Survival Agenda for Kebbi Flood Victims

0

With over 14 out of 21 local government areas in Kebbi State flooded, resulting to loss of lives, houses, farmlands and livestocks, Eromosele Abiodun writes that the victims, who have been displaced from their homes and farms, need urgent help to survive

A growing number of communities across the world, both coastal and inland are finding themselves underwater. Extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts are increasingly to blame.

Floods are the most common and among the most deadly natural disasters the world over. In Nigeria, they have brought destruction to communities and in many areas they are getting worse. As global warming continues to exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather, Nigeria’s floodplains are expected to grow by approximately 45 per cent by century end.

Nigeria’s climate experts opine that there has been changes, which is evident in the increase in temperature, variable rainfall, rise in sea level and flooding, drought and desertification, land degradation, more frequent extreme weather events, affected fresh water resources and loss of biodiversity.

The durations and intensities of rainfall have increased, producing large runoffs and flooding in many places in Nigeria.

Rainfall variation is projected to continue to increase. Precipitation in southern areas is expected to rise and rising sea levels are expected to exacerbate flooding and submersion of coastal lands. Droughts have also become a constant in Nigeria, and are expected to continue in Northern Nigeria, arising from a decline in precipitation and rise in temperature.

Lake Chad and other lakes in the country are drying up and at risk of disappearing. Recently, following heavy rainfall, dams and rivers over flowed their banks resulting to flooding of several communities in Kebbi State. Kebbi, which is one of the poorest state in Nigeria had 15 of its 21 local government areas under water. Houses, government facilities such as general hospitals, prisons, farmlands, and livestock were totally submerged with floods. Also, countless human lives were lost, with many who were able to survive now sheltered in internally displaced persons camps.

Compromised Dams

From Sabon Gari in Birnin-Tudun, a border between Sokoto and Kebbi down to Tugga Bridge in BagudoLocal Government, an area of about 350 kilometres, to River Rima, all are submerged with floods. Residents told THISDAY that Guranyo and Bakalori Dams located in Zamfara and Sokoto States respectively were built to protect the Kebbi State from being flooded. However, the dams that were built over 40 years ago has been covered with sand. The sand, they said, were not evacuated for 40 years meaning that the original depth and the capacity of the dams were reduced.

“It is no more up to its original depth. That’s why whenever the water comes, the volume of water the dam is supposed to contain will be less and that’s why they sometimes open some doors for water to flow. Don’t forget, if you take a geographical map of Nigeria, Kebbi is just like a valley- we’re just like a pipe conduit for water. The Bakalori and Guranyo dams discharge water in Kebbi, “said a local, Amaru Jato.

The Deputy Chairman Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (KSEMA), Sani Dododo told THISDAY that the dams were constructed to provide water for irrigation (dry season farming).

“After discharging the water, the water will continue from Augie LGA, down to Argungu, then to BirninKebbi. From Birnin Kebbi down to Bunza, down to SuruDakingari, to Bagudo, to Koko Bese, to Shanga, from Shanga Yauri, to Ngaski, which is the discharging point, very close to Kainji Dam in Niger State. From here to Tugga is 350km, from Tubbe Bridge, i.e. the end of River Rima, from Tugga down to Ngaski, which is the beginning of River Niger, so, we have two rivers or three discharging water in Kebbi.

“Then there’s another dam in Niger Republic discharging water through Dandi Local Government at Ndolekena, border of Kebbi or Nigeria and Niger Republic. All of these dams are also discharging water in Kebbi State. So, that’s why Kebbi is just like a conduit of water, which is why we have this problem of flooding.

“So, if this problem is to be solved, there must be a contact between the federal government about these dams, then the neighbouring countries Cameroon and Niger Republic, i.e. Lake Chad authority, then Kebbi, then Niger State. All these must be on the table for negotiation, to see how we can find a solution. Kebbi is like a conduit for water, that is what is happening now,” he said.

The 350km, he stated, runs through 11 of the 21 local governments in Kebbi. They are: Augie, Argungu, Birnin-Kebbi, Kalgo, Bunza, Suru, Bagudo, Shanga, Ngaski, Yauri, Koko Besse.

“That is why NIMET gave out the warning that 11 local governments are going to be affected. That was the focus. But now we are about 15 high-risk local governments in Kebbi State and the number may increase at any time. Even those ones that are not part of the focus are also affected. There is no local government in Kebbi State, which is not affected by the floods, but the degree varies, “he said.

Flooding, he revealed, occur in the state every year since 1980, “almost yearly, but this year’s flooding has been the most serious. We can’t say how many farmlands have been affected, because the number keeps increasing. We have lost human lives. A boat capsized in Geheru in Jega Local Government while 10 passengers were on board; all of them, females and children. We were able to rescue only two. We have discovered eight bodies now. Two are yet to be found. Then we have another six people who died recently in Arewa Local Government, a whole family; husband, wife and children as a result of the floods and rainfall.

“Then we have another body at Yabo in Yauri. Another person died at Kende. Another at Koko Town in Koko Besse Local Government, we are yet to find the body. Three more bodies were recovered at Dankowasogu. In all, we have recorded about 31 deaths caused by the floods. Whether the number will increase, we don’t know, because we are still experiencing more flooding and rainfall.”

Destroyed Farmlands

A farmer and resident of Duku, Birnin Kebbi, AbubakarMaidana told THISDAY that he and members of his community lost everything to the disaster.

“I’m a farmer. I plant rice and millet on more than five hectares. I was around the day the water reached my farm. I was able to quickly harvest some millet, but the water has destroyed everything else. I can’t quantify the loss I have suffered. I’ve been a farmer all my life. About 10 years ago, we experienced something close to this.

“It is a painful experience for my family and me. We pray that God will give us succour. I’m appealing to the government and the international community to come to our aid. We are also calling on the government to construct more bridges across the waterways.”

Executive Chairman Kalgo LGA, Mohammad Shamsudeen Kalgo told THISDAY that more than 200 houses were lost in one community.

“We call this area Shia Danfili and the other side is Shia Antunula where we lost more than 150 houses. Some of the victims are staying with their relatives. We have had had meetings with stakeholders and traditional rulers. More than 100 persons are homeless. Some are seeking shelter with their relatives. We thank God that there was no loss of life here. All of these places have been destroyed by water.

“It is the first time that we are having destruction on this scale. For more than 100 years, nobody can say they’ve seen any flooding like this in Kalgo Local Government; this is the first time that we’re seeing all of this. The state government has given us approval to provide relief materials for the victims. We’ve started distributing it, “he said.

He added, “this is not the only place that was affected. There is a village, Hirinshi, it is under Badaria Maganzaward. We lost more than 100 houses there. There is a place we call Badaria. We have two Badaria in Kebbi. There is Badaria Kalgo, it is a ward, and we lost houses there. Even the Imam of Badaria is taking shelter at a primary school. Both the Imam and the District Head are in Model Primary School in Badaria. They lost their houses.”

On his part, Chairman of Radio and Television Theatre and Art Workers, Kebbi State Chapter and resident of Shia Damshili, in Kalgo LGA, Umar Abubakar Kalgosaid his family house and more than 20 houses were destroyed by the flood.

“I was here when the water came in. Throughout the three days, I was working here, trying to figure out what was going on with the chairman of the local government.The water destroyed my family house. My family members have moved in with our relatives elsewhere. My rice farms were also destroyed, “he said.

At Bunzo LGA, the village Head of Raha community, Haruna Mohammed Raha, who is also a farmer, said he lost his entire farmland to the floods.

He said, “I’m a farmer. Before the floods came, I planted rice, millet and guinea corn. Everything is under water. All of our farms, our crops in the village have been destroyed by water. We don’t know what to do. We are seeking help from the government or anyone else that can help”.

At Jega LGA, the Secretary of Rice Farmers Association,Major Muawuya Aliyu (Rtd.) said the incident happened just about when farmers were about to start harvest.

“In fact, if the floods had delayed for just two weeks, a majority of the farmers would have harvested their crops. The water came suddenly. We were aware there was going to be flooding, but we never thought it was going to be this extensive. So, people were trying to see what they could rescue before the flood came. Usually the floods come slowly, it takes about three to five days. But, this one came overnight.

“We learnt about it, but when we woke up in the morning we just saw water everywhere. So, it took everyone by surprise and that is why nothing could be rescued. It is very difficult to estimate what we have lost in monetary terms, because, you see, it is a very extensive area. The losses are quite huge; I don’t want to put a figure to it.

“We have about 50,000 farmers in Jega LGA alone, that are affected and if you say you will put a figure to the losses; assuming each farmer has just one hectare, and a hectare takes a minimum of five tons. So, that’s quite a large monetary value. There is nothing our members can do. They are just waiting for the water to subside and they’ll start all over again,” he said.

He added, “Individuals have been assisting, the government has promised assistance and yesterday we started seeing trucks coming in with relief materials but they have not stated distributing yet. I learnt they want to start today. We believe succor will come. Some have also lost their homes. All those living around the riverbanks, their homes are gone. Yesterday, somebody said about 500 lost their homes in Jega Town alone, but it should be more than that. We have not considered the villages.”

Lamentation Galore

Relating his experience, a resident of Birnin Tudu, Abubakar Umar said the area has never witnessed flooding of such magnitude since they were born.

He said several neighbouring villages have been submerged and rendered desolate. He said though he was not around when the flooding actually happened, but his wife and entire family managed to run out the house.

“We are seeking assistance from federal government and international agencies to assist us, the state government has been doing their best but we need more help, “he said.

On his part, Sardauna of Bubuchi District, Augie LG, Samaila Mane said the flood has shattered so many things within the area, “majority of our farmlands, crop have been washed away and people devastated because of the buildings that have collapsed on them. We actually need help more than before when you get to the primary school there, you’ll see women and children taking refuge right there, without food eat. There is nowhere for us to sleep, it is a pitiful situation. We need food, shelter, clothing, medicine and other assistance, since about 4,000 residents were affected.”

He said all their farms were actually submerged, leaving them with nothing.

Chairman, Bagudo Local Council, Muhammadu KauraZaga, said, “it is just unfortunate because in the past 100 years we have never witnessed flooding of this magnitude. Majority of our people are badly affected, both their farmlands were completely destroyed, only one person died so far. All the districts under this council were affected, 98 per cent of villages were affected.”

He wants the federal government and international communities to come to the aid of the council, adding that the council was still managing COVID-19 before the flooding, asking for food, seedlings, as alternatives to what they have lost.

He said cows disappeared suddenly, livestock lost and houses collapsed. He said the people were enlightened about the NiMET warning, “In this council area, we have three IDPs camps”.

In the same vein, a resident of Kende, Umaru TugarBeertu, said the natural disaster has dealt the area a deadly blow, as majority of the houses were destroyed, farmlands submerged adding that they have nothing to fall back on.

He said for over 100 years, they have never experienced flooding of such magnitude. He called on the federal government to provide them food and shelter, which is their immediate needs, noting that seedling and other inputs should also be provided.

Head, Tuga Village, Abubakar Muhammed said the level of flooding in the area was caused due to the fact that the area is the confluence of River Niger and River Rima at the Tuga Bridge, which was submerged, cutting of the communities from its neighbours.

He noted that economically it has negatively impacted his people from trading in fishes and food.

He appealed to the federal government to assist the communities to overcome the losses incurred.

Chairman, Koko Besse Local Council, Yahaya Bello said 45 communities were affected by the flooding in the area. He noted that the council has so far constituted a committee on how to better the lives of already displaced people in the six IDPs camps in the council and how to address the dilapidated state of the camps.

He added that currently they have provided them with food, mats, buckets, medicine, mosquito net and other necessary facilities. He pleaded for assistance from both the state and the federal government to alleviate the suffering of his people.

District Head, Dutsi Mani District, Muhammed Koko, said the flooding, which spread across 21 villages, have displaced majority of the residents and destroyed farmlands, along the river side and upland, destroying all the crops.

He appealed to the federal government to give them bed and beddings, food and medicine, which are their immediate needs, appealing that government should relocate majority of those who were hard hit by the development.

Chairman, Shanga Local Council, Yisa Abdullahi said the losses incurred in the council area is about N700m, with more than 10,000 household affected.

He said though the displaced persons were moved to the IDPs camps, “but when the camps were submerged, they were forcefully evacuated family houses”. He said the state government has provided them fund to cater for the IDPs.

Dugu District Head, Yau Abdullahi, said virtually all their farms, especially rice farms have been badly affected. He said other crops were also affected, posing a serious threat to availability of food in the area.

Secretary to Yauri Local Government, Alhassan Adamusaid the flood affected over 1,000 hectares of farmlands, as over 150,000 were affected. He said the waters are from neighbouring communities, noting that the flood is yet to abate.

He appealed to the federal government to provide them with necessary assistance for the affected farmers to survive. He called for the provision of fertiliser, inputs and others to improve the livelihood of the farmers, adding that there are plans to set IDPs camps within the council.

According to the Leader, rice farmers in the area, Ibrahim Numa, the destruction were enormous, adding that water from the hills flooded the entire rice plantations.

Chairman, Ngask Local Council, Abdullahi Buhari, said the farmers were seriously affected in the council area and the state at large, adding that the council, which is the major producer of rice in the state, has been badly affected.

Though he couldn’t quantify the losses incurred, he said most of the farms were submerged, as five IDPs camps have been set up. He added that the farmers are considering yam and cassava cultivation as alternatives to losses incurred on rice so far.