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Why the fate of Zungeru IDPs still hangs in the balance

They danced around within the precinct of the Zungeru Central Primary School which has come to be their abode for nearly six months now. But…

They danced around within the precinct of the Zungeru Central Primary School which has come to be their abode for nearly six months now.

But Hannatu Illiyasu, 5, Firdausi Adamu, 4, Suffiyanu Ibrahim, 5 and Fatima Ibrahim, 6, are oblivious of the uncertainty  of their situation which the torrential rains this last rainy season has thrown them into.

They, along with their parents and other were violently uprooted from their ancestral community of Gungu and other communities in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger state at the peak of the rainy season.

As the kids busied themselves in their world, their parents and others affected by the disaster sit in groups within the premises of the Internally Displaced Persons camp.

Normally by this time of the year they should have been busy with the harvesting of their produce on their farms but  the men and women of Gungu are left lameting over their huge losses following the flooding that washed away their farmlands.

According to ttraditional head of the village, Sarkin Gungu, Alhaji Yahaya Adamu, the hitherto hard working people have become destitutes and now survive by the grace of others.

He said a federal government delegation led by the NEMA’s Director General Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja brought relief items made up of 80 25kg bags of rice, groundnut oil and other cooking materials a week earlier.

He said before the NEMA’s intervention, the IDPs were surviving through the efforts of the state government, Shiroro Council and Nongovernmental organizations.

The Sarkin Gungu explained that their current predicament was not in any way their own creation.

Infact, he said, unlike some other communities at the downstream of the three functional dams in the state and in the areas where major rivers and tributaries yearly threaten their existence during the rainy season, his communities had never experienced flooding.

Sarki Adamu added that they found themselves in current situation following the decision of the authorities of Zungeru and Shiroro dams to allow water to spill out as a result of torrential raifall, which submerged the communities.

The Director General  of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), malam Ahmed Inga, said the calamity was as a result of the throw back from the channelization by the Zungeru dam.

“The channels constructed to ease the water flow were not deep enough for the volume of water let out by the dam at the peak of the season and when the water was spilled, it went backward submerging the affected communities,” the official told North Central Trust.

Following the development, some members of the affected communities who have no relations in nearby communities were evacuated to Zungeru Central Primary School, which is designated as a temporary camp by the state authority.

The state government’s projection was that the camp would just be for three weeks. But it appears, eleven weeks after, the IDPs are stuck especially since the affected communities are no longer habitable.

Sources said the affected communities were earmarked for relocation in an upland few kilometers from Zungeru town before construction works on the new dam commenced however, the controversy over compensation issue had stalled exercise.

Youths from all the communities affected by the new dam had at various times protested what they referred to as “dubious” handling of the compensation matter, forcing the Chinese construction firm handling the project to shut down activities.

They complained of alleged non-inclusion of over 50 percent of affected villagers in the compensation list and appealed to the federal government to intervene in the matter.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, the Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Mr David Umaru, called on the state government to commence disbursement of about N2 billion released by the federal authorities as compensation to the affected communities.

However, the State Commissioner for works, Alhaji Ibrahim Balarabe attributed the delay in the disbursement of the compensation to the noticeable shortfalls in the fund released by the federal government to the state.

The commissioner, who is also the chairman of the state committee on relocation, said the state government had communicated the shortfall to the federal government.

But beyond the compensation issue, there is also the problem of stalled work at the site where the communities are expected to be relocated.

The Sarkin Gungu said although they agreed to sacrifice their ancestral homes for a destination far away, the federal government has so far failed to hasten their movement before the current calamity nearly claimed them.

North Central Trust reports the communities were relocated to some areas in Wushishi Local Government Area eventhough they are from Shiroro Local Government Area.

A visit to the sites showed that work on a block of three classrooms of a  primary school and a police station is ongoing  while about 30 tents which will serve as temporary shelter for the displaced persons have been erected at the site.

But the site is still devoid of any basic amenities including water. Inaddition, Sarkin Gungu said the tents fall short of the population of about 500 persons.

Similarly the authorities are yet to supply building materials for the construction of houses inspite of a directive by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when he visited the IDPs’ camp some weeks ago.

From all indications, given the situation the Gungu community found itself , Hannatu, Firdausi, Suffiyanu and Fatima, as well as their parents have long to wait before they resume their normal life.

No wonder as they await their fate, the youngsters along with other able bodied youths, have  taken up fishing to augment the daily meal provided in the camp.

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