•Tales of anguish from Lokoja flooding
•Travelers spend days without bathing
•Residents drink flood water
•Cost of food skyrocket
From EMMANUEL ADEYEMI, AIDOGHIE PAULINUS and KEMI YESUFU in Lokoja
Right now, Lokoja, the Kogi State capital is in the eye of the storm. Flood has engulfed almost the entire confluence city for about 10 days and literally sits pretty and relaxed like an army not in a hurry to relinquish a conquered territory.
Travelers from the Northern and southern part of the country are trapped in the affected areas. The situation is chaotic with over 1,000 trucks and their drivers, motor-boys, okada riders, shylock petty traders and villagers, scrambling for survival.
Troubled Confluence State
Kogi is popularly known as the Confluence State. Two of Nigeria’s major rivers – Niger and Benue literally shake hands a little below Lokoja towards the south. The handshake that had lasted ages has now exceeded the wrist and it seems to be a hug. But it is seemingly a fatal and hurtful bear hug with the people and their homes. There is water everywhere in the city of hills that make the people cry.
Even though a similar situation occurred in 1998, when the river covered and threatened some of the buildings at the riverbank, the situation was however not as bad. At the moment, over 3,000 displaced persons live in refugee camps around some communities in Koton-Karfe alone. They wallow in confusion and hardship. Housed in a primary school, they are presently living at the mercy of others.
From historical accounts, the under-water city was founded by William Balfour Bakie, and was the capital of the then British Northern Nigeria Protectorate.
Sunday Sun dispatched a team of reporters to the areas ravaged by flood and the visit revealed the danger ahead of the nation in food scarcity, looming health problems, the economic losses for travelers and many more.
Going round three refugee camps in the state was a revealing experience. Natives of the state that had lived in the comfort of their homes before the terrible flood are crammed in their thousands in destitute homes and fed at the whims of the government.
The Sunday Sun team witnessed hunger, anger, ill health and worst of all, there is slim hope that they will resume their normal lives in the near future.
The three camps – Adankolo, Gadumo and Kabawa have 875, 207 and 278 refugees respectively
At the Sarkin Numa area of the state, a popular stopover point for travelers, a dejected Ademola Ajayi, an electrician from Kabba/Bunu Local Government area of Kogi State, said the problem started over a week ago. Ajayi whose shop and residence were covered with water, said he had no option than to relocate. He told Sunday Sun that he felt bad because “if a place one earns his daily bread is no more, there is no reason to feel happy.”
It began when they suddenly saw water surging towards their homes. “It started gradually and before we knew it, it filled everywhere. Not even during rainfall because, there was no rain at the time. We just saw that the water was coming. It is about one week and three days now. The water came from the River Niger,” he said.
Ajayi however denied the presence of any government official since the flood overwhelmed the vicinity.
The journey to Lokoja was not easy. There were reports that one has to pay as much as N5,000, N500 and N200 to cross the road by canoe. Hard as the driver tried to explain the situation, it was plausible for one to note at that juncture that seeing was believing. On September 27, the journey to unravel the Lokoja flood commenced from Abuja. The journey lasted two hours, twenty minutes as the driver of the 504 wagon arrived at the Banda area of Lokoja at 9:25am. On arrival, soldiers on camouflage who were negotiating with drivers and owners of vehicles ready to be ferried to the other side of the road, caught the team’s attention. After a brief introduction, the soldiers allowed access to the area.
There is no food for us –Asmau Alhassan, 25
I am a farmer and I live in Mousou riverside in Bassa. There are 40 of us that lived in the house before the flood came.
It was last Sunday night that the flood from River Niger took over our entire settlement. It came unexpectedly and swept away all our belongings including farmlands, livestock, crops and household effect. As I speak with you, we have nothing to eat or wear; we only rely on goodwill.
No change of clothes in eight days –Aishat Ishaq (fish seller)
We lived in our house of nine rooms. My husband, a driver, laboured to build the house five years ago but the flood just came suddenly at night and swept everything away.
I only managed to escape with my five children with this mat and for more than five days, my children and I have been living on one pair of wears.
Our condition in the camp here is terrible. We are served meals twice a day with N30 loaf of bread per family and it is only the mother or father that is given. The children and other members of the family are left to share with the parents.
We’ll soon die of hunger –Jonah Obili, 32
I am a driver with Kogi Travellers. I live at Fankolo layout. I am a tenant with a family of 13.
On Sunday we saw the water coming towards our house, so I quickly ran to the office to bring a truck to evacuate my family members and some of our belongings. But when I came, the water was so much that I could not drive through.
So, I hurriedly went to hire a canoe but before I came back, all my properties were gone.
Our major problem here is feeding. The whole family is served N30 loaf of bread for breakfast and a handful of rice given to 13 of us with only five cubes of maggi for three days.
The state government also serves us three sachets of noodles. Please, help us beg the government that we are dying of hunger.
470 of us use two toilets –Abu Ojochogwu (Disabled)
I lost over N2.7million property to the flood and at last, my entire family is facing this disgusting situation.
We were four cripples that the former governor of Kogi, Ibrahim Idris gave money to build our houses but all of them have been submerged. Our problem is feeding and also where to ease ourselves. Here in Adankolo camp, we have over 470 people using two toilets.
And we have special cases because we cannot use our legs like others to go to the toilet. We have to crawl there to answer the call of nature and use the same hand to eat with our family. We are therefore calling on Governor Wada to treat our case differently.
Drugs are inadequate –Onimisi Abdullahin (Camp doctor)
The essential drugs provided by government are grossly inadequate. In fact, we have run out of drugs supply. That is why you cannot see any of the medical personnel on ground because we have been calling and nobody seems to answer us.
Honestly, government is trying but the only problem now is coordination. Those who are to attend to us are either in Idah or Ibaji.
Right now, there is no epidemic. We had curtailed two cases of outbreak and there is no threat whatsoever now.”
Banda, a village within the Lokoja axis, is plagued with hardship and penury. Inhabitants make a living ferrying people across the rivers or selling food and sachet water to travelers. With N100, one could cross to Okwuni which is sandwiched between Banda and Sarkin Numa rivers. With N500, one crosses to Lokoja by canoe. Over 1,000 trucks have blocked both ends of the road, including the Okwunu axis. The situation on ground is confusing and disturbing. Many are stranded and in search of a way out of their predicament. The road may not be passable anytime soon and the government has engaged Gitto Construction Company to create an alternative .
On arrival in Banda, a traveler has to take a bike to a point where a canoe would ferry him to Okwuni end of the road. Thereafter, a traveler would engage the services of a motorcyclist to another point at the end of Okwuni to cross over to Sarkin Numa in a canoe. Each crossing by canoe costs N100 and okada operators charge between N100 and N200.
Arriving at Sarkin Numa was a different experience after parting with N150. Sarkin Numa is the popular stop-over point in Lokoja where people eat and transact business. It has become a shadow of itself. eateries have shut down.
Cholera epidemic looms
An okada operator, Joseph Daniel, a native, said he used to make between N2,500 to N3,000 daily, but since the flood took over the area, he now makes between N500 and N1,000 daily. Daniel said in pidgin: “The flood don deal with me no be small tin. Even now, e still dey come. All of our property, we don pack am out. The situation bad o.”
He revealed that the situation has taken a new dimension with the children in the area falling ill. “The dirty dey affect the children. Even day before yesterday, some children sick. Dem dey vomit, dem dey shit and their body dey hot,” he revealed.
As usual, Lokoja became hot and a little bit unbearable during the visit.
The Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen had said the road would be re-opened this weekend, but that’s not possible considering the magnitude of the devastation. Gitto, the only construction company seen on site at the time of visit, was busy creating an alternative route. A labourer with the company, Matthew Ibrahim, said “since the incident, Gitto has been doing its best to ensure that the road is rehabilitated.”
The Koton-Karfe experience
Koton-Karfe is not in any way different from Banda and Okwuni in terms of flooding, but It’s now home to over 3,000 hapless and displaced persons from about seven villages around it. Nineteen of these are pregnant women while some are children. At the Local Education Authority Primary School, where some displaced persons are sheltered, the Rescue and Disaster Management Officer, Ismail Musa, said his team started work on September 23, 2012. “Right from the initial stage, we have been helping people affected from neighbouring villages like Akpaku, Asara, Ashaba-Ozi, Adamogu, Kasmir and Obagende. We sent our officers to assist victims to the camp. This is just one of them.
“Some people have volunteered to give them sachet water, garri and rice which is not even enough. The source of their water is too bad. They get water from the flood but people are assisting them with sachet water.”
“The situation is very terrible. All these classrooms have leaky roofs and some of them have no windows”, he said
Usman Mohammed, a politician and one of the displaced persons who spoke on behalf of others said they lacked accommodation. “We are all crowded-up in rooms; many people are in a girls’ school, and others are in another camp at Okpaka and in Jamata. Even after the flood is gone, we will still face hardship because our farms and crops are gone.