Flood from the River Niger has submerged over 70 communities and over 50,000 people have been displaced from their houses in different parts of Kogi State.
Residents of some of the communities spoke in Lokoja on the sidelines of a stakeholders sensitisation/advocacy meeting on 2020 flood that the flood had wreaked havoc in the affected areas.
They said that the communities have been experiencing massive flooding for the past five days.
The one-day meeting was organised by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in partnership with the Kogi State Emergency Management Agency (KOSEMA).
One of the residents, Mr Ibrahim Abdullahi, who is also the Desk Officer in charge of ecological and emergency matters in Kogi Local Government Council, said that 66 communities had been submerged by flood in the area.
Abdullahi said that over 50,000 people have been forced to evacuate their houses and are now being accommodated in schools, fueling stations and other makeshift buildings.
He said that some of the victims in Edeha and Koton Karfe communities have been sleeping on roads and other open places, co-habiting with mosquitoes and dangerous reptiles.
He said that schools have been closed as they have been converted to temporary camps for the victims, calling for urgent intervention from the State Government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The desk officer said that the victims have lost their means of livelihood to the flood, as their farms and livestock were also washed away by the rampaging floods.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Flood Committee in Ibaji Local Government Area, Mr Omonu James, said that floods had sacked thousands of residents from their houses in the area.
James said that the problem of the victims was compounded by the area’s terrain as it had no upland for them to relocate to.
Accordingly, he said, all the 26 schools in the council had been converted to camps for the displaced persons but said that the camps lack basic facilities.
He added that one death, that of 17-year-old Michael Egwuaba, had been recorded since the floods started, but that the number could rise if urgent measures were not put in place to mitigate the effect of the disaster on the people.
In Lokoja metropolis, many residents living along the bank of River Niger and other flood paths have been forced out of their houses by the floods.
The situation is said to be very grim in the suburb communities of Egan, Konami, Buzih, Ebwa, Even, Lagan Budan, and Gbuj,e where residents had been forced to relocate to the neighbouring Niger State.
They appealed to the government to quickly come to the aid of the displaced persons, especially in the area of provision of water, drugs, blankets and mosquito nets for the victims.
Gov. Yahaya Bello who declared open the meeting said that a substantial amount of money had been released to purchase drugs, food, water and other relief materials for the victims.
Bello, who was represented by his deputy, Chief Edward Onoja, also directed that 21,000 youths recently engaged under the Federal Government’s public works programme be deployed to help in the rescue operation.
He said that maximum security would be provided for the personnel involved in the search-and-rescue operation, promising that more succour would be provided for the victims.
The NEMA Director in charge of training, Mr Mohammed Usman, said that incessant flooding had become a serious threat to the country’s efforts at becoming self-sufficient in food production.
Usman said that nine local government areas in Kogi were among the 102 in the country that had been identified as highly probable risk areas for flooding in 2020.
He called on the state government to urgently take preventive and mitigative measures to reduce the impact of the flood on people and the economy of the state.
He said that NEMA would also, in line with the Federal Government’s directive, assist the victims to find their feet and go back to farms as soon as possible.
Stakeholders at the meeting, including, the Red Cross, Navy, Civil Defence, Police, NIMET, fire services and the media all expressed their readiness to make their services available to the government.
The Navy, marine police, civil defence, Red Cross and the fire services assured that they had enough men and equipment on the ground to confront the disaster.
Mr Julius Mejayan, Executive Secretary, KOSEMA, said that highlands had been identified and camps established across the nine local government areas prone to the disaster.
He listed the council areas as Bassa, Lokoja, Kogi, Omala, Idah, Ibaji, Dekina, Ofu and Igala-mela, warning that residents must be ready to move at any time from now.