Residents of Katsina community relive ugly experiences

33-yr-old had bride swept away two days after wedding

The flood that wreaked havoc in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State during the week has raised the greatest concerns in a state that has lately become disaster ridden, AUGUSTINE OKEZIE writes.

For residents of Jibia, a community of about 200,000 inhabitants on the border between between Nigeria and Niger Republic, last Sunday will etch in their memories as one of the worst the town ever experieced.

It was the day a heavy nocturnal downpour from 11 pm to 1 am resulted in a massive flood that swept away lives, livestock and any other thing that stood in its way. At the last count, no fewer than 58 people were reckoned to have been swept away.

Most residents of the community were asleep at the time the heavy downpour begun and were, therefore, oblivious of the brewing calamity until horror was unleashed. They, therefore could offer little or no resistance because it came like a thief in the night.

One of the victims, Amina Shuaibu (35), whose 18-month-old son, Jafaru, was swept away by the flood, said she was still in shock on how it all happened.

According to her, she was carrying her son in her hand when the rain started. But not long after, a heavy surge of water that swept her off her feet and she fell into the deluge of water. In the process, the flood snatched the baby from her.

Thirty-three-year-old Sanni Yahaya, who got married only two days before the flood, was also a victim, as his 22-year-old wife, Unmi Hindatu, who was asleep at the time of the flood, was swept away with the building.

Yahaya was not in town at the time the incident occurred.

Speaking amid sobs as he narrated his ordeal, he said he had resolved to hand everything over to God

He said: “We just got married two days ago. I went to Katsina to bring down our household items. Unfortunately, I could not come back on that day. We only found her corpse the next day at Madara village in Niger Republic.”

Ibrahim Lawale, a 64-year-old bricklayer who was suffering from partial stroke, was one of the residents overtaken by the flood, as he was said to be on his sick bed at the time the rain fell. He was only rescued by members of his family who managed to take him out of the mass of water in which he was immersed and took him to dry ground. But that was not before he had lost his speech and hearing ability.

His wife, Hassana, told The Nation at the hospital where he was receiving treatment that her husband could no longer eat any solid food and had to rely on pap and tea.The District Head of Jibia, Alhaji Rabe Rabi’u, who was on an assessment tour of the affected areas, described the development as “highly devastating.”

He said: “As I speak to you, we have discovered the corpse of 25 persons including mothers and children, and many are missing. More than 260 cows, sheep and goats were killed by the flood.

“The heavy rainfall started around 11 pm on Sunday night and stopped around 1 am Monday.”

The areas worst affected include Kwata, Dantudu, Sabuwar Tukare, Tsohuwar Tukare and Ungwar Mai Kwari. The flood sacked many residents of the aforementioned communities from their homes and shops, rendering thousands of them homeless.

So disillusioned became the residents who are just smarting from the recent outbreak of cholera that claimed no fewer than 30 lives in the state, that they have resorted to prayers. Notable Islamic clerics, Sheik Alhassan Saidi and Dr Yakubu Musa Alhassan, on Tuesday led other religious leaders to the Central Primary School camp of about 1,500 people displaced by the flood.

The Information Officer in charge of Jibia Local Government Area, Sa’ad Suleiman, said the situation was aggravated by people who were building structures on water channels or dumping refuse in the drains.

Suleiman said that the state government had earlier embarked on dredging of rivers, canals and clearing of drains, urging residents of the state to inculcate the habit of disposing their refuse properly and desist from dumping refuse indiscriminately.

The Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) had in its forecast earlier in the year listed Katsina as one of the states that would experience heavy downpour.

The welfare officer from Jibia Local Government Area, Malam Nasiru Abdu, who was attached to the IDP camp of the flood victims, said the inhabitants were being screened to establish their identities and claims.

He said the primary school where they were kept was undergoing renovation and rehabilitation to serve as suitable accommodation for the IDPs. He also said that several committees had been established, especially on health, security, feeding, and resettlement of the victims, to ensure that they were adequately taken care of.

Majority of the Inmates at the camp told our correspondent that they were satisfied with the prompt response of the state and federal governments to their plight. They also expressed their wish to be resettled elsewhere outside the flood prone areas

Twenty-fieve-year-old Jumai Abubakar, who was clutching her six-month old baby at the camp, urged the governor not to rebuild their houses but resettle them in a better location.

“We don’t want to go back there. We prefer a better place,” she said.

Most residents of the town who spoke with our correspondent said the areas affected were mostly flood prone, adding that the incident is not new, only that the inhabitants refused to hid previous warnings by governments and relevant agencies to refrain from building on drainage lines

The Nation investigation revealed that a dam constructed on the bank of the river responsible for the disaster was constructed 20 years ago, blocking free flow of water from drainage lines into the river.

Mustapha Rabiu, a resident of the area, also observed that the river could not take the water that was coming into it from the drainages and had to beat them back because it was already full, thus causing the flooding.

An elderly native of the town, Mohammed Yusuf Hassan, who claimed to have lived all his life in the town, said that the building of houses on drainage lines obstructed free flow of water and caused flooding.

The situation would probably be uglier but for early intervention governments at state and federal levels as was reflected in the speech of the state governor, Aminu Bello Masari while briefing newsmen on Monday evening.

He said: “I have informed the President about the incident and he has called to sympathisze with the people.

“As a government, we shall find a permanent solution to the problem.

“The National Emergency Management Agency has also been duly informed and they are sending relief materials to the victims.”

The Executive Secretary, Katsina State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Aminu Waziri, had earlier said: “What we are doing presently is to find temporary accommodation for those whose houses have been washed away or damaged.

“We must provide them places to put their heads for the heavens may open up again.”

Truckloads of relief materials from the state government owned SEMA and NEMA were seen arriving the camp and offloading items like foams, mats, foodstuffs and cooking materials. Inmates had to queue up to collect relief materials.

Asked about the position of the state government on finding a permanent solution to perennial flooding in the area, Governor Masari said he had already directed the Ministry of Environment to come up with measures aimed at addressing the issue.

He said: “We know that Jibia is a flood-prone area, and we shall build drainage.

“But what happened was that instead of water flowing into the river through the drainage, water from the river was flowing back into the drainage, thereby causing the flooding.

“We are going to redirect the water flow. I have passed out necessary instructions. We have also taken measures to ameliorate the sufferings of the victims.”

On whether the state government would seek financial assistance or partner with the federal government to fund the project, Masari said at the moment, the state is capable of funding the project since it is located in the state.

But he assured that should they need assistance from the federal government, they would not hesitate to make a request.

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