ByHabibu Umar Aminu
Habibu Umar Aminu
For the people of Nasarawa state, especially farming communities, living on the banks of River Benue, this year is one to be remembered for a long time following the flood that devastated them by washing away their fertile lands, food crops and settlements.
The flood was attributed to heavy rainfall that made the rivers to overflow their banks, a situation that was made worse with the release of excess water from Ladgo dam in Cameroon.
Worst hit in the state are four local governments that the said river passes through namely, Awe, Kokona, Doma, Nasarawa, and Toto local governments. It is estimated that close to ten billion naira was lost to the flood.
The level of devastation in the state made the federal government to list the states in category B among the state affected by the flood.
According to statistics from the state emergency management agency NASEMA, over 2000 hectares of farm land were destroyed by the flood crossing across 200 communities, out of which 122 of such communities were displaced. A total of 94,538 persons were directly or indirectly affected by the flood.
This alarming devastation prompted the state government through the NASEMA to initiate several measures to bring succour to the affected victims through the provisions of relief materials in which close to fifty million naira was expended. They included purchase and visits to distribute relief materials to various communities.
In one of such tour to loko in Toto local government, some of the victims confirmed that several food items like rice, yam, corn and cassava all of which are nearing harvest time, except corn, before the rampaging flood were swept downstream.
The farmers who were lucky not to have lost everything to the flood waters were forced to dig out their yams prematurely to avoid total loss. This, however, did not prove a veritable solution as the yams so harvested rotten away posing health hazards to the communities.
Being aerobic crops corn and cassava which were submerged by flood waters rotted away leaving only stench in its wake. It was estimated that food items worth over N130million in projected income were lost to the flood, thus aggravating the already grim economic hardship being faced by the people.
In the area alone over 100 hectares of cultivated farmlands were destroyed leaving over 30,000 people displaced in the villages of Illah, Opato, Adayi, Iwali, Guto, Abatuku, Gidangiwa and Isankpe with other settlements affected to a lesser degree.
In Doma Local Government Area of the state which hosts the largest rice plantation in West Africa owned by Olam Integrated Rice Farms Nig. Ltd, the flood also reared its ugly head where homes and farmlands were damaged or completely destroyed. Seated on 10,000 hectares of land cutting across three communities of Ondori, Rukubi and Ijowu, it is expected that when fully operational the farm would produce the needed 2.4million metric tones of rice to meet the national demand on rice which stands at 5.3million metric tones.
This Olam rice which is being setup with over
$100million, fully mechanized with a processing unit to produce rice of international standards and stem rice importation into the country. One good news was that the management of the farm has reaffrimed that they are committed to operation in the state and have started clearing the lands once more for operations.
In Udege development area farmers also were forced to harvest their crops prematurely and still lost them also had all their fishing vessels to the flood as it is a fishing community. Fishing is one of the mainstay of the community and the floods swept away fishing implements valued at over N150million, a situation worsened by the deposit of water hyacinth in the river.
The communities affected here are Maigami, Gidan Adiku, Kuture, Kuture Mallam, Ogeni, Igbenyi, Gidan Musa, Gidan Kabawa, Angwar Hausa and Akpamu.
For Awe people, it was a double tragedy because those affected had accessed loan facilities from the Federal Government of over N50 million through the Agricultural Bank and the unfortunate incident led them to not knowing how to repay the loan. The flood has left them with a debt burden and destroyed farmland.
Some areas visited are Angun Kawa, Tunga and Dukunawa, where fishponds, baskets of dried fish, stores and other valuables were destroyed by the flood, while some residents were seen in canoes and boats trying to recover some of their valuables, despite the strong and terrifying waves of the river. The stories are the same all over.
For the NASEMA executive secretary Dr. Idris Abdullahi, this was not the best of times, also following sleepless nights undertaking tours to the ravaged communities, some which were in helicopters fas a result of the cut off of areas, boats and any other available means to meet with the affected persons, commiserate and give relief materials to them.
In an interaction with newsmen, Dr. Abdullahi said, it was touchy and saddening the devastation caused by the flood which cannot be quantified. The extent of damage is alarming as such government did not have that kind of money to compesate the loss but can assist to make the farmers bounce back.
He said federal and state government agencies, spirited corporate bodies as well as individuals have continued to give assistance to those affected as the burden was too much on the shoulders of the state government to carry.
Idris further said that apart from the funds the state received from the federal government, it has also received part of the relief materials that Dangote foundation to distributed to the victims.
Some of the materials already received from the foundation include 350 bags of parboiled rice, 1,000 blankets as well as 1,500 bags of 1kg salt.
NASEMA has also taken delivery of materials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well the Federal Government relief team which include 500 bundles of zinc, 4000 planks of wood and 250 mattresses.
With this at hand, another twist came as soon as the federal government announced the release of N400 million to the affected victims. But More people began to come out with claims that compounded the already troubled agency.
Even though he noted that he suspected foul play, he quickly added that some of the cases may be genuine so it would be out of place for the Agency not to listen to them totally. He pledged that such claims would also be verified by NASEMA to ascertain their authenticity.
Perhaps, these claims and counter claims in addition to finding long lasting solution prompted the state government to inaugurate a 15 man task force on the Mitigation of the Impact of Flood Disasters.
The term of reference for the committee are; to carry out detailed Reassessment of the extent of devastation caused by floods across the State, to conduct detailed costing of public facilities and infrastructure, as well as individual property destroyed by the floods;to consider the desirability or otherwise of the relocation of some communities affected by the floods;
To renovate and/or reconstruct primary healthcare facilities and other public institutions affected by the flood disasters; to ascertain the number of people that lost their lives and suffered physical disabilities as a result of the floods; to provide relief and succour to displaced families, as well as families of deceased persons and those that suffered physical disabilities;
Others include, to provide relief to individuals or group of individuals affected by the flood as may be determined by the Task Force; to conduct advocacy campaigns on flood control measures and prompt response by residents; to liaise with appropriate stakeholders and agencies in carrying out the assignment; to submit periodic reports to Government on the progress of assignment.