In the serene town of Gashsaka local government area, nestled within the picturesque Gashaka National Gunti Park, a heartrending tale of distress continues to unfold. Years after the haunting memory of a flash flood claimed the lives of seven corps members, the resilient community faces an ongoing battle against nature’s fury. As the heavens opened up once again, bringing forth torrents of rain, the scars of the past flood disaster resurfaced, leaving behind a landscape marked by loss and displacement.
The sad occurrence that happened in 2018 was a disaster that etched its mark into the heart of Gashsaka. News of the tragic drowning of seven Corps members at Kogin Salihu, known as “River Salihu” in the local Hausa dialect, reverberated across the nation. The incident occurred at the banks of Mayo Selbe, a tranquil river that had unexpectedly turned into a torrent of destruction. The collective shock and grief of the nation, however, did little to spur the necessary preventive actions from government authorities.
As recent heavy downpours pounded Gashsaka in the early hours of Sunday, history seemed to repeat itself. The torrential rain waters triggered a new wave of destruction, washing away farmlands, decimating wildlife habitats, and sweeping away not just livestock but also the humble dwellings of the community. With homes turned to rubble and fields rendered unrecognizable, many found themselves dispossessed and forced to seek refuge in public structures, their stomachs grumbling with hunger.
Despite the glaring need for intervention, the aftermath of the 2018 tragedy seems to have fallen into the crevices of bureaucratic negligence. LEADERSHIP Weekend’s investigation revealed a stark reality: no comprehensive study or preventive measures have been undertaken by any government authority, be it at the state or federal level. The pleas of the grieving community to prevent future flooding incidents have seemingly gone unanswered, leaving a void where hope for change should have thrived.
One of the unfortunate victims, Dauda Ali, shared the heart-wrenching account of his losses with LEADERSHIP Weekend. “My house and all my food supplies were washed away,” he said, as he and his family took shelter at a public primary school in Selti, the local government headquarters.
Adding to his ordeal, Ali disclosed that he had secured a loan from a Cooperative Bank to cultivate his rice farm, which is now among the flood’s casualties. “It’s a double tragedy for me,” he lamented, expressing a sentiment shared by many others.
The impact of the flood rippled through the Serti main market, where shop owners faced unprecedented challenges. A trader at the market, Francis Gozie, recounted the grim reality. “Goods like salt, bags of rice, maize, and other essentials have been extensively damaged,” he said.
In an effort to salvage what remains, Gozie resorted to selling goods at a fraction of their original value. “We’re forced to sell at giveaway prices due to the damage,” he explained, acknowledging the economic hardships that have left both buyers and sellers in a tight spot.
The catastrophe also left its mark on larger businesses, as traders Mallam Inusa Abbas and Madam Chigozie attested. With investments amounting to over N7 million, their ventures in rice and salt businesses faced ruin as the floodwaters engulfed their stocks.
“Our goods are now unsalvageable waste,” Abbas lamented, reflecting on the harsh reality that the flood struck during an already challenging economic climate in Nigeria.
A farmer, Mallam Abdulahi Serti, recounted his distressing findings.
“No farmland remains intact in the area due to the flood,” he said, expressing concerns about imminent food shortages if swift action is not taken.
Generally, he said the agricultural sector, a cornerstone of Gashsaka’s economy, suffered a significant blow as well. Serti said farmers who ventured out to assess the damage discovered a disheartening sight – the floodwaters had claimed the lives of several wildlife species from the Gashaka Gumti Park.
Emir of Gashsaka laments catastrophic flood impact, calls for urgent measures
A first-class chief who doubles as the Emir of Gashsaka, Alhaji Zubeiru Hamangabdo, led the LEADERSHIP Weekend team through the grim aftermath of Sunday’s torrential flood that swept across his domain. What he witnessed, he described as a harrowing disaster that inflicted unprecedented devastation upon his community, casting a stark shadow of hardship and loss over the region.
Hamangabdo said even the palace was not spared from the relentless floodwaters.
He said the once-elegant Guest House within the palace grounds now stood submerged, and its grandeur reduced to ruins.
He said the royal statuary and meticulously designed carpets bore the brunt of the water’s intrusion, serving as poignant symbols of the catastrophe that had unfolded.
The Emir expressed deep concern for his people’s plight. “The flood has brought untold hardship upon my people,” he said.
He recounted that, fortunately, the torrential rain began early on Sunday morning, allowing residents to swiftly evacuate their families.
The Emir attributed the recurrent flooding to a lack of adequate drainage infrastructure capable of accommodating the overwhelming volume of water that inundates the town during heavy rainfall. This, he asserted, has consistently left Gashsaka vulnerable to such calamities.
Also, a community leader Mr. Abu Starch, who accompanied our correspondent on a tour of the affected areas, revealed that the source of the flooding plaguing Serti town, the headquarters of Gashsaka local government council, originates from a location called “Dutsen Buba,” situated in the northern part of Serti and a few kilometers from the town itself.
He said his own home bore the brunt of the flood’s fury, forcing him and his family into the hospitality of a neighbor’s abode.
He lamented the trying circumstances, saying it was both frustrating and heart-wrenching.
Speaking of the agricultural devastation, Abu disclosed that numerous livestock owned by local farmers met a tragic end, consumed by the deluge.
He said this has left the farmers bereft of a crucial source of sustenance and income, deepening the economic distress that as gripped the community.
He said as the floodwaters recede and Gashsaka’s residents grapple with the aftermath, the dire need for comprehensive drainage systems and preventive measures remains unmistakable.
State government assures support
Amid the wreckage, hope is offered in the form of government intervention, the permanent secretary of the Taraba State Emergency Management Agency (TSEMA), Mr. Berson Ben, assured residents that assistance is forthcoming.
“We have deployed our personnel to gather data from the flood-affected areas,” he stated, emphasising that accurate information is crucial for targeted aid distribution.