankGod Igbomara, of Unguwan Gwari, a dealer of pharmaceuticals, who lost everything including his second wife and four children.

Igbomara and wife could not salvage anything as he watched from a distance as flood pull down his three bedroom apartment. While he managed to escape, he could not rescue his wife, Mrs. Patience and four children.

The children – Wisdom  Ugochukwu Igbomara, a 20-year old 300-level student of Pharmaceutical Studies, University of Benin; Desire Edinmachukwu Igbomara, 18 year-old 100-level student of same University of Benin; Dominion Udechukwu Igbomara, an SS1 student of Immaculate Sacred Heart School in Suleja; and 12 year-old Destiny Igbochukw, a Junior Secondary School student.

Dr. Mrs. Peace Igbomara, a medical doctor with the state-owned General Hospital Suleja, the mother of the four deceased children, said she could not believe her four children were gone.

The 48 year-old mother of six, who parted with her husband of 28 years, narrated how she met her children some few hours before the disaster when she had gone to administer treatment on one of them who had complained of malaria.

“I came to the house on Friday evening because one of them, my last daughter had called me that she was not feeling too well. So I came and examined her and gave her injection, I also prayed with them before I left them around 8:00pm in the evening.

“I never knew that will be the last that I will see my children. They are all gone to be with the Lord, out of six, I am left with only two, that is God for you. It is finished,” she said with tearing eyes.

Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello, visited the flooded areas in Suleja within the week to commiserate with the people who lost their beloved ones and property. He was at the waterway that overflowed and caused the flood.

He was particularly touched by the loss suffered by the Medical Doctor and was full of praises for the way the bereaved mother remained calm despite the shocking experience. The governor personally visited the house of the Igbomaras to commiserate with the entire family, saying he was short of words.

According to him, “none of us can feel what you feels, we can only imagine what you feel but we cannot feel or see what you feel. Our prayer is that God should grant you strength to hold it. It takes a very strong woman to do what you have just done. You are calm and God will continue to make you strong.”

The governor, who said he was worried over the perennial flood disaster in Suleja, ordered that all structures built on waterways in the area be demolished immediately.

Sani-Bello, who was  conducted round the areas by the chairman of Suleja local government area, Mallam Abdullahi Shuaibu Maje, attributed the perennial flood to indiscriminate building on

waterways, noting that the only solution to the menace was to remove all buildings from water channels.

The governor frowned at the  attitude of officials of the local government, who approved buildings on water channels without caution and recourse to plans, adding that  “this is very wrong, it is a high level of corruption. The corruption has eaten deep such that nobody cares. If not, how can someone gives permission to people to build houses on waterways?”

According to him, “local governments must wake up, all these malpractices at the local government must stopped. The Urban Development Authority, Ministries for Local Government and that of Environment should go round and mark all buildings on waterway for immediate demolition.”

For his part, the Emir of Suleja, Malam Awwal Ibrahim, pointed out that there was the urgent need for the government to implement the report of the Committee on Suleja Master Plan.

The Emir who spoke when the governor visited him in his palace after inspecting the flood ravaged areas, appealed to the government to expedite action on the implementation of the committee report so as to restore the Suleja urban development plan.

Also, residents of Makurdi metropolis and  environs affected by last Saturday’s flood are still counting their losses, following the heavy downpour that lasted for about 15 hours in the Benue State capital.

Our correspondent gathered that thousands of residential homes, offices and shops in Makurdi and its environs were submerged, following the downpour.

The rain, which started around 11.00pm of Friday July 24 lasted till 1pm of Saturday, sacking many families from their homes, destroying properties and  as well as making some of the  market areas inaccessible.

Some of the affected areas include Zam Numa avenue, behind Our Lady of Perpetual Cathedral, Idye village, Judges Quarters on Naka Road, Achusa, Agber village, as well as some parts of High Level Rice Mill in Wadata area of the capital city.

Residents of Logo I and II in Wurukum, Gyado villa, Wurukum Market, Idye village,  Low- level   modern market area, among other  places, where the flood also wreaked havoc, were seen evacuating their properties as their homes were completely submerged.

A resident at Zam avenue behind Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, Fatima Tijani, whose house was completely submerged, said as a widow she had no place to go with her children, saying this is the third time she was experiencing flood this year, which she attributed to human factor.

According to her, she had lived in the area for over 10 years and this is the only time she was experiencing this kind of disaster.

“This flooding is caused by human factor, because some residents have built on the major canal where the water is passing,” Mrs Tijjani said.

Meanwhile, the family of the first elected governor of Benue state, Chief Aper Aku, has cried out that the only property owned by their late father is under threat of being washed away by flood.

LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that the house, situated near Gyado villa, along the Markurdi-Gboko road  is yearly submerged underwater during the rainy season.

It was gathered that the property which was completed shortly after the death of the former governor, again went underwater after the torrential rain that hit Makurdi last weekend.

The  eldest son of the deceased, Akua Aku, lamented that he has done all he could to salvage the building but to no avail.

He told our correspondent that he has spent so much resources annually in building back the fallen fence of the house, which has consistently fallen every rainy season.

Aku appealed to relevant government agencies, who he stated had visited the area before now, to effect construction on the drainage to save his father’s house from imminent collapse. Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Engr. Dondo Ahire, to comment on why work on the water channel is yet to be effected proved abortive as he promised to call back which he did not at press time.

LEADERSHIP Friday reports that Benue State is among the states listed to be on the red alert for flood this year as projected by the National Hydrological Services.

It is now left to be seen whether the state governments of the affected states will immediately initiate far-reaching measures to curb the floods in order to save lives and property as the rainy season will still be with us for months.

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