BENUE’S HELLISH WEEK AFTER FLOOD
Kogi’s victims count losses Niger’s riverine communities warned
Pa Gbarka Gwaza, 86, could hardly walk upright due to age, but resting his weight on the metal rod which aids him to move around, he escaped the flood which violently washed his house away at Idye community, beside the Zone 4 Police Headquarters in Makurdi. Baba, as the old man is fondly referred to in the community where he has lived almost all his life could now only hope in God, the government and good-spirited individuals to come to his rescue. “The rains came down heavily and washed away my house, and since then we’ve been through hell. I’ve nowhere to turn to go to for help,” he said.
Pa Gwaza is among many others adversely affected by the flood who are not in a camp, but taking refuge with relatives in other parts of the town, or just wandering around their ruined homes.
But, for 100-year-old Mama Kutsuwe Kwembe, a victim of the flood in Gyado, a suburb of Makurdi, her children had managed to move her to finally settle down to camp life as the state government last weekend declared open the new Makurdi Ultra-Modern International Market to serve as a temporary shelter for the displaced. The centenarian has suffered displacement by flood thrice in recent years, with her personal belongings and household items washed away by the latest one.
Mama Kwembe’s daughter told the visiting wife of the Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom, that her mother who turned 100 last month had her home first destroyed by flood eight years ago. The weak-looking senior citizen, according to her septuagenarian daughter, was also a victim of the 2012 flood caused by the opening of Lagdo Dam in the Republic of Cameroon.
Similarly, Mr. Joseph Wantu and his family of 12 are also among those worst-hit by the flood as his house, located opposite the Zone 4 Police headquarters, was submerged on August 27 and 30.
Wantu, the state correspondent of The Guardian newspaper, even had a near-death experience during the second episode of the flood last Wednesday when he collapsed at his home while the water surged into his four-bedroom bungalow through the front and back doors. He narrated his ordeal thus: “The rain started at midnight. I had already been stressed-out after the first flood on Sunday, August 27, which took its toll on my household as we were displaced. The water receded the days following so we had just returned home when the downpour began heavily again in the early hours of Wednesday. I became very restless when the rains started again. Soon, the entire house was flooded up to waist-level, and I guess it was at that point that I lost consciousness. I was later told in the hospital where I spent several days that my wife raised alarm, which attracted my neighbours, friends and children to the scene.”
He said his family was now counting their losses of household items, electrical appliances, as well foodstuff.
By Wednesday, September 6, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) told Daily Trust that 498 households of different sizes of families consisted of at least 5,000 people had been registered at the camp, temporarily repurposed market premises where commercial activities are yet to commence in earnest, but had been made available for the flood survivors.
Our correspondent observed that the camp houses families displaced from Idye, High Level, Wurukum, Wadata, Gyado Villa, Terwase Agbadu and Kanchio among other areas of Makurdi Metropolis. There is a heavy presence of security personnel at the camp.
Mrs. Yagpa James, 38, with her family of four children, now take shelter in the camp after being displaced from their home at Idye community. “The camp is well-organised and we are very comfortable here. We are receiving the best treatment here with adequate provision of water, light and food,” she said.
Yagpa narrated her family’s hellish ordeal and how they lost household items to the flood as she appealed to the state government to build affordable houses for flood victims on higher ground so that they could permanently relocate from floodprone areas in order to avoid the yearly repeat of trauma.
25-years-old and pregnant, one Mercy Julius, her husband, and a child, fled their flooded vicinity to the camp two days after. But she is worried about her trading items destroyed by the flood and now her inability to pay back the loan taken from LAPO Finance Company for the business which provided livelihood for her family. “I sell food items such as beans, rice and garri. The items perished in the water. My husband, who is a welder, was affected by the flood which ruined the machines he uses to work,” she told Daily Trust.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Authority (BENSESA), Engr. Andrew Chile, said he was satisfied with the adequate supply of water, improved sanitary condition, hygiene and best environmental practices available. “We have given out 400 refuse bags out of the 1,000 on ground. We have also provided victims with toiletries and enough toilets to accommodate the population at the camp. Water supply is adequate and we have begun to educate people on basic hygiene.”
Chile added that the sanitation agency swung into action to clear the overgrown grasses within the vicinity soon after the camp was designated for the victims and also put the 40 toilets located in the market.
Daily Trust gathered that four people are allotted a room based on the head of each family while the NEMA, Red Cross, BENGONET, NAPTP, Air Force Medical Team and Human Rights officials, among others are on ground to tackle various issues.
The International Market was built by a former Governor, Gabriel Suswam, at the twilight of his administration.
At the time of filing this report, SEMA officials disclosed that the agency had received more mattresses from donors for distribution to victims, but with preferences for the aged, children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups.
Mr. Wantu’s house a day after the flood.
Food and other relief materials being distributed to victims
Other activities at the Makurdi camp
Mrs. Julius and her child at the camp