The tragedy that occurred in Kirfi Local Government Area of Bauchi State on October 7, 2019, in which 38 persons drowned in Kirfi River, will remain for a long time in the minds of residents because it exposes the lack of basic amenities in the rural areas.
Kirfi local government is dissected by River Gongola and the only means of transportation for the locals living in Guyaba , Beni or Shongo wards is the use of a canoe across this river.
A trip could sometimes take about four to five hours.
Most of the people who boarded the ill-fated canoe on that day came from different communities like Kuna, Badara, Kesu Beni, Shongo, Butta, Wuro Chedi, Maigari and Baba Ladi.
A survivor, Musa Isa from Butta community, said the cause of the incident was overloading. “I warned the passengers because we were too many inside the canoe but no one listened to me. My brother Hassan was among the people who died in the mishap.”
Babawuro Abubakar lost three siblings in the mishap. The corpse of his younger brother has been identified, while the rest are still missing.
A farmer from Bara, Abdullahi Tsando Bara, said the canoe took off from Kesu but when the paddle that served as the steering of the canoe broke, it stopped in the middle of the river.
“The people started panicking but the canoeist tried to calm them down. Suddenly, one person jumped into the water, which caused a lot of confusion. Some passengers moved to one end of the canoe and as the weight tilted to that side, water started entering the boat and then it began to sink. When I realized what was happening, I jumped into the water but one person held me tightly and I had to bite him to free myself.”
Locals told Daily Trust Saturday that the majority of the passengers were Fulani cattle herders who boarded the canoe to go and tend to their cattle at the other end of the river, while some were farmers on their way to their farms.
The state assembly lawmaker representing Kirfi constituency, Abdulkadir Umar Dewu, said “Apart from death, there are reports of women giving birth inside the canoes while on a trip to receive medical attention at the health centre. We have asked the federal government through the Bauchi State government to construct a bridge across this river to alleviate the sufferings of the people, and we want the government to provide the communities with five modern water transportation terminals with modern canoes, and life jackets to forestall loss of lives and property. We want the government to provide the communities of Beni, Guyaba , and Shongo wards with a modern hospital, equipped with up-to-date facilities to serve as a referral ground for emergencies so as to reduce the risk of ferrying across the river for such essential services.”
The Sarkin Ruwan Kuna, Abubakar Usman, said: “We deployed forty local divers to search for the bodies of the missing persons.”
Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Alhaji Bappa Abdu Bara, told Daily Trust that the search and rescue team was still combing the river to recover more missing people.
Bara said on the day of the incident, two dead bodies were recovered after 38 went missing, but as at Thursday, October 12, 2019, 12 persons have been recovered alive while 18 have been confirmed dead. The local divers are still searching for the remaining people.
He said Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed donated N10m to the families of the victims when he visited the area to commiserate with them. “The money will be distributed to the 40 victims of the incident. We have printed forty forms to be distributed to the victims to fill and each person must be identified by his community before the money will be handed over to them. We will do our best to ensure the judicious use of the funds.”
The caretaker chairman said the council has ordered for 10 engine boats – one to be stationed at each of the 10 communities near the river.
“Two of the boats have arrived and we have sent some people to Benue State for training on how to assemble the boats. We hope that when we start using them, the hardship encountered by our people on the river would be reduced.