Nigerian flood victims decry government’s response to disaster

Peremoboere Geku was getting her nephew ready for school in late September when she noticed floodwater around their bungalow in southern Nigeria.

She and her nephew waded through the water in Epie, a community in Bayelsa state, to get him to school, but on her return, she noticed it had already risen rapidly. Within days, the water was above her head. Geku is 165cm (5 feet 5 inches) tall.

‘Clapping with one hand’

Since late September, the worst floods to hit Nigeria since 2012 have overrun hundreds of communities in Africa’s biggest economy. They have struck 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states. More than 600 people have been killed and 1.3 million people displaced. Thousands of homes and farmland have been washed away.

Many survivors are living in terrible conditions in camps with almost no governmental assistance, according to victims and experts interviewed by Al Jazeera.

“Disaster management in Nigeria is synonymous to clapping with one hand; it is not possible to clap with one hand, but that is the situation of things in Nigeria,” Olasunkanmi Okunola, a disaster risk specialist and visiting scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera.

‘Clapping with one hand’

Since late September, the worst floods to hit Nigeria since 2012 have overrun hundreds of communities in Africa’s biggest economy. They have struck 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states. More than 600 people have been killed and 1.3 million people displaced. Thousands of homes and farmland have been washed away.

Many survivors are living in terrible conditions in camps with almost no governmental assistance, according to victims and experts interviewed by Al Jazeera.

“Disaster management in Nigeria is synonymous to clapping with one hand; it is not possible to clap with one hand, but that is the situation of things in Nigeria,” Olasunkanmi Okunola, a disaster risk specialist and visiting scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera.

Several weeks into the floods, some communities have not yet received relief because they are still inaccessible, according to Manzo Ezekiel, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency.

“Bayelsa is largely inaccessible because of the floodwater,” he said. “In fact, the situation in Bayelsa is so [bad] that I don’t think the state has witnessed that level of devastation in the past.”

‘People are just dying’.

When Akpos Best, a 26-year-old software tester, returned from a trip to Lagos to her home in the southern Nigerian town of Agudama, she found that all of her fellow tenants had vacated their house because of the flooding. Everything she had in her room was soaked, but she managed to move some belongings above the floodwater and left for her mother’s house in another town.

But the flood had also reached there and destroyed their property and the food store she managed.

“In the blink of an eye, the whole house was just flooded,” Best told Al Jazeera. “I did not even know where the water came from. We were not able to save most of our property.”

 

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