From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
In Kebbi State, many residents, including farmers are in sorrow. Persistent flooding has washed away many farms, submerged communities and drowned travellers along the state’s waterways.
Only recently, about eight people, including women and children, drowned when a canoe capsized at Tungar-Gegero village in Jega Local Government Area of the state. The river on which they were travelling had overflowed following unending flooding, it was gathered.
An elderly farmer in Sabon Gari community, Birnin Tudu, Augie Local Government Area, Alhaji Aliyu Soda, lamented that his rice farm was washed away by floods.
Soda, in an emotional voice, said: “For the past 11 years, we have never seen a flood disaster as devastating as this. We are appealing to the government to assist us with farming inputs such as assorted seeds and fertilizers, among others.”
At Dukku, along Makera Road, Birnin Kebbi, hundreds of rice farms were submerged. Suleiman Bashir, who owned a rice field that had been submerged, stood helplessly in what used to be his farm in the FADAMA area. He begged the state and federal government to come to their aid to reduce their suffering.
Said he: “I don’t know what to do. I have two large rice farms completely submerged by the flood. We are begging the state and federal governments to assist us. I am sure God will not let our prayers go in vain.”
About 11 local government areas were affected by flooding in Kebbi State, including Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo and Maiyama.
While speaking with newsmen during his inspection across the affected areas, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu expressed shock over the level of destruction on farms, property and lives.
The governor, who was accompanied by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), led by its Chairman, Alhaji Sani Dododo, and the National President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, described the incident as regrettable.
He said: “Things like this happen. We are not unique in the world. It is regrettable, but we have also seen hurricanes and worst problems in some other parts of the world. We are responding to disasters and supporting each other. I believe the Federal Government, the Central Bank and other associations will respond to this effectively and timely too.”
While thanking the CBN and RIFAN for their concern over the flooding in Kebbi, Bagudu equally appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership and drive to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production. He said the president would soon summon a meeting of the National Food Security Council, noting that the problem of flood disasters, among others, would be discussed.
Ahaji Sani Dododo, the Chairman, Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), while speaking on the incident said farmers in the state have lost more than N5 billion worth of farm produce to flooding. Dododo made the statement while visiting the families of the victims of the boat mishap in Jega Local Government Area.
He called on the Federal Government and international donor agencies to come to the aid of Kebbi State Government and its people so that the people could engage in dry season farming.
“Preliminary assessment showed that damages to rice plantations and other produce due to the flood could be over N5 billion. And this is just the beginning. Reports by the appropriate agencies said 102 local governments in Nigeria are expected to be hit by flood in September, while in Kebbi State, 11 local government areas would be affected.”
He said the flood submerged more than 450,000 hectares of rice plantation in the lowlands, adding that over 50,000 hectares of millet, sorghum, maize and sugarcane were also destroyed on the highlands.
“When you combine the two areas, you will arrive at about 500,000 hectares destroyed by flood this year, and rice farmers were the worst hit. This is because rice constitutes about 90 per cent of the total plantation. The remaining crops stood at only ten per cent.
“It is very sad to state that this year, our people, both retired and serving civil servants, peasant and large scale farmers, all went back to the farm to contribute to the Federal Government’s national food security programme in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s plea,” he noted.
He added that almost everybody in Kebbi State engaged in farming this year.
National President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, said he led the North West State Chapters to Kebbi State, to physically observe the effects of the flooding on rice farms.
Goronyo who described the devastating effects of the flooding as beyond comprehension, said; “I don’t think in this kind of flooding has happened in this area before now. But everything that we have seen is from God and we must thank Him, and I know He can replace whatever we lost.”
Goronyo assured the farmers that the CBN had sent in its officials from the Development Finance Department, to come to Kebbi and assess the situation for immediate action. The CBN governor, according to him, had directed RIFAN to mobilise one million farmers that could quickly produce five million metric tonnes of rice for the dry season commencing in November, noting that such farmers would be given support by the CBN.