Floods Wreak Havoc in Niger

Vir­tu­ally all parts of Niger State have wit­nessed one dis­as­ter or the other as a re­sult of floods this year, writes Lal­eye Dipo

THISDAY - - CITY STRINGS -

Forty-three year-old Abubakar Saadu has been in the news in re­cent times al­beit neg­a­tively be­cause he was the man that lost six chil­dren and two wives to the flood that rav­aged Suleja town in Niger State recently. Saadu was able to es­cape with his life in­tact but his chil­dren who clung to him as he spir­ited him­self to safety didn’t be­cause the father preferred to im­ple­ment the Yoruba proverb that if in­ferno en­gulfs one and the child, the first thing to do was to bat­tle to save one’s life first.

Saadu, a tea seller had re­tired home from his shop to the warm em­brace of his family mem­bers but a few hours after ev­ery­one went to sleep tragedy struck.

Heavy rains which started at about 10p.m. and lasted over five hours ac­com­pa­nied by floods had first brought down one of the rooms be­hind thereby al­low­ing water to rush into other parts of the build­ing.

By the time Saadu re­alised what was hap­pen­ing the whole house had been over­taken by water leav­ing him with the op­tion of strug­gling to save his life.

Saadu who said he built the house from the in­come he made from his tea sell­ing busi­ness and moved into its com­pleted part last January after work­ing on the project for three years, said he could not know that his wives and chil­dren had died un­til the flood­wa­ter had re­ceded and could not trace any mem­ber of the family.

His mo­tor­cy­cle was also washed off by the flood­wa­ter.

Saadu now in a state of to­tal de­jec­tion as a re­sult of the in­ci­dent to the ex­tent that Is­lamic schol­ars had to be en­gaged to as­sist him with prayers for him to come back to nor­mal life added “I don’t know what to do next, how will I live with­out other mem­bers of my family.”

One of his two wives that died Sue­bat was said to have been washed away by the flood with her baby strapped to her back. The sec­ond wife who had just de­liv­ered also lost her life with the baby. Their bod­ies were re­cov­ered at about 10a.m. while the re­mains of other mem­bers of the family were yet to be found.

The entire build­ing was in ru­ins with only the de­bris as sign that there was ever a house there.

The story sur­round­ing the death of 25-year-old Ab­dul­lahi Kura was not very clear.

While one eye­wit­ness said the de­ceased saw a float­ing corpse on the river and tried to re­cover it, an­other ex­plained that Kura dived into the river to take what looked like a mat­tress but un­for­tu­nately hit his head on the rock mak­ing him to lose con­scious­ness re­sult­ing in his death.

Nineteen-year-old Shehu Us­man who had just fin­ished his se­nior sec­ondary school ex­am­i­na­tion was also among those that died as a re­sult of the flood.

He was said to be in­volved in res­cue op­er­a­tion when his legs slipped re­sult­ing in his be­ing washed away by the water.

An­other mid­dle aged man was washed from an un­known place to Suleja, but for a tree which stopped him from go­ing fur­ther down he would have also died.

Good Sa­mar­i­tans threw a rope to the al­most life­less man which he man­aged to tie to the tree.

With the rope some young boys were able to res­cue the man who was then taken to the hospi­tal for med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

The ve­loc­ity of the flood was so high that two bod­ies were re­cov­ered from the river in Gwag­wal­ada town sev­eral kilo­me­tres from Suleja.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials of the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (NEMA) the two bod­ies were found float­ing on the river when the at­ten­tion of the agency was drawn to it that they could have been from the Suleja flood dis­as­ter.

In neigh­bor­ing Tafa Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, two lives were re­ported to have been lost to the flood.

As at the last count ac­cord­ing to the state Direc­tor of the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, Al­haji Ibrahim Inga, 18 lives have been lost while eight others have been de­clared miss­ing.

Inga said five others were still in the hospi­tal re­ceiv­ing treat­ment.

In Suleja town alone about 50 houses were com­pletely de­stroyed while not less than 90 build­ings were dam­aged in Tafa Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area.

Sev­eral kilo­me­tres of rice field and maize farms were also washed off in ad­di­tion to cars and other ve­hi­cles that were sub­merged by the flood.

The loss in hu­man lives and de­struc­tion of build­ings was colos­sal be­cause most of the houses were built not more than 20 me­tres from the bank of the river.

The in­ten­sity of the flood was also said to have been ag­gra­vated by water from the Bwari Dam which dis­charged ex­cess water to the river.

The vice chair­man of Tafa Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, Mr. Samuel Yak­woe who cor­rob­o­rated this said the Bwari Dam had im­pounded more than enough water and had to dis­charge it one way or the other.

The State Po­lice Com­mand Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer, DSP Bala Elkana speak­ing in sim­i­lar vein said the Po­lice Force be­lieve that water from one dam must have been re­spon­si­ble for the flood.

As a re­sult of the dis­as­ter, hun­dreds of refugees have emerged with some stay­ing in schools while others hibernate with their re­la­tions.

The Suleja and Tafa lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas in­ci­dents were the height of dis­as­ter oc­ca­sioned by flood and rain­storm in Niger State since the 2017 rainy sea­son started.

The rains which com­menced early around mid May has al­ready taken its toll on sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties in the state the most re­cent be­ing in Minna, the state cap­i­tal last Thurs­day after about three hours of down pour. Many houses along the river path, shops and ve­hi­cles were de­stroyed. The most af­fected ar­eas were Gban­ganu, Dut­sen- Kura Gwari and some parts of Barakin Sale. It was the sec­ond time that rain will wreak havoc in the state cap­i­tal this year.

But for the con­struc­tion of drainage around Minna the state cap­i­tal by the mil­i­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer mil­i­tary pres­i­dent gen­eral Ibrahim Badamasi Ba­bangida this year’s early rain and flood would have swept off most houses in the state cap­i­tal. This not­with­stand­ing, the bridges and cul­verts link­ing sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties es­pe­cially the one at old Mypa School Road and an­other one in Bosso have col­lapsed while four others are un­der threat if the rains con­tinue with its present in­ten­sity.

“We must thank Gen­eral Ba­bangida for what he has done, the entire res­i­dents of Minna should appreciate him be­cause but for the con­struc­tion of this drainage the story would have been dif­fer­ent.

“The present ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov­er­nor Abubakar Sani Bello has con­tin­ued from where Gen­eral Ba­bangida stopped, by the next rainy sea­son the peo­ple of Minna will have lit­tle or noth­ing to fear about flood be­cause this job cost­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion sev­eral mil­lions of Naira would have been com­pleted,” Mr Vatsa said.

Though the ca­su­alty as far as loss of hu­man lives is con­cerned has not been high com­pared to the Suleja in­ci­dent the loss of prop­erty and de­struc­tion of in­fra­struc­ture within the short pe­riod the rains started has been colos­sal.

The first sign that this year’s rain will bring with it tears and sor­rows came early May when tor­ren­tial rains wreaked havoc in two lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas, Edati and Mokwa.

Elec­tric poles span­ning over five kilo­me­tres were pulled down, schools, churches, mosques and health clin­ics had their roofs blown off

As at the last count ac­cord­ing to the state Direc­tor of the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, Al­haji Ibrahim Inga, 18 lives have been lost while eight others have been de­clared miss­ing

even as sev­eral hectares of freshly cul­ti­vated farm­lands were sub­merged by the flood that ac­com­pa­nied the rain.

The dis­trict head’s palace was de­stroyed along with the car parked in front of the house when an elec­tric pole fell on both the house and the car.

No life was lost but the com­mu­ni­ties in the two lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas are still count­ing their losses be­cause no as­sis­tance has come their way ei­ther from the fed­eral, state or lo­cal gov­ern­ments. Part of the bur­den the vic­tims have to carry is to search for money to buy fresh seeds for plant­ing and the re­con­struc­tion of their dam­aged houses.

The much the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments could do so far was to visit the vic­tims who have be­come refugees on their land and make prom­ises of as­sis­tance which are yet to come.

The dis­as­ter also moved to an­other part of the state but in the same senatorial dis­trict where the bridge link­ing La­pai and Muye was washed off by flood that ac­com­pa­nied sev­eral hours of rain­fall.

As a re­sult, ve­hic­u­lar move­ments from this part of the state to ei­ther Abuja or Lokoja were dis­rupted for days un­til the state gov­er­nor, Al­haji Abubakar Sani Bello di­rected the state Road Emer­gency Main­te­nance Agency to im­me­di­ately move in to res­cue the sit­u­a­tion. Mo­torists ply­ing the route had to seek al­ter­na­tives to get to their des­ti­na­tions.

If the dis­trict head of Edati was lucky to be alive after the in­ci­dent in his do­main, the vil­lage head of Masama in the Duma dis­trict of Borgu Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, Malam Ab­dul­mu­muni Mo­hammed was un­lucky be­cause he lost his life when the roof of his palace col­lapsed on his head dur­ing the heavy rain­fall. More than 20 of his sub­jects were said to have sus­tained var­i­ous de­grees of in­juries re­sult­ing in their be­ing hos­pi­talised at the New Bussa Gen­eral Hospi­tal. Th­ese peo­ple and others also lost their houses and farm­lands to the dis­as­ter. In nearby Mashegu Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area and on the same day six peo­ple lost their lives to rain­storm. Flood was also re­ported to have swept off not less than 500 an­i­mals in ad­di­tion to the de­struc­tion of many houses in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment area.

The Mashegu Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment chair­man, Al­haji Shuaibu Kaboji had to rush to Minna to seek for as­sis­tance from the state gov­ern­ment for the vic­tims.

“The sit­u­a­tion is se­ri­ous, the loss in hu­man lives and ma­te­ri­als is enor­mous, it is be­yond our con­trol we need as­sis­tance,” Kaboji de­clared

The col­lapse of the bridges at Bokani and Tatabu in Mokwa Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area were to fol­low within a spate of three days.

Th­ese bridges con­structed on a Trunk A road link­ing the North­ern and South­ern parts of the coun­try at this axis. Fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the bridges move­ment of men and ve­hi­cles to both sides of the coun­try have been dis­rupted. A fuel tanker and an­other truck loaded with fruits head­ing for the north­ern part of the coun­try were washed off the road by the flood. Sev­eral hectares of cul­ti­vated farm­lands were sub­merged caus­ing ad­di­tional losses and ex­penses to the

In Suleja town alone about 50 houses were com­pletely de­stroyed while not less than 90 build­ings were dam­aged in Tafa Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area. Sev­eral kilo­me­tres of rice field and maize farms were also washed off in ad­di­tion to cars and other ve­hi­cles that were sub­merged by the flood

farm­ers who owned the farm­lands.

Peo­ple had to scoop the diesel which they ei­ther sold or con­verted to their per­sonal use. Men of the un­der­world also took un­due ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion by dis­pos­sess­ing trav­el­ers who went through the bush as alternative route to get to their des­ti­na­tions.

One Hadiza Mo­hammed was re­ported to have lost close to N100,000 when thieves way­laid her and others on the alternative route they plied.

An ar­ti­fi­cial bor­der has been cre­ated be­cause mo­torists con­vey­ing passengers to ei­ther the North or South­ern part of the coun­try dis­charge their passengers for the ve­hi­cles at the other end and there­fore re­turn to base.

Traders have been mak­ing brisk busi­ness by con­vey­ing soft drinks, sa­chet water or ed­i­bles like bread and cake to the river side which they sold to stranded trav­el­ers at ex­or­bi­tant prices.

Some mo­torists go­ing to the South­ern part of the coun­try now go by ferry from Nu­peko in Niger State to burst out at Pategi in Kwara State a jour­ney that lasts over one hour be­cause there is only one ferry to trans­port men and goods to and fro.

In the past the cost of fer­ry­ing a car was N5,000 but as a re­sult of the heavy traf­fic the amount has in­creased to N10,000.

Those who could not af­ford to go through Minna- Abuja - Lokoja to Ilorin route now spend days at Nu­peko wait­ing for their turn to use the ferry.

Act­ing Pres­i­dent Pro­fes­sor Yemi Os­in­bajo has how­ever re­newed the hope of the peo­ple that the ac­cess to both the North and the South will be­come pos­si­ble within two weeks fol­low­ing his di­rec­tive that alternative route be pro­vided for mo­torists within the pe­riod.

Os­in­bajo brought back hope to hun­dreds of stranded mo­torists when he paid an on the spot in­spec­tion to the site of the dam­aged bridge.

Sim­i­larly and recently too, engi­neers of the Nige­ria Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion have be­gun the move­ment of heavy equip­ment from Abuja to Tatabu to re­con­struct the washed out por­tion of the rail track in this sec­tion.

Since the dis­as­ter, rail trans­porta­tion be­tween the North and South had been dis­rupted caus­ing the NRC losses of sev­eral mil­lions of Naira daily.

The col­lapse of the bridges at Tatabu and Bokani has again drawn at­ten­tion to the ter­ri­ble con­di­tions of all fed­eral roads in Niger State ne­ces­si­tat­ing the call by the state gov­ern­ment for the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to “de­clare an emer­gency on all fed­eral roads in the state.”

The Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion, Mr. Jonathan Tsado Vatsa after an on the spot in­spec­tion of the dam­aged bridges cried out to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to im­me­di­ately em­bark on the re­pair of the bridges and all fed­eral roads in the state be­cause their present state “is hav­ing neg­a­tive ef­fect on the econ­omy of the state and its peo­ple.”

Vatsa also said the col­lapse of th­ese bridges had re­sulted in heavy duty ve­hi­cles di­vert­ing to other roads in the state a sit­u­a­tion that has now put “un­nec­es­sary pres­sure on th­ese roads be­cause they are not de­signed for th­ese type of ve­hi­cles.”

Vatsa how­ever said that losses as a re­sult of the de­struc­tions across the state were be­yond the fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity of the state gov­ern­ment.

“We want the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­lease money to us from the eco­log­i­cal fund to en­able us at­tend to the press­ing de­mands of our peo­ple

“As a re­spon­si­ble and re­spon­sive gov­ern­ment this is the most ap­pro­pri­ate time for us to lis­ten to the cries of the or­di­nary peo­ple so that they would feel the im­pact of gov­ern­ment,” he noted.

The com­mis­sioner has how­ever in the mean­time ad­vised those re­sid­ing in the river­ine ar­eas of the state to move up land while those around the drainages in Minna should also va­cate to “safer places be­cause the pe­riod for heavy rains has not come.”

While the vic­tims have been count­ing their losses, gov­ern­ment has done lit­tle or noth­ing to bring them suc­cour blam­ing lack of funds for the in­ac­tion.

Ex­perts have how­ever partly blamed the peo­ple for be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the flood es­pe­cially in Minna and other ur­ban towns.

Houses de­stroyed by the flood in Suleja Town

One of the build­ings de­stroyed by the flood in Suleja

What is left of the build­ing where Abubakar Saadu lived with his family

One of the sub­merged ve­hi­cles

Abubakar Saadu lost two wives and six chil­dren in the Suleja flood

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