KiNG JAMES YiYE | kingjames.yiye@ASKiNGRADiO.com
As I first got to the scene, I had to hide my emotions and do the job, a very terrible and pathetic situation I found myself reporting from banks of River Benue…that was the opening of my first report on September 12, 2012 published on Sahara Reporters and series of others on September 14, 2012 for Radio Netherlands Worldwide and AllAfrica.com
Where I first stood, I could count more than 10 plots already submerged in the water coming slowly but steadily from the River Benue, one of the largest Rivers in Nigeria.
A residence affected by the floods wearing wet boxer shorts with a bare chest just returned with his household items swimming with one hand in the dirty water, he told me a boat was conveying goods for about N5, 000 within a distance of 200 meters and “some of us can’t afford this, you are facing a lot of problems and people are charging that much”.
He said, he was told the Governor came and promised “taking it up” but that was yet to be.
Another family were seen packing their belongings in pool of waist-level water from their house, the middle aged woman hanging her bag looked as if life was lost, and I could understand.
Children between the ages of 7 and 10 were happily swimming and some even cast nets to catch fish right in their compounds, which is temporarily a river.
For awhile, I thought about the health hazards including skin infections and other water borne diseases…
Blames And Counter Blames
Many of the people affected in this flood who spoke to me blamed the Government for allowing the Cameroonian authorities to release water from its dam to cause damage to them in Nigeria, they blamed the government for negligence but the Special Assistant to Gov. Suswam on Emergency Management, Joseph Wende told me it’s a natural disaster and the Benue State Government is making sure the affected people get relieve and are safe. “if anyone blames the government, maybe the person did not have the knowledge of what is happening on the ground, because there was a warning, there was early warning messages sent to people on the radio for people to be alert that this was going to happen, we gave enough warning to people on the banks of the river to be ready for this, so if only they have taken measures, this wouldn’t have happened the way it has happened…”.
He said, the Federal Government is building a dam to contain subsequent waters released from dams in Cameroon.
I asked Wende the speed the water was coming at, he wasn’t sure but said the speed was “slowly and minimal” and that was why there were no casualties, he however advised people living near the River to evacuate before it got too late.
What’s So Different Now?
Honorable Samuel Dam Ayari who has spent over 20 years in this area told me this damage is so different. He said, they had a similar problem in 1992 but this year’s surge has taken an alarmingly different level reaching distances the previous ones never even got close to.
He wondered why same dams released in Cameroon never caused this much damage. Hon. Ayari told me no lives were lost and I asked if he was satisfied with Government’s effort so far, and he said, with the Governor’s visit and promise alone, they were a bit relieved.
Base But No Means
Hon. Dam Ayari said, even though people were warned, they never had enough finances to move their property.
Me: so the Government has provided a temporary base but they’ve not provided any means to evacuate people?
“No”, Dam Ayari answered. He added that they were asked to compile names which they did earlier in the day around 1 o’clock but nearly 3 hours later, they were yet to see action taken.
Another residence, Barrister Iyange Ipeven whose house has been “totally submerged” said, he was waiting to see water come through the door, but alas, it penetrated his floor tiles and he had to run for his life and appealed to government to provide immediate relieve.
NEMA Quick & Equipped?
Mohammed Suleiman who represented NEMA’s Director General together with others was seen heavily kitted in reflective orange coloured life jackets tagged ‘marine pool’ with long rubber booths. I asked him what immediate relieve NEMA was giving people, but he told me they were here “for on-the-spot-assessment to know the level of damage and the needs of the displaced persons it’s only you know the level of damages done by the flood, after assessments now, we go back and write our report before knowing what to bring, so that you can relieve the displaced persons”.
Me: but from experience, don’t you know what people need immediately when such disasters happen?
Mohammed told me (suddenly stuttering), that they can identify some needs “but at least we want to have a comprehensive assessment, we want a situation whereby whatever we bring suffice the needs of the displaced persons”.
My Observation: I expected to see the NEMA officials with rescue and testing equipment to save lives and possibly test water samples for infections, but that was only in my head.
I asked Engr. Simon Chianson (whose one storey building was half way in water) if he was satisfied seeing NEMA officials around? He told me it was good from a psychological point of view but he wasn’t sure their presence made sense, since they never came with any equipment to rescue people or animals if they were threatened, he wants them to be prepared (as a relief Agency) to always come to disaster scenes “quick enough to take such measures to ameliorate the situation for people”
Safety Of Lives And Property
Another issue I noticed with people who stay behind in such emergency situations is, the Government is saying ‘we have provided a place for displaced persons’, but no security arrangements were made (atleast yesterday) to protect the property some people leave behind.
What Lies Under And What Lies Ahead?
As the water keeps crippling in even from under people’s beds, and as I hear rumours of more releases of water from the Dam in Cameroon, Taraba State has already recorded deaths, what is Benue State Government and NEMA doing to ensure people are safe?
King James Yiye from the banks of River Benue.
Is 2012 Repeating Itself in 2017?
Today is August 27, 2017 that’s about 5 years later and the floods have returned.
Facebook update of many friends suggests their houses came under floods last night…we are out to find out…