From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The release of water from the Lado dam in Cameroon has resulted in devastating flood, causing pain and anguish to thousands of people now rendered homeless in Kogi State.
The floods submerged residential houses, churches, mosques, shops and completely washed away household items, farm produce and domestic animals, among others, especially in Lokoja, the state capital, and communities in five other local government areas of the state, namely, Ajaokuta, Kotonkarfe, Idah, Ofu and ibaji , which was the worst hit.
The surging flood became so intense last Sunday night that virtually all the people living around the River Niger in the state capital and its environs woke up to see water in their bedrooms, kitchens and other parts of their residences. By Monday morning, the flood had blocked the Ganaja axis of Lokoja-Ganaja Road, which leads to the eastern senatorial district of the state and, indeed, the southeasten part of the country thus impeding free movement of vehicles and humans, causing gridlock and pains to travellers.
Our correspondent, who visited the axis about 3.30pm on Sunday, saw that many passengers, some going to the East, were stranded as their vehicles could move no more.
This harrowing development was an advantage for canoe operators in the state capital, who cashed in on the situation to make brisk business as they rolled out their canoes to ferry passengers who could not cross the ravaging flood and take them to safer ground, while drivers had to meander through slippery bush paths to connect with the passengers for continuation of their journey to various destinations.
Motorists plying the Abuja-Lokoja highway were also affected by the flood as it took part of the highway, affecting the Navy office at Banda and the military checkpoint along that way. Although it was observed that the flood did not completely lock down the highway, as in 2012, several rehabilitation works on the highway and the early intervention of the Federal Road Safety Corps in controlling the traffic on the highway helped a great deal.
Areas worst hit in Lokoja were Nataco Junction area, Kabawa, Old market, Kpata market, New Market, Adankolo community and Ganaja village, where many houses were submerged in the flood. People were seen moving their families and property to safer places.
A middle-aged man, Deji Samuel, who lived in the Adankolo Victory area, was seen with his wife and children hibernating in an uncomplicated building. He narrated how the flood took over his property when he travelled out of town.
While regretting that he just renewed his tenancy and had no money to get a new accomodation, he said hoodlums capitalized on the situation to loot people’s property. According to him, his tricycle tyres were removed, while he showed this reporter the tricycle that was submerged.
Another affected person who spoke to our correspondent and identified herself as Hajia Ramotu Jimoh, said she had to relocate her family members and some property to her cousin’s in Zango, as her building in Adankolo had been submerged.
A lady, Bosede Abejide, who was displaced by the flood along with two friends, was seen packing some of their household items to lodge at the NUJ chalet temporarily before they could secure help from public-spirited individuals to enable them get new accomodation. Bose and her friends were living in a one-room apartment at Marine Quarters, opposite Navy Base, Lokoja.
Our correspondent also went to people living on the outskirts of Lokoja, especially residents of Gadumo and Ganaja communities. They spoke to our correspondent on Monday, saying they had no place to relocate as they still managed to sleep in the flooded houses. Others said they had to relocate their families to the village until the situation improved.
One of them, Sule Muhammed, said they noticed a rise in the volume of water late Saturday, but woke up Sunday morning to the reality of the flood. He lamented that there was nowhere for him to move to.
Muhammed said: “I’m stranded here with my family members. As I speak with you, there is nowhere to move to. So, we are appealing to the government to come to our aid.”
Also, Bashir Alhassan, who said he was chairman of the IDP camp at St. Luke’s Primary School, Adankolo, in 2012, called on the state government to quickly relocate those displaced by the flood.
He lamented that the flooded estate that was built by the Idris Wada administration was hijacked by politicians, leaving the flood victims stranded.
A farmer in Ajaokuta, who identified himself as Suberu, also narrated to our correspondent how the flood washed away his two acres of rice farms. According to him, all his labour this year has been wasted.
Raising the issue at the floor of the state assembly last Wednesday, the lawmaker representing Ibaji constituency, Atule Egbunu, disclosed that over 50,000 people have been displaced in his constituency alone, with three deaths recorded. He, therefore, called on the state government to urgently come to the aid of the victims.
Egbunu noted that the people did not have what it takes to address the damage caused by the disaster and appealed to the state and federal governments as well as the international community and public-spirited individuals to come to the aid of the victims.
Meanwhile, the deputy national publicity secretary of the APC, Yakubu Murtala Ajaka, has donated N10 million to those affected by the flood at Ibaji LGA, saying he was touched when he saw the level of devastation the flood had caused the people, who are largely peasant farmers.
At the time of report, the state government was still putting finishing touches to some areas, which have been designated as IDP camps, where those affected would be temporarily accommodated.