After devastating floods that ravaged many states of the federation, hundreds of the victims are beginning to return to their damaged and endangered homes, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Despite seasonal climate predictions by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), floods recently sacked thousands of residents across Nigeria. Early warning signals from several government agencies also did little or nothing to stop the menace, which forced residents to relocate to schools and other temporary places. Some victims also sought shelter with friends and relatives. However, since the rains stopped, victims are returning to their hitherto flooded houses.
Daily Trust reports that many of the affected residents returned to their houses to meet cracked walls, weakened structures, collapsed fences and walls, coupled with environments infested with dangerous reptiles and mosquitoes.
Most of the victims who spoke to our reporters admitted that they live in houses built close to waterways and have no alternative accommodation to move into.
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We’re living with dangerous reptiles – Taraba residents
Residents of various villages in Taraba State displaced by the flood have raised concerns over the bad conditions they found in their houses after they returned to begin a new life.
Many of the residents who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday complained that their houses cracked and they now live with dangerous reptiles in their communities.
The worst affected areas in the state include Jen, Bandawa, Zip, Binnari, Yashin Tuwo and Gorowa in Karim-Lamido Local Government Area. Others are Dampar, Isini, Gishin Hassan and Ibbi towns in Ibbi Local Government Area.
One of the returnees, Mallam Gambo Zip in Karim-Lamido, said that despite the inherent danger of possible building collapse as a result of the cracks and reptiles, they had no option but to return.
“We are fishermen; our houses have cracks and could collapse any time, but we will continue to manage. We have no other place to go,” he said.
He complained that dangerous reptiles took over many buildings, but they care more about the buildings than reptiles.
“As fishermen, we have been coming in contact with reptiles inside and outside water, and their presence in our environment will not pose any danger to us,” Gambo said.
Another affected resident, Jalo Ibbi, who has just returned, said he had to continue his life there since he had no other place to go.
“We are aware of the danger of staying in such a structure, but we don’t have alternative places. We don’t have money to repair the buildings and we have nowhere to go.
“Two of my rooms have collapsed and the remaining three have cracked. I am now managing the rooms with my wife and children,” he said.
An official of the Taraba State Ministry of Environment, Mr James Bulus, told Daily Trust Saturday that residents of villages along the banks of River Benue were always in danger of being displaced by flood.
He said the government had been warning them of the danger posed by the annual flood but they refused to vacate the areas.
Jigawa residents back ‘home’
Few weeks ago, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said Jigawa was the most affected state by the flood disaster that ravaged parts of Nigeria.
Also, at least 257 health facilities and schools have been destroyed by the widespread flood caused by torrential rainfall across Jigawa, said Michael Banda, the Senior Education Manager of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Many families have also lost their homes, livestock, and farmlands. The floods have also destroyed infrastructures like dams and bridges and washed away several roads.
In September, police authorities in the state said the flood had claimed over 95 lives in Jigawa.
Despite the dangers associated with the places where the residents were trapped at the height of the rains before they were rescued, many of them have gone back.
Some of the victims said they rebuilt their houses with thatch roofs to enable them return.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that at Majiyawa community in Ringim Local Government Area, some of the victims returned home but complained that the environment was no longer conducive.
One of the victims from Ringim, Amadu Majiyawa, said some of them had to return to rebuild their houses because of the hardship they faced in displaced persons camps.
On November 19, a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Aminu Dantata, and Abdulsamad Rabiu, the founder of BUA Group, among others, raised over N1billion for Jigawa flood victims.
The donations were made in Dutse during a fundraising in support of the 2022 flood victims in the state. Dantata and Rabiu each donated N200million, the Jigawa State Government N250million, Governor Muhammad Badaru donated N25million on behalf of himself, family and his company, Talamis Group, even as many banks sent their donations to help the victims.
Adamawa: We’re at risk of environmental diseases
Flood victims in Adamawa also returned to inhabit damaged structures and facing the risk of environmental diseases.
The Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency (ADSEMA) had announced that this year’s flooding claimed 37 lives and displaced 171,000 people across the 21 local areas in the state.
Some of the returning residents who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday said they had to spend days clearing piles of debris and other forms of waste brought by the flood, and in some cases, reptiles.
Umaru Danmama, a resident of Anguwan Tana in Jimeta, Yola North Local Government Area, said he feared that a section of his house could collapse after the house was submerged for weeks in September.
“You can see that I have just finished sanitation of this house in preparation for my two wives to return. Some structures are still wet and showing cracks, which means there is a risk of collapsing, but we have to return because I don’t have any other place, and we are tired of staying at the camp set up in the primary school,” he said.
A displaced resident in Girei, Yakubu Ayuba, said he was scared the first time he returned to his flooded house after it became infested with snakes, which found home there, saying he had to seek the assistance of local charmers and youths to reclaim his house.
He said that since returning to the community, diseases became prevalent, with residents often suffering from fever, headache and other sicknesses.
Returnees battle snakes in Benue
In Benue State, life has returned to normalcy after the flooding that sacked many communities around the brinks of the river.
Our correspondent who went round some communities submerged in the state capital, Makurdi, reports that things are gradually taking their former shape for the affected residents.
Most of the returnees didn’t bother about the state of the building they were coming back to as they complained of not having the financial capacity to repair or relocate to higher grounds despite knowing the dangers of the structural defects of the affected houses.
At Oju Street in Wadata Rice Mill vicinity, some of the residents have returned, while others are yet to come back home.
Isaac Adegahi, whose house was also affected, said he had to return, not minding the risk.
“We returned after cleaning the house. The foundation of the house is even threatened. Inside the walls of the rooms are peeled while the floors are broken, and we don’t have money to repair it. The house is actually not in a suitable position as it was before the flood, but we don’t have a choice,” he said.
Sarah Yarso, who returned last week, also said she did not have money to repair her damaged house.
She said, “I killed three snakes inside the house and many of them around the premises when I returned. We could only fumigate the place before packing in.”
Also, Khadijah Ahmed said her family returned to their house not up to one week now and had to do some major structural work on the building so that it would be fit for habitation.
Reacting to the situation, the state government, through the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Dr Godwin Oyiwona, said the ministry would continue to open up blocked drainages while it planned for construction of new ones.
Also, residents of communities in the 9 local government areas of Kogi State that were badly affected by flood have started returning to their various homes after the water receded.
Checks by Daily Trust Saturday in the flooded areas in Lokoja, the state capital, showed that many of the affected houses looked weak and dilapidated.
A resident of Andakolo, Mallam Ahmed Baido, who just returned, said he had nowhere else to go. He, therefore, had to clear the debris in his compound to enable him return.
When reminded of the need for a technical check to ascertain the degree of structural damage to his house he said, “It is only God that protects, not our indoctrinated manmade knowledge.”
The Commissioner for Environment in the state, Victor Omofaye, said a lot of measures had been taken to alleviate the hardship caused by the flood.
Bayelsa residents want govt to fumigate communities
Persons displaced by flood in Bayelsa State have continued to count their losses as they return to their houses. Most of the victims returned to cracked walls, damaged properties.
They also called on the government to embark on extensive fumigation of their houses and environments to get rid of reptiles.
Mrs Maria Ebi told our correspondent that her fence collapsed due to the high volume of floodwater, while the entire property in the house got damaged.
She said, “As we are talking, I can’t just enter the house and begin to live. I have been doing cleaning and fumigation since Sunday; even to dry things affected by the flood is a huge job.
“The losses are too much to bear, I don’t even know where to start, that is why I plead with the government to take necessary measures to stop future occurrence of this disaster.”
Another victim, Pastor Mike Tayese, whose house was totally submerged, said returning home after the water receded had not been easy as the water weakened the house, causing cracks.
We can’t relocate from ancestral homes – Anambra residents
As the flood began to recede in communities in Anambra State, lives are beginning to pick up as some people are returning to their homes.
About eight local government councils were affected in the state and people were forced to relocate from their ancestral homes to displaced persons’ camps.
A visit to Ochuche community in Ogbaru Local Government Area exposed the harm done to the communities, houses and farmlands.
In Niger State, flood victims have also returned to their houses and have done some cleanup and minor repairs.
Mallam Idrisu Mohammed from Sachi, one of the communities heavily hit by flood in Lavun Local Government Area of the state, said not all the affected buildings were repairable, but they were managing those that were built with blocks and not severely damaged.
Another victim, Mallam Yakuku Manbe, said many of their houses were affected but victims returned immediately the floodwater subsided. He, however, added that much still needed to be done to repair some of the damaged houses.
Also, in Kontagora Local Government, one of the victims, Abdulrashid Suleiman, said he had returned to one of the remaining rooms with his two wives and seven children due to complaints from his in-laws, whose house was given to them to stay.
Victims still in Rivers IDP camps
Hundreds of flood victims quartered in different internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Akinima, Abua Odua and other camps in Rivers State are yet to return to their respective houses.
One of the victims who spoke with our correspondent said it was too early to go back home as the environment is still dangerous.
The victim, who gave his name as Akiode said, “We are not in a haste to relocate. The flood is gradually receding but so many things need to be done for our safe return. Many of our homes were destroyed. The entire environment is polluted and needs to be fumigated before we can move in. You cannot rule out the invasion of reptiles in these areas, so moving in without proper fumigation of the area is very risky.”
Returnees should carry out structural checks, fumigation – Experts
Meanwhile, structural and environmental experts have advised the returnees to carry out integrity test on their buildings and fumigate their surroundings.
An estate surveyor, Aminu Sheikh Mohammed said, “Water reduces the structural strength of buildings, especially if such houses remained submerged for quite a long time, particularly if the land on which the structure was built had enough exposure to underground water. This may affect the foundation of the structure and it will begin to cause cracks.”
An environmentalist, Mallam Sani Abdul Ganiyu, warned inhabitants of flooded areas to desist from going back to their houses without first fumigating the area, saying there’s the need to eliminate snakes, rodents, mosquitoes and dangerous insects that would have taken refuge in their houses while they were away.
Professor Martins Udochukwu of the Department of Environmental Engineering in the Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi (JOSTUM), said that apart from the danger of coming in contact with reptiles and dangerous insects, “The weakness of the foundation of buildings may lead to collapse. The solutions include fumigation, renovation to reinforce and strengthen the buildings.”
Contributions from Magaji Isa Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Kabiru R. Anwar (Yola),Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Bassey Willie (Yenagoa), Titus Eleweke (Awka), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Ali Rabiu Ali (Dutse), Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi) & Tijani Labaran (Lokoja)