Saidu Abubakar, 37 years old, sat on an old wooden chair with his head resting on his right palm. About five neighbours and friends hovered round him, offering inaudible condolences to the man, whose entire family members were wiped away by the ravaging flood in Niger State few days ago.
All of the sympathisers around Abubakar, residents of Chencheniya community in the Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State, sighed as they discussed the aftermaths of the flood, which destroyed many houses in the area on Sunday and Monday.
The worst hit is Dahiru Street, where more than 20 houses built along the setback of a stream, now suddenly a flood river, were entirely collapsed or partly damaged by the incident.
In neighbouring Hayi community, which is across Kaduna Road, Niger State, and under Tafa Local Government Area, our correspondent gathered that about 30 houses were washed away.
A resident, a middle-aged man identified only as Shehu, was the only casualty in the community.
The flood in Hayi made Bakin Iku River overflow into several houses, displacing hundreds of residents from the area.
In Chencheniya, our correspondent observed that residents, whose houses were partly damaged, had called bricklayers, who tried to patch up sections of the rubble.
Most of the houses washed away by the flood, despite the gravity of the water, still had leftovers of household utensils like plates and pots, when our correspondent visited.
The worst hit resident in Chencheniya, Abubakar, who is the father and only survivor in his family of nine, said he had lost sleep and appetite since the sudden deaths.
Abubakar, who hails from Zamfara State, lost two wives – 30-year-old Hajara and Suibar, 25 – and six children; Hikima, Musa, Yusuf, Zainab, Asamahu and Kadija.
The ages of the children ranged between 13 years and 14 days old.
“I built the house six months ago. I packed in barely three weeks now. The rain started on Saturday night and by Sunday morning, there was flood. The water levelled my house and several other houses on the street. The flood swept away my wives and children around 1am. I was not at home,” Abubakar explained in Hausa.
A distraught Abubakar, who is a carpenter and Mai shayi (tea seller), noted that some state government officials and traditional rulers in Suleja had visited the community and made promises to him and other victims.
“The government officials have come and they said they would assist me and other victims. The Emir also came and promised to give me another woman to marry. The flood swept away everything. I could not even get my wives and children’s photos.
“Walahi, one of my children was just 14 days old. I miss all of them. I think about them every day. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. I am just lonely,” Abubakar added.
Another resident of Chencheniya, who identified himself as Ismail Abu, said the government officials only made promises, but the victims had yet to get any relief.
“We are counting on the government. We are displaced. There is no money to start rebuilding. Many of us are petty traders and artisans,” Ismail said.
In Hayi, our correspondent learnt that several residents had also relocated due to the destruction of their houses, occasioned by the flood.
Residents said they feared more rains and floods still loomed, adding that the best solution was for the state and local governments to come to their aids and provide relief shelters.
One of the displaced residents, Umar Bako, said, “There are people that we are still looking for. I cannot recall their names now. I cannot count the number of houses along Bakin Iku River washed away by the flood. Our wives and children have been sleeping in wooden sheds of shops.”
“My house was destroyed by the flood on Monday morning. I could not take anything out of it. My family members and I had to go and stay with my relations inside Suleja. We want the government to bail us out of our predicament,” another victim, identified only as Ishaya, said.
Our correspondent observed that a bridge with which residents drove into Hayi was partly affected by the flood, with motorcycles having to manouevre at a dangerous slope to take passengers across the road.
A police officer at the A Division, Suleja, who was involved in the rescue mission in Chencheniya, said policemen used ropes to pull some residents out of the flood.
He said, “We initially rushed about five injured persons to the Suleja General Hospital for treatment on that Sunday. They have all been discharged. Some of them climbed on trees when the water became so violent. We had to use ropes to pull out some people who were being swept away in Chencheniya. Fortunately, they survived.
“A challenge is that some of these residents also built their houses along river setbacks which makes them flood-prone.”
The Director-General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Inga, had confirmed eight people died in the flood, adding that the government would do its best for the displaced residents.
“The Niger State Government is doing its best to reach out to those affected. We must provide shelter immediately and other things will follow,” he had said.
Also, the Chairman of Suleja LGA, Abdullahi Maje, said calls had been made to the Federal Government through the National Emergency Management Agency to salvage the situation, adding that searches were ongoing for missing persons, either dead or alive.
“The flood started around 12am on Saturday and lasted till Sunday morning. The flood affected more than 100 houses in the Suleja and Tafa LGAs. We made a call to the Federal Government through NEMA. They came and joined in the rescue missions,” Maje had said.