“We have not seen flooding like it occurred this year,” said most victims of the recent flooding incident in the North-central part of Nigeria. The disaster is reported to have afflicted hundreds of thousands of Nigerians across different states, leaving many dead and many more displaced. For four days, The ICIR‘s ‘Kunle ADEBAJO visited Niger and Kogi states including the FCT, some of the worst-hit areas, to feel the pulse of the direct victims. In this two-part report, he shares how what is seen as an act of God coupled with the actions and inaction of government has driven various communities to starvation, homelessness and despair.
At past three in the afternoon, after observing the Moslem Friday prayer, Shuaibu Sidi Alli rides through a vast expanse of farmland on his old, black Jincheng bike. The narrow, sometimes bushy, path leads to his village, Adabode, one of the over 60 communities affected by flood in Kogi Local Government Area.
With his home wrecked by the flooding incident of 2012, Alli no longer lives in Adabode, but he still farms in the small village until September. Now, his farm was among several hectares of rice and cassava plantation laid to waste by the recent flood.
During a visit to the village, one could see what used to be a delightful stretch of green crops, now a dull sight of brown, slender stems, wilting corn ears and collapsed sheds. “All these areas are cassava farms,” Alli said as we drove past a desolate piece of land. “The flood swept everything away,” he mutters.
The people of Adabode community, because of their closeness to the Niger River, are among the most affected whenever there is flooding. And they suffer neglect from the government when it comes to rehabilitation efforts.
After the 2012 flooding disaster which left 2.1 million Nigerians displaced, the local government guesthouse along Okparake Road, which was under construction at the time, was given to displaced persons as shelter. Some of the displaced, including Alli and the community chief, whose houses were destroyed decided to seek refuge in the guesthouse, while others went back home.
In September, when the waters swept across the town with greater force, the guesthouse once again became a place of refuge for most residents of Adabode. But not only is the space extremely insufficient; the government does not recognise the shelter as an IDP camp and therefore did not provide relief materials to the IDPs.
He said the people have never received anything from the government since the last flooding. Their farmlands have all been destroyed. And the shelter is inadequate to accommodate the displaced. “We are here suffering,” Alli laments.
The guesthouse, consisting of four bungalows with rooftops the colour of desert sand had no ceilings, doors or windows. The displaced persons occupying the buildings have had to cover it themselves using aluminium roofing sheets, wood and sacks. In the period immediately after the flood, as many as fifteen to twenty people could share a single room before dispersing at daybreak in search of food.
Asides the bungalows, the displaced people have also built a contraption made of wood, mats and palm fronds to serve as shelter. Women of varying ages were seen lounging around the open space as children appeared amused by the sight of a visitor.
“We have no food, money” — IDPs cry out, despite approved N3b
On September 16, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) announced that N3 billion has been released to it by the Federal Government to respond to flood disasters in many states.
According to Mustapha Maihaja, the agency’s Director General, the sum was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the first stages of preparedness and response disaster mitigation, and this has motivated NEMA to immediately swing into action.
About a week after this declaration, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also paid Koton-Karfe a visit in September to sympathise with flood victims and assure them of the federal government’s support.
“I am here to look at what has gone wrong and what has happened,” he said. “Land and properties are underwater and after this period when the water recedes, that is really when the hard work begins because those who have lost farmlands need to be restored somehow and need to be compensated including those who have lost houses and property.”
He also said in the following weeks, the government should have been able to assist the victims in returning to their homes and farmlands, and added that it is the duty of the federal and state governments to ensure people are adequately catered for.
Nearly two months after this reassurance, the victims say the government has done very little to alleviate their pain. The need to survive forced many out of their various camps to the marketplace, begging for alms.
“We have many difficulties at the camp,” says Suleiman Musa, 72.
He spoke about accommodation and feeding problem. He said they are yet unable to harvest anything from their rice and maize farms, and as a result have no means to feed themselves or earn income.
“The flooding brought starvation for us … We are in hunger. Our children have all been sent away from school. No food, not to talk of school fees.”
Suleiman says though they hear on the radio that food items will be brought for flood victims; their community is always excluded while other villages get a share. He also recalls that the government promised, in 2012, to allocate land to occasionally house victims of the flood but nothing has been done about this till date, “that is why we are just hanging around.”
Idris Musa Kareem, an IDP from Irenodu ward who spoke to The ICIR, says his ward is one of the worst-hit and cannot be accessed till date unless with the help of a boat. He says the residents have been unable to access relief materials meant for victims till date, also alleging discrimination.
Muhammad Adamu also confirms that there is an unequal treatment of communities in the local government as materials brought for distribution don’t ever go round.
“We need help,” he pleads. “The little government donated to us has finished. Now, we are in hunger. As we go, there is nothing like foodstuff. Nothing again, even on the farm.
“We are hungry. They should help us more so that when we are going for this dry season farming, we will be able to get something to last us. If we have something to manage till that time, we will be very happy.”
Muhammad also laments how some of the IDPs’ children have dropped out of school and their homes have fallen to ruins. He prays the government to assist with fishing nets so that they can feed their family.
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