25 November 2012

Nigeria: Flood - Govt Abandoned us to Our Fate - Okumi Oworo People

Lokoja — The flood has come and gone but sad tales are still with those who suffered the tide. Houses, farmlands and several other valuable property were submerged and washed away by the ferocious flood that affected nine local government areas in the Confluence State.

Okumi-Oworo community is one of the communities affected in this year's flood disaster in Kogi State. Though government said it helped those affected, this community said since the flood ravaged it, it received no help from the local government or the state government.

The displaced persons have therefore taken their destiny in their own hands. They returned home after over two months of staying away. Many of them claimed they could not go to camps opened by government in Lokoja due to the long distance and face poor treatment by state government officials.

Okuni Oworo community with a population of close to 2,000 is about six to seven kilometres away from Lokoja. The people are predominantly farmers. Their crops with their houses were washed away in the flood.

The people told our reporter that they had resigned their fate to God after their repeated appeals and calls on government for help were never answered.

The chairman, Okumi Oworo Community Development Association, Malam Umoru Haladu Doko, told our Sunday Trust that they had not felt the impact of government since the flood wreaked havoc on them.

In his words, "Life has not been the same to us since our houses and farmlands were destroyed by flood. The disaster has really set my people backward. All we laboured for have all gone.

"We have constructed makeshift tents to serve as houses in an open place because we could not abandon our village for the camp. The only help we received so far was two bags of rice seeds from ADP, which is not enough for the entire farmers in the community," he said.

Doko, a farmer, said farming and fishing are their major occupations, but the flood washed away all the crops and fishing implements leaving the community with nothing.

For Aisha Muhammed, the women leader in the community, they have been passing through difficulties due to the lack of shelter and food.

"After the flood, we were sleeping in the open with our children. Our husbands decided to build make shift tents so that we would have a place to lay our heads, hoping that government would come to our aid.

"Our source of drinking water has been polluted. The hand pump well constructed by Fadama [office] is no longer functioning. Our means of livelihood, which is farming has been destroyed too," she lamented.

According to her, they had been living in the community for decades, but never witnessed such disaster. She called on government to relocate them to a place where flood would not affect them in future.

Another resident, Musa Abdullah complianed that government had not provided any relief materials to the community, saying both the Lokoja local government council and state government had treated them as if they are foreigners.

He said since the community was affected by the flood, no government official came to commiserate with them.

According to him, they wrote several letters to the state and local governments but had not got anything yet.

"We heard on radio that people donated money and foodstuffs to flood victims," he expressed.

Our reporter who visited the village reported that mud houses were under construction, said marks of houses washed away by the flood were still visible.

About three weeks ago, people in camps at Lokoja protested what they called "ill-treatment," accusing camp management officials of diverting relief materials and money meant for them to the personal use.

Okumi community leader, Malam Haladu Umoru, told our correspondent that he tried all possible ways to get government's attention for his people but the government has all along been blind to their plight.

"We have complained to the Lokoja local government council, but nothing was done about it. We also complained to the state government and nothing was done.

"We have resigned our fate to God since government has decided to abandoned us. As you can see, we have started rebuilding our houses," he said.

He brought out a copy of the letter written to the state government on the problem.

The letter was acknowledged by the state ministry of environment.

The letter dated September 20, 2012 read in part, "On behalf of Okumi-Oworo, we members of the community development association register our concern over the flood that has rendered the community homeless.

"We want government to come to our aid so that we can start rebuilding our life. We are yet to benefit from the state government. We want the government to relocate us to a permanent place where we will not be affected by flood. We call on the government to come to our aid and provide alternative abode for us."

Responding to all this, the Kogi State deputy governor, Mr Yomi Awoniyi, who is also the chairman of the committee on flood disaster, said government had not abandoned those affected by the flood.

The deputy governor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Abu Michael appealed to them to be patient, having submitted the necessary documents to the government and wait till the technical committee assessed their losses.

The deputy governor said all monies donated to the displaced persons are still intact and that they are working out modalities for their re-settlement, after the technical committee completes its job.

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