With just two months into the rainy season, it has been tales of woes, agony and anguish as floods have continued to ravage communities and villages in different parts of Nigeria. From East to West, North to South, the story is the same- pain and anguish as scores of families have experienced colossal loss of humans and property. In Jos during the week, a ravaging flood left over 40 people dead while scores of others could not be accounted for. Nigerians are scared stiff that should this continue, a large chunk of the population would be wiped out even before the rainy season is over, unless urgent action is taken by government to arrest the situation. EMMA OKEREH Abuja, NNAMDI MBAWIKE Enugu, DONATUS NADI Nasarawa, SAKIN BABALOLA Oyo and PAUL DADA Lagos report.
There is no gainsaying the fact that water is life. It is water, through rainfall that gives life to crops which makes agriculture thrive and makes for food security. Indeed, the importance of water cannot be over emphasized. But when rainfall translates to flood, it becomes destructive and uncontrollable leaving in its wake devastation that cannot be replaced.
In Nigeria, the menace of flood has become a recurring decimal and a matter deserving government's declaration of a state of emergency.
Causes of flood are caused by a number of factors such as blocked sewage systems or non-adherence to building plans. In some cases, a total lack of planning, negligence and government insensitivity contribute a great deal to this avoidable disaster.
In most cases, government rushes to the scene of disaster with relief materials, while survivors are relocated into one refugee camp or another. However, it would be expected that government ought to be more proactive than reactive.
For instance, penultimate Sunday, Gangare, Tudun-Osi. Anguwan Rogo, Rikkos Jenta Mangoro, Angwan Rukuba and Kwanan Shagari, all in Jos North local government council of Plateau state, North Central , Nigeria woke up to a deadly flood that wreaked havoc in their communities.
The ravaging flood left over 40 people dead just as hundreds of houses were reduced to rubble with scores also missing.
When LEADERSHIP WEEKEND visited some of the affected communities, it was discovered that most of the houses were built on the water ways while some of the drainages were completely blocked. The foundations of some of them were also discovered to be weak even as people built in contravention of housing plans.
A survivor, Abdulrahed Haruna, an owner of a provision shop, recounted how he saw people swept away by the flood but was helpless. He narrated that his shop was covered with water leading to the collapse of the building. All the goods in his shop were also swept away by the rampaging flood.
Another survivor, Ibrahim Abdullahi Abubakar who lost his neighbour and all his family members, also said the flood destroyed his twelve- room apartment. He also disclosed that in his area alone, over 25 people, including women and children, were lost to the flood.
Similarly, Kabiru Faisal, 15, said he lost his mother and five brothers to the flood and survived it with his father because they went for Ramadan Tafsir when the rain started and could not return home.
Ibrahim Hassan who was not at home when the incident occurred, said he received a phone call that his house was submerged by water and his children were swept away by water. Till date, he has not seen his two children.
Also recounting his ordeal, another survivor, Sani Maitukuyan, said he lost his shop to the flood, as well as his 80- year-old mother who was swept away- her corpse wass yet to be recovered.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, head of rescue operation, Jamatul Nasril Islam[JNI]Umar Shuaibu said about 30 corpses were discovered and buried adding that one person lost 8 members of his family to the disaster.
He said the flood destroyed 323 houses while over 1,532 displaced people were scattered across the two refugee camps in Rikkos and Gangare.
He noted that the national emergency management agency responded swiftly and provided the victims with relief materials such as drugs, food stuff, blankets, mattresses and other essentials of life.
Meanwhile, 65 cases of cholera have been reported in the two camps.
Abuja, the federal capital territory has not been spared in the orgy of flood. Three weeks ago, the senator representing the FCT, Senator Philip Aduda lost his special assistant to a flood in Karu area of the federal capital territory.
In Lagos today, many do not seem to consider the rainy season a period of blessing anymore because the windstorms that come with the rain and the floods that ensue afterwards, normally lead to loss of lives, homes and belongings.
For instance would the relatives of Ahmed Shotunminu who died as a result of the rainstorm that raged between the night of last Wednesday and Thursday consider it a blessing? Certainly not.
As the storm raged, the debris from two collapsed structures fell onto the adjoining storey building. In one of the rooms was a 22-year old carpenter who was sleeping alongside his friend, Biola Adesanya on the same bed.
Ahmed was said to have died, while Biola reportedly escaped with head and arm injuries.
A neighbour, Odubanjo, explained that the tragedy took place at about 1.15am.
He said: "At about 1.15am, Ahmed's father, Alhaji Olusoji, raised the alarm that we should help rescue his son. We rushed to his apartment but unfortunately he was completely buried under the debris. It was only his leg that was visible.
"It took time before he could be removed from the debris and by the time he was removed, he was stone dead."
A neighbor said Ahmed and the other young man were in the boy's quarter behind the main building.
"The two of them stayed in the boy's quarter of the main building and were both fast asleep when the fence collapsed. But Ahmed was not as lucky as his brother who escaped with minor injuries.
"The bricks fell on him and he died instantly, I was sleeping in my house which is opposite their apartment when a call came in that a building had collapsed on them and I should come and assist. I quickly rushed to the scene but we could only see his leg while the rest of his body was covered in the rubble."
Another occupant of the building where Ahmed lived, Gbenga Durojaiye stated he would have also been a victim of the incident if he had not attended an all-night prayer.
"I stay upstairs and my room was affected. The collapsed wall fell onto our bed and our kitchen. I thank God that I heeded my wife's call to attend our church's vigil in Ebute Meta. Maybe we would have been dead by now.
"My pregnant sister Bosede, who is eight months pregnant, was asleep in the sitting room when the incident happened. She is currently in shock and has been put on bed rest because of this incident."
However, a 17-year-old boy, Abraham, at Mafoluku, Oshodi was not lucky as he was said to have been carried away by the flood.
It was learnt that Abraham was drowned at about 6.30am on Thursday when he was salvaging some planks he had gathered beside Sadiku canal in the area.
He however slipped into the river when he was making an attempt to pick a plank that was about to be washed away by the flood water.
It was also learnt that no fewer than three persons were feared dead in different parts of the state because of the floods.
Chairman of Badia-East Community Development Area, Mr. James Ilawole, confirmed that many people lost most of their belongings, including books, computers, clothes, electronics and household equipment to the flood.
For Sebanjo Mojisola, a resident of Iyana Isheri/Ijegun on the outskirts of Lagos, the incident was unprecedented. She said: "I have never seen so many people stranded in one place at a point in time. It was like a dead end. People could not move because the flood was so much. I was carried on the back by some guys who used the period to make money. Okada operators could not even pass through; they stopped passengers and turned back
A resident of Akinwunmi Estate, Mende, had this to say: "We are begging the government to come and clear the canal; it is because people build houses in the canal, that is why we are suffering like this."Last year, all our office equipment was damaged and we had to replace all furniture we had. Now, it did not even rain for up to 24 hours yet there was much damage.
What would happen if there is continuous rain?"
Sunday Peters who is a musician urged the government to come to their rescue.
He said: "We do not have money to go up there and rent houses. I am lucky I did not keep my instruments in the house. Look at people's beds, television and other furniture destroyed. Little children were rescued from getting drowned while the rain was still falling and most of us have not even eaten because we are still trying to remove the water,".
Two workers, Afolabi Olayinka and Sikirat Ganiyu who worked at a secondary school in Meiran said the perennial floods in Lagos could be combated if the drainage channels and the bad roads are fixed by government.
Both of them also wanted Lagosians to have attitudinal change. They condemned the situation where people dump refuse in drainage channels thereby causing them to be blocked.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Sate government has warned that in the next two weeks, the city will witness severe windstorm.
It appealed to residents to clean the drainage channels in their neighborhoods. He warned against making the flooding worse through the dumping of waste into canals, and erecting of structures along drainage channels.
In Ibadan, over 70 landlords were rendered homeless by the heavy downpour and subsequent flood of Saturday and Sunday.
Although there were no lives lost in areas visited by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, properties worth millions of naira were destroyed as a result.
The Apete bridge which caved in as an aftermath of August 26, 2011 flood in the Oyo state capital was also affected by the weekend's rain. It made human and vehicular movement extremely difficult on Sunday morning as many had to seek alternative routes to their places of worship.
In a related development, the Oyo State government has said that but for the proactive measures it undertook late last year and early in the year in constructing nine critically dilapidated bridges and dredging 43 rivers and streams across the state, the flooding that occurred on Saturday and Sunday in the city of Ibadan, the capital of the state, would have been worse.
The government made this known in a release issued by Governor Abiola Ajimobi's Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo.
The release said that upon hearing the distress calls of residents of the affected areas in the early hours of Sunday, government immediately dispatched a team of commissioners, Special Advisers, State Emergency Management Agency officials, as well as the state fire-fighting team to the affected areas, so as to have a first-hand assessment of the flooding.
In Nasarawa, Tudun Kauri area of Lafia Local Government was thrown into mourning following the death of about 6 pupils following an early morning rainstorm that pulled down the walls of Living Foundation Nursery and Primary School, Lafia, leaving the pupils at the mercy of a raging flood that swept through the school premises leaving a tragic scene in its wake.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND investigations revealed that the tragedy occured at about 9:45am after almost three hours of a heavy downpour. Giving her own account, the Headmistress of the school, Mrs. Theresa James said the cause of the tragedy was due largely to lack of good drainage system in the area.
She said: "after the heavy downpour, the attendant flood pulled on its path a felled coconut tree trunk which upon colliding with the rear wall of the school, pulled it down thereby diverting the flood path into the school premises". Given that the age range of the pupils were between 3-12 years, they could do little to save themselves as most of them were submerged in the flood which was over 4 meters high.
Mrs. James, who was still in shock at the time of filing this report asserted that only four pupils died in the tragedy, three in their classrooms and one who was found dead in an over-flooded gutter some meters away from the school.
The school has about 265 pupils and only 13 members of staff most of which are women which made the rescue operation more difficult in the course of which a staff, Miss Elizabeth Obi fainted but was immediately rushed to the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital Lafia where she was revived.
Counteracting Mrs. James' claims however Mallam Zakari Dantani who lost his daughter, Hajara, to the flood and lives directly opposite the school said "over 10 children died in the incidence", adding that "when the deluge over-flooded the classes I quickly mobilised the youths the community for a rescue operation during which we brought out five dead bodies with my daughter being the sixth".
Mallam Dantani however blamed the flood on government's total refusal to address the drainage problem which has been a recurring problem in the area. "The government embarked on road construction along the Government House axis and constructed a common outlet for flood water in the area without bothering to construct gutters to discharge the flood water to logical point".
A resident of the area Alhaji Abdullahi Bature whose daughter, Amina, was rescued even as his 11- bedroom-home was destroyed, accused the Nasarawa State Urban Development Board (NUDB) of inefficiency and corruption by allowing people to flout laid- down rules by building on drainage channels.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND investigations revealed that the NUDB had earmarked some houses for demolition since August, 2010 but went to sleep immediately after, leaving the people to the vagaries of nature.
Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura visited the school the next day for an on-the-spot assessment and to condole with the members of the community who lost their children and those whose children sustained various degrees of injury. The Governor expressed regret at the unfortunate occurrence which he described as "unfortunate and regrettable".
Almakura acknowledged the fact that erosion has posed a big challenge to various communities across the state but his government would not leave any stone unturned in seeing that the various ecological problems besieging the state are tackled with all sense of urgency
For residents of Nru Community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, Monday 12th June, 2012 will continue to haunt them. They are not likely to forget that day in a hurry because of the magnitude of loss visited on them by a strange windstorm that raced through the community at midnight leaving in its wake destructions.
In fact, by the time the heavy rain that followed ended, many in the community had been turned into refugees in their own land and squatters on the heaps of the ruins of their former abodes. No fewer than 40 residential houses were destroyed in the area.
Many individuals and organisations are yet to come to terms with what hit them and why. Churches, schools and community property were ravaged by the rushing winds and rain that swept everything on sight, as the community members were fast asleep. It was like a community visited by robbers in the thick of the night. The scars of that natural disaster are written all over the place: roof tops blown off, houses uprooted and landmarks torn into shred by the wild wind.
As the storms continue to rage, especially with the warning from relevant government quarters warning of more severe storms in time to come, Nigerians are at their wits end at what solution is there for them especially within a very short time. This can as well be a challenge to the government of the day which has all the apparatus to deal with disaster especially the one that is foretold.