As flood submerges more communities across the country, transporters have continued to count their losses, writes John Iwori
That the flood that has ravaged many communities across the country has caused enormous loss to Nigerians is an understatement. In fact, the direct and indirect loss arising from the flood is so enormous that it is virtually impossible to calculate it in naira and kobo.
Houses and other properties, farmlands, food and cash crops have been ravaged by the flood. Besides, many peoples’ means of livelihood has been destroyed or hampered by the ravaging flood. Thousands of people, if not millions, have been displaced.
Experts said the flood was caused by a disruption in the ecosystem popularly called “climate change” and the opening of the dams in the Republic of Cameroun a few weeks ago. This made River Niger to overflow its banks.
In Kogi State alone, over 600,000, according to the state government, have been displaced. No fewer than 400,000 persons have been displaced by the flood in Delta State. Indeed, yet-to-be estimated residents of several communities across the country have been rendered homeless as a result of the flood.
Nevertheless, transporters are among those that have been worst hit by the flood. This is due to the fact that many highways, particularly inter-state roads have been submerged by the flood.
The worst hit road is the Lokoja-Abuja Road. The road which has remained under construction for years, despite its division into three segments with three different contractors handling it was submerged in the flood. This made the road impassable for days. Commuters were stranded. As a way out, canoes and other makeshift river crafts were used to ferry commuters and their luggage from one side of the road to the other.
The flood is not limited to Kogi State. Benue, Kwara, Delta, Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa and many other states across the country have also come under severe flooding in recent times. Many have also lost their lives or injured in the ravaging flood. This is totally not unexpected as River Niger and River Benue, as well as their numerous tributaries pass through these states.
As if this is not enough, more floods are expected in the days and weeks ahead. Already, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has warned that there will be more floods in the days ahead. It is not only NEMA that is issuing the warnings.
Experts from Jebba Dam Authority have also warned that people living on the plains of River Niger and one of its tributaries, River Kaduna are to expect more flooding until February 2013. The experts explained that what is being experienced so far across the country is white flood. According to them, white flood which is often associated with more devastating destruction is yet to start.
Counting the Loss
In spite of the fact that the flood has not fully subsided in many parts of the affected communities in the country and with the fear of more flooding imminent, many people have been gripped by fear; fear of the unknown.
The anxiety over what will follow another heavy rain or flooding is palpable as Nigerians go out to eke a living daily. In Lagos, many residents have resorted to studying the weather regularly to make appointments and take decisions on where to go and when.
Motorists and pedestrians literally went through hell in their quest to get to their various destinations across the country. A popular television presenter, Miss Nancy Iloh, said she spent days on the road in her attempt to get to the Ondo State capital, Akure for the recent gubernatorial live debate in the state.
She stated that she was caught up in the flood as the vehicle she was travelling with could not wade through the flood and take her to her destination. According to her, at a point, she thought of getting to Benin City and take flight to Akure.
However, flights to Akure unlike Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt are irregular. Besides, she wondered how she can successfully get to Benin City with the flood virtually everywhere on the route to her destination.
Iloh is not alone. Many other Nigerians suffered many losses and pain. In fact, there was pain and sorrow as Nigerians wade through the flood to get their various destinations. To say the least, the heavy rains which resulted in the flooding of several parts of the country have caused hardship to many Nigerians in the affected areas.
Road users were overwhelmed by the ills that trailed the heavy rains and flooding across the country. Metro roads and highways have been taken over by the flood, resulting in long traffic snarls. Some expressways were almost completely cut off. In many cases, it is impossible to link up to these roads and highways.
This is unconnected with the fact that these roads have been virtually washed off by the heavy rains and flood. For a country which infrastructural facilities are grossly inadequate even in few areas that they exist, the flood has succeeded in making the situation worse.
The dilapidated roads, which have suffered neglect and comprehensive regular maintenance over the years, have become worse with the ravaging flood across the country.
A Lagos-based transporter, Mr. Johnson Nwachukwu said his business has been crippled by the heavy rains and flood. Nwachukwu who said he is yet to ascertain the loss he has incurred in his transportation business since the heavy rains and flood set in explained that what he has so far lost to the flood is enormous.
His words: “My brother, I have been seeing flood since I was born but I have not seen one with this magnitude. All my buses going to Akure, Okene, Lokoja, and Abuja have been grounded. It is not that we do not have passengers. We have a lot.
“In fact, since the unfortunate incident of the Dana Air crash on June 3, 2012, there is a steady increase in our passengers going to Abuja. Most of them prefer our fully air-conditioned executive buses. But with the heavy rains and flood, we have been finding it difficult to meet the needs of our customers, particularly our passengers who want to go to Abuja.
“The buses are there but I cannot take the risk of putting them on the road, especially on Lagos-Lokoja-Abuja road. This is because if any of them is grounded in the flood, the loss will be enormous if at all one succeeds in recovering the vehicle.
“Ordinarily, we normally send another vehicle to evacuate our passengers and take them to their destinations whenever any of our vehicles breaks down. But with the flood, we cannot do so because there is no road for the driver of the vehicle to pass and get to the one that has broken down. That means our business is at a standstill.
“That is one of the reasons I am yet to put a figure on the loss I have incurred so far. But you can do a simple Arithmetic of what we have lost by counting the total number of passengers we take to Abuja everyday and multiply them by the number of trips we make in a day.
“This is the only way you can appreciate the enormity of the losses we have incurred since the flood make it impossible for us to ply the road the way we do in the past. My brother, the cost is very huge and it is impacting negatively on our business,” he added.
A passenger, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity at Jibowu, Yaba, a popular bus terminus in Lagos, said it has not been possible for him to make ends meet since the flood started.
“I am self employed. I make money by moving from one point to another to render services which I am paid for. With the flood, I have not been able to meet any of my clients. I am broke. That is why I decided to travel and see one of my relations in Abuja but I cannot do so because there are no buses.
“The cost of the fare for the few ones that are plying the roads are very high. I cannot afford it. That is why I am here. You would have not met me here if I had the right fare because I would have gone with the last bus”, he said.
Is there a way out of the malaise that has plagued transportation as a result of the flood? What are the remedies? In what ways can the plight of victims be ameliorated? Already, President Goodluck Jonathan has in a nationwide broadcast to Nigerians highlighted the challenges faced by the country as a result of the heavy rains and flood.
He announced the setting up of a 34 member committee to raise funds for the flood victims across the country. He revealed that the committee is headed by business mogul and President of Dangote Plc, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. President Jonathan also disclosed that N17.6 billion would be provided as direct financial assistance to the flood victims.
Moreover, NEMA has said it has so far spent N1.3 billion for the provision of relief materials to those affected by the flood across the country. Not a few have however expressed concern on the modalities for the disbursement of the funds and relief materials to the victims.
As Nwachukwu put it: “The real victims across the country must be identified and given succour. Otherwise, the funds will end up in the pockets of government officials and their cronies. It has been happening in the past and I do not see an exception in this case.
“Out of every case you watch on television, listen in the radio or read in the newspapers and magazines, there are thousands, if not millions of unreported cases of where money meant for certain people are diverted by those saddled with the responsibility of administering it. I do not need to mention any name. They are so many. You know it,” he added.
How effective are the strategies put in place to disburse the funds and relief materials to the victims? Will it not end up in the hands of the wrongs persons instead of the real victims of the flood across the country?
What measures have President Jonathan outlined to ensure that the right thing is not only done but also seen to be done to ameliorate the plight of the flood victims in the affected communities? Genuine answers to these and many more questions begging for answers will help in no small measure in providing remedies for the victims of the flood in the affected areas.
Since flooding is an annual phenomenon, the Federal Government must come up with concrete measures to mitigate the plight of victims, particularly in the flood prone areas. To ensure effective implementation, these measures must be broken into immediate, medium and long terms.
“We must learn from countries that have mastered the means and ways to tackle flood. There is nothing wrong in admitting that one does not know something and learn from those who know it. The Federal Government must also muster the political will to implement the measures it has put in place to address the challenges posed by heavy rains and flood across the country.
“Relevant government agencies must be made to be alive to their statutory roles and responsibilities in addressing the plight of flood victims across the country. If they are not meeting up, questions must be asked and answers provided.
“For instance, what are problems NEMA is facing in meeting needs of victims of flood and how can they be tackle in future? Is money budgeted for NEMA enough? When was the funds statutorily approved for it released to it? Does NEMA has the right personnel to meet its mandate? That is the way to go in addressing the challenges posed by flood in the country”, he added.