By Our Reporters
HOWEVER, the state government, which expressed concern over the plight of the victims given the colossal loss incurred during the flooding, reiterated its commitment to ensuring their quick resettlement. The government, however, ruled out monetary compensation to the victims, saying it was more concerned about how they would start life all over again, especially those who lost farmlands, properties, livestock and other means of livelihood.
Governor Seriake explained that government could not possibly meet the needs of every single person affected by the flood, noting “but what we can do is to provide some form of succour. Those who have lost farmlands will be assisted with seedlings and other farming inputs to enable them start all over.
We are also putting in place measures to help mitigate the impending famine by stocking our warehouses with basic food items so that people can buy them at subsidized rates, when the need arises.”
Notwithstanding the assurances from the government to mitigate their plight as they returned home, some of the flood victims are still dazed, confused and devastated. Their lives have been shattered, as the tree struck by lightning and may never be the same again.
Why we left furious – Flood victims camped in Asaba
FROM Asaba, AUSTIN OGWUDA visited the Institute of Continuing Education, ICE flood victims’camp, on a day the IDPs left the place for their respective homes. He reports that the camp, held in high esteem when the State Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Antonia Ashiedu held sway, as the most peaceful, coordinated and disciplined in the state, turned into a theatre of war as the internally displaced persons headed for home.
Ashiedu, it was gathered had since relocated to her office while an officer of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) took over the running of the camp. When Vanguard visited the camp for on the spot assessment, an open fight broke out between two officers of the Man O’War and some inmates. The quarrel arose from a bottled up agitation by the displaced persons who were complaining that they have not been appropriately settled.
The flood victims were seen boarding buses enroute their homes. One of them, however, Mr. Hitler Enemose, a farmer from Utchi, from Ndokwa, said the general atmosphere was charged and they had one common story to tell: He said: “My brother, I am not happy at all, you can see for yourself.
Nobody is happy. Yes, we are going home but angry. I lost everything. The flood covered my house up to window level before I came here. Yes, we thank government for feeding us since. But what of the transport money of N5,000 and N3,000 for adults and children respectively, which the governor said they should give us. They refused to give us.”
Another victim, who simply gave her name as Janet from Oko, Oshimili South said, “Do you know why they are not happy with us? It is because we just spoke to the NTA people before you came so that is the reason for the fighting.
Nothing more, can you imagine, I am a fish seller but lost all. In addition, they are here sharing a bag of rice between four families; whereas there are plenty bags of rice and other food items in the store, who are they keeping them for. Individuals and other bodies came here to donate and they gave us little. Is that good.”
Yet another flood victim, Mr. Azuka Chukwuji, in a fit of anger said, “I am not happy because they are not treating us well. They are just treating us like animals. Even the transport the governor said they should give to us, we did not see.
They should please settle us, let us go, we are ready to go back and pick up life again because once there is life there is hope. I am still youthful. I can farm, I can trade”.
The paramount ruler of Oko kingdom in Oshimili South local government area of Delta State, His Royal Majesty Eze Osita I, who lost his palace to the flood and ran to Asaba for refuge, lamented that his entire community was in ruins.
Victims trapped in Rivers
JIMITOTA ONOYUME reports from Rivers State that victims of the flood disaster in the state have appealed to the Federal and Rivers State governments for financial assistance to rebuild their mud houses that were washed away by the ravaging flood. Some of them who spoke to the Vanguard at a camp in Okobe community, Ahoada West local government area said they were yet to move out of the camp after it was shut down on Sunday.
The camp coordinator, Pastor Chibuzor Okpoko told the Vanguard that he got a text to shut the camp on Sunday. He said the camp inmates had come to complain to him that they had nowhere to relocate to and enjoined the Federal and the Rivers State government to assist the victims with money to rebuild their houses. “We thank government for the efforts they made to cushion pains of victims of the disaster in the state. Government really tried but it should compensate victims before dispersing them from the relief camp.
“Most of them do not have houses to go to because their mud houses were washed away by flood. I still wonder where they would go to when they leave here. Government should have allowed them some time here. They have been coming to tell me as the Camp Coordinator that they have nowhere to go.”
Some victims who also spoke to Vanguard said they need money to buy crops for the farming season. They said their cassavas; yams were among things in the farms that were washed away by the flood. “The flood has destroyed our houses. The flood has destroyed our houses. Government should bring cassava stems. I am one of the camp coordinators. The camp has closed. They should help us, we are pleading with government.” Justina Ede pleaded.
Felicia Watson said she does not have anywhere to relocate to, adding: “I don’t have any house to move in to when I leave here because where I was living with my children has fallen. The flood destroyed everything. Government should help us.”
The displaced victims said they were not in a hurry to move out of the camp, as it had become their temporary home until they would be able to rebuild their fallen huts. When Vanguard went round Okobe town, some of the locals were reconstructing their huts. Those who volunteered comments said they raised money from relatives in Lagos and other parts of the country to commence the reconstruction.
We require financial assistance to survive
From Ughelli in Delta State, FESTUS AHON spoke to the victims, as they left the camps on their losses, experiences and expectations from government amongst others.
Kelvin Otondo from Abare Community, Patani Local Government Area of Delta State:
What would you say are your loses?
The loss to the community and me personally is colossal. From the school aspect of it, all the classrooms were flooded; all houses in the community were submerged by the flood. Then in my place, crops, farmlands were destroyed by water. In fact, one cannot quantify the number of things we lost to the flood; our plantains, cassava plants, fishponds were all destroyed. It is later that we will be able to itemize them. Our children were badly affected because they were not going to school, so if you think of the loss, I will say it is very colossal.
You have been in the camp right from its inception, what would you say have been your experiences here?
I can say that the government has tried as much as they could. In my community, for example we first migrated to Bulu-Angiama. When the water got to Bulu-Angiama, the government came to move us to this camp and have been feeding us after providing us with shelter and a place for our children to study, teachers reported from the communities, policemen were deployed to the camp, local government medical staff are all here to assist. I can give the government pass mark in that respect.
How would you assess the intervention of government, corporate bodies, churches, NGOs, private individuals and others during the period that you were in camp?
They all tried, they brought relief materials to the camp and as they were bringing relief materials to the camp they were also sending some to the communities because it was not everybody that migrated, some of us remained during the flood. What we are saying is that government should not leave us that way; we still need support.
Harvesting of cassava
When we get back to our various communities, there will be nothing to write home about our farms. It will take some time, may be next year before we will be able to plant and harvest cassava. For now even, cassava stem and suckers for plantain are not available. All plantains were destroyed in my community, our economic trees were all destroyed, and we will have to start all over again.
Okeoghene Uyovwi from Ovwodokpokpor, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State:
What are your loses?
I lost my cassava farm that would have lasted us for three years. Part of the house we are living in, was destroyed, even when I visited the community, last week Saturday, the water had receded from the house, but the compound is still flooded. There is nothing we are left with right now.
What are some of your experiences here in the camp?
I experienced so many things; sometimes there were quarrels among some of us the displaced persons. The food they were giving to us sometimes contains too much pepper and it aggravated problem of those who are suffering from ulcer.
How would you assess government, corporate bodies, churches, and private individuals’ intervention?
I cannot begin to recall all of them. However, it is only God that can reward them for the good they did for us here, the food which some of us could not ordinarily have been able to afford on our own were provided for us here. We ate good food twice a day. Clothing was provided and some of us acquired training in the skills acquisition centres. Government tried, individuals tried.
Augustine Ighoruwa, Odorubu, Patani Local Government Area of Delta State:
What were your losses during the flood?
My cassava, plantain, potatoes were destroyed and even my house collapsed.
What were your bitter experiences?
That period was difficult because I lost so many things.
What were your experiences in the camp?
We went through a lot in the camp, though the government tried in feeding us but the other things like our benefits they are not giving us; they have refused to pay me my N5000 to transport home; they don’t want to pay my wife and my five children.
What do you hope to do now
My hope is to plant crops again because there is nothing we can do without government assistance. We hope that government will give us financial support.
Paulina Ofogho from Ohoro, Ughelli North Local Government Area:
What were your losses?
We lost our potatoes, pepper, cassava and properties to the flood, even our mud houses collapsed.
How would you estimate your losses in terms of naira and kobo?
Over N2 million
What will you say is your bitter experience?
My property, my crops that were destroyed as well as the business trip that I was supposed to undertake.
What is your experience in the camp?
It was terrible; we did not have money to buy anything.
What is your assessment of government, churches, NGOs and others intervention?
They did a lot in terms of provision of food.
From Warri, EMMA ARUBI, reports that the flood has come and gone with many internally displaced persons, IDPs, camped at the Caverginia Primary School and the Swamp Road residence of Chief E.K Clark, both in Warri metropolis, already back at their various homes.
First, to return to their homes were IDPs quartered at the Swamp Road camp, while the ones at the Caverginia camp went home to their Ogbe-Ijoh residences afterward. Vanguard spoke to a number of the victims, including a widow with three children, who gave her name simply as Grace and a father of six, Mr. Tare Femudoh. Grace said: “My brother, we lost everything. We have not seen this kind of water before so we did not know what to do, so we packed a few of our belonging and run to this primary school in Warri, where we started a new and very uncomfortable life.
No privacy at all in hostels
“When we were there, it was like a hostel, we were very many with no privacy at all. You cannot sleep comfortably because it is not your house and the place where you can do whatever you like. We really saw nonsense with the different characters of some women, children and boys. In fact, the small amount of cash with me finished and we became very dependent on the goodwill of the government, our people and other public-spirited persons.
“I am still ashamed of myself and the sheer indignity in camp because I could not start any trade and people were coming in just to look at us and express their sympathy. Governor Uduaghan really tried for us. If not for him, hunger would have killed some of us.
“Even sickness would have finished and our children because of the congested nature of the camp. Children from all manners of background and upbringing mixing, you know what that means. Water to bath became problematic, just as the toilet facilities were over-stretched.’
At the Swamp Road camp, Mr. Tare told Vanguard that they had some measure of comfort, security and sense of dignity. However, to be tagged IDP with your wife and children and living quite outside your traditional home is disheartening, disgraceful and demeaning.
He said: “Our situation was not really too bad when the flood came but we had to move because by the way it was coming, you never could tell what would happen the next minute. So we were able to salvage our property to a neighbouring community, while we joined others to stay at the camp since no family can accommodate me, my wife and six children.
“We stayed there and everything was made to ensure our comfort by the government and kind people who brought relief material of all kinds to us. Although the sharing of some these material are suspect, we nevertheless appreciated it. In fact, the temporary transition period was a time for sober reflection for me that nothing is permanent in life. I am a full time fisherman but during the flood period there was no fishing or farming as the flood took over everywhere.
Left to me, government can only continue to provide campground any time it comes again. It is only in very advanced nations that adequate action can be taken to protect the people. We have not reached that level and let nobody deceive us.”