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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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Underwater: Kogi’s Bitter Experience

As the 2022 flood continues to wreak havoc in various communities in Kogi State, including the state capital, most displaced families have been forced to seek refuge in schools, abandoned buildings, makeshift tents, or with distant family members, with some abandoning all of their possessions.

Flooding has wreaked havoc in KotonKarfe, Lokoja, Ajaokuta, Banda, Ganaja, Bassa, Ibaji, and other Local Government Areas in the state’s Eastern Flank, displacing over 600,000 people and killing six people, including an infant.

Previously, the Kogi people believed in the popular sayings “water has no enemy” and “water is life.” Unfortunately, this is no longer the case due to the magnitude of flooding in the state of of recent. In short, lives are being lost to the flooding christened as a “Ravaging Monster.”

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) have been emphasising the fact that the 2022 floods will be significantly heavier than usual, preparing everyone in various public forums for the need for more coordinated action. According to media reports, Cameron authorities decided to release water from the Lagdo dam, along with water from the Kainji and Shiroro dams, a large amount of which passed through the River Niger en route from Lokoja to other parts of the world.

In the midst of all of this, the victims are forced to confront the tragic reality of flood, the majority of whom have been mourning and borrowing in temporary housing courtesy of relatives, friends, and Donor agencies.

Running through the agonies of the Internally displaced is the sad story of Four members of a family, who were sacked by flood from their house and took refuge in a friend’s house in Adankolo in Lokoja. They were admitted at the Federal Medical Centre FMC Lokoja, as a result of high degree of burns that they sustained when trying to ignite gas to prepare food for themselves.

According to the Victims’ Father, they moved into the house and attempted to use their cooking gas to prepare a meal for the family; however, the gas hose was not properly connected, resulting in a leak, which caused the explosion. Victims are pleading for help and fighting for survival.

Alhaji Abubakar Umar, the father of a 28-year-old housewife, Amina Musa, has appealed to the state governor, Alhaji Yahaha Bello, and other public-spirited individuals in the country to come to his financial aid in order to raise N 2.5 million for his daughter’s hospital bill.

This is in addition to the two bodies recovered from the Niger River at Ganaja on Monday, Oct. 3, when the boat they were being being ferried across flooded Ganaja area to continue their journey to Ajaokuta capsized. Eyewitness said they were returning to their homes in the night when the boat capsized leaving them drowned in the water. The source said there was no help for them because it happened in the night. It took the efforts of the local divers to recover their dead bodies.

Another family was said to have been evicted from their home by the flood; they claimed to have paid for two months in another apartment, but it was flooded a day after they moved in.

David Femi is a civil servant who lives in Lokoja with his family, but the flood had already displaced him, separating him from his family. He stated that he had relocated his properties to relatives’ homes, while his children are seeking refuge at a friend’s home.

Many people have been staying in churches because they have nowhere else to go, so some churches have left their doors open to flood victims. Jacob Iyagin, who is visibly shaken, stated that government announced that they should go to the prepared camps but they have searched and have not found any IDP camp that is setup by the government. He expressed sadness towards the way the government is handling the situation adding that Government is doing little or nothing for victims compared to what they are announcing in the media.

Religious leaders said that they can not leave their followers in their trying time adding that the church will do anything possible for victims so as to cussion the effect of the flood on their members.

While speaking with Pst. Dr. John Babatunde, the Coordinator of Christian Association of Nigeria in Lokoja, he noted that the church has left their doors open to to the victims adding that individual churches have put measures in place to assist their members who fell victim of the natural disaster. The Clergyman expressed satisfaction in the level of compliance with the Religious Organization’s Victim Support Initiative.

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The disaster has also destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland, worsening fears of a disruption of food supply in the state and country at Large. thousands of victims of flood in kogi state bemoan over their loses as beneficiaries of Value Chain Development Programme(VCDP), mainly rice farmers under the FGN/IFAD Assisted Project in Kogi State are lamenting over the loss of their rice farms of over 600 hectares to the Natural disaster.

The farmers who are mainly from Ibaji, Lokoja and Ajaokuta Local Government Areas, told Newsmen in Lokoja that all their rice farmlands had been submerged by flooding.

The Ibaji Local Government Liaison Officer, Mr Achogu Fredrick, said about 216 rural farmers in Ibaji who benefitted from the IFAD-VCDP RPSF, had all lost their rice farmlands to flood. According to him, each of the 216 farmers had one hectare of rice farmland, totaling 216 hectares in Ibaji, adding that all have been submerged.

The Lawmaker representing Ibaji Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Atule Egbunu said that it is very difficult to evacuate and relocate the flood victims to a safer place as all roads leading to the local government have been flooded.

The Lawmaker noted that the people are currently not having what it takes to address the damages caused by the disaster and called on the State Government to urgently come to the aid of the people of Ibaji especially those affected by the massive flood.

Students also had their share of the havoc wrecked by the disaster as students of Federal University Lokoja had their houses flooded without any means of evacuation because their hostels are under lock and they have traveled as a result of the ASUU strike that has kept them away from school for several months.

The pathetic story of a farmer in Ibaji Local government area hit the news when he lost a three years old daughter. After recovering the body, he threw the corpse back into the water because there was no land to bury the child as the entire Community is severely flooded. The pain of losing a child is excruciating but not having the opportunity to bury that child is another bitter experience.

Ibaji local government is an agrarian community with a beautiful reputation for great agricultural produce, but sadly, that has been submerged by the flood. Meanwhile,The Ibaji Unity Forum (IUF), an umbrella body for people of Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi, has appealed to the Federal and State Governments for urgent intervention to ameliorate the peoples’ suffering emanated from flooding.

While the masses are suffering, the Elites too are not smiling as the Kogi State House of Assembly Quarters also got submerged in the water. The official quarters of the Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, Rt. Honourable Prince Matthew Kolawole and that of his deputy, Honorable Rabiu Ishiaka Momoh and other members have been submerged by flood in Lokoja.

Some of the members  were not happy that the Governor did not bother to visit their quarters for an on spot assessment like he did visited old market and other areas within Lokoja.

They stressed that the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Victor Omofaiye who was once their colleague did not also bother about their plight to see what the members are currently facing with the flood situation.

Although Kogi state government is doing little or nothing to assist the victims, private bodies and corporate organizations are beginning to roll in reliefs for the victims.

Among them is the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) that distributed relief materials to victims of flood arising from release of water from various dams within and outside the country.

The Agency said the exercise was in response to the devastations and destructions caused by flooding of the riverine communities by water released from hydroelectric generating dams in the past weeks.

Similarly, The Kebbi State Governor, Sen. Atiku Bagudu has sympathised with the people of Kogi state as he donated the sum of N50 million to the Kogi State government to support efforts at providing palliatives to flood victims.

Unlike the 2012 flooding incident that saw Kogi state government gather over 800million naira from donors including Dangote Group and Financial institutions that donated 500million and 200million naira respectively, business organizations have not been responding to emergency caused by the natural disaster. To some business owners, the tax that they pay to the state government is enough to cater for the needs of the flood victims.

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