Flooding swallows communities in Kogi but some residents stay back to adapt

WHEN Alex Obiegbu relocated to Lokoja, Kogi state, in 1999, he intended to start a block industry business that civil workers in the Ajaokuta steel plants ( 29 kilometres away) would patronise. Little did he know that 12 years after he would be accumulating a loss of 15 million annually due to flooding.

The 66-year-old man had acquired a five-plot of land just by the roadside in Ganaja village, with several types of industrial equipment to run the block business. Until 2012, Obiegbu had yet to encounter floodwater.

“When I came here, it was a virgin land full of animals, and I got a bulldozer to clear the land, then started my business, which was going fine,” he said.

By 2012, when flooding hit different parts of Nigeria, including Kogi state, Obiegbu lost some sections of his lands. This created a gully that allowed water to penetrate his industrial building when it rained. During the 2022 flooding, the building collapsed.

Like Obiegbu, Sergeant ThankGod, 67, who lives in Adankolo, another community in Lokoja, had his house submerged by flood twice within a decade. Every year during the rainy season, ThankGod spends money to renovate some affected parts of the building. 

Both aged men told The ICIR that they have no other place to relocate despite the havoc flooding has caused them.

Kogi flood victim
Sergeant ThankGod, Kogi flood victim, standing in the from of his home

Flooding has become a predominant climate and environmental crisis in major parts of Nigeria, but residents living in riverine communities, especially in Lokoja, the conference point where the River Niger and River Benue meet, face this crisis annually.

The ICIR visited various riverine communities like Ganaja village, Kabawa, 500-unit housing estate, Kpata, Idom and Gadumo, and observed how flooding had destroyed buildings and caused gullies in some parts of these communities.  

Residents told The ICIR that during the rainy season, between July and October, sea level rise causes incursion into these communities.

Extreme rainfall, exacerbated by climate change during the rainy season, can increase the density of the sea, leaving communities within the region to suffer catastrophic effects.

A study by the University of Plymouth published that much of the Nigerian coast is low-lying with the consequence that a one to three-metre rise in sea level can affect human activities in these regions.

Reoccurring flooding in Kogi

Within a decade, Nigeria was hit by flooding twice, in 2012 and 2022. Thousands of people were reportedly displaced, including houses and lands submerged under water. 

In Kogi state,  according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 623,900 people were displaced, and 152,575 hectares of farmland were destroyed in 2012.

Also, in 2022, flooding affected over 514 communities, displacing 471,000 persons with 24 deaths recorded. 

This is coming despite the government’s allocation of N234.21 million in three years to erosion control and ecological funds received by the state through the Federal Government’s monthly allocation. 

List 2021 2022 2023
Budget N26,908,430 N106,300,000 N101,000,000
Ecological fund N634.67 million N667.38 million

(Kogi State Government 2023 Approved Budget – Expenditure by Economic Classification)

Residents living in riverine communities in Lokoja confirmed to The ICIR that flooding is an annual occurrence and efforts put in place by the government to mitigate the crisis are not sustainable. 

The residents also said that the damages in communities like Adankolo, Adankolo New Layout, Ganaja junction behind the Federal University of Lokoja, Ganaja village and 500-unit housing estate started since 2012. 

“We do not sleep. During the rainy season, our attention is always on the water area because we are close to the water”, a resident in Adankolo New Layout said. 

‘Nowhere to go’

During the flooding in 2012, a resident of Adankolo New Layout, David Akale moved his family, including his elderly parents, from his house to a rented apartment far away from Lokoja.

He repeated the same act in 2022, but, this time, he decided to live there. When Akale could not sustain the annual rent of N250,000 for a two-bedroom flat, he moved back to his house in Ganaja junction. 

“It told on me and my parent and became traumatic. Opposite me, you will notice that some houses have already been submerged. This used to be a flat land in 2009, but the inflow of water created this gully,” he said.

Dilapidated buildings in Kogi state due to flooding
Dilapidated buildings in Kogi state due to flooding/ Kehinde Ogunyale

To control the flood, Akale constructed a concrete fence around his house, but according to him, “water must always find its way.” He said that many residents around his community build high fences and walls to stop the water penetration, but annually, when rain falls, the fences collapse. 

For Omotosho Orimolade, 74, not only was his fence destroyed in 2012, but the flood pulled down his four-bedroom flat. He rebuilt the house in 2013, and by 2022, the building collapsed again.

“When the flood came, it covered the house. We did not see anything. We were told to wait until the flood subsided, and when it did, it [the flood] pulled down my house”, Orimolade said. 

Now, Orimolade lives in a rented one-room flat with his daughter, just beside his collapsed house.

How the government responded 

In 2013, the Kogi state government built a housing estate [now referred to as the post-flood housing estate] to accommodate flood-related victims. However, residents in these affected communities alleged that non-victims had occupied the estate. Several reports attested to the claim, as victims told The ICIR that government officials demand huge amounts from them before they can get an apartment. 

The ICIR reached out to the Public Relations Office for Kogi State Emergency Management Agency, Olaoye Ibrahim, who refuted the claims, saying most victims, despite being allocated a home in the estate, relocate back on the motive that the communities are their ancestral home.

Another effort by the state government was building a concrete boundary that extends from the Kabawa community to the Kpata community in 2022 but residents also claimed that sometimes the water overruns the boundary, causing incursion into the communities. 

“I have been staying in this community for six years. If the flood comes, all these places will be full of water,” Ibrahim Aisha, who lives in Kpata, said. 

Dilapidated buildings in Kogi state due to flooding
Dilapidated buildings in Kogi state due to flooding/ Kehinde Ogunyale.

Also, the residents said that the state government collected names of victims during the two major flood events, promising to give cash, but this was never fulfilled.

“Some foreigners came to quantify my land and promised to give me N12 million. Later, we were told that the money would be given to the government, and since then, we have not heard anything,” Obiegbu said. 

There was also a reported allegation of mismanagement of N34 billion meant to dredge the River Niger by the former Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Residents said this would have helped affected riverine communities. 

Adapting to the flood

With no support from the government, Obiegbu moved most of his industrial equipment to a separate store and stayed back at his dilapidated building, hoping to sell off blocks that had been moulded. 

Meanwhile, ThankGod constructed 80-centimetre wooden shelves that can hold some of his household appliances. Sometimes, just like Aisha, he lives in the floodwater. 






     

     

    A flood risk consultant, Taiwo Ogunwumi, told The ICIR that one of the solutions that can be set up ahead of future flood occurrences is the development and communication of a clear evacuation plan for those living in this riverine area, which includes designated shelter at some meters farther to the river. 

    He said, “It should be noted that the federal government and few state governments are trying their best in terms of early warning and the provision of relief after the disaster, but I believe it is high time for us to prioritize preparedness and mitigation and not just disaster response. There is a need to check and monitor the action of the State Urban and Region planning departments and other land use departments by ensuring that they are performing their quota of restricting the building or settlement at meters close to the river.”

    A lecturer of Geography at the Federal University of Lokoja, Adewale Olatunde, said that the state and federal government needs to do proper channelization of water, including drainage channels,  away from the community adding that the floodwater ought to be beneficial to the state rather than a crises to communities. 

    *This report was sponsored by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development with funding support from the Public Diplomacy Section of the U.S. Embassy, Abuja.*

    Kehinde Ogunyale tells stories by using data to hold power into account. You can send him a mail at [email protected] or Twitter: Prof_KennyJames

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