Lamentation as helpless flood victims cry over unfulfilled govt promises

January 30, 2023

6.5 min readCategories: News

People living in lowland areas are not new to flooding, because it is a perennial occurrence. However, last year’s flood which ravaged many parts of the country was unprecedented. Many roads were washed off and rendered impassable while the flood lasted. Many became homeless as their houses were taken over by the flood. Farmlands were submerged in water, leaving farmers who have invested their life savings to count their losses.

Although the flood has receded, those affected, especially farmers, have yet to recover from the havoc it wreaked. The challenges of the flood victims were further compounded because they did not hedge against their losses. Most of those affected had no insurance coverage for their farms. Their fate was hanging in the balance as they looked forward to help from the government and other well-spirited Nigerians.

Farmers’ Ordeal

Mohammed Sule was full of optimism as the harvest period of his 60,000 fish drew near in the middle of October.

“My clients who include hotels in Lokoja and Abuja, eateries, and roasted fish sellers had all been contacted and the October 15 date had been fixed for the first batch harvest,” the Kogi State Chairman of Fish Farmers Association, Mohammed Sule, told our correspondent in an interview.

According to him, “I have a very large farm that can take up to 100,000 fish. This time around, I stocked it with 64,000 fish. Before the flood, they were four to five months old. I was looking forward to the October 15 harvest date. I had already contacted interested buyers. None of the fish was less than 900 grams. Unfortunately, the flood came. At first, I tried to cover the pod with a net, but within 24 hours, the farm was overtaken by flood. That was how I lost everything I had invested.”

Sule estimated his loss to the flood to be between N3m and N4m. He said, “The flood also affected all the fish farmers in my locality because most fish farms are located in the riverine areas. There are people who lost more than I. So, from the report I got from my members, we collectively lost over N500m across the state.

“We are not expecting any help from any quarter. We just have to start all over. We just have to start looking for money to go back into the business. The fishes we are producing are not even enough for consumption in Lokoja alone, let alone the whole state. That is why you see that fish are brought from Ibadan, Lagos, and other states. Before now, we have been battling with the high cost of fish and with the flood; you can imagine what the farmers would be going through. Some people even invested their feeding money, which has gone down the drain.”

He claimed that the impact of the flood has been devastating on fish farmers in Kogi State. “Those of us who have invested so much were thinking that at the end of October, we would be smiling to the bank. It has become a mere wishful thinking. Up till now, I have not been able to return, though the flood has receded.”

The Kogi State Chairman of Fish farmers Association also disclosed that he lost over N50m to the flood in Koton-karfe in Kogi Local Government Area of the state.

Sule disclosed that he and members of his association have not received any help from the government, individuals or corporate organisations. Sule said aside from a bag of 10 kg rice sent by an organisation, which he did not collect, no help whatsoever has come from anywhere in spite of several attempts to seek for assistance.

He said, “In my farm, I have a lot of people I was training. They included N-power, National Directorate of Employment and the Hydro Power Producing Areas Development Commission trainees. Each of them sent in 50 or more people to me for training. So, the government is fully aware of our activities, but no one has approached us with an offer of assistance.”

Similarly, Hassan Jimgba Mohammed said he invested over N6m in his rice, corn, and cassava farms in Obangede village, Koton-Karfe.

According to him, most of the fund was invested in a100-acre farm, which has gone down the drain.

“As I speak, none of my children is in school as I cannot afford to pay their school fees. The banks are on my neck and there has not been any hope of getting any assistance either from the government, individual or corporate organisations. My family and I are in a terrible situation. We are calling on the government to come to our aid; otherwise, I may not be able to go back to farming because there is no hope anywhere.”

He also disclosed that he invested N1.5m in rice and cassava farms. According to him, it was close to the harvest season that the flood wreaked havoc. “I lost everything as my farm was covered with water,” he stated.

“Unless some miracles happen or if the government comes to my aid, I may not be able to return to farming.”

TheKogi State Commissioner of Information, Kingsley Fanwo, explained relief materials have been dispatched to critically affected areas such as Ibaji, Lokoja and Koton-Karfe.

“We have structured our intervention programme into three: pre-flood, during the flood, and post-flood intervention. Part of the post-flood intervention is to work for three international organisations. We have well-structured intervention plans with them to support victims and it had been working well. Quite a number of victims have been rehabilitated. May be those you spoke to have not been lucky enough to get theirs. I am assuring them that they are in the picture of our plans and would be captured.

“Also, we also have plans with the Ministry of Agriculture charged with the responsibility of getting food to flood-prone areas such as Ibaji, Koto, and parts of Lokoja, where the impact of the flood was most pronounced,” he said.

The commissioner disclosed that the Ministry of Finance has also been mandated to assist the farmers, liaising with banks with a view to renegotiating their loans.

“You know that before you can do this, the farmers have to be profiled to know genuine victims. In the coming weeks, the profiling would have been completed. So, let us be patient. They would be attended to.

“Apart from providing palliatives, we are also embarking on an aggressive enlightenment campaign to enable farmers to be adequately informed about the dangers of flood and how to prepare before it arrives.”

In 2016, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom introduced a work-free day for workers in the state to enable them to engage in farming activities. The work-free day was always declared at the beginning of planting season from June to August and during the harvest period, which in most cases lasts between November and January. The policy has helped many workers to face the current economic downturn that has made the regular payment of salaries a major challenge in the state.

Our correspondent learnt that based on this policy, many people including artisans and workers in private sectors within the state have embraced farming to cushion the effects of the current economic lull. In addition, it was gathered that many people also used the opportunity to obtain loans from financial institutions to invest in middle and large-scale farming.

For the past few years, both professional and subsistence farmers have had good testimonies for their investment until this year when many hectares of farmlands were submerged by flood. Farmers were left to count their losses.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency had in September 2022 warned of a high amount of rainfall, which may trigger flooding in some states based on the rainfall distribution recorded in the country in July and August 2022.

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