By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
The popular saying that “water has no enemy” seems not to be the experience of many in some parts of the country, especially since the rainy season started. Or how does one explain to a man who lost all his belongings to flood in Karu, an Abuja suburb, that water has no enemy?
When the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), warned that 11 states risked excessive flooding from August to October this year, as their various soil moistures had reached or were close to saturation, the residents of Angwan Dan Hazimi, a village in Karu, never thought the message was for them.
The states listed include Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Kwara, Nasarawa, Yobe and Zamfara. NIMET in its report on Rainfall Situation and Prospects of Flooding in August to October 2016, signed by its Head of Corporate Communication, Eva Azinge, revealed that the saturation of soil moisture in the affected states was due to cumulative high intensity rainfall in June and July.
Residents of Angwan Dan Hazimi had prepared for the day’s work on August 15. They did not imagine that the rain, which started at 7.30-8pm would leave them in ruins. Aside the residents watching six houses washed away and others damaged, they also saw their kith and kin injured.
When Daily Sun visited the village, Alhaji Abdulmumuni Isiaka, a builder and Mohammed Gabiru, a banker, were offering assistance to some families whose houses were still partially submerged. In some places, the effect of the flood was clearly on the fence.
Gabiru said the river which overran its bound as a result of the torrential rainfall, swept away the only bridge liking the community with Ado, four vehicles including an SUV, a mother and her three kids. He disclosed that an elderly woman, who came visiting her son-in-law was rescued by neighbours shortly before the three bed-room flat she was in collapsed and was washed away. She was rescued along with her seven-year-old grandson. Her son in-law and the wife had gone out before the unfortunate incident.
A newly married woman who was pregnant was lucky to be rescued by her husband and brother-in-law and rushed to the hospital before the four-bed-room flat they were living in came down. Unfortunately, she lost the pregnancy.
Chairman of Karu Local Government and some emirs visited the ravaged area with a promise to compensate those who lost their houses immediately after the rains.
It was like evil spirit visited us
For Obeta Chinedu, who has been living in his personal house for 10 years, the harvoc left by the flood was synonymous with evil spirit visiting his environment:
“This house is one of the lucky ones still standing. It has been existing for 10 years, it was one of the first houses built within this environment. Though we are close to the river, we gave enough gap as stipulated by the law but water has been eating away the ground gradually before this unfortunate incident.
“You can see that the only bridge linking us with other community has been washed away. The point is nobody will deliberately set out to become a victim of this kind of thing even though you spent your money to put up the building. The river keeps increasing and washing away homes because a lot of drainages have been channeled into the river.
“This is my first time of seeing this kind of destruction, is like an evil spirit invaded here in the night. Had this occurred at midnight and not at 7.30 to 8pm that people were still awake, lot of lives would have been lost. Before 9pm these havocs occurred, all areas affected were washed away in 30 minutes because the water was rowing like an ocean. The houses still standing are no longer safe because the water level rose almost to lintel level.
“We want to appeal to government to come to our aid. We are citizens of this country, even if we have to move we don’t know where to move. We are not safe. I heard the jingle on the radio asking those living close to river to move, but where to?
“Government has to come to our aid. The only borehole serving us is in danger of being washed away. The best solution is to channel this water. Land is a gift of nature and when I bought this land, I did nott envisage this kind of thing.
“The man who just finished building his house and was about to move in had plans to build a fish pond to sustain his family, but he has lost his home and he did not sleep in it for one day.
“Two families that were already operating fish ponds lost all because of the rain. They have lost their houses, the land and their sources of livelihood. It is a very serious matter.”
Rains washed away my home on eve of my moving in
The case of Adebisi Ayetoro, an employee of Federal High Court, Abuja, is a pathetic one. He left a rented apartment with the hope of moving into his own house but lost all s on the eve of final movement:
“On Sunday, August 14, 2016, after completing the building, I moved in with all my loads with the intention of staying. But on Monday evening, the building was history.
“I started building in 2012 and it took about four years to complete. I spent nothing less than N6 million and this is minus properties that were washed away by the flood. I sacrificed a lot to put up this building because I wanted to say goodbye to rented apartment.
“Since I do not have anywhere to stay, I had to send my family to Lagos. I cannot be hanging around with my family. I am squatting with one of the families whose house was not affected by the flood. I am confused, I do not know what to do next, I do not have any other plan. I moved out of a rented apartment with the hope of moving into my own place, all that has been dashed.
“We have seen different people come here since the incident, we do not know who they are. They claim they are sent to come and take photographs of the place and we do not know what will be the outcome. I just pray people will not come and take advantage of us and use us to enrich themselves.
“This place is not close to the carnal. In Lagos for instance, there is a certain square meters one must not exceed when building close to a river or carnal. Before I bought the land, I made sure this was applied. I ensured the distance was far from the river.”
Angry residents confront govt officials
Officials from Nasarawa State Government led by one Al-Hassan visited the area but met angry residents who accused them of taking advantage of their plight to make personal gains.
“We are not here to take advantage of anybody. The state government sent us here after the media reportage of this incident. We are here to take statistical data of buildings that collapsed and those who lost their lives but nobody is willing to cooperate with us,” Al-Hassan lamented
When challenged by one of the affected persons, he replied: “It is not by force, we can decide not to take it. That was why I started by extending my sympathy to you for what happened. You do not expect me to come here today and start building your houses immediately. You do not know what I am coming with or what I am willing to put down, you were not the one who invited us.
“I am the team leader, nobody has invited the state nor the local government to come here. I took it upon myself along with the Esut Karu, the chairman of the local government to visit here the very day this incident happened, we were here till 12 midnight.
“I was the one who took photographs of this incident and other things. I took them to the media, the governor saw it and directed the chairman of the local government to come back and get the statistics of buildings affected and the number of people that died. We are not demanding any form of gratification from anybody be it recharge card or water that will make you say we are here to take advantage of the situation.
“The photographs are not going to be used for my personal gain. I know this is painful, anybody who has built before will know it. Is not a cheap thing to venture into. In your case we thank God you did not loss anybody.
“We welcome everyone to Karu, we welcome visitors because we know they are the ones developing Karu. I am not in the know of what the government wants to do, I am just a messenger. I am here to gather documentary evidence to write my report. Ours is just to alert that the prediction of NIMET has come to pass in Karu, Nasarawa State.”