26 March 2012

Nigeria: Dilemma of Sokoto Flood Victims


Sokoto — Eighteen months after their community was washed away by floods, residents of sandy Tsaro village, a mere 20 minutes motorcycle ride to Niger Republic, are still counting their losses.

Until September, 2010, the people of Tsaro in Gada local government area of Sokoto state ,were living a near-normal life. The community which is located about 60 kilometres from Gada local government headquarters', possesses basic social amenities. Tsaro people boast of a primary school, primary health care centre, a market and burial ground. Houses in the village were built with mould and block.

The people were happily living their lives in the border town close to Niger Republic. Tsaro is just about 10 kilometres to Niger. All these have since become history; they were all wiped away during the flood that ravaged 11 out of the 23 local government areas of Sokoto State in 2010. The flood was as a result of the water that spilled over from the Goronyo Dam. It destroyed their houses, farmlands, animals, schools and their basic amenities.

Now, the people of Tsaro who are mostly farmers live in thatch houses. Theirs is a movement from grace to grass as our correspondent who was there, observed. As if they were waiting for the opportunity for them to voice out their predicament, when our correspondent visited the village, leaders of the community trooped out in great numbers to speak on their predicament. They struggle among themselves on who to speak first.

First to reel out the problems of his community was the Sarki Tsaro, Alhaji Umar Jibril; he said the flood has returned them to the situation which their grand fathers were in some 50 years ago.

His words: "For 18 months now we have been living without hospital, schools, markets and burial ground, all these basic amenities were washed away during the flood that ravaged our community in 2010.Our children are no longer going to school, because our primary school was not left out during the flood, and the teachers deployed to the school have also left.

"While some of us were living in block houses, others owned mould houses, all these are now history. The flood wiped away all our homes, forcing us to be living in these thatch houses. We are now living in the yesteryears. We are now used to living in this condition ,since the government is yet to complete the houses it promised us," he added.

The community leader while commending the state governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko for his efforts towards addressing their problems, urged him to ensure the quick completion of the resettlement projects, and re-grade the 60 kilometres road that link them with the other parts of Nigeria.

"If the rainy season sets in before the re-grading of our road, I'm afraid we will be cut off from Nigeria, because it is the only road that connects us with other parts of the country. Should this happen, the only option for us is the neighbouring Niger republic, which is a 20 minutes motorcycle ride," he said.

On his side, Alhaji Audu Muazu (75) said the money given to them by the government was too small. "First we were given 8,600, and later they gave us 45,000 naira, and we have been here for the past 18 months. Aside from the problem of housing, the main challenge facing us is that of food, because our farmland, stocked food and animals were washed away during the flood. We don't have food to feed our family again," he added.

For Suleiman Haruna, the flood may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, should the state government fulfil all its promises to them, and he says that they are eagerly waiting for it.

"Though we were living in mud and block houses before the flood, there was no motor-able path or road to our community. It was the flood that made the state government to create this un-tarred road when the government officials needed to be coming here. We were totally cut off from Nigeria; Niger Republic is closer to us, than Nigeria," he added.

Speaking during the foundation laying of the 300 houses for the victims of the 2010 flood in Tsaro village, Governor Wamakko appealed to them to be patient, and assured that he would ensure that the project is completed on time to ameliorate their sufferings.

According to him, the contract for the building of the 1000 houses for all the victims of the 2010 flood in the state, would gulp about 4 billion naira, and that the houses are being built in the three affected local government area of the state namely Gada, Silame and Goronyo. He said the 60 kilometre road from Gada local government secretariat to Tsaro village, cost the state 300 million naira.

"The delay in laying the foundation for this project was because my tenure was terminated, but even with that we directed the contractor to continue with the project, because we know your problems. I can assure that in no time, the project will be completed for your benefit," he said.

Earlier in his address, the Secretary to the Sokoto State Government, Alhaji Sahabi Isa Gada, said the state government would soon award contracts for the building of Hospital, school, mosque and a burial ground in the community. He said the state government has so far disbursed a total of 780 million naira to the flood victims, to cushion the effect of the losses they incurred as a result of the natural disaster.

"This new village is a creation of Governor Wamakko , because when the flood wiped away the old Tsaro village, he was the one that gave us this one. And since then, he has been working hard to ensure that the new Tsaro village posseses all the necessary social amenities," he said.

However, one of the leaders of the displaced person, Alhaji Hamidu Audu (96), said the houses being built by the state government are not enough, therefore he appealed to government to provide more.

"The houses are just 300 and we are more than 1000 in this village, displaced by the flood, how would they share it for us? he queried.

Rough trip to Tsaro

From Sokoto the state capital to Gada local government headquarters, the trip was smooth and fast as the road was tarred. We left the state capital around 10.30 am and about two hours later we were there.

After relaxing for 20 minutes, we returned to our aged hiace bus and the journey to Tsaro started. Before leaving the local government, we inquired from a neighbourhood security guard on how to get to Tsaro, he described the road to us, and told us that the village is just 60 kilometres from Gada town.

Minutes into our journey we left Gada town, and we were connected to the 60 kilometre Tsaro road, a feeder sandy road. The sandy nature of the road makes it difficult for our vehicle to move fast. The more our driver accelerates, the less the vehicle moved. At many instances, our vehicle was almost stuck in the road.

The journey was hellish even as we were battling with the bad road, the sun was burning intensely, the weather was hot and the breeze blowing round was sandy, thus we could not wind down the glasses of the car. The vehicle has no air conditioning system.

About 30 minutes into our trip, the network of our handsets vanished. No communication, no good air, no food or drink, and the scorching sun was biting harder. We were in this critical condition for close to two hours.

Six of us in the vehicle, excluding the driver, were newsmen. We were welcomed to Tsaro by children who trooped to the roadside waving at us. They were excited when they saw us. We reached Tsaro around 2:15pm. We spent only two hours in the desert town of Tsaro. The locals here are closer to Niger Republic than Nigeria, their father land.

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