Flood Sacks Benue Communities, Victims Recount Ordeal


• 2,600 houses built across drainages, water channels slated for demolition

• NEMA arrives with relief materials from Abuja

George Okoh in Makurdi and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

Communities in Benue State devastated by torrential rainfall and flooding have been counting their losses. Over 2,769 households were affected and many residents of Makurdi, the state capital have since fled their homes.

THISDAY gathered that the state government has designated two shelters to accommodate 82,139 victims, while properties, farm produce and businesses estimated at millions of Naira have been lost to the flood.

According to the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Boniface Ortese, places affected included Achusa, Idye, Wurukum Market, Genabe, Industrial Layout, Demekpe, Wadata Market, Katungu, behind the Civil Service Commission, Agboughul-Wadata among others in Makurdi.

He said, “In Achusa, 200 houses were affected with 5,125 persons displaced. In Idye, 217 houses with 5,200 persons displaced. Also, behind the Civil Service Commission, 200 houses were submerged in flood and 5,777 persons were displaced.
“At Genabe, 200 houses were affected with 5,021 persons displaced, 218 houses around the Wurukum Market were affected with 1,000 persons displaced, and at Wadata Market, 150 houses were affected and 4,300 persons were displaced.”
“Similarly at Industrial Layout, 69 houses were flooded and 4,310 persons displaced; Demekpe 111 houses were affected while 7,820 persons displaced,” the official said.

Ortese further said 137 houses were flooded in Katungu, with 6,031 persons displaced, while at Agboughul-Wadata, 201 houses were affected and 5,728 persons displaced.

He said SEMA, in conjunction with the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, have embarked on an assessment visit to the affected areas to assess the level of damage. He disclosed that the federal government has provided food and other relief materials to the victims of the flood disaster through NEMA.’

As an immediate measure to combat the flood, the General Manager, Urban Development Board, Mr. Richard Agwa disclosed that already over 2,600 houses built across drainages and water channels have been earmarked for demolition. Agwa said he was awaiting approval for the demolition from the State Executive Council. One of the affected residents at the Media Village, Mr. George Okoh, a staff member of THISDAY Newspaper, said the flood could have drowned his entire family.

Okoh said, “At about 1.00 am (Wednesday), the rains became heavier and when we woke up in the morning, our rooms were completely flooded. In fact, if not for some neighbours who alerted us, we would have probably drowned in the room and as you can see, the place is deserted and it is a major disaster. I have evacuated my family to a safer place. Our properties were destroyed.”

Another resident narrated that three of his neighbours were not so lucky, as they reportedly drowned in the water.
A statement by MEMA’s Media Head, Sani Datti said following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, its Director General, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja sent a reinforcement of another contingent of humanitarian officers headed by Director (Search and Rescue),

Air Commodore Paul Ohemu, from the headquarters in Abuja in addition to the officers of the North Central Zonal Office in Jos, were drafted to deliver immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected persons in the various.
“Seven 30-tonne trucks filled with relief materials arrived Makurdi at the weekend. The relief materials were made of 27 different items including foodstuff, rice, children clothes, building materials, foodstuffs and other household items” the statement added.

Hinting on one of the measures to halt the flooding, Maihaja said the agency had not received any official communication from the Cameroonian government on the possibility of opening Lagdo Dam that caused the 2012 flood.

The State Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Mr. Joseph Utsev admitted that the state was not prepared for the volume of flood that confronted it.

Utsev said Makurdi Township lacked drainages that could channel rainwater into River Benue. He also added that River Benue needed to be dredged to avoid a repetition of the 2012 disaster.