• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Tales of woes as half of Kogi LGAs remain under water

Many residents of Kogi State have been thrown into disarray as floods continue to ravage communities, destroying lives, businesses, and properties worth billions of naira as well as paralysing economic activities.

Nearly half of the Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state have been submerged. The state has 21 LGAs and 10 of them are grappling with floods, the state government said on Tuesday.

As citizens’ means of livelihood are destroyed, there are growing concerns that the floods, which have been described as the worst in many decades, will result in a severe humanitarian crisis, worsen hunger and hardship for residents who are already grappling with the current harsh economic realities.

In 2012, when the state battled one of the worst floods measuring 12.8, more than 70,000 houses were destroyed. So far, with the flood situation measuring 13.2, over 100,000 houses and properties running into billions of naira have been destroyed, according to official statistics released Tuesday. Farmlands, including the largest rice farm in Ibajo LGA, were hard hit.

“The situation here is just terrible, nearly every part of Kogi is covered with flood; we are living like refugees here. Offices have been turned to Internally Displaced Persons camps. People cannot go to work. Banks are shut; markets, roads, schools, and hospitals are buried in water, and I honestly don’t think the government is doing enough to tackle this problem,” Timothy Yanda, a resident, told BusinessDay in a telephone interview.

“For instance, my brother runs a spare part business here, but we have lost more than 80 percent of that to this very destructive flood. It will take many years to recover that loss. How do we move on after this flood?” Yanda cried.

“Some days ago, a boat capsized and I heard some persons were killed; it is a frightening situation. Only God can save us from this disaster because we are really suffering here. The situation here is even worse than what is being reported on social media.”

Ugbede Musa, a civil servant who invested in farming in Kogi, said her farmland and crops had been destroyed. “I got a call from my mother at home that all my crops are gone! I bought a farmland two years ago where I farm maize, okra, pepper and other produce on a large scale. My mother sells the produce; that is my way of empowering her, so that she can sustain herself and the family, but that is all gone now. I have lost more than N500,000,” she said.

Read also: FG blames states’ failure for ravaging floods

Motorists and commuters have also remained stranded as heavy traffic continues across major routes in the state. This has taken a toll on the demand and supply of goods across states. Kogi is a major transit route in Nigeria. Thousands of trucks carrying goods including perishable goods are stuck in the gridlock. The fuel scarcity being faced in Abuja and its environs has been attributed to the gridlock in Kogi State.

The situation has also led to an increase in the cost of transportation for residents in the state, as boat and motorcycle drivers have reportedly increased transport fare by up to 300 percent, causing more hardship for residents and travellers.

Victor Omofaye, commissioner for environment, while speaking during Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, described the destruction in the state as “massive” and likely the worst in history. He said many residents had yet to recover from the devastation in 2012, adding that the current situation would only result in more hardship.

The commissioner said the state’s economy and people’s livelihood had taken a big hit. He said the state could no longer handle the situation and needed international support.

“The level of destruction is massive and we are still facing it. The best thing to do is to turn it to a state of emergency. Our budget cannot take care of this. The Kogi government can’t do this alone and the governor explained while restoring the affected persons in the camps; he told them that we have made efforts to move these people to a safer place and that is what we are currently doing. We have a committee in place now and we are working round it to ensure that this is done as soon as possible,” he said.

Yahaya Bello, governor of the state, had asked President Muhammadu Buhari during the 62nd Independence anniversary to declare the state a national disaster zone following the flooding. He said the declaration would help to unlock the nation’s capabilities to respond more aggressively with resources to this perennial disaster.

The recent flooding in the area had displaced up to 600,000 people and killed over 300,000 persons, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. In Kogi alone, it is reported that up to 200,000 persons have been displaced.

In Kogi, at least six people, including a toddler, were reported to have died in the worst-hit Ibaji district, which Bello said was “100 percent under water.”

The Kogi State government has expressed concerns that flood may worsen in coming years due to the realities of climate change.