Residents of riverine communities in Patigi, Patigi local government area of Kwara State who were displaced by a devastating flood last weekend have recounted their ordeal.
The victims said they now live in make- shift accommodation, with the attendant health hazards, following the destruction of their residential buildings by the flood.
Though, we are in the rainy season, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the release of water from the Jebba hydroelectric power dam compounded the problem of flooding in Patigi community and its environs.
LEADERSHIP also observed that the refusal of those living in the flood prone areas to heed the state government and relevant stakeholders’ advice to relocate from the areas was responsible for the collosal loss of lives, destruction of farmlands and residential buildings when the flood occurred.
No fewer than seven lives have been lost to flood disaster in different parts of state this year alone with Patigi local government being the worst hit .
In the latest flood which occurred in the area, at least 1, 300 households and 2, 800 persons were affected. The flood also submerged large hectares of farmland and residential buildings.
A victim, Mohammed Kolo who said the damages done by the flood was in hundreds of millions of naira, lamented that the affected persons now have to pay between N1, 500 to N2, 500 per head to ferry in a paddling canoe to their homes and villages .
“Even that one is very risky, anything can happen. The canoes are being operated by individuals who charged between N1,500 to N2,500 per head. If you are alone you will be charged N1,500 but if you are with a machine it is N2,500 per head.
‘Depending on its size, the canoe cannot take more than 20 persons and 7-10 machines at a go in order not to capsized”, he said..
Kolo added: ”Most of the people have left their homes, those that are still there hang their wrappers up and sleep there at night.
“The worst thing is that after the flood some people will not be able to return to their homes because most of the houses have been destroyed”.
Another victim, Mohammed Garba who said he lost over one hectare of his rice farm to the flood, regretted that they could not relocate to the internally displaced persons camp (IDPs) provided by the federal government because their means of livelihood which according to him , is fishing and farming is in the riverine area.
He also said the accommodation provided in the camp was a far cry to the number of people leaving in the riverine community which he estimated to be up to 2,500.
During an inspection visit to Patigi last Saturday, the managing director of Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), Alh Abubakar Yelwa, confirmed the lost of seven persons to flood.
Yelwa and his team had gone to Patigi to flag off the distribution of N50m worth of relief materials to victims of flood in Kwara State.
The items procured for distribution to the victims, included 1,300 mattresses , 500 bags of rice, 200 cartons of bathing soap and 250 cartons of detergents, amongst others.
The commission had earlier flagged off its medical outreach in Lafiagi, Edu local government area of the state to provide healthcare services and prevent the likelihood of epidemic.
Represented by the commission’s director, Environment and Community Development, Mahmud, Muhammed ,Yelwa warned those leaving in the riverine communities to vacate the place, warning that the worst disaster is waiting to happen.
Yelwa said the federal government might no longer have the resources to continue to provide relief materials to affected persons as a result of the recurring flood disaster in the area due to dwindling resources.
He said HYPPADEC is considering sponsoring a bill to enact a law that will prohibits people from residing in certain kilometers away from riverine areas to avert recurring loss of lives and property.
He decried the refusal of residents o f the riverine areas and victims of previous flood to relocate to IDPs camps provided by the federal government.
“That is the big challenge we are having with my people. They continued to turn deaf ears to flood warnings for decades; move out of this zone , they will not heed”, he said.
Asked if lives were lost in the flood ,Yelwa said “we have received report of 5- 7 people who have lost their lives in the state “.
Yelwa who clarified that though no life was lost to the latest flood in Patigi, however, said due to “climate change , the effect of the flood in the community this year is far worst from what we have experienced decades ago” saying 1, 200 households with 2, 800 persons were affected.
He said the essence of the medical outreach is to engage the commission’s medical team to treat infection cases and prevent any likelihood of epidemic that might break out in the aftermath of the disaster.
Apart from the riverine areas in Kwara north, some parts of Ilorin, the state capital are also prone to flooding.
These areas include AbdulWahab Folawiyo (Unity) road, Ojagboro and Amilegbe communities which are located on the bank of Asa river.
However, the state government has taken proactive measures to prevent the occurrence of flooding in the state capital through the channelisation of the Asa River and erection of embarkment to prevent the river from over flowing its banks
The government, had also prior to the commencement of the rainy season desilt all the drainages in Ilorin metropolis to ensure free flow of water whenever it rains.
In addition, officials of the state’s ministry of environment, also carried out public enlightenment programmes on the need for residents to avoid dumping of refuse in drainages and water ways in order to prevent flooding.