As floods recede after weeks of destruction and agony in parts of the country, homes, communities and businesses have started picking bits and pieces of ruins left behind.
From Kebbi to Jigawa, Benue, and Rivers, cries of despair are as loud as they are deep. Bayelsa, Delta, Jigawa, Anambra and Niger are not left out of the misfortune brought by the floods.
The floods, triggered by consistent rains and the release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroun and others, led to the death of over 600 people in 31 states. It also caused infrastructure and basic facilities to lie in ruins.
But the floods did not come like a thief at night. The signs of what to come was announced by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) earlier in the year and in September, when it warned of imminent high risk flooding in parts of Kaduna, Borno, Delta and Bayelsa states. The agency called on state and national emergency management agencies to intensify adaptation, mitigation and response mechanisms to avert the crises.
Following the prompting, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), issued a warning, identifying 233 councils in 32 states and Federal Capital Territory that would experience flooding in 2022.
At a workshop in Abuja, NEMA Director General, Mr. Mustapha Ahmed, had, relying on the 2022 Seasonal Climate Prediction, released by NiMeT and the yearly Flood Outlook released by Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), said: “Efforts must be made to mitigate and respond effectively to flooding. We have sent advisory letters and maps showing predicted flood risk areas in various states to the respective state governments. We have also produced risk maps for vulnerable local government areas as forecasted by NIHSA’s yearly ‘Flood Outlook’.”
Sadly, despite the warnings, the floods swelled early October, leaving destruction in its wake and the people lamenting across the country.
Benue, one of the hard-hit states
AS people begin to pick the pieces left of their lives, the finding is that farmers are the hardest hit.
Accounting for over 80 per cent of the state’s livelihood, farming is at the very core of the state’s survival.
Also tagged the food basket of the nation, the impact of the flood, The Guardian gathered, would be felt in the state and beyond.
The banks of Benue River form a fadama or natural swamp that is ideal for cultivation of one of the best quality rice in the world.
Ironically, the food mongers are, today, faced with palpable hunger as a result of the floods.
In Buruku Council, the flood wiped out farms. Villages of Mbaatsua and Mbanatu in Mbaya ward, Mbatsaase and Mbaagir in Mbaapen ward, parts of Binev and Uga/Ugbenyi in Mbakyongu were severely affected.
A former Deputy Chairman of Agatu Council, John Ikwulono, said as far as he could recall, it was the first time flooding of the area happened in such a magnitude.
When The Guardian visited the Council, the entire stretch of fadama, covering places such as, Okokolo, Ocholonya, Oweto and Obagaji had been wiped out by the floods.
The intensity of the flood was severe this year that even Makurdi, the state capital, was not spared. The pilot farms of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and the swathes of land at Tyo-Mu at Agan and Fiidi, respectively, were also wiped out.
Aside from farm crops, most houses along the flood route, which were submerged in water for weeks, became uninhabitable, while reptiles, swept ashore by the floods, were another source of worry.
Only last week, a snake bit a kid in one of the flood-ravaged schools, Bright Tots International School, Makurdi, forcing the management to fumigate the entire facility.
Though the floods have since abated, persons displaced are still languishing in internally displaced persons camps.
Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, Emmanuel Shior, said: “One hundred and thirty-four persons, cutting across 44 communities in the state, were displaced by the floods with a death toll of 24 persons.”
While the state grapples with the physical upkeep and trauma inflicted on victims, the prices of foodstuff have predictably skyrocketed. At about this time last year, a bag of rice, which used to sell for between N17,000 and N20,000 now goes for N40,000. Same for other foodstuff.
Scarier is the fact that indices do not indicate any respite in sight. When there is an abundance of harvest, there is always the possibility of prices coming down or stabilising. At the moment, shortage of foodstuff is already acute and consequences threaten to be dire.
Supervisory Councillor of Agriculture in Gwer West Council, Mr. Achebi Lagu, paints a graphic picture of the situation. He said: “We are already poor people. The majority of us obtained loans and incur other debts to farm. Now that all our farms have been washed away, we are hopeless. We can’t feed; we can’t pay our children’s school fees. We need new seeds for next cropping season. As it is, the future is bleak.”
In Kogi, residents now take permanent residence in IDP camps
THE floods hit Kogi State hard. Just like in 2012, when Lokoja and adjoining council areas were submerged, several communities faced the same fate in the latest floods. The people of Lokoja, Ajaokuta, Ofu, Idah and Ibaji, Igalamela, Bassa councils were badly affected as farmlands were washed away.
For Sule Muhammed, there is nowhere to move to. “I’m stranded as I speak with you, weeks after the flood receded. We are appealing to government to come to out aid.”
A visit to parts of Lokoja and its environs showed that some major roads such as, the Old Market Road and Ganaja-Ajaokuta and Lokoja-Abuja roads were still in bad shape. These roads served as link between the North, East and Southern parts of the country.
At Adakolo Estate and Adankolo Extension, a lot of owners had deserted their homes and moved to stay with friends or relations, because their houses had become inhabitable
Speaking with The Guardian, residents of the area lamented that all they had laboured for had been washed away.
In separate reactions, Talatu Gimba, Amina Fatai, Rabiu Habibat, Tenimu Ibrahim, Sefi Isah and Hawa Ademu said their houses were washed away. Though they do not have anywhere to go now.
The Chairman of KONGONET, Idris Ozovehe Muraina, who described the flood as a monumental disaster, called for government’s urgent intervention.
At the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp at St. Luke Primary School, Adankolo, Lokoja, the chairman called for immediate food supply and medical attention, particularly, for vulnerable children.
“Government needs to urgently provide succour to the people, particularly at the IDP camps across the state. From our interaction with them, they need food and medical attention, particularly for the children,” he said.
The Chief of Adankolo community, David Aibe Aghaiyi II, told The Guardian, government should provide permanent residence for the people.
According to him, once the people are relocated, their present abode should be demolished, so as to prevent them from coming back to the same community after the flood.
Speaking at the Okumi IDP camp, the Chief of Onumaye community, Yahaya Abdullahi, appealed to the state government to relocate them permanently, saying that they could not return to their former place of abode.
The situation is the same at Ikumo, as one Yakubu Muhammed, told The Guardian that their homes and farmlands had been washed away, as they now lived in a makeshift huts.
They lamented the effect of mosquitoes, snakes and scorpion bites, saying they had spent so much to treat diseases and called for urgent government assistance.
For Fatimoh Abu, who gave birth recently at the Oreta IDP camp, where the Ikumo people are now living, it has been difficult coping with the new experience.
According to her, they have suffered untold hardship as a result of the dislocation caused by the floods and called for more support from the government and private organisations.
People Living with Disabilities (PLWD), are not left out of the challenge posed by the flooding. They now lived at the disability office Located at Lokongoma in Lokoja.
Their chairman, Daniel Arome, said his members suffered untold hardship as a result of the floods.
He said: “Those who have legs and can see are finding it difficult to cope with the problem, not to talk about those of us who are challenged. As you can see, this is double tragedy for us.
“I am calling on government and others to extend their assistance to us. It’s a major crisis for me and my members.”
MEANWHILE, a non-governmental organisation, Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), has lamented poor government responses to the flood in the country, particularly in Kogi State, which he observed was worst hit.
However, individuals and organisations have been extending support to affected persons and communities.
One of them also, Sanni Abdulraheem, recently released funds running into millions of naira to ameliorate the suffering of those affected by the floods in his constituency.
Rivers State’s experience is no less severe
ACCORDING to some experts in the state, fear of an outbreak of hunger is real as over 200 communities were displaced by the floods, which also triggered mass migration to the capital city.
An economic analyst in the state, Mr. Ignatius Chukwu, described the impact of the floods as “total economic disruption to affected councils.”
According to him, the floods washed away businesses, especially SMEs, which are uninsured businesses, that the economic assets are gone forever, with no replacement.
“This is farm maturation season, the tubers and grains are lost. Schools, printing centres, hospitals, among others, were swept off. When the flood finally goes, these entrepreneurs will start life afresh without financial infrastructures to support them.
“Micro loans have been destroyed. Those who took loans cannot pay back. Christmas contributions cannot be collected; it is a total economic disruption. After relief materials and IDP support, the next should be bailout. Agricultural insurance should return.”
The impacts of floods on individuals and communities in Rivers State this year, undoubtedly is traumatising. Several lives have been lost, economic assets, small and medium enterprises gone, properties damaged, schools, hospitals, business centres, farmlands, crops, among others swept off.
Findings show that government properties and infrastructure are not left out. Roads, electricity, transport systems, economic and the environments were affected.
Medical supplies run dry in camps
A VISIT to the second wing of the IDPs camp in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Council revealed a pathetic scene, as a child was seen vomiting uncontrollably. The mother revealed that his son of two years had been sick but lacked adequate medical attention.
A nurse assigned by TotalEnergies to the camp, Mrs Priscilla Ogbuku, explained that the sick child was suffering from severe cough.
The nurse said she had been attending to other sick persons in the camp but lamented that for some days; there had been no medical supplies.
Pregnant women sleep on bare floor
EIGHT pregnant women were seen in Ogbogu camp, while 17 others were spotted at the GSS, Akabuka Camp. Some women, it was learnt, had been delivered of babies in the camp, but sadly, lacked good food and sanitary supplies. There was also no postnatal medication after 24 hours of delivery. The camp nurse, Mrs. Ogbuku, confirmed this, adding that some pregnant women sleep on bare floor.
In Ogbogu camp, flood victims also lamented insufficient supply of basic amenities, disclosing that they are in dire need of foams, raw food items, mosquito nets, insecticides, among others.
Consequently, many people are sleeping on the bare floor, a situation that has led to severe cases of cold and pneumonia.
In an interview, Mrs Catherine Nwokocha, who spoke on behalf of other flood victims, said: “We do not have enough foams and this is forcing a lot of people to sleep on the floor, the situation is causing so much cold and there are fears that soonest, people may begin to experience various forms of sicknesses.
Sharing similar view, Mr. America Stephen, the camp Coordinator in Erama, lamented that many inmates were very sick.
Interactions with victims showed they were intensely craving to return to their homes. Further inquiries showed that majority of the people had lost both their homes and sources of livelihood to the flood.
Bayelsa records over one million victims
IN addition to the number of those affected, the state suffered 96 deaths, according to a data by Bayelsa State Emergency Management Agency (BYSEMA).
From the two entry points at the boundaries with Delta and Rivers states to the shores of Atlantic Ocean to Forcados River, River Nun and the Taylor Creek, the destruction caused by the floods forced many to flee their homes and communities.
Yenagoa, the state capital, the whole of Ogbia, Southern Ijaw, Sagbama, Kolokuma/Opokuma were all submerged, while parts of Nembe and Brass councils suffered same fate.
Officials put the total number of persons affected at 1,344,014, and communities destroyed at over 300, with the attendant hardship as prices of commodities, especially food, skyrocketed.
Infrastructure was not spared. East-West road connecting over six states in the Niger Delta region was submerged with many passengers stranded, making it difficult to reach Bayelsa State. It led to shortage of essential commodities like food, gas, fuel, and meat, usually supplied from the Delta and Rivers end of the road.
Roads leading to two university towns, the African University, Torouwa; and Federal University, Otouke were cut off, making the universities only accessible through rivers, which had overflown its banks.
Similarly, roads leading to the state university, Niger Delta University (NDU) and the international airport were cut off, just as the University Teaching Hospital at Okolobiri, shut down services.
According to official data released by Bayelsa State Emergency Management Agency (BYSEMA), while the floods affected a total of 1,344,014 persons, 1,210,183 were displaced from their houses.
The spreadsheet by the agency showed 96 deaths, with Yenagoa Council posting the highest fatality figure.
Confirming the figures, SEMA Chairman, Walamam Igrubia, who said collation of data from the field were still ongoing, said farmlands, school buildings, health structures and other facilities were also affected.
A poultry farmer, Mr. Chukwudi Onyechefule, said he invested over N1m in the business in December 2021 and had 1,000 fully matured birds before the flood swept them away.
He said: “The one that are alive are few and sold between N3,000 and N5,000,” lamenting that he would have sold each of the chicken between N10,000 and N12,000 in December.
Even as transportation of goods and services resume gradually at the Okobe end of the East-West Road, over 200 trucks conveying petroleum products, beverages, farm produce, timber, construction materials were seen stuck and could not cross over to Port Harcourt or Yenagoa.
The Guardian gathered that a journey from Yenagoa to Port Harcourt, which normally costs between N1,000 and N2,000 went for between N4,000 and N5,000, because a commuter would have to take a vehicle from Yenagoa to Okobe at a fare of N2,000, then walk across the damaged portion to Ahoada or take a motorcycle at N1,000 before boarding a vehicle to Port Harcourt at the fare of N1,500 or N2,000.
Salihu Ibrahim, a truck driver transporting timber to Rivers States, said he spent over three weeks on the road, struggling to cross over failed portions.
He said: “I have been stranded here before the flood water dried up. I spent over a week at the Ugheli axis of the road, and I have spent about a week at Okobe. The struggle now is how I can beat this traffic and get to Port Harcourt.
“I have spent so much money for food and upkeep. I have spent many nights enduring mosquitos. I have no other choice but to endure the hardship because I cannot leave the truck and goods for thieves looking for what to steal.”
Apart from roads, optic fibre cables owned by telecommunications network providers and electricity supplying poles and cables were badly damaged.
Niger, 382 riverine communities affected
NIGER State has no fewer than 382 riverine communities and victims struggling to find their bearings after the flood.
Information obtained by The Guardian from Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) indicates that no fewer than 382 riverine communities were affected.
The report also revealed that 86 communities were displaced and 37 persons lost their lives as a result of the flood, in total, 49,953 persons were affected by the flood.
The Director General of NSEMA, Mallam Ahmed Ibrahim Inga, said: “The level of devastation caused by flood in our rural communities is worrisome. Farmers were worst hit by the flood.”
Victims fear food crises in the coming year, if authorities at federal, state and local council levels do not take urgent steps to address the situation.
A rice farmer, Mahmud Abubakar, from Mokwa Council, lamented that he invested all his savings in his farm but lost the entire investment.
He stated that flood problem happens in their area almost every year.
Isah Ismail, from Agwara Council, on his part, said flood disaster has caused farmers untold hardship, lamenting that nothing was left for them, as floods washed away, both homes, domestic animals and farm lands.
Delta, losses better imagined
DELTA State victims say their experiences are equally traumatising, stressing that losses are better imagine than counted.
The Director General, Delta State Orientation Bureau, Eugene Uzum, described the effect of the floods as quite heavy and challenging at the moment.
He put the number of persons displaced at 30,000. They are accommodated in 16 of the 25 councils in the state in 13 camps and in over 10 relief distribution points.
According to him, the flood did not spare infrastructure either, as schools, markets, roads, hospitals and dispensaries were damaged, thereby, creating unnecessary hardship for the people.
“For now, the victims have no roof over their heads, and there is going to be hunger in the land, though government is trying to intervene, they have lost completely their means of livelihood,” he added.
Psychologically, he said the victims would, for long time, live in fear, believing that by next year, the flood will rear its ugly head again.
The King of Abala Kingdom, Fredrick Chukwulobe Egbunokonye III, while taking stock of what was left of his community said: “You can see that I have been displaced by flood, moved out of my kingdom to Asaba. This is not a joke. Where I’m now is even a camp as you can see thousands are here with me. The effect is enormous, to say the least.”
Bartholomew Ozah, a councillor in Ndokwa East, said all farms, schools, markets, hospitals, and roads in the area, particularly the Kwale express road, were completely destroyed.
“This year’s flood has taken a new dimension in our area far beyond what we experienced in 2012. We recorded six deaths in the council with the entire area flooded beyond what anyone familiar with the place would have imagined.”
According to him, the damage is beyond the council, even the state.
Anambra, the future is grim for victims
FUTURE of flood victims in Anambra returning home after about two-and-a-half months is grim. They face uncertainties and fear of disease outbreaks.
In a flood alert, six councils of Anambra East, Anambra West, Onitsha South, Ogbaru, Ihiala and Ekwusigo were warned, but at its peak early mid-September, Idemili North Council had already been submerged.
Following the alert, the state government renovated 13 out of 28 Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps in preparation.
The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Chief Paul Odenigbo, told The Guardian during the peak of the floods that more holding camps would come on stream as more refugees emerge.
He said government sensitised residents in the coastal areas on the need to relocate to uplands to avoid being caught napping by the flood.
But when, eventually, the floods came, the entire Anambra West Council was under water, forcing displaced indigenes to relocate to Premier Primary School, Aguleri, Unity Primary School and St. Augustine, Umuoba-Anam, respectively, in Anambra East Council.
The Guardian gathered that the flood submerged houses, farmlands, schools, health centres, police stations and churches and other critical infrastructure.
A trended video showed Onyekachukwu Ibezim, the Deputy Governor of the state, painting a grim picture of life after the floods in the state. He talked about deaths, destruction of property and means of livelihood, making life and living unbearable.
According to him, the volume of flood had overstretched the rescue and intervention plan of the state as each day came with new challenges.
He talked about threat of diseases in the camps of IDPs.
As it stands, not many displaced persons have returned as many moved to secure temporary accommodation, hence it is not possible to do a thorough assessment of the situation.
When contacted, the Chairman of Children of the Farmers Club (CFC), Chris Okwuosa, decried late response and intransigence of the people living along the riverine areas owing to poverty, as according to him, they are mainly farmers and fishermen and depend on daily hustles around the water bodies for livelihood.
Kebbi, still struggling after the floods
INDIGENES of no fewer than 200 villages in Kebbi State are also caught up in the struggle for survival after the floods.
Confirming this to The Guardian in Birnin Kebbi, the Executive Secretary, Kebbi State Emergency Managements Agency, Alhaji Abbas Rabiu Kamba, said thousands of households were affected in 12 councils of the state.
He explained further that government had intensified efforts to relocate affected villagers with more serious cases.
Also, the Managing Director, Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Yauri, said the Commission was working to ensure victims were assisted.
He explained that over 700 bags of grains, including rice, millet and guinea corn were distributed in the affected areas, while thousands of mosquito nets and bathing soaps had been distributed.
He said medical teams for medical outreaches were activated in the area to ensure good health and safety.
Speaking earlier, the Emir of Yauri, Dr. Muhammad Zayannu, commended efforts of the Commission in ameliorating plights of the victims.
The royal father, who was represented by the Sarki Shanga, Alhaji Nasiru Jafar, said the decision of the Commission was timely, considering the condition of flood victims.