By Wole Mosadomi
Flooding to many residents in the riverine areas of Niger State is routine.It does not call for any alarm.
They have been contending with the issue annually; even with lives and property lost to the disaster frequently, some of them feel undaunted having in mind that death would surely come at any time and in any form no matter the steps taken to avoid it. In other words, the directive of government to them to vacate their homes upland till the end of the current raining season is not a serious issue. Infact, many of them, who are predominantly farmers and fishermen, see their abode as their ancestral homes and so, vacating the area for whatever reason is an abomination.
Niger State government, ment from a different perceptive and has, therefore, been sensitizing them on the need to heed the warning of the Nigerian Meterological Services (NIMET) to vacate their homes to guard against disaster.
Flooded area in Niger
The state government through its Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa, noted that it was aware of the traditional and religious attachment of the people to their ancestral homes but that beyond this, the safety of their lives and property was more paramount to the administration.
“ Niger State government is concerned especially now that the Nigeria metrological agency has warned of impending flood disaster in some states Niger inclusive and this is why we are calling on the people to be careful and not to allow the flood to come before taking appropriate measures”, Vatsa said.
“ We understand the attachment that some of the riverine communities have to their ancestral homes because of their vocations mostly fishing and farming but we are advising them to at least move away until the river banks are free from overflow and they will be free to return to their respective homes later.
“We are aware that the people living downstream of Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro dams are often more vulnerable; so Niger State government is appealing to them to move upland till the rains subsidize because we cannot afford the kind of losses recorded in the past”.
However, while some of the communities are adamant, no fewer than 140 communities prone to floods in the state are said to have relocated upland. The communities that have include those in Gbako, Lavun, Mokwa, Borgu and Lapai Local Government Areas who are mostly into rice farming and fishing.
Niger State Emergency Management Agency(NSEMA) assured those being asked to relocate concerned that they will be camped at houses constructed by the Presidential Committee on Flood, headed by Alhaji Aliko Dangote which spread across the state.
Director General of NSEMA, Mallam Ahmed Ibrahim Inga, in an interview, said because of the experience of 2012, the agency has decided to embark on early warning, pointing out that traditional institutions, community based organizations (CBOs), religious, among others, were being mobilized to help in the enlightenment campaign.
The DG disclosed that in the 2012 flooding, which affected Niger seriously, property including houses, farm lands and farm produce lost was estimated at N1billion and would not want repetition of the episode.
Inga said the 147 communities that were badly affected in 2012 cut across about ten local government areas of the state, saying they are mostly riverine communities and food producing areas. He pointed out that if such should happen again, it will be a threat to food security in the nation and could lead to hike in food stuff in the country.
The DG said, apart from those communities at Shiroro, Jebba and Kainji that had their houses submerged and farm lands washed away by the excess water from the three dams in the area, the other communities were victims of the global flood which “experts put as the worst in 40 years”.
“Over 23-kilometre land size in Mokwa, Lavun, Katcha and Bida local government areas that are predominately rice producing areas of the state were washed away by the flood and this had multiplier effect on rice production in the state in 2012,” he stated.
According to him, the entire Zone B area of the state, comprising Shiroro, Munya, Rafi and Bosso local government areas that are predominantly yam producing areas, had their farm land, measuring about 30 kilometers land size was submersed by the flood and that till now, affected farmers are still counting their losses.
Besides farm lands and houses submerged by the flood, government infrastructures like schools, health facilities, roads and bridges were also affected.
For instance, some schools in Wushishi, Baro, Lapai, Katcha, Borgu and Katcha local government areas of the state were submerged and the children still receiving lessons in make- shift buildings in the areas.
Also, the only bridge linking Katcha to Baro and Wuya Village to Mokwa had been cut off by the flood leaving the people stranded and making it difficult to transport agricultural produce to the market.
One Muhammed Sani in Guni village in Shiroro local government area, one of the villagers who have refused to vacate his flood prone, despite the alert, told Sunday Vanguard correspondent that nothing could change his mind against vacating his home.
“I have been living all my life here and has nothing to do than fishing. Where do I go from here and what do I fall back on to fend for my family? I can’t leave here even if death is knocking at my door.”
Another resident of the area, who is a big time yam farmer, Abubakar Abdullahi Gun, declared,” Whether I run for death or not, it will come when it will come and who says my entire family cannot be swept off overnight where we may want to relocate to? It is better for me to remain where I am than to relocate to an unknown place and suffer the same fate there”.
In Lapai, Shiroro, Bida, Munyan, Wushishi, Lavun, Bida, Mokwa and Borgu local government areas of the state, four lives were lost while 23 villages were sacked and farmlands, mostly rice plantations, washed away in various communities in flooding incidents since this year’s raining season began.
Some of the villages are Lambata Kwaran, Chekwu, Ebbo, Ega, Cheppa, Alaa, Tanna, Bina, Gagbe Yelwa, Bazhi and Muye.
Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, who visited the communities, called on the federal government to help the state address various ecological challenges facing many communities in the state, adding that the state is not bouyant to tackle the problems all alone.
He said in one of the submerged communities: “We are here to sympathize with you and we will give our support despite the lean purse of the state government very soon but this sad development has strengthened the demand for the take off of the Hydro-electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission(HYPPADEC) which is aimed at bringing lasting solution to perennial ecological problems facing the state.”
The latest flooding in the state resulted from about eight hours of torrential rains which trapped many of the residents in their homes.
In order to guard against a reoccurrence in Lapai local government area, the National President of National Kakanda Development Association, Alhaji Ismaila Ayuba Abdullahi, has appealed to the Niger government to speed up the resettlement plans for the communities vulnerable to flood to Kolu via Bina and Kuchi- Kebba which have been approved as proposed sites.
For five consecutive years-2010,2011,2012,2014 and 2015 in Lapai Emirate, many communities had been submerged with lives and property including farmlands lost.
Speaking in an interview, Abdullahi said: “The unfortunate flooding started since the construction of Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro Hydro Electricity Power Dams which have always overflowed their banks with attendant unimaginable consequence”.
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