No fewer than 15,000 persons have been rendered homeless as flood wreaked havoc in Benue communities last weekend. Then, on Wednesday, 30 August, Makurdi, the state capital, was again flooded after a five-hour downpour. The downpour, which started around 12.24am, lasted till 5am, rendered thousands of residents homeless, and destroyed lots of properties.
The areas mostly hit are are Zone 4, Wurukum, Gebade, Nyinma, Ghana, Naka Road, Wadatta Gboko Road and Media village in Achusa, and this caused panic among residents of neighbouring Nasarawa state.
In reaction to the latest incident, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, called on the Federal Government to urgently intervene in the problem of flooding in the state.
Ortom had inspected the flooded areas on Wednesday and described the problem as overwhelming, serving as salt in the injury of a state currently faced with challenges of paying workers’ salaries.
He then directed the State Emergency Management Agency to liaise with the National Emergency Management Agency for the purpose of assisting displaced persons.
The governor also ordered that excavators should be used to create emergency water channels, pending Federal Government’s intervention, as he specifically requested the Federal Government to consider the release of ecological funds to Benue State, maintaining that if urgent steps were not taken, the sad experience of 2012 might repeat itself.
Benue floods over the last two years
- 21 Aug 2015 – About 200 houses and huts were swept away on Friday in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, following more than four hours of torrential downpour.
- 31 Aug 2016 – At least nine people were reported missing in Benue state as a result of flooding from Kereke stream in the state, which overflowed its bound.
- 10 Sept 2016 – No fewer than ten persons have been reportedly swept away by flood in Guma local government area of Benue state, following days of torrential rains in the state.
- 4 Aug 2017 – Floods destroyed many property and rendered thousands homeless in Makurdi, capital of Benue state Friday, 4 Aug, as five local governments were badly affected.
- 27 Aug 2017 – No fewer than 15,000 people were sacked from their homes by an early morning rainstorm, Saturday, and a resultant flood that submerged over 2,000 houses in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, and its environs.
The blame game begins
A radio station, Wurukum Market, and seven communities were submerged following Saturday night’s heavy downpour in Makurdi. Other communities, according to the report, affected were Welfare Quarters, Benue State University community, New Kanshio village, and Rice Mill Wadata as well as Idye and Achusa villages.
Joseph Ustev, the state’s commissioner of Water Resources and Environment, who alongside Commissioner for Land, Survey and Solid Minerals, Bernard Unenge went round the town for an assessment on Sunday explained that the ministry needed adequate funds to mitigate the situation, adding, as the disaster was caused by blocked drainages in some areas. Utsev also said that federal help was needed.
“Benue Government is looking for ways in which River Benue can be dredged. This is because by dredging the river, majority of the water can be accommodated to prevent future overflow.
“The ongoing research so far, showed that the preliminary study will cost about N8 billion while the main project will gulp about N300 billion.
“This is where we need federal government financial intervention to execute the project, since the funds are much.”
However, a state Emergency Agency official who refused to give his name said that cause of the problem may be closer to home. He alleged that the previous administration of Gabriel Suswam had created many new residential layouts in Makurdi without a proper drainage control system. He however added that the Ortom government had thus far chosen to ignore the problem, which has led to the same issues recurring year after year.
During the inspection of the affected areas, the Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, Boniface Ortese, said that proactive measures will be put in place to address the situation, including clearing of buildings that had sprung up along drainage channels.
Ortese said that more than 110,000 persons in 24 communities, including Makurdi, were displaced by the flooding, and more than 2,769 households were affected, including houses in Achusa, Idye, Wurukum Market, Genabe, Industrial Layout, Demekpe, Wadata Market, Katungu, behind the Civil Service Commission, Agboughul-Wadata among others.
Paul Abuku, a Makurdi resident who spoke to Daily Times said that a lot of buildings have been submerged. He also said that there was an economic impact as many farms had been lost in this agricultural region.
“Fish farmers have also had their fish swim away, and incidences of snake bite are rife as the snakes enter buildings with the water,” Abuku said. “Properties have been lost, and hundreds have been rendered homeless, living like refugees wherever they can find shelter right now.”
Benue opens camps for refugees
In one of his reactions, the state governor, Sam Ortom, announced the official opening of two camps for Internally Displaced Persons.
Mr Ortom made the announcement after inspecting flooded areas within Makurdi and its environs, saying that the empty International Market and the Presidential Building at Agan Toll Gate would become camps for IDPs, pending when water level would subside, with a resounding assurance that his administration would do everything possible to provide minimum comfort to all displaced persons while in camps.