From: Godwin Tsa (who was in Makurdi)
The pathetic condition of 62-year-old Jacinta Idi, one of the thousands of people displaced by catastrophic flooding in Benue State, is heart breaking. She has spent seven nights sleeping with her daughter-in-law and her two-month-old baby in the compact luggage section of her son’s commuter bus, after members of her family fled from their apartment as the raging floods took over the neighbourhood.
Idi said she doesn’t know how much longer they would squat with relations in whose compound they sought shelter. She probably could stay with relatives in a neighbouring settlement several miles away from Makurdi, but her grandchildren are in school and expected to resume next week.
“This is where I live, I need to be back home, but I am homeless, landless and a destitute. My son, Friday is a transporter and I sleep inside this bus with some of his children. We lost everything to the flood,” she said and pointed to heaps of household items including mattresses that were soaked with water, furniture, electronics, food items among others, damaged by the flood.
With an estimated 1,120 homes damaged across seven communities by the flood, the state could be looking at its biggest housing crunch since the miserable bumbling aftermath of the 2011 flood.
For the people of the state, the flood has added another injury to the deadly attack on them orchestrated by the marauding Fulani herdsmen.
Just when the state government had taken measures to curtail the incessant attacks by the herdsmen on the citizens and their crops, through the controversial grazing law, the rains came calling and unleashed the devastating flood in its wake.
People now are staying in shelters, squatting with friends or relatives or sleeping in trailers on the front lawns. Others unable or unwilling to leave their homes are living in mud and with the ever present risk of building collapse.
Many victims will need a place for extended stay while they rebuild. With no insurance protection against flooding, many may lack the means to repair their damaged homes.
“I got nowhere else to go,” said Mrs. Blessing Abu, a 26-year-old housewife, who is pregnant for the first time.
Her house, located behind Radio Benue, just like others, was ravaged by the flood rendering her homeless. The story of Mrs. Maureen George, a 59-year-old widow is not different. She was sacked from her house, also behind Radio Benue, together with her five children, leaving them homeless without food. When Sunday Sun called at her residence, she was all alone as she had taken her children to a relation.
“I lost everything in the flood. How can I manage clothes for my children when I am struggling for daily meals.”
Linus Nwozor, 39, a businessman and landlord was close to tears as he narrated how he lost his poultry farm with 500 broilers, two goats and other livestock, his car, household items including furniture, mattresses, food items and kitchen utensils.
A civil servant, Ben Tilleh, who is also into livestock farming to augment his income, lost 60 of his chickens to the flood, as well as other household items like generator, mattresses, furniture and food items as his two bedroom flat was submerged.
Tilleh, whose wife and children are squatting with a relation, said he does not have any money to begin a new life as he is being owed six months salary by the state government.
Zaki Luter, a former banker, who ekes out a living doing menial jobs, having retired from defunct Afribank, was in a hopeless mood when Sunday Sun visited his apartment.
His sodden furniture was piled outside and the wall in his rented house is puckering, but he still plans to stay there and sleep on air mattress.
“It started flooding that fateful day with water ultimately rising above three feet inside my house. I was awake and quickly moved some things out, but just very little,” he explained.
A retired Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) , Thomas Ogah, was another victim of the flood who spoke on his plight. He lamented that the only house he built in 2014 with his pension money was not spared by the flood as it was submerged, rendering him homeless with his entire family of seven.
A 25-year-old member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Inaju Blessing, from Kogi State, lamented how she lost her laptop and other electrical appliances to the flood.
The tale of woes continued with Ikpen Pius, a driver with two children who lost everything to the flood including his goats. Ezekiel Gbankpo, a civil servant with the Benue State government has relocated to Ahure, a settlement close to Makurdi after he was hit by the flood.
Osuagwu Onyekachi, a 38-year-old businessman was also affected by the flood and is now squatting with a friend with his wife and six children. The flood also wreaked havoc at the family house of Prof. Frederick Tyoor washing away his entire library and damaging other household goods including air conditioners, mattresses, generators and food items.
Another victim who spoke with Sunday Sun is a legal practitioner, Ambrose Ikpa, whose law books, clothes, vital documents, including agreements, electrical appliances and generators were damaged by the flood.
Growing need for relief materials
Children along with their parents are in dire need of relief materials, as they lost their houses along with clothes and foodstuff in the flood. The children are currently sheltering in makeshift tents and just surviving on basic food items such as noodles, and biscuits provided by sympathisers. Exactly how many people will need temporary housing is unclear.
Although some of the victims who spoke on the issue called on the state government for assistance in terms of relief materials, the lawyer took a different view and asked the state government to open up the roads and construct drainages in the area.
“We don’t want any relief materials, that is not what we want. We are not interested in any form of relief materials that can be hijacked. What we want is for the state government to do a project that will help the entire community and that is by opening up the streets and constructing of drainages that will collect water and channel it into the River Benue.
“A contract for this project was awarded during the administration of George Akume but it has since been abandoned. When the present governor, Samuel Ortom, visited this place, he promised to look into it. Let’s hope it will come to pass,” Ikpa said.
Explaining the cause of the flood, he disclosed that Benue State is generally a flood-prone area lying in the lower basin, so if rain falls anywhere, the resulting floodwater naturally flows to the lowest place to settle. Therefore, if there are no drainages, flood of this nature becomes inevitable .
It may not exactly be the deadly flood in America caused by Hurricane Harvey, which rendered thousands of people homeless and killed close to 50 people, but it has a semblance of it in terms of destruction wrought in the aftermath.
For instance, according to available records, in Achusa, 200 houses were affected with 5,125 persons displaced; in Idye, 217 houses and 5,200 persons were displaced. In the area behind the Civil Service Commission, 200 houses and 5,777 persons were also displaced.
“At Genabe, 200 houses were affected with 5,021 persons being displaced, Wurukum market recorded a loss of 218 houses with 1,000 persons displaced; in Wadata Market 150 houses and 4,300 persons were displaced. Industrial layout: 69 houses and 4,310 persons displaced; Demekpe 111 houses, 7,820 persons displaced; Katungu 137 houses with 6,031 persons displaced while at Agboughul-Wadata 201 houses and 5,728 persons displaced.
As at the time of filling this report, Radio Benue was not functioning as the Transmission House was damaged. Other areas affected by the flood include Wurukum Market Welfare Quarters, Benue State University community, New Kanshio village, Rice Mill Wadata as well as Idye.
Meanwhile, a cross section of Makurdi residents has accused the Benue State Government of refusing to protect the citizenry from flood disasters over the years.
“We wonder what the state government is doing to avert these situations. We heard that a contract had been awarded for the construction of culverts and drainages since 2007, to one politician who diverted the money.”
State officials have been talking on the issue including the state governor, Samuel Ortom who has promised to address the situation.
Governor Ortom who undertook a two-day assessment tour of the affected areas was said to have directed the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, BESEMA, to liaise with the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, for the purpose of assisting displaced persons and directed that excavators should be used to create emergency water channels pending Federal Government intervention.
The Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Joseph Utsev, was also reported to have gone round the town for assessment. Ustev, according to reports, explained that the ministry needed funds to mitigate the situation, adding that the disaster was caused by blocked drainages in some areas.
He said he had urged the federal government to include Benue among the states to benefit from the N1.6 billion ecological intervention funds for states affected by flood disasters.
The commissioner said that the state had not received any ecological assistance from the federal government since 2013.
“Benue Government is looking for ways in which River Benue can be dredged. By dredging the river, much of the flood water from rains could be accommodated to prevent future overflow. The ongoing research so far, showed that the preliminary study will cost about N8 billion while the main project will gulp about N300 billion.
“This is why we need federal government financial intervention to execute the project, since the funds are much.”
He said that the dredging would also encourage economic activities to be serviced by the state’s planned cargo airport.
He said the current budget provisions to address environmental issues were inadequate and needed to be increased as a result of the number of disasters witnessed in the country.
He said with adequate budgetary provisions many disasters could be mitigated since natural disasters could only be controlled.
“Natural disasters cannot be prevented but minimised. There are measures that man can put in place to checkmate the disasters like dredging of rivers where necessary, building of drainage systems among others,” he said.
On NIMET’s prediction, the commissioner said the state had constituted a committee and had so far gone round the local governments. The committee would formally write to the governor for immediate action.
According to him, the state government was constructing a camp at Agan Toll gate in Makurdi for likely victims of the flood and is enlightening the public on flood control measures.
The State Commissioners for Land, Survey and Solid Minerals, Bernard Unenge, who also spoke to journalists said that the government would immediately relocate the traders at the Wurukum Market to the International Market.
He said that government was ready to provide additional land for the traders in case the International Market was inadequate.
The Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, Boniface Ortese, had told journalists during the inspection of the affected areas that proactive measures had been put in place to address the situation.
He said that all relevant authorities in the country were communicated, adding that the agency would soon open the IDPs camp at North Bank.