Last Saturday, as government officials visited parts of Kontagora Local Government Area for an on-the-spot assessment of the effects of flood which had ravaged the area, a 45-year-old Malama Sumaiyya Abdullahi held her two-year-old son, Abubakar Abdullahi, for them to see.
Part of the little boy’s head was covered with bruises sustained from a collapsed building. He was motionless except occasional gasps from the nose and a gentle movement around the chest. The bruised part of the head was covered with a white substance to ease healing.
As a result of a heavy downpour, the boy and three other kids had sought refuge in a mud house, which collapsed, injuring some of them and killing his elder sister, a four-year-old Umahairi Abdullahi.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the family on Wednesday, sympathizers were seen trooping in to pay their condolences.
The mood in Rigasa is the same as that of Ungwar Yanma, where a 17-year-old Suleiman Kabiru perished in the raging flood. He was said to have been playing football with others when the rain, which started with a drizzle, came down heavily.
As each of them ran towards the direction of their respective houses, the deceased, who sat for a university matriculation examination a week earlier, made to cross an already collapsed culvert when he fell into moving water and got drowned.
Suleiman’s father couldn’t hold back his tears when his secondary schoolmates visited the family to pay their condolence. “He hasn’t been lucky with children as they kept dying,” his friend of many years, Malam Tijani Bala, told our correspondent, adding that he had lost six children before the recent incident.
The incident also claimed a nursing mother alongside her child. She was found by the natives along River Kontagora, with the baby strapped to her back. Agency officials couldn’t ascertain her identity and the community she hailed from. She was interned beside her child after a Muslim funeral prayer in the area. The death toll also includes Aminu Mustafa, 15, of Ungwar Ubandoma and a 47-year-old father of eight, Umar Gaiya of Ungwar Gwari area of the ancient city.
The flood also washed away culverts, bridges and roads in the affected area, including the Kontagora-Makera highway at a point in Rafin Gora, leading to the temporary suspension of vehicular movement on the road, especially trucks by the state government.
The State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) officials said the Kontagora incident was surprising and unexpected as the local government area, though prone to yearly flooding, does not fall within those referred by the emergency parlance as “red zone”.
However, experts said the annual rainfall itself and the flood pattern had become increasingly unpredictable because of changing weather conditions occasioned by global warming and other environmental concerns. “The Suleja and Tafa incidents of last year were examples of unpredictability of the rainfall and flood pattern,” the director-general of the State Emergency Agency, Alhaji Ahmed Inga pointed out.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that almost all the local government areas, except two, were affected by flood between May and September this year.
Agency officials said that currently, over 50 communities across the 22 affected councils were underwater. As usual, the hard hit local government areas are those classified as “red,” such as Mokwa, Lapai, Lavun, Borgu and Shiroro.
Statistics from NSEMA shows that 12 lives have been lost across the five designated red zones so far, with experts predicting more casualties as the rain approaches its peak.
In Mokwa, one of the red zones, 89 communities have been affected; among them were those in the downstream of Jebba dam. According to the officials, the flood affected many houses, with over 500 totally destroyed, even as it rendered over 1000 people homeless. It also damaged infrastructure as it washed away road network, bridges and culverts. Fish ponds and farmlands were completely submerged.
A rice farmer, Malam Mohammed Haruna, said he lost 50 hectares to the flood in Ketso, even as he claimed that 32 others suffered the same fate.
Lavun communities such as Soso, Egagi, Saachi, Mambe and Nupeko witnessed what agency officials referred to as “colossal destruction to farmland” mainly rice, maize, guinea corn and sugarcane. According to the director-general of NSEMA, 80 per cent of farmlands belonging to farmers participating in the Federal Government Central Bank of Nigeria/(CBN) Anchor Borrowers programme was affected in the area.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited Egagi last Tuesday, many houses were still under water, including a local rice mill.
Malam Abdullahi Ibrahim and Mahmuda Ndatsu said they lost everything to the flood. They dived into the water, which was yet to recede, to show where their rice farms used to be. “Our fear is how to meet up with the obligation of repaying the loans obtained through various agric programmes of the state and federal governments,” they said.
The chairman of Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN), Niger State branch, Alhaji Mahmood El-Mahdys, also cried out over the devastating effect of the flood this year. According to him, over 75, 000 hectares of rice farmland estimated at N52billion were affected by flood in the state.
He said the flood experience in Niger last weekend seriously affected rice farmers in nearly all the 25 local government areas of the state.
“The flood has consumed farms belonging to about 25,000 s farmers across the state.”
Our correspondent observed that the devastating effect of the flood may be more pronounced in parts of Lapai Local Government Area as some communities are currently inaccessible, even with canoe. Muye, Bina, Ebbo, Ceku, Dere, Akpata, Baka, Chibagana and others are no-go areas for now, officials said. Earlier, three children between the ages of five and seven had died in Muye and Ebbo, Daily on Sunday Trust learnt.
The national president of the National Kakanda Development Association, Alhaji Ismaila Abdullahi Sokun, said 36 communities within the Kakanda-speaking area were currently under water, even as statistic from NSEMA indicates that 42 communities are affected across the local government area.
Alhaji Ismaila said natives had to resort to self help by moving the vulnerable, especially children and the aged to public facilities upland. He added that some of the villagers sought refuge with relatives elsewhere. He said it was difficult to ascertain the level of damage until the water level receded.
But going by past experiences, the water around the area may not recede anytime soon. Despite the fact that rain had stopped in the area for two days, floodwater still finds its way through various channels.
Experts said Lapai served as confluence to many rivers, adding that floodwater from all sources converged on the area. Dr Suleiman Mohammed of the Department of Geography, Federal University of Technology, Minna, feared that the situation could be more complicated as the season approaches its peak.
“The floodwater from major sources is likely to reach there as from mid September, and you know that River Kaduna, Gurara, Gbako and Niger meet there,” he said.
According to him, there is always a spillback effect when major rivers meet. “That contact makes the rivers to reduce their speed, which forces the incoming water to move backward, thereby inundating other areas that are naturally not on the flood plain,” he explained.
He said that apart from the rivers that confluence in the area, there is also the threat posed by the activities of dams. When the dams release water, it moves towards Lapai, also because of the existing channels. Even those that are diverted end up there,” he added.
The director-general of NSEMA said the state also experienced flooding, even in local government areas classified as ‘B,’ such as Katcha, Edati, Gbako, Munya, Agaie, Agwara and Wushishi, as well as those in category ‘C,’ which are considered to be along the flood plain. Statistics from the agency shows that 410 communities are affected by flood across 22 local government areas this year, with consequent deaths and destruction.
Worried by the devastating effects and financial implications of addressing flood disasters in Niger State, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of the state. The governor stated that the ravaging effect of flooding has not only weakened roads in the state, it has also led to the collapse of no fewer than seven bridges on some critical and strategic roads across the state, with threats to several others since the commencement of the rainy season.
Governor Bello made the appeal after inspecting the bridge that was washed off on the Minna-Bida road at Kakapangi village in Bida Local Government Area of the state. He also confirmed that some villages had been submerged by flood.
The governor noted that the financial implications of tackling flood challenges in the state were beyond it, hence the need for the Federal Government to come to their aid.