Despite the danger posed by annual flooding that usually claims lives and destroys property, residents on the banks of Kubanni and Kamacha rivers in Zaria, Kaduna State, said they did not have anywhere else to go. Daily Trust on Sunday reports their plight.
Malam Saleh Baban Nana lost his 10-year-old son last year due to a heavy downpour that flooded the Kamacha river bank in Zaria. There was a heavy downpour through the night, which flooded the area and affected many houses.
Recounting his ordeal, Nana said, “All my properties, including mattresses and chairs, floated on water. I had to lift some of my younger children and put them on the fence to prevent them from drowning.
“When my wife asked for Aminu’s whereabouts, we started looking for him, but he was nowhere to be found. It was much later, sometime in the evening, that some divers who were assisting in the search discovered his corpse at Gyellesu. A tree had prevented it from being flushed into the larger part of the Kamacha river.”
Aminu was not the only casualty of the night flood that left many homeless and in distressed. The remains of two other boys were said to have been discovered while searching for Aminu. That of a girl has remained unaccounted for, according to Nana.
Kamacha and Kubanni are popular rivers that cut across the outer parts of the ancient city of Zaria, Tudun Wada, meeting at Agoro bridge, on the way to Sabon Gari. The two rivers eventually flow into the popular Galma river, just beside the Nigerian Military School. They are both said to be wide and deep. The two rivers have over the years been interjected by many buildings and structures, thereby narrowing their path.
Residents living along the river banks said they would get apprehensive during the rainy season, especially within August and September due to heavy downpour that usually fills the banks of the rivers, leading to damaging floods.
The Kubanni river is said to meander through Zaria, following the Kampage hill through Shika town and down to Samaru before running beside Tudun Jukun to GRA, then links up with Kamacha river at Agoro in Tudun Wada.
Speaking with our correspondent, Sa’adu Abubakar, a resident of Pampo new layout, said that since he returned to the area in 1999 and built his home, three severe flooding had washed away most of his belongings. He said that in his second year as a resident of the community, he placed his house on sale in order to escape the periodic flooding.
“I no longer feel comfortable living in the area due to excessive flooding, but till date, I am yet to get a potential buyer.
“Honestly, I regret building a house by the Kamacha river bank. The moment I get a buyer I will leave the area because of my safety and that of my family,” he said.
Similarly, Sani Abdullahi, a resident of Gyellesu, close to the Kubanni river and adjacent to the NMS fence, said though he inherited the house from his father, he would also gladly relocate as soon as he got an alternative.
“The fact that I have a large family with some dependants makes it difficult for me to leave despite the continuous flooding in the area every year. I pray to see the day when government would assist us by erecting a concrete wall along the river bank that would prevent us from the annual disaster,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday reliably gathered that both Kubanni and Kamacha rivers claim many lives annually, mostly children and women.
It was observed that the rivers have been drastically reduced due to indiscriminate erection of structures.
It was further learnt that in 2020, Kamacha river had overflowed its bank and claimed six lives between Magume and the Agoro axis.
A resident of Magume, Malam Yakubu Dan Bakano, who has lived in the area for over 40 years, said flooding and the loss of lives had become an annual reoccurrence for communities at the banks of the rivers.
Introducing a spiritual dimension to the loss of lives in the area, Dam Bakano said elders in the community believed that in ancient times, the children whose lives were lost in the floods were used as sacrifice to appease higher powers so as to record bumper harvest every farming season.
“We heard this tale from our forefathers, that Kamacha and Kubanni rivers must be given a human life to ensure bumper harvest every year. Failure to do that, according to the belief, could result in drought and shortage of farm produce at the end of the year.
“Some of us who are old enough still believe it is part of the incantations initiated by our forefathers that has continued to manifest; hence the rivers continue to consume lives annually,” Bakano said, adding that the tale has remained with them for 100 years
According to a resident of Gangare in Tudun Wada, near the Kubanni river, Hajiya Adama Isah, who is popularly referred to as Lanti mai waina, during the rainy season, residents of the area hardly sleep, especially at night, for fear that the rivers could overflow their banks and wreak havoc.
“I built this small house out of my hard earnings through this waina business because I needed to have a shelter and escape paying rent. But the house has become a source of problem for me during the wet season.
“I thank the Almighty Allah that the rooms are built on a high level, unlike the surrounding wall; if not, they would have also been washed away,” she said while narrating how she has repeatedly reconstructed the wall around her house whenever it was consumed by flood.
Hajiya Adama said residents living around Kubanni river banks had been jittery since the beginning of August, adding, “We believe that anytime from now, the houses would start falling because the entire place would be flooded, to the extent that we would have to relocate to other places and wait for it to rescind before returning to start reconstruction work.”
Reacting to the situation, authorities of Zaria Local Government Council reminded residents of a notice by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) for all the residents living by the two river banks to relocate due to its prediction of heavy rains and flooding in parts of Kaduna State.
Although efforts to reach the chairman of Zaria Council, Aliyu Idris Ibrahim, an engineer, for comments were not successful, his special assistant on strategic communication, Bello Mohammed Habib, said residents of the area had been advised to look for a more suitable location to save their lives.