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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Flood: Businesses In Kogi, Nasarawa Struggle To Stay Afloat

Kogi and Nasarawa states are among the worst hit by the floods ravaging many parts of Nigeria.

According to the Kogi state government, the state is experiencing the worst floods in a decade, measuring 13.2 compared to 12.8 measured in 2012.

At least ten of the 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs) were flooded, including Lokoja, Kogi-Koto, Igalamela-Odolu, Bassa, Idah, Ibaji, Omala, Ofu, and Ajaokuta. Thousands of hectares of farmland and businesses were destroyed. Property worth billions of naira was also destroyed. In 2012, when the state battled one of the worst floods measuring 12.8, more than 70,000 houses were destroyed.

Residents and even travellers have suffered greatly as a result of the current floods. Due to the flooding, major roads were severely congested such as the Abuja-Lokoja highway and the Lokoja-Koton-Karfe road for several days.

As a consequence, thousands of trucks conveying goods including perishable commodities and petrol were stranded, resulting in losses for business owners and scarcity of fuel in Abuja and other parts of the country.

Equally devastating is the impact of the flood on small businesses, particularly Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Lokoja, which is a major trade route to Southern states, is home to hundreds of thousands of enterprises. Owners of businesses in the city and across the state have suffered huge losses, as the floods have not only destroyed their commodities but have also crippled economic activities.

Data from the 2020 MSME survey report shows that Kogi has 938,740 enterprises. It was gathered that these businesses are densely populated in the 10 LGAs covered with water.

Conrad Yanda, a resident in Lokoja who runs an automobile spare parts business, narrated his experience: “In this place, there is usually flood, but this year is the worst so far. But I have a protector around my shop to protect it from water, and that has been helping me. I have been hearing that the water is rising, but I believed it is the normal experience.

“But one Monday morning, about two weeks ago, I got a call that the situation is bad, I managed to get there to see that my goods have been buried in water overnight, including other shops. My pain is that I just restocked goods worth N3 million, and most of them are damaged or washed away. I know I have lost up to N10 million. This business took me years to build; I am so devastated,” he lamented in a telephone interview with BusinessDay.

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Yanda blamed the government for his woes. According to him, the failure of the government to take any preventive measures or action during the floods is the reason why the state is submerged. “Government has really failed us, and the worst part is that nobody will compensate me for these losses. A friend of mine sells rice; he did not pick a grain from his shop. How do we move on with our lives after the water recedes?” he cried.

Another resident in the state who identified herself simply as Rakiya and sells ladies’ wear lamented that all her wear have been damaged and washed away by the flood.

“I sell ‘Okrika’ (thrift) wears and shoes, but I have lost everything now. Immediately after secondary school, I started this business in 2019. I am supporting myself and saving for school. I have lost more than N100,000,” she said.

Like Rakiya and Yanda, several business owners have bitter stories to share. They expressed fears that they may never be able to recover the huge investment lost to the floods. BusinessDay gathered that banks, schools, and markets were submerged.

In Kogi alone, it is reported that up to 200,000 persons have been displaced. At least six people, including a toddler, were reported to have died in Kogi’s worst-hit Ibaji district, which Governor Yahaya Bello said was “100 percent underwater.”

In Nasarawa, the worst hit is agricultural activities. A major occupation in the state is farming. The state is home to the Olam Rice Farm located in Lukubi Doma local government area. It suffered major flooding in the past weeks which resulted in the destruction of $15 million worth of crops and critical infrastructure.

The farmland, which sits on 10,000 hectares, is one of the largest rice farms in Nigeria and Africa with N140 million worth of investment. Ade Adefeko, vice president, corporate and government relations, Olam Nigeria, had said 25 percent of Nigeria’s rice needs were lost in one fell swoop.

The Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria has said they have lost food crops worth over N500 million to floods, while 300 of their members’ farmlands have been washed away.

Data from the Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency show that more than 90 communities have been affected, with over 400,000 persons displaced by the floods.

Across the country, over 2.5 million people have now been affected by the devastating flooding and 1.4 million displaced, according to the Nigerian government. Over 332,327 hectares of farmlands were said to have been destroyed. In the North-East alone, more than 150,000 hectares of land, estimated at over N30 billion, were damaged.

The governor and several other stakeholders have called for a state of emergency, but Suleiman Adamu, minister of water resources, said declaring a state of emergency over the flooding was not yet necessary, adding that the emergency agencies are not yet overwhelmed.

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