The incessant flooding of cities and towns in Nigeria has been attributed to severe climate change in recent times. But increasingly, most disasters are said to be man-made, due to the penchant for building on flood plains and blocking of water ways. In this report, JAMES DANJUMA writes that Katsina State is battling to solve the problem associated with this phenomenon.
Septuagenarian Hafsat Haruna was playing with her grandchildren while the other grown up ones with her at the Makara Huta Quarters in Daura Local Government Area of Katsina State, were busy with household chores.
The August clouds began to gather while wind blew dust. Then, without any warning, the rains began to fall, as Hasfat ordered everyone indoors while firmly shutting the doors to keep the rains away.
Suddenly, a part of the house wall shook and collapsed, and before they could recover from the shock, the entire building began collapsing in every direction.
Though, Hafsat and everybody managed to escape with minor injuries, the flooding that followed the downpour however swept the house and all their property away.
In the aftermath, two people were confirmed dead after being swept away by flood, with more than 500 houses destroyed, while farmlands and crops as well as properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
Sadik Abdullahi, 45, a native of Shirgi village in Batsari Llocal Government Area, has every reason to lament what he described as an unprecedented flood disaster ever witnessed in his lifetime.
According to him, “I lost my animals, crops and all that I ever labored for in life. The magnitude of the disaster and losses are better imagined than said. This is one rain, I experienced for the first time in my over 40 years of existence.”
He said he lost items worth thousands of naira and that that houses, farm produce and several animals were destroyed in the flood,even as he appealed to the state government and other stakeholders to come to their assistance.
According to report, the flooding also affected three villages of Shirgi, Dadin Kowa and Sabawa, where more than 500 houses were destroyed and several farmlands washed away.
Eyewitnesses said that, some houses were partly damaged, as others were completely washed away including food crops, farmlands and animals.
A victim of the flood that affected Sabawa village, Danjuma Sabawa, said the incident occurred at 1.am and that many people all they had labored for to the disaster.
In Mani Council Area, two people lost their lives on August 24, 2012 following a flood that swept through five villages, including Randawa, Tabkin, Kunu, Maika and Tafarki, with hundreds of houses destroyed, while domestic animals and household items worth millions were washed away.
A victim of the disaster, Musa Malik, lamented that he witnessed the worst disaster in his life as he was lucky to live and tell the stories of his close shave with death.
In Mai’adua Council Area, heavy flooding on August 22 rendered many families homeless and destroyed more than 1,400 houses, due to heavy downpour that lasted for more than four hours.
An aged woman lost her life at Dankindi village, even as a middle aged man popularly known by residents as Audu Sorry, died in Mai’adua town when the walls of his house collapsed after sustained rainfall.
Apart from destroying houses, farmlands and crops worth millions, the flood also killed more than 150 domestic animals, while victims took refuge in their neighbours’ houses.
One of the victims, Sani Mai’adua, whose house collapsed during the incident, said he had moved his family to a friend’s house and solicited for state and local government aid for those affected.
Another victim, Zaharadeen Ibrahim, who lost his home and property worth thousands of naira, lamented that it would be difficult to ascertain the extent of losses incurred because several houses were washed away.
Other victims described the flood as devastating, and appealed to the state government to construct a drainage system in the affected areas to prevent future reoccurrence.
The council area chairman, Abba Yusuf, said the Mai’adua headquarters of the local government and Gwajo-Gwajo village were most affected, with appeal to government and donor agencies to help those affected.
Also in Kusada Council Area, heavy rainfall and consequent flooding destroyed more than 100 houses and washed away 30 farmlands with food crops worth millions of naira destroyed in Kofa and Tulani villages.
Though no life was lost, eight people however sustained various degrees of injuries in the two villages, with some taken to hospital for treatment.
The Federal Ministry of Environment had announced before now that 23 states, including Katsina, would experience downpour and serious flooding, with the state capital, Katsina; Daura, Kankara, among other areas to be affected.
The flooding is in contrast to the desert winds witnessed during the dry seasons as well as general low rainfalls that are often recorded in the rainy seasons; the state, like Kebbi, Sokoto, Borno, among others, is a frontline state.
Last year, seven people, including three school children, lost their lives after days of torrential rains and consequent flooding that affected more than eight council areas of the state.
As way of checking the flooding this year, the state Ministry of Environment embarked on the de-silting of 20 major drainages across flood-prone areas, with dedicated phone numbers issued for emergency calls in the event of flooding.
The state also intensified sensitisation programmes for people to desist from blocking drainages and constructing houses on or close to waterways.
Despite these measures, the state experienced heavy flooding, and this time in 15 local government areas, with no less than 49 communities affected, while an average of 500 houses were destroyed in each of the council areas.
Official figures indicate that eight people died due to the flood, but recent information from some of the affected areas put the figure of those killed at 10 people.
An estimate of 130 people were said to have been injured or hospitalised following the flood, while conservative figure of N500 million or N33 million for each of the affected council areas was said to have been lost.
By way of assessment, the havoc caused by flooding in Daura Council Area was put at more than N27 million, after a committee set up to assess the extent of damage came up with its findings and recommendations.
Chairman of the committee, Tukur Jafaru Gurjiya, while presenting the committee’s report to the Daura Council chairman, said that more than 500 houses were destroyed while farmlands were washed away by the flood.
Gurjiya, said that based on investigations by the committee, two people lost their lives resulting from the flood, and that the yearly flood in the area could be linked to the construction of houses on waterways.
He recommended the government relocate the victims to other safe areas and make concerted efforts at mitigating future occurence.
He called on the council area to urgently provide relief materials to victims to alleviate their suffering, while urging full implementation of the recommendations of the committee.
Responding, chairman of Daura Council, Kabir Musa, said he would forward the committee’s report to the state government and that soon, government would commence distribution of relief materials to affected persons.
While the government has partially commenced assistance to victims, some the affected council areas have provided some relief materials and temporary shelters in school buildings.
Abdulkadir Moh’d, who is head of information unit in Maiadua Council Area, said two trailer loads of cement had been donated, one by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Yau Umar Gojo-gojo and r by the council area, for distribution to victims.
Moh’d, said that the local government also bought 300 bags of maize, textiles, mats and other relief materials for distribution and that the council’s chairman, Babangida Abba Yusuf, had directed the immediate distribution of the materials.
Also, Kabir Abba Umar, who is the Batsari Local Government Council Information Officer, stated that the council provided 100 bags of cement, 20 bundles of roofing sheets, 100 large size rubber mats and blankets for distribution, as emergency measures to cushion the effect of the disaster.
On his part, the minority whip in the state House of Assembly, Hon Shehu Dalhatu Tafoki, whose constituency was also affected by the flood, sympathized with the victims, even as he urged the state government and relevant stakeholders to assist the victims.
Speaking earlier on the havoc of the flood, , the Executive Director of the state Rehabilitation and Emergency Relief Agency (RERA), Hassan Rawayau, said that more than seven persons have died while thousands of houses and 146 farmlands were destroyed in the process.
Rawayau, said two persons died in Safana, Mani and Daura local governments respectively, while one person was killed in Kurfi Council Area and 15 of the 34 local government areas of the state were worst-affected.
He gave the names of affected areas to include Mai’adua, Kusada, Kurfi, Batsari, Safana, Jibia, Katsina, Bindawa, Kankia, Ingawa, Dutsi, Daura, Sandamu, Matazu and Mani.
The director said the agency had resettled victims in Randawa village of Mani Local Government in a primary school, adding that efforts were ongoing to send relief materials to victims.
He also said that millions of naira worth of relief materials donated to the state by the National Emergency Relief Agency (NEMA) would soon be distributed to the victims.
Speaking on the issue, the Head of Operation, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in charge of North-West Zone, Aliyu Kafindangi, lamented what he described as the “terrible state of flooding in Katsina State,” and that the “prediction by NIMET had come to pass.”
Kafindangi, however, said that officials of NEMA in collaboration with the State Emergency Committee on Disaster have visited the affected areas and that assessment of damages is being taken with a view to addressing same.
He observed that in some parts of the state they visited, it was the same “story of devastation with homes, domestic animals and farm lands ravaged, even as he assured that the agency would work to ensure relief materials reached those affected in good time.
He added that “NEMA’s team has undertaken on the spot assessment of the situation and when completed, we will recommend what relief materials should be given to the victims.”
Relief however came few days ago, when NEMA donated aid materials worth millions of naira to the state government for onward distribution to victims.
Some of the items donated include bundles of zinc, nails, and other building materials, as well as hundreds of mattresses, buckets, mats, and food grains.
Presenting the materials, Director General of NEMA, Moh’d Sani Sidi, observed that the state was one of those most affected by flooding in the country, but the Federal Government would soon give additional assistance to affected victims.
Sidi however said that additional assistance would be given once the extent of damage was determined, and the distributed materials will help cushion any hardship being faced by the victims.
The director general who visited some of the flood affected areas, assured of the agency’s willingness to sustain collaboration with the government to find solution to natural and manmade disasters.
He however linked the yearly flooding in some states of the country, to failure to stop erecting buildings on waterways, as well as blocking drainages with refuse or other materials.
He observed that rapid urbanization and rural urban migration, have given rise to weak adherence to physical planning regulation in many towns and cities as they have contributed to the flooding problem.
Sidi enjoined Nigerians, especially those living in flood-prone areas, to eschew the habit of dumping refuse on water ways while ensuring they always clear their drainages.