Tales from Zamfara flood victims

A fortnight ago, the nation experienced a certain rainfall around parts of Nigeria that raised concerns whether the rains are actually here. The worries were more for the period in the year (January) when the rainfall took place. Although the Nigerian Meteorological Agency came in promptly with the assurance that the rain in question was not a signal for the commencement of the rainy season proper, worrisome echoes of the 2012 flood is coming from some parts of northern Nigeria where greater fears are being entertained that the 2012 nightmare is still lurking since no respite has come their way. In this report, CHIBISI OHAKAH looks at a recent call from Gutsura, a sleepy community in Zamfara state

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) defines climate change as a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

Following the intense climate change, there was an unprecedented rainfall in 2012. The heavy rainfall triggered the release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, overflowing River Benue and River Niger. The unusual overflowing of their banks, along with some dams and smaller rivers across the country, brought untold impact around many states in the country, recording deaths, loss of property and dislocation of peoples from their homelands.

At Gutsura, a rural community in Gummi Local Government, 2,000 persons, including women and children were displaced. This number is outside deaths of human and animals, also farmlands. Reports said that indeed, the community was part of the relocation plans of government spearheaded by the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
Following the impact of the flood in August last year, the state acting governor, Alhaji Garba Rikiji, directed that SEMA immediately relocate the people of the community whose houses were submerged or destroyed by the flood to Gummi local government council.

He gave the directive after an assessment visit to the village. The acting governor was on the trip in the company of lawmakers and members of the state executive council. He actually said that as a matter of urgency prepare emergency camps and relocate the people.
The acting governor assured the people of the communities that government was doing everything to alleviate their problems, and ensure future safety. “As was stated earlier at Shinkafi and Talata Mafara, the state government will solicit the State House of Assembly to enact laws to end the environmental challenges face by the people of the state,’ the acting governor pledged.

Indeed, the executive secretary, SEMA, Alhaji Atiku Sani Maradun, confirmed much later that the agency secured a primary school at Gyalenge twon to relocate as temporary camp to be relocated the victims from Gutsura community.
Six months down the line, and with the entrance of the rains, the people of the community are crying that they had been abandoned. Gutsura is more like a metaphor for what became of the elaborate plans by the federal and state governments to address experience of the 2012 flood victims.

Unfortunately for the flood victims of Gutsura community, Zamfara state was not one of the states targeted by the Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFRR) raised by President Goodluck Jonathan in June last year to take care of flood victims. The committee came as response to the disaster, whereby the Federal Government, as a stop-gap measure, announced the disbursement of N500 million to the highly impacted states, N300million to the moderately impacted ones and N200million to the least impacted states. The committee was co-chaired by business mogul, Aliko Dangote and human rights lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba.

In the public statement announcing plans to build houses as well as provide essential amenities, the committee listed 22 affected states, namely Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Bauchi, and Benue states. Others are Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba states
The 34-man Presidential Committee targeted the sum of N100 billion, held a fund-raising dinner at the Presidential Villa during which donations and pledges amounting to N11.35 billion were made by prominent Nigerians

In a fresh appeal to the government, the Gutsura community are calling on for assistance to enable the habitants build resilience and adaptation strategies to mitigate climate change impact. They made the call when a non-governmental organisation, Earth Hour, visited the community.
The NGO defines itself as the largest movement for the planet in human history, spanning 7,000 cities, 152 countries with a digital reach of 200 million around the world. Earth Hour is an environment oriented campaign, with the tendency for localized depending on the environmental issues of different participating countries.

The also generate conservation outcomes that change the world.  The organisation visited the Gutsura community with some journalists last month and were startled with some the discoveries on the living conditions of the people.
After several attempts to approach the government for assistance to combat this environmental epidemic that threatens the peaceful co-existence of the villages, the elders of the communities said they have been forced to speak out with the view of getting attention.

Admitting as much that government relocated them to a new site, a spokesman of the people said what they got is does not solve their problem. ‘’Only this year that the government accepted and gave us new site,’’ the Nasarawa Gutsura, Alhaji Umaru Nasarawa, told the news men on the team of Earth Hour who are mapping out the flood impact in the area.
‘’Our immediate need now is accessing fund to move to the new site, because raining seasoning is coming,’’ Alhaji Nasarawa lamented.

He explained that due to the increasing water level of the upper Niger River, the small agricultural dependent community has witnessed unprecedented flood over the past ten years and continue to threaten the people’s primary source of livelihood.
The village head added that another critical challenge facing the community presently is access to portable drinking water, explaining that every effort using indigenous knowledge to provide water in the area continues to produce no positive result.

The team discovered that in all the communities, portable water in is majorly sourced from traditional wells, boreholes that have regard to environmental standards, thereby exposing the people, particularly the children to complicated health diseases such as diarrhea, bacterial dysentery, cholera, typhoid and other contagious illnesses.
According to a study conducted by UNICEF, 2008 on the inimical impacts of contaminated drinking water showed that ‘’over three million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases.’’

Narrating the ugly experience of the people, a local farmer in Gutsura village, Tukur Mohammed, acknowledged the people’s readiness to relocate to the newly provided site, but blamed lack of fund as the major impediment delaying their relocation.
He also alleged that government agencies appeared to have played politics with relocation of the flood victims in the communities hence the idea of getting them a permanent abode is no longer being discussed. According to him, the villagers were told that the hasty movement to the site was temporary, whence plans would be made to relocate them back to their homelands after they had been rehabilitated.

Tukur, while enumerating the impact said the flood claimed the life of a six year old boy and damaged farm produce worth about N9 million. In addition, the flood also destroyed homes and prevent members of the community from conceptualising any long-term sustainable development plan.
With no access to electricity, primary health facilities and a single block with only three classrooms, the indigenes of Gutsura community remain vulnerable to climate change impact which can be tackle with the right adaptation strategy.

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