Flood disaster: Kogi braces for another round of misery
Many victims of the 2012 flood disaster in Kogi State who are experiencing another round of displacement are apprehensive over a possible repeat of 2012 scenario, when many partås of the state and country were ravaged by floodwater.
As the ominous signs crystalise, the apprehension is palpable in the state because the tributaries of most small rivers in the northern axis, empty themselves into the River Niger and Benue at the confluence, in Lokoja.
At least 623, 690 displaced persons were accommodated in 87 camps across the state during the last flood disaster. And six years after, the continuous rise of water levels is forcing many residents that live close to the riverbanks to relocate as their houses are already submerged.
According to the Executive Secretary, Kogi State Emergency Management Agency, Alhassan Ayeggba, by the last count, about 45, 000 persons have been displaced, and are camped in various IDP camps across the state, aside from those who elected to put up with their relatives.
The absence of health facilities at the different camps, is already posing dire medical challenges to the IDPs who need medical attention. But matters recently got worse with the birth of three babies at the Koton Karfe IDP camp. Ayishat Zakeriya from Adamogu Community delivered a baby boy; Maryam Ishaq from Akpaku Village delivered a baby girl, and Sakinat Musa, also from Akpaku Village delivered another boy.
However, many in the state fear that the damage this year may be worse compared to that of 2012 should Camerounian authorities discharge water from the Lagdo dam.
At the moment, according to Ayegba, “the water level is 10.30 metres, and this has exceeded the normal level. The situation in Ibaji Local Council is worse as there are no high lands in the area, hence the people have been advised to move to the IDP Camp at Idah
The Secretary to the State Government Ayoade Arike Folashade, who was at the camp on a routine visit, donated food items, and cash to the victims and mothers of the newborn babies, as well as, commended them for the courage they displayed in the face of obvious challenge.
A youth leader at the camp, Abubakar Isah, appealed to the government to assist them as they have lost all their crops to the flood, while the meagre assistance they have received from public-spirited individuals “translates to a few bags of rice and cartons of Indomie Noodles.”
Seidu Akowe, a victim of 2012 flood disaster at the Lokoja IDP camp, was forced out of his home at midnight six years ago without picking any property. This time around, he said he moved to the IDP hostel in Lokoja when his house was overtaken by floods to avoid losing all his belongings.
Another victim, Hajia Meimuna Akawo, who recalled that in 2015, many organisations were showing support to displaced persons in camps, said this time around, apart from very few individuals, including the Commissioner for Environment, Sanusi Yahaya, who gave them two bags of rice and water tanks, the IDPs were starving.
She also said the sanitation situation has become deplorable, even as she fears the outbreak of an epidemic.
Lending credence to the people’s fears of a likelihood of the 2012 flooding, NEMA’s Director of Planning, Research and Forecasting, Mr. Vincent Owan, while on a recent visit to the state advised residents of flood plains to immediately move upland or to the state’s IDPs hostel at the Flood Estate, built by the Governor Idris Wada-administration.
According to him, “My first impression is that the flood situation is quite devastating for the fact that all the indices that manifested during the 2012 flood disaster are here with us today, except for the release of water from the Lagdo dam. Most of the people that have been affected by the flood today have been relocated to higher grounds particularly the IDP hostels at the former Governor Wada Flood Housing Estate.
“We are going collaborate extensively with Kogi State government to ensure that displaced persons are well catered for. I have communicated with the director general of NEMA, and very shortly you will feel the presence of the agency in the state,” the NEMA chief stated.
He also called on the state government to ensure that SEMA discharges its statutory function before seeking external help.
“When incidents like these happen, state governments just run cap-in-hand to the Federal Government for assistance, but the Federal Government wants to see what the state has done before calling for external support.
“Once the Federal Government sees what the state has done and the efforts put in place, it will say okay, having seen what has been done in the face of the challenge that you are facing, which is beyond your coping capacity, the Federal Government will then come in with full force to support you.
According to him, SEMA should never be the type of government agency that should be running around looking for operational vehicles to use when emergencies occur, “and that is why we call for functional state emergency agencies that are fully empowered to ensure that they carry out their statutory responsibilities.”
The Environment Commissioner, Yahaya, who noted that the water level was not receding, equally appealed to residents of “flood-prone areas to move to higher grounds immediately because we don’t know when the water from the Lagdo Dam would be released. When it is released the situation may be worse than the 2012 flood disaster.”
The Director of Engineering Hydrology, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA), Abuja, Clement Nze, who recently described the state as the “headquarters of flood in Nigeria,” said the meeting of two major rivers to form a confluence in the state makes the flood disaster in the state worse when it happens.
While on an assessment tour of areas so far affected by flood in the state, Nze said the state’s peculiar disposition was the reason why the agency was more interested in what is happening in Lokoja.
“We are measuring downstream of River Niger and River Benue and taking the reading there everyday to make comparisons with the past.
“On September 29, 2012 it was 12.84m and we have about three more weeks to September29, 2018. So, if the rise continues as it is going now, the situation might be worse. Yesterday, the difference between the water level to the highest in 2012 was 2.7m, today it has narrowed to 2.59m, tomorrow it might be 2.5m moving to meet up with the value of 2012 that was so critical 12.84m,” he said.
He recalled that in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency Seasonal Rainfall Predictions release in March this year, the agency said “that the earliest time rain will seize in the northern part of Nigeria, including Sokoto and Katsina is September 28, which means we still have about three weeks or thereabouts of rainfall, but in the southern coastal cities it would be around December.”
“Going by this record and most of the flooding that occur between July, August and September, the period of heavy rainfall in the northern parts of Nigeria is here. We are expecting that the rains will continue and the water levels will continue to rise.”
“The safety net that we have now is that Camerounian authorities have not released any water from the Lagdo dam yet,” he stated, adding that the flooding that has been taking place in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba are caused by water from rivers in Nigeria because there are many of them that are feeding into River Benue and River Niger.”
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