New Telegraph

Lamentations of Kogi flood victims and stories of neglect at IDP camps

The raging flood disaster that submerged towns and communities in some parts of Kogi State, including Lokoja, the state capital, destroyed lives and properties worth billions of naira, MUHAMMAD BASHIR, reports that this year’s flooding is far higher than that of 2012

Lessons not learnt from 2012 flooding

The 2012 flood disaster in Kogi State had a huge impact which attracted the attention of government, individuals and corporate organisations, as they came to the aid of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), with food, cash and other items. The government under, former Governor Idris Wada responded quickly, by sourcing resources from corporate organisations, constructed housing estates for victims of the flood and religiously allocating them to different IDP centres. This year’s flood however, is already seen to be higher than that of 2012 as it has rendered landlords and tenants homeless. Some designated areas reserved for IDP camps were empty as some of the victims who had earlier moved to these camps, with the expectation of intervention from government and corporate individuals, had to relocate to the homes of relatives and friends because they could no longer remain in the camps due to poor attention.

Communities abandon IDP camps

Our correspondent who went round to access the level of the violent flood, reports that Ibaji, Idah, Bassa Kogi/Koton Karfe and Lokoja Local Local Government Areas were worse hit by the flood. The entire community members at Ibaji Local Government were completely sacked from their home, while farms, particularly rice, yam and other crops were also washed away by the flood. At Onyedega, the headquarters of the local government, a middle-aged man whose fouryear- old daughter died in his arm while trying to move out of the flood to safe ground, could not bury his deceased daughter, because there was no dry land, he had to leave the corpse with the water to flow away. The victims of the flood at Ibaji had relocated to Idah, a nearby local government to seek refuge. At Kogi/Koton Karfe, the entire riverine communities are currently under water. Edeha Community who are predominantly fishermen and farmers is in extinction as it has been completely submerged to the extent that Engine Boats and Canoes now sail over it, and one cannot even sight the roofs. The major highway linking the North and Southern part of the country was no longer passable due to the flood that took over the road. The situation created hardship for motorists and economic activities in Kogi State and its environs were negatively affected. Villages and communities, such as Ataji, Edo, Gori, Apata, Gboruko and many others in Lokoja Local Government Area, were completely sent parking from their homes due to the flood which is considered the worst in the history of flood disaster in Kogi State. The victims, as of the time of this report, are currently taking refuge in Button, the headquarters of Kalanda Land. In the Lokoja metropolis, Adankolo, Kabawa and Ganaja Communities were not left out of the flood disaster as houses and major roads were utterly submerged, thereby cutting off the free flow of traffic in these areas.

Community leaders send SOS to messages

Meanwhile, the indigenes of Ibaji Local Government Area, under the aegis of Ibaji Unity Forum (IUF) have appealed to the Federal and State Governments for urgent intervention to ameliorate the suffering of the flood victims in the area. The President of IUF, Mr Stephen Uchola, appealed after he led officials of the organisation to visit some affected communities in Ibaji on Tuesday last week. Uchola urged the Federal and Kogi State Governments to urgently take steps to rescue thousands of people trapped in different communities in the area due to the ravaging flood. He claimed that since the outbreak of the devastating flood that submerged the entire local government and rendered residents homeless, there had not been any assistance from the government and its agencies for the victims. Uchola said that many of the victims were in danger of losing their lives as they were sick without drugs, food and shelter. He added that many have remained trapped in their communities as all the roads in the local government have been taken over by the flood. According to him; “What we saw at the various places we visited necessitated this urgent call on the various arms of government, nongovernmental organisations, philanthropists and donor agencies to come to the aid of the victims. They have lost everything to the flood and are battling to survive the disaster. “We visited some communities and will cover the entire 10 wards in Ibaji LGA. The 10 wards of Onyedega, Ayano, Ujeh, Ayah, Ojila, Odeke, Akpanyo, Unable, Ejule and Analo have been devastated by flood. Dangerous reptiles have taken over the flooded houses and six deaths have been reported so far.” The IUF president noted that in Aniocha in Ojila Ward, a threeyear- old child fell into the flood and died, adding that the casualty figure is low because many of the people could swim. He said that thousands of people in the area, including children, were sick, stranded and eager to leave the area, but could not because the volunteers using wooden boats to evacuate them could not do much. “Having lost their source of livelihood, they are now helpless and praying for relief assistance, especially food, medicines, clothing and shelter. ”If these are not provided urgently, from what we experienced, many will not survive this harsh condition. “Unfortunately, those already evacuated to Idah Town and some neighbouring states are also suffering, finding it difficult to cope, with some of them wearing one dress since they were rescued.” “Many of them have no place to sleep; their condition is very pathetic and they are crying for help,” Uchola added. He, therefore, called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Kogi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), to urgently intervene and evacuate the victims to safe places and provide much-needed support to the local government. “We are sending this Save-Our-Soul message to President Muhammadu Buhari and Gov. Yahaya Bello as well as NEMA to come to the rescue of our people. “These people cannot help themselves under the present circumstances and their survival now depends on support from the government and donors,” he said.

Rice farmers lose FGN/IFAD assisted farms

Also, Rice farmers who are beneficiaries of the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) under the FGN/IFAD assisted project in Kogi have lamented over the colossal loss of their rice farms to flooding. These beneficiaries are vulnerable farmers under the IFAD-VCDP Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF), aimed at cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural farmers. This is a clear story of flying from frying pan to fire as several of these people may develop disaster-induced high blood pressure which may degenerate into other serious issues because their only hope of survival was taken away by the flood. The farmers, who are mainly from Lokoja, Ibaji and Ajaokuta Local Government Areas, told our correspondent that all their rice farmlands have been submerged by flooding. The Ibaji Local Government Liaison Officer, Mr Achogu Fredrick, said about 216 rural farmers in Ibaji who benefitted from the IFADVCDP RPSF, have all lost their rice farmlands to flooding. According to him, each of the 216 farmers were having one hectare of rice farmland totaling 216 hectares in Ibaji, and all have been submerged. He stated that IFAD/ VCDP painstakingly funded RPSF to pull farmers from the dungeon of poverty created by Covid 19 in the system, unfortunately the flood have pushed the people back into hunger and starvation. ‘’The RPSF grant which was a palliative to support us as vulnerable rural farmers to cushion the effect of COVID-19, has been lost again. ‘’A total of 216 farmers who benefitted from the RPSF grant have lost everything to the flood. Indeed, it is a double tragedy for us. ‘’We did not only lose our farmlands, but also our houses and properties. Presently the fear of what tomorrow holds for the farmers is what is in the heart of the people now. ‘’We are calling on the Federal, State governments and other relevant organisations to come to our aid, because this is colossal damage which cannot be repaired. The entire Kogi VCDP farmers are in a mourning mood.” Other beneficiaries in Ibaji: Mr Friday Ofor, Joel Ogala, Enefo Festus, Samuel Joseph and Victoria Ajodo, in their separate comments, expressed sadness over the sudden loss of their rice farms to flooding. ‘’We never expected this kind of great loss, it took us unaware. We are appealing to the relevant agencies and authorities to come to our aid,’’ Ajodo said.

Youth, women farmers’ also cry out

In their separate comments, the youth and women farmers’ leaders in both Kabawa and Magajiya Clusters in Lokoja, Seidu Liman and Maryam Abubakar, who were beneficiaries of RPSF described the loss as great damage to them and their families after investing time and resources only to be swept away by the flood. Liman said the devastating effect of the loss of their rice farmlands to flooding would be huge on them and their well-being. They further called on the government to come to their aid by providing palliatives for immediate relief. The affected farmers in all they did not only lose their farmlands, but also their properties. They stressed that the flood had further exposed them to more sufferings than before.

IFAD/VCDP coordinator speaks

Speaking on the incident, Dr Stella Adejoh, State Programme Coordinator of IFAD/VCDP, expressed sadness over the destruction of rice farms of the vulnerable rural farmers by flooding. According to her, several people lost their means of livelihood during the COVID-19 pandemic and consequently faced hardships including vulnerable rural farmers. She explained that IFAD-VCDP through the RPSF grant decided to help the vulnerable farmers affected by the pandemic to bring them out of their poverty situation. Adejoh said the farmers were provided with grants in form of inputs by IFAD such as fertilizer, certified rice seed, and selective and nonselective herbicides, among others. She noted that a total of about 614 rural farmers cut across the four rice-producing local government areas of Lokoja, Ibaji, Ajaokuta and Kabba/Bunu, benefitted from the RPSF in the state. ‘’It is very unfortunate and devastating that these poor vulnerable farmers have now lost almost everything due to flooding. I feel very sad and demoralised over the colossal loss,’’ she said.

Kogi government says it has intervened

But the Kogi State government says it has begun the distribution of relief items to flood victims in the nine affected local government areas of the state. The affected local government areas are Lokoja, Kogi, Ajaokuta, Ibaji, Idah, Ofu, Igalamela- Odolu, Bassa and Omala. The items were donated to the state by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Speaking to newsmen shortly after monitoring the distribution process, the state’s Commissioner for Environment, Chief Victor Omofaiye, warned officials against diversion of the materials. Omofaiye appealed for more support from the Federal Government, corporate bodies and well-to-do individuals to ameliorate the sufferings of the victims. On her part, the Acting Executive Secretary of Kogi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mrs Margret Akuh, was also on the ground to monitor the exercise. The materials consist of vegetable oil, red oil, beans, garri, rice and tomato paste, among others.

NIWA also intervenes

On its part, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) released boats to provide services for stranded travellers in Ganaja Village, Lokoja and Koton Karfe of Kogi. This follows a directive from the NIWA Managing Director (MD), Dr George Moghalu aimed at easing the sufferings of travellers, from outside and within the state, caused by the flood. Mr Jibril Dardau, NIWA General Manager, Corporate Affairs, disclosed in a statement issued in Lokoja. The General Manager said that the directive became imperative because the flood of 2022 surpasses that of 2012, ravaging several communities in Kogi. According to NIWA gauge readers in Lokoja, it’s a fact that the 2022 flood level is reading 13. 22 meters as against 12. 84 meters reading of the 2012 flood level “This clearly shows that this year’s flood level surpasses that of 2012 flood level by 0.38 meters, which makes it dangerous and frightening. “It’s unfortunate that the flood has overtaken some major roads in Ajaokuta, Lokoja and Koton Karfe Local Government Areas of Kogi, thereby impeding normal and easy movements by motorists and commuters. “The flood has made the highways impassable for travellers from or through Lokoja to Abuja, thereby creating gridlocks and serious hardship on Nigerians,” he said.

Relief materials meant for IDP camp allegedly diverted

In another twist, flood victims in Lokoja, who are living in the Internally Displaced Camps, are currently witnessing the most devastating moments in their lives as they now feed from hand to mouth, while relief materials meant for them have been allegedly diverted. Our correspondent who took a look at the activities happening in Adankolo and Gadumo IDPs camp, reports the challenges of the flood victims and allegations against some individuals who are supposed to bring smiles to their faces. Nine local government areas in Kogi is currently suffering from the devastating effect of this year’s flood, namely: Lokoja, Kogi-Koto, Ajaokuta, Ofu, Igalamela-Odolu, Bassa, Idah, Ibaji and Omala, during which about 600 hectares of farmlands and property, including houses, worth billions of naira were destroyed. Seven persons; four in the Ibaji Local Government Area and three from the Ajaokuta Local Area of the State lost their lives at the peak of the flood. The IDP camps are all full to the brim as flood victims beg to survive daily. Our correspondent visited two IDP camps, in Lokoja Local Government Area precisely, Adankolo, and Gadumo; what was observed was terrible. In the two IDP camps, there is no access to basic facilities such as water, toilets, and a suitable place to lay their head. Some flood victims and their families sleep outside in the night, without mosquito nets, thereby exposing themselves to disease outbreaks such as Cholera, Typhoid, Malaria and many more. Dangerous animals such as snakes and scorpions are now regular visitors since their new abode is not habitable for living. In the Gadumo IDPs camp, some of the affected flood victims have accused some government officials in Kogi State of allegedly diverting the food items and other relief materials sent to them to cushion their suffering. A victim in one of the IDP camps said; “They brought pieces of indomie, and even the garri they brought, we shared four cups for each family and they came with certain people that were carrying arms. We could not say anything. We are suffering. They came in with their vehicles, and we heard that this is what they brought to reduce our suffering. But what we got was a slap in our faces. “When they started sharing things, they packed them in a small nylon bag to give to us. I can show it to you. The number of people who shared this thing packed in small nylon is very few. The rest, they took it somewhere else. “From our calculation, they brought 15 mattresses and five bags of garri for 59 households. This they said is from the state government. They didn’t give us rice as widely speculated.” Another flood victim said; “Food items were brought to our camp. Surprisingly, a self-acclaimed chief from Gadumo came, insisting that he is acting under the instruction of a local government chairman to share foodstuff meant for us that have been displaced from our respective homes. He and his fully armed men later took almost all the food items brought to our camps, leaving us to suffer. “One of the shocking scenarios is that they came with a video camera and photographers were snapping pictures, making it look as if they were distributing large foodstuff to us; meanwhile, nothing of such. “We discovered that they took this material to share it with their loved ones who are not flooding victims. I know God is not asleep. Whatever they are doing now, I strongly believe that they will face the consequences in the future.” In the same vein, another IDP identified as Zacchaeus said; “We are about three weeks here, while some of us are getting to a month in this IDP camp. They said we should relocate to higher ground, and that is why we are here. Since we came here, we have been seeing SEMA coming here and some government officials, but no security, no water. “Many of us are sick. Mosquitoes keep biting us. Everything is politics now. The chairman of our local government came here. As he was going, he gave us some food items tied in nylon bags. He gave us some food items and relief materials that are not up to anything and took the remaining ones away. Since we are here, we have not seen any meaningful help from the government. “We are now beggars in our state. If not for this flood that sacked me and my entire family from my home, I won’t be here looking for someone to help me. God should hear our cry because this suffering is becoming unbearable. Instead of people showing empathy for us, they are diverting what is meant to ameliorate our hardship.” An official from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) who never wanted her name mentioned, confirmed the development to our reporter. She hinted that the order was from above and they could not do anything to salvage the situation at hand.

No disease outbreak in IDP camps in Kogi – Govt

Meanwhile, the Kogi State Government has said there is no disease outbreak in any of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the wake of flooding in the state. Dr Zakari Usman, Kogi Health Commissioner, made the pronouncement during an assessment tour of various camps in the state. He said the positive development was a result of the government’s proactive steps at the continuous assessment of the health conditions of the inmates for quick response aimed at preventing any outbreak of disease. “Today’s visitation and assessment are to give us first information on what we need to do in the area of succour to the various victims, to ensure good health conditions as they (victims) temporarily stay in the IDPs’ camps. “We have seen the number of households in the various camps and by God’s grace we shall be able to provide them with the necessary health facilities such as Anti Malaria Prophylaxis and Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs), especially for pregnant women,” he assured.

Flood recedes, heat commences

Recovering from the devastating effect of the receding flood in Lokoja, Kogi State, the victims living in the IDP camps have expressed fear of possible excruciating heat soon. Some affected flood victims while reacting to the emerging hostile atmospheric condition in Lokoja, the State capital, described the weather condition of the area, at this time of the year, as terrible.

They called on the State Ministry of Health to begin vaccination of people against cerebrospinal meningitis and other heat-related diseases. They said there might be a possible outbreak of diseases during this period. “After gradually getting out of the steam of the devastating effect of floodong in many parts of the state, we are gradually being welcomed to another ugly side of nature.

This time, excruciating heat,” Andrew, a flood victim in one of the IDPs camps, told our correspondent. Another victim, who simply wants to be known as Elizabeth, expressed the fear that, “with the way things are, I pray that God almighty will show mercy on us not to go through excruciating heat.” “We hope and pray that the flood recedes faster than expected so that authorities concerned could supply potable water to the public.

Surely, we need more water to drink than before due to heat,” she said. Alhaji Mohamed Sani, in his comment, said, “My family and I are warming up to resort to sleeping outside. If the heat becomes unbearable, we would have no option than to be sleeping outside, the security risk involved notwithstanding.”

He called on the State Ministry of Health to begin vaccination of people, especially youths, against heat-related diseases. According to former Kogi State Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr Godwin Tijani, heat-related illnesses occur due to the inability of the human body to cope with a particular heat load which are: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat stroke, among others. He identified tiredness, dizziness, headache and feeling sick as some of the symptoms of heat-related diseases and urged the flood victims to live and sleep in well-ventilated houses and avoid overcrowded areas, among other precautionary measures to ease the effect of heat and its related diseases.

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