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Ruin, devastation, loss of lives as Kebbi goes under water

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Submerged rice plain. Inset: Collapsed building caused by flood



Kebbi State is battling what could be described as the worst flooding in the history of the state. Within a few days, over 600km of rice plantations and other farmlands were destroyed, just as crops, livestock and fishing ponds were washed away, with 32 lives lost so far. From Sabongari Birnin Tudu, through Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Klubo, Bunza, Zoro Bakingari, Bagudo, Koko Bese, Shanga, Yauri, to Ngask, the devastation is mind-boggling. GBENGA AKINFENWA, who toured the affected areas, reports.


“In the last 100 years, we have never witnessed flooding of this magnitude in Kebbi State. Majority of our people were badly affected. Many houses collapsed and farmlands were wiped-off. Many rice plantations and other crops have been ruined. Our cows have disappeared, likewise other livestock lost.


 


“We were still managing the effect of coronavirus pandemic before this flooding. Now we have lost everything, our hopes have been dashed and our dreams aborted,” says Halimat Ibrahim, a resident of Tungar Himau, Bagudo Local Council Area of Kebbi State.


 


The Leader of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Yauri Local Council Chapter, Ibrahim Numa, also painted the devastation vividly: “The destructions caused by the flooding were enormous. The disaster affected over 1,000 hectares of farmlands and 150,000 farmers in this council alone.

“We could hardly salvage five per cent of our harvest, as 95 per cent of the rice was destroyed. The water from the hills flooded our entire rice plantations. The destruction is infinite, though there has not been accurate cost of losses suffered so far.”


 


The level of devastation wrecked by the flood on the state is quite unimaginable. Contrary to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s (NiMET) forecast that 11 local councils of the 21 council areas are inclined to flooding, 15 local councils are already badly affected by the flood, while the remaining six are also feeling the impact.


  


From Sabongari Birnin Tudu, a community bordering Sokoto and Kebbi to Argungu, from Argungu down to Birnin Kebbi, Klubo, Bunza, Zoro Bakingari, Bagudo, Koko Bese, Shanga, Yauri, to Ngask-the discharging point close to Kainji dam in Niger State, echoes of ruin keep pulsating.


  


The Guardian tour of the affected areas revealed that Bagudo council area seems to be the worst hit by the natural disaster. Indeed, 98 per cent of the villages were affected. Aside Bagudo community, other adjoining communities such as Saki Jiki, Tungar Zagga, Soshiya,Tungar Gyara, Tungar Himau, MarakeYuna baba da Karama,Tugga among others tasted varying degree of ruin.


  


It was learnt that the current flooding is the most devastating the state has experienced compared to past years. As at the last count, no fewer than 32 lives have been lost, hundreds of houses destroyed and thousands of residents have been sacked. At least, over 10 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps have sprung up in some of the affected councils, to accommodate displaced residents.


  


Chairman of the State Emergency Management Authority (KSEMA), Alhaji Sani Dododo, who confirmed the number of deaths, said 10 people died in the boat that capsized at Geheru, in Jega local council. The victims were mainly women and children. “Only eight bodies have so far been recovered; a family of six-father, mother and children were wiped away in Arewa council area. We recorded one death in Yauri, among others. Maybe the number will increase, we don’t know because every day we are experiencing rainfall.”

  


Dejection and hopelessness etched boldly on affected communities, as displaced residents, whose properties and means of livelihood have been ruined. While able-bodied men were seen roaming the roadsides ruminating their fate, the women, children and the aged sat idly in the IDPs camps, hopelessly, depressed and tired.


  


In some areas, nursing mothers were seen with their babies strapped to their backs, paddling canoe to escape from the ravaging flood, while those who managed to salvage leftover of their belongings, especially mattresses and electronics, assembled them at the road sides.    


  


Five different bridges have been washed away across the state. The Birnin Kebbi-Makera-Kangiwa road, an international highway, which runs from the state capital linking Nigeria and Niger Republic, is at a risk of caving in at Duku. 


  


Some of the minor bridges, culverts along the highway are caving in, following erosion caused by rising water overflowing the nearby River Rima. Also, the Bagudo-Tuga-Kaoje route, which leads to Benin Republic border, including the Tuga Bridge has also been submerged, cutting border communities.


  


As at last week, the state was contemplating the closure of an international highway linking Nigeria and Niger Republic, following devastating effect of flooding in major highways.

IN Augie local council, it was a pitiful scenario across the villages. The flood did not only hit them hard, it has almost rendered the whole council desolate.

According to Abubakar Umar, a resident of Birnin Tudu, “This area has never witnessed flooding of this magnitude since I was born 55 years ago. Several neighbouring villages have been submerged and rendered desolate.


  


The Sardauna of Bubuchi District, Samaila Mane, said the flood has washed away their properties. “Majority of our farmlands and crops have been washed away, our people are already devastated because of their collapsed buildings.

Many were not as lucky, as the buildings collapsed on them. When you get to the primary school turned to IDPs camp, you’ll see women and children taking refuge right there, without food to eat. There is nowhere for us to sleep, it is a pitiful situation.”


  


The experience in Bagudo council area is devastating, as 98 per cent of the villages were affected, farms swept away and the areas, submerged. “The natural disaster has dealt this area a deadly blow, majority of our houses were destroyed, farmlands waterlogged and we have nothing to fall back on. For over 70 years, we have never experienced flooding of this magnitude,” Alhaji Umaru Tugar Beertu, a resident of Kende said.


  


The Tuga Village Head, Alhaji Abubakar Muhammed, who attributed the perennial challenge to the confluence of River Niger and River Rima at the Tuga Bridge, described their current predicament as sickening. “The Tuga bridge has been submerged, cutting off our communities from neighbours. Economically, this disaster has negatively impacted our people from trading in fish and agric produce.


 


Chairman of the council, Muhammadu Kaura Zaga, was short of words to capture the massive destruction.  “It is just unfortunate because in the past 100 years we have never witnessed flooding of this magnitude. Majority of our people are badly affected, both their farmlands were completely destroyed. All the districts under this council were affected, 98 per cent of villages were affected.

  


“We were still managing the coronavirus pandemic effect before this flooding. Our cows have disappeared suddenly, livestock lost and houses collapsed. Our current predicament is very devastating; our people need urgent help not to die of starvation. Already, we have three IDPs camps in this council area alone.”


 


No fewer than 45 communities were affected in Koko Besse council area, leading to the setting up of six IDPs camps. District Head, Dutsi Mani District, Muhammed, said the flooding, which spread across 21 villages in his district, have displaced majority of the residents and destroyed farmlands, along the river side and upland, destroying all the crops.


  


The council boss, Yahaya Bello said the council has been forced to constitute a committee on how to improve the living condition of the IDPs in the six camps in the council and how to address the dilapidated state of the camps. He added that currently they have provided them with food, mats, buckets, medicine, mosquito nets and other necessary facilities.


 


Over 90 communities were affected in the Shanga council area, with more than 100,000 households distressed, with losses incurred to the tune of N700m. Rice farms, sugarcane plantations and millet farms, among others were submerged.


  


Dugu District Head, Yau Abdullahi, said virtually all their farms, especially rice farms have been badly affected. He said other crops were also affected, and the development poses a serious threat to food security in the area.


 


The council Chairman, Yisa Abdullahi, who confirmed the extent of the losses, said though the displaced persons were moved to the IDPs camps at the initial stage, but when the camps were also submerged, they were forcefully evacuated, with majority of them currently seeking refuge in friends and family houses. He said the state government has provided them fund to cater for the IDPs.


  


In Yauri council, the Secretary to the Council Chairman, Alhassan Adamu said the flood affected over 1,000 hectares of farmlands, as over 150,000 farmers were affected.


 


He appealed to the Federal Government to provide them with necessary assistance for the affected farmers to survive. He called for the provision of fertiliser, inputs and others to improve the livelihood of the farmers, adding that there are plans to set IDPs camps within the council.


  


Aside destruction of houses, infrastructure and the roads, farmers were seriously affected in Ngask council. According to the council chairman, Abdullahi Buhari, the council, touted as the major producer of rice in the state, has been badly affected. Though he couldn’t quantify the losses incurred, he said most of the farms were submerged, as five IDPs camps have been set up. He said though no lives lost, but many people were injured and houses destroyed.

In Birnin Kebbi council area, Abubakar Maidana Birnin Kebbi, a farmer in Duku, said: “I planted rice and millet on more than five hectares. I was around the day the water reached my farm. I was able to quickly harvest some millet, but everything else, including the rice were destroyed. 


 


“All my colleagues were also affected. I can’t quantify the loss I have suffered. I’ve been a farmer all my life. About 10 years ago, we experienced something close to this. It is a painful experience for my family and I. We pray that God will give us succour.”


 


Council Chairman of Kalgo, Mohammad Shamsudeen Kalgo, disclosed that all the villages within the council lost more than 200 houses. “We call this area Shia Danfili and the other side is Shia Antunula where we lost more than 150 houses. Some of the victims are staying with their relatives. Yesterday (Thursday, September 10), we had a meeting with stakeholders and traditional rulers. More than 100 persons are homeless. Some are seeking shelter with their relatives.


 


“We thank God that there was no loss of life, but there is God. All of these places have been destroyed by water. It is the first time that we are having destruction on this scale. For more than 100 years, nobody can say they’ve seen any flooding like this in Kalgo, this is the first time that we’re seeing all of this.


 


“This is not the only place that was affected. There is a village, Hirinshi; it is under Badaria Maganza ward. We lost more than 100 houses there. There is a place we call Badaria. We have two Badaria in Kebbi. This is Badaria Kalgo, it is a ward. We lost houses there. Even the Imam of Badaria is taking shelter at a primary school. Both the Imam and the District Head are in Model Primary School in Badary taking refuge.”

 


It was the same sad story in Bunzo council area. The village Head of Raha, Haruna Mohammed said: “ I am a farmer, before the floods came, I planted rice, millet and guinea corn. Everything is under water. All of our farms, our crops in the village have been destroyed by water. We don’t know what to do. We are seeking help from the government or anyone else that can help.”


 


In Jega council area, the Secretary of RIFAN in the area, Major Muawuya Aliyu (Retd), said the incident happened just about when they were about to start harvesting. “In fact, if the floods had delayed for just two weeks, a majority of the farmers would have harvested their crops. The water came suddenly. We were aware there was going to be flooding, but we never thought it was going to be this extensive. 


 


“So, people were trying to see what they could rescue before the flood came. Usually the floods come slowly, it takes about three to five days. But, this one came overnight. We learnt about it, but when we woke up in the morning, we just saw water everywhere. So, it took everyone by surprise and that is why nothing could be rescued.


 


“We have about 50,000 farmers in Jega LGA alone that were affected and if you say you will put a figure to the losses; assuming each farmer has just one hectare, and a hectare takes a minimum of five tons. So, that’s quite a large monetary value. 


 


“There’s nothing our members can do. They are just waiting for the water to subside and they’ll start all over again.” 


THE disaster has given a fillip to forecasts on the looming food crisis. Just a few months ago, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), predicted that seven million Nigerians will experience  food shortage between June and August, this year as 16 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been identified to face food and nutrition crises.

The lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted the agricultural industry, showed that food shortage would be worse, as the cost of production set to significantly increase within the next six to nine months.

The lockdown had forced many countries to shut down their borders thus restricting movements and since local production in the sector cannot meet the demand of over 200 million people in the country.

With the current situation, based on experts’ opinion, the country may be forced to augment its local production with imported food, especially rice considering the havoc wreck on rice farms in Kebbi, considered as one of the hubs of rice production in the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Sabo Nanono, attested to the importance of the state, during his assessment of the affected areas in the state, when he described Kebbi as “the strength of the country” in food production.

Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who confirmed during an interview that in terms of food production the state is significant, disclosed that at least 600km of crops plains were washed away by the flood. 

The length of the FADAMA, the rice belt from the beginning of River Rima to Tuba where River Rima joins River Niger, a plain of about 350 kilometres, where rice, wheat and other crop productions were centered, were completely washed away.

In River Niger, the flood plains also from Dolekaina where the river starts in Kebbi to Kanji lake, is over 250km. Both sides have rivers, and other places that are not on these riverbanks like Jega, Alero that are taking water from river Zamfara are also affected. Crops and animals were lost, fishing grounds were destroyed; homes and infrastructure were also damaged.

The Chairman of Wheat Farmers Association in the state, Alhaji Abdullahi Argungu regretted that the floods have submerged the entire FADAMA rice fields. He said 90 per cent of the farmlands have been submerged, noting that for this year, the farmers made the largest replanting of rice ever recorded in the state before the floodwater washed everything away.


SO far, the state has commenced provision of immediate needs -food relief, water and construction of additional toilets to the displaced people living in the IDPs.

 


Addressing hundreds of flood victims at Bagudo IDPs camps, Bagudu, who commiserated with the victims, promised the state government’s assistance to rebuild their destroyed houses.

“We will relocate other victims who cannot rebuild their former houses even when the flood waters recede. We are all in it. It is a collective loss and concerned, but the state government will do everything humanly possible to alleviate your suffering.

“You should all be patient and fervently prayerful, nothing will be enough, but, we will try our best to flood victims, across the state. We will strive to provide all your immediate needs, while arrangements are also on by SEMA and the local governments to provide your long term needs.


   


President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged Federal Government’s support and assistance to the victims. Buhari, who dispatched a high powered delegation to the state penultimate Saturday, led by the Agric Minister, Nanono to commiserate with flood victims, said the president was deeply concerned with the massive flood disaster in the state, as well as other parts of the country. 

According to him, President Buhari has also mandated him to holistically assess the extent of damage caused by the flood disasters. “This is with the view to ascertaining the extent of damages to farmlands, livestock, houses and other infrastructure. We will also go back to Abuja, compile our report and submit the report. In Shaa’a Allahu, the Federal Government will come to the aid of the victims, including those who have lost their livestock.

 


“Efforts are also on to provide early maturing seeds of rice, maize and other food crops, to reduce the impact of the disaster on food security and the colossal losses to the farmers,’’ the Minister added.


 


In the company of the governor and the entourage at Matan Fada river to assess damage done to rice farmlands, Nanono gave an assurance to farmers in the state of compensatory assistance from the Federal Government.

DESPITE assistance offered so far and promises made, the victims are unanimously seeking help from the Federal Government, international donours, corporate organisations and individuals, to ameliorate the colossal losses.

Abubakar Umar, a resident of Birnin Tudu is appealing to the Federal Government and international agencies to assist them, saying, “the state government has been doing its best, but we need more help.”

The Sardauna of Bubuchi District, Samaila Mane, said: “We actually need help more than before. When you get to the primary school there, you’ll see women and children taking refuge right there, without food eat. There is nowhere for us to sleep, it is a pitiful situation. We need food, shelter, clothing, medicine and other assistance, since about 4,000 residents were affected.”

Chairman of Bagudo of council, Muhammadu Kaura Zaga, wants the Federal Government and international communities to come to the aid of the council. “We were still managing the COVID-19 before the flooding. We are seeking assistance for food and seedlings, as alternatives to what we have lost.

District Head, Dutsi Mani District, Muhammed, appealed to the Federal Government to give them bed and beddings, food and medicine, which are their immediate needs, appealing that government should relocate majority of those who were hard hit by the massive flood.


 


Secretary to the Yauri council area, Alhassan Adamu wants the Federal Government to provide them with necessary assistance for the affected farmers to survive. He called for the provision of fertiliser, inputs and others to improve the livelihood of the farmers, adding that there are plans to set IDPs camps within the council.

Chairman of the Wheat Farmers Association in the state, Argungu requested the Federal Government and authorities concerned to immediately provide the farmers with improved seeds of maize, cassava, potatoes and other varieties for planting instantaneously.

HOWEVER, it appears there may not be an end to the perennial flooding in the state soon, as the challenge seems to be beyond the Federal Government.

Governor Bagudu revealed that: “You can’t solve flooding in Kebbi alone. So as a nation, you have to think about National Drainage Architecture, because we have the lake Chad region, we have the Sokoto Basin, we have the Atlantic East and Atlantic West.

So, these are all drainage systems that we need a national plan, and it cost a lot of money. Water is needed somewhere, we are not very rich in water in Nigeria. Particularly when you look at the cost.

“Looking at it systematically and comprehensively, though expensive, will enable us put a national plan in place that would begin to get implemented. That might involve dredging, that might involve creation of more artificial storage, and it might involve diverting the water to other places like Lake Chad that is losing its water.

“It’s going to cost billions of dollars, and we have to be patient, work together, and appreciate that water is one of the biggest human endowment and blessings, that management, organising it and taking advantage of it by reducing the consequence of its activity cost a lot of money, and it’s money well spent.”

 


Bagudu explained that being on a downward slope, Kebbi State receives the brunt of release of water from Goronyo and Bakalori dams upstream, as well as release of water from river Niger by authorities of Republic of Niger.

According to the KSEMA Chairman, Dododo, for 40 years, the Goronyo dam in Sokoto and Bakolori dam in Zamfara were not disilted, “meaning that when water comes, the level of water they can contain will be less than what they can contain. If you look at the map, Kebbi is just like a valley, these two dams are discharging water into Kebbi, the water now continue from here to Argungu, from Argungu down to Birnin Kebbi-Klubo-Bunza-Zoro Bakingari-Bagudo-Koko Bese-Shanga—Yauri—Ngask (Ngask is the discharging point close to Kainji dam in Niger State).

“We have two rivers-River Rima and River Niger discharging water in Kebbi. Another one is from Niger Republic, reason we have this problem. So if this challenge is to be solved, there must be a collaboration between the Federal Government, Cameroun and Niger Republic, lake chad authority, Kebbi State, then Niger State, all hands must be on deck on negotiation to put an end to this.”

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