Kwara communities battle flood, erosion but Ecology Project Office refuses to account for N1.1bn (1)

DETAILS  from the National Bureau of Statistics show that a total of N1.1 billion accrued to Kwara State as ecological funds between 2021 and 2023, to mitigate severe ecological problems in the face of constant flooding and environmental problems facing many communities. However, in this first of a two-part report, DARE AKOGUN reports that utilisation of this fund has been shrouded in secrecy.

Read the second part HERE.


Mohammed Tsadu was a rice farmer in Kpata-Gbaradogi, an agrarian and fishing community.

He lost his farm last year to the flooding that ravaged the country, and since then, he has had to fend for himself and his young family by doing menial jobs in the community or nearby Patigi.

He said youths like him who are rice farmers have not been able to farm this year because they are scared of running into losses through the yearly flood, which always ravages the community.

“Because of the losses I suffered last year and no help from anyone, I am now riding okada and delivering N 2,000 daily to the owner while I take the rest,” Tsadu lamented.

“When there are low sales, I help market women offload their goods brought across the River Niger in a canoe to the market in Patigi,” he said.

Mohammed Tsadu Picture: DARE AKOGUN
Mohammed Tsadu Picture: DARE AKOGUN

This is the sad story of many inhabitants of communities like Patigi and Kpata-Gbaradogi in Patigi Local Government Area, LGA, and others like Pututa, Esun, Kpasha, Tswako, Likpata, Eko, Chewuru, Ebangi, Dzanagu all in Edu LGA, which all suffer from the devastating effects of climate change.

Like last year, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET) issued a grim forecast for 2023

“2023 will witness an early onset of rainfall accompanied by flooding”, the agency said in its forecast published in January this year.

According to details of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) (January 2023 Disbursement) published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 36 states of the federation and 774 local government councils received a total of N8.4 billion as ecological funds in January 2023. While states got N4.6 billion, local governments received N3.8 billion.

The funds were received by states and local governments despite their inability to justify over N64.417 billion given to them between 2021 and 2022. In all, the NBS data shows that states have received N69 billion as ecological funds between 2021 and January 2023, of this figure, a total of N1,156,671,187 has accrued to Kwara State. The state had received N1.048 billion as ecological funds between 2021 and 2022 before the fresh 108 million disbursed in January 2023.

Concerns have however been raised over the utilisation of the ecological funds in Kwara State, and investigations reveal that the projects are shrouded in secrecy.

The Ecology Project Office domiciled under the presidency, has come under scrutiny for its inability to account for a staggering sum of N1.1 billion allocated for ecology projects in Kwara State despite repeated attempts by Sobi FM to shed light on the matter. The only ecological project being undertaken in the state, according to environment ministry officials, is the dredging and embarkment work at the Asa River.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) recently expressed concerns that its forecasts on flooding were ignored by most state governments, including the most vulnerable ones across the country. Consequently, citizens and businesses were made to face devastating floods. Many of the affected communities are still yet to recover from the impacts of the event.

Reports from the federal authorities showed that the 2022 floods resulted in 662 deaths across 33 states as the deluge of rain washed away years of investments in agriculture, hundreds of hectares of farmlands, and properties estimated at billions of naira.

In the same year, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimated that over two million Nigerians were displaced and that the national economy lost a whopping N4.2 trillion to the floods. Over 569,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed.

Our reporter visited four local governments with perennial flooding issues to assess the situation.

Ilorin East

For the people of Abata Jagun Community, Ifesowopo, Okelele in Ilorin East LGA, environmental degradation has always been a major source of concern, as they have faced serious erosion problems for more than twenty years.

Chairman of Abata Jagun Community, Solihu Ariyo, decried the degree of devastation the erosion has caused to the environment, saying that the development has hindered social and economic growth.

He revealed that the situation has forced many residents out of their various houses, while children have not been going to schools as the erosion has cut off the community from accessing other parts of the Ilorin metropolis.

Erosion occasioned by perennial flooding PHOTO: DARE AKOGUN
Erosion occasioned by perennial flooding PHOTO: DARE AKOGUN

According to him “This erosion problem in our community has become a source of worry and serious concern to us as residents, as many people have been rendered homeless, with landlords turning to tenants.

“Those of us that are still residing in the community at the mercy of God, we could not sleep with our eyes closed, especially any time it rains,” he lamented.

Another community leader, Alhaji Yahaya Cisse, maintained that several efforts by the community to lobby the previous administrations in the state to come to their aid proved abortive.

Cisse, however, called on both national and subnational governments to assist in channelling and dredging the river in the community.

Ilorin South

Akorede community in Ilorin South Local Government Area, Kwara State, is currently facing a significant environmental challenge as the community grapples with a massive gully erosion that poses a severe threat to local households.

The gully erosion, which has been gradually worsening over the years, has caused significant damage to the landscape surrounding Akorede Community.

When our reporter visited the area, he observed that the effects of the gully had manifested in some residential buildings with cracks in the walls.

Several houses are now precariously close to the expanding ravine, putting the lives and properties of residents at risk.

The Erosion has also almost chopped off the only access road serving the community, thus posing a danger to the residents and commuters plying the road.

Mr. Adeolu Adebayo pointing to the effect of gully erosion in the community
Mr. Adeolu Adebayo pointing to the effect of gully erosion in the community

Local community leader,  Adeolu Adebayo, expressed his disappointment, stating, “The erosion continues to expand, and our homes are at risk of collapsing. We need urgent action before it’s too late.”

He explained that the thought of rain is a nightmare for members of the community, saying “When it rains, houses, roads and other valuables will be overwhelmed with water.

“Some residents will have to vacate their houses because of the damage the flood could cause to their lives and property”.

The owner of one of the affected houses Ayodeji Abubakar, said there is no peace of mind in the community during the rainy season.

” There is some set of houses that the erosion had done so much harm to. The gully has crept totally to the residential apartments, forcing them to enter their apartments through the backyards”.

“When we moved into my house about three years ago, the gully was not as much as it is now,” he added.

Abubakar recalled that the spaces that the gully had eaten up now used to be pathways for both cars and pedestrians, adding that the erosion had totally washed away the pathways.

He revealed that he spent a huge amount of money to make concrete walls and drainage to save his building while the erosion had not ceased creeping in.

Abubakar said that erosion control and management is one of the ways the government can protect the lives and property of the residents of the community, pleading with the government to construct drainages and fix their roads to avert looming disasters in the community.

Also speaking, another landlord whose residential building had been affected by the erosion, Mr. Fashola David, said he used concrete to build a water channel in front of his house to divert a drain that would have gotten into his house.

The Abata-Suban area of Ita-Kudimoh in Ilorin West is another community where erosion has displaced many residents, while several buildings and properties were also affected.

Edu LGA

Before the COVID-19 crisis, sub-Sahara Africa, according to different reports, already had the highest number of students excluded from education, “with more than one-fifth of children aged 6-11 years out of school.”

Chewuru, a community on the fringes of River Niger in Edu Local government area of Kwara state, North Central Nigeria tells a story of a desolate community that has been experiencing yearly flooding for more than 30 years and no form of assistance from the government.

At the entrance of the community is a block of two rooms that serve as the community primary school, built through communal effort.

While taking our reporter around the community of about 35 houses and 400 inhabitants, mostly women and children, the community head Umaru Shaaba, who spoke through an interpreter, said the people of the town always relocate to Edogi, a nearby town during the yearly flooding as the whole town is always submerged.

He said they cannot farm during the rainy season, due to fear of running into losses and only make do with dry season farming which affects yields due to lack of irrigation equipment, the effects According to him as also affects education as the school is always flooded and teachers have stopped coming into the community.

Alhaji Umaru Shaaba by his fish farm PICTURE: DARE AKOGUN
Alhaji Umaru Shaaba by his fish farm PICTURE: DARE AKOGUN

For children of the community, any rainy day, most especially during the thick of the rainy season automatically becomes a no-school day as the school is flooded, which has resulted in the death of a 5-year-old girl in the past.

“We are suffering in this community; we can’t farm, because if we do flood water will destroy it. Our children don’t go to school during the rainy season, the three teachers posted to the school live in Lafiagi and can’t access the community.” Shaaba lamented.

According to the UNICEF climate risk index report released in August 2021, climate change is the greatest threat facing the world’s children and young people, with one billion children at “extremely high risk”.

In Nigeria, children are not alone in their suffering. Out of 163 countries, Nigeria ranks second on the list of nations where children are most vulnerable to climate change.

The issue of water scarcity has also become prevalent in Nigeria’s northern region and children are mostly at risk as they have to walk long distances in search of water, which has become a scarce resource due to climate change.

Asabe Usman, aged 10, and 13-year-old Fati Shaaba are some of the victims affected by water scarcity in Chewuru village.

Asabe fetching water from a hole dug by the community to retain river water Picture: DARE AKOGUN
Asabe fetching water from a hole dug by the community to retain river water Picture: DARE AKOGUN

Standing beside a hole to fetch water, Asabe hung her head in despair when asked about the water situation in her community.

She spoke about constant battles with cholera and diarrhoea adding that sometimes, she doesn’t go to school after walking long distances to fetch water for the household.

Fati, could not converse in English, but with the help of an interpreter, spoke in her local dialect about what the children of her community go through.

“I wish the government could provide another water [dig a borehole] for us so we can stop drinking this water,” she said.

Hajia Ladidi, her mother, said they use water from a dirty stream, that runs through the hole dug in the grounds to find water.

She also said the community is aware that the water is not healthy but they keep using it because there is no alternative.

“We drink water from the river which made our children and the women fall sick which has led to the death of some people before we can take them to hospital in the next village.

“We always hear on the radio what the government is doing for other communities suffering from flooding and water scarcity to alleviate their suffering, we only hear we don’t see.

“The only time we see government in the village is during the election campaign with many promises and after that nothing is heard again from them, We have resigned to fate,” she explained with a teary eye.

Patigi LGA

The Impact of yearly flooding in Patigi has forced rice farmers to abandon the once-thriving business of rice farming for menial jobs to survive.

This phenomenon has been observed in several communities in the state where farmers who were once self-sufficient have now been forced to adapt to the changing climate.

For many years rice farming was a profitable business in these areas, providing a source of income for the farmers and contributing to the local economy.

However, with the increase in flooding caused by heavy rains, many farmers have lost their crops and have been left with no means of income. As a result, they have turned to riding Okada motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, to make ends meet.

The village head, 63-years old Mohammed Jiya Ndatsowa Tsadu of Gbaradogi (Second in command) stated that the community started experiencing perennial flooding in 2012, saying that the flood of that year has changed the way of life of people of the community.

Mohammed Jiya, Ndatsowa Tsadu of Gbaradogi PICTURE: DARE AKOGUN
Mohammed Jiya, Ndatsowa Tsadu of Gbaradogi PICTURE: DARE AKOGUN

“Since 2012, we started witnessing flooding every year, our rice farms are gone we are always afraid to farm, fish in the rivers are not much like before, and whenever it rains the whole community will be apprehensive.

“We lost 10 people to flooding last year, our children can’t go to school nor do we have a functional health center to cater to our health needs.

“Any time it rains and the whole community is submerged some villagers hang around with friends and family’s upland while most of us live on the water until the water recedes,” he lamented.






     

     

    He also lamented that the government has made numerous unfulfilled promises to the community.

    embankment constructed in 2001 by the Kwara State government in Gbaradogi. PHOTO: DARE AKOGUN
    embankment constructed in 2001 by the Kwara State government in Gbaradogi. PHOTO: DARE AKOGUN

    “Whenever flood comes and government comes with relief materials, the way it shared, many victims will be excluded and when they get its largely inadequate 50 persons will be given a bag of rice to share, how can 50 people share a bag of rice,” he queried.

    Read the second part HERE.

    *This investigation republished from Sobi FM is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

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