12 December 2012

Nigeria: Displaced 8,000 Return to Flooded Nasarawa Community

Lafia — The over 8,000 persons displaced for the last four months from their homes by flooding which ravaged Guto at the bank of the Benue River, in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, have returned to their communities, to face another uncertain rainy season to come next year.

"We are returning. Infact, most of our people have returned to pick their lives and begin afresh", said a mother of three, who spoke to this reporter on phone, today. Salamata as she gave her name, said she cannot continue a life outside of her own home, not even where there is every comfort.

Guto, among not less than 200 communities across the state, according statistics available at the Nasarawa State Emergency Agency (NASEMA), was devastated by the floods just as 28 persons including women and their children, across the state, died in the disaster which lasted months. The statistics by NASEMA also showed that over 2,000 hectares of farmland were lost to the recent flooding which was triggered by the surging Benue River around the period.

In all, he said 95,538 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), about 8,000 from Guto alone, were recorded to have been affected, and have been camping in four camps of Guto in Nasarawa, Tunga in Awe, Umaisha in Toto, and Rukubi in Doma.

While displaced persons in much of the about 200 communities have remained a distant from their washed homes, those of Guto are leaving to return to their communities.

Dr. Abdullahi Idris, Executive Secretary of NASEMA, confirmed in a phone interview with Daily Trust that "yes we are aware that Guto people have returned to their places."

He said while government is not too pleased with the decision of the returning displaced persons because of the possibility of another disaster by next year, the government still cannot force persons to rescind their decision. He said government is currently making plans which outcome will lead to a possible relocation of the displaced communities, in the totality of the package designed to address the disaster by a task force set up by the governor, last week.

"Government has a plan, and that is part of the responsible of the task force. We start with relief, disbursement of funds to displaced persons. We can't tell them not to return, especially the people of Guto, who never even accepted to be kept in camp.

"Yes, we are aware Guto people are returning, but not other people, after the flooded water receded, and their place is there for them. Some of them moved out, and were camped outside Guto. We are going back there with post disaster assessment, for us to know where persons will return", Dr. Idris, who is also the secretary of the task force said.

Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, last week, inaugurated the 15-man task force to assess and report back in six months, the extent of damage caused by the floods that ravaged many communities in Nasarawa State, as well as provide relief. The task force, according to Dr. Idris, is also to disburse the N400 relief package of the federal government, to the displaced persons.

The governor said the task force, headed by Dr. Mustapha Bello, will carry out detailed assessment of the extent of devastation caused by floods across the state; conduct detailed costing of public facilities and infrastructure, as well as individual property destroyed by the floods; and consider the desirability or otherwise of the relocation of some communities affected by the floods, among others duties.

The task force is also o renovate and/or reconstruct primary healthcare facilities and other public institutions affected by the flood disasters; to ascertain the number of people that lost their lives and suffered physical disabilities as a result of the floods; to provide relief and succour to displaced families, as well as families of deceased persons and those that suffered physical disabilities; to provide relief to individuals or group of individuals affected by the flood as may be determined by the Task Force; to conduct advocacy campaigns on flood control measures and prompt response by residents; to liaise with appropriate stakeholders and agencies in carrying out the assignment; and to submit periodic reports to Government on the progress of assignment.

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